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HRUnplugged: The multiple hats that ensure HR never has a dull day



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Rachel Foo, Country Head, Human Resources, Merck, comments on the impact that passion and a positive attitude play in the role of a HR professional. 

Q Did you enter HR by accident, or was it always your passion?

I started my career as Manpower Specialist Officer with the Ministry of Defence, where my focus was to conduct oral history interviews with current and retired senior officers. It sparked some interest in conducting interviews and the joy of meeting people from all walks of life. Then I moved to join Maxtor as a recruiter and loved it! The rest is history.

Q What is your go-to HR mantra?

I always embrace the mantra of, “do what you love and love what you do”. Passion goes a long way. If you love what you do, it is not work. We wear multiple hats and very often we are the unofficial psychologist, event planner, peacemaker, lawyer and teacher all in one. I see the roles we play in HR making our day never a dull one.

My passion gives me energy, inspiration and resilience to pursue my vision and dreams. Because of it, I tend to have a positive attitude, that is, “glass is always half full”. We have all had times in our lives where we have felt completely out of control. However, all you can do is remain grounded, take control of your attitude and voila, you will see things begin to change positively.

Q How do you build an inner circle of colleagues you can count on for advice and mentorship?

It is important that as HR leaders we do not work in our own space. We need to connect with others. I believe in the power of “stronger together”. It is important to build networks within our company, industry as well as outside of it.

In all the organisations that I have worked in, I have been blessed with great business and HR leaders, and colleagues who never fail to give me open feedback, advice and mentorship.

Be prepared that high-value and repetitive tasks will be automated so HR must be ready to focus on strategic and value-add services to the business.

Such relationships must be from both sides, in terms of both listening to and sharing feedback. All these help as we take steps together to achieve the business objectives.

Q What does the future hold for HR in 2025?

We must be ready to embrace the change to come. Be prepared that high-value and repetitive tasks will be automated so HR must be ready to focus on strategic and value-add services to the business.

Technology will continue to evolve quickly so we need to evolve with it. Change agility is key as we must adapt quickly to new environments and engage employees to do so as well. HR must also have strong culture transformation and change management capabilities, with strong human interaction skills and effective communication skills, online and offline.

HR organisations will become more fluid and platform-based. We need to be able to design new organisational models and processes that are agile and adaptive, and be deeply knowledgeable of platform and network-based organisations.

We need to ensure the organisation has the skills for being agile, that is, the ability to face the unknown and learn from it. As technology evolves rapidly, we need to have people who evolve with it. We need to be brave and not afraid to think of change as a threat. Rather, if we see it as an opportunity, we can embrace new learning better. We must be open to embracing something that is not the norm.


Vital stats: Rachel Foo has led the HR function across Asia Pacific and worked across industry segments such as specialty chemicals, life science, retail, government, and more. Her key areas of expertise include leading workforce transformation accompanying digital transformation. In her current role, she partners with country, regional and global teams in driving the business and talent agenda, among other responsibilities. She is certified by the Institute for Human Resource Professionals as a Senior Professional.


This interview is a continuation of our CHRO 4.0 special edition where we we introduce you to Human Resources’ Advisory Panel 2019, and pick their brains on the burning questions the function is facing.

Read more here: CHRO 4.0: Decoding the HR skills of the future

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Asia’s most renowned regional HR Excellence Awards is back in October in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia to sieve out HR’s finest gems. Are you a diamond in the rough? View the categories and find out more.

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