Alvin Yeoh, country HR director for Motorola Solutions Malaysia, shares his journey through HR and how he manages his professional challenges.
What was your first HR job, and why did you choose HR as a profession?
I didn’t start off my career with HR. I spent a good 15 years working in various business functions – from marketing to reverse logistics – before landing a job in business HR. When you have the chance to experience different roles in different organisations, it really makes you think about what you are truly passionate about and how you can leverage your strengths to add value to the company.
Prior to switching careers, I was involved in a lot of OD (organisational development) activities within my organisation, and conducted a lot of training programmes for my company. I realised how much I enjoyed that work and it dawned on me that the best place to broaden that competency was in HR. I made the right choice!
How do you think the HR function will evolve in the next five years?
Over the years, I have seen HR transformed from “generalist” functions to a more “specialised” scope. A lot of HR organisations have moved into the business HR concept where they can add more value upstream.
HR operations are being outsourced under a shared service centre concept and that allows business HR partners to focus on macro-level business interventions. Over time, that “specialised” role will be enhanced into a “consultant” function. I see BHR going into consulting mode. As we speak, it’s already happening.
Who is your HR mentor or who do you look for when you need advice for work?
I do have one or two mentors who I connect with in the HR community, but in general I look to my HR counterparts in the Penang FTZ (free trade zones) to get advice from time to time. We have a good network of HR practitioners in Penang MNCs and I have really learned a lot of them.
I find that sometimes good advice comes from people who are not in the same working environment you are in.
When you are outside looking in, it does give you a different perspective on things. And we in HR sometimes need that different perspective.
Can you describe a regular workday?
Meeting with the clients. In business HR, you need to connect regularly with your business partners/stakeholders. I get myself busy engaging with the business leaders on the HR solutions we are working on. Whether it is regarding talent development or C&B, I get myself involved in the conversation.
Working in a big manufacturing and R&D facility, you are bound to come across one or two employee relation issues. They are never dull and always challenging. I do try to keep some free time to chat with my team members, generally in a one-to-one conversation.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Solving problems through the right HR intervention, may it be at a macro or micro level. Coming out with a solution for an organisation gives me the same sheer satisfaction as solving an employee relation issue.
Is there anything you feel HR can do better to play a bigger role?
I believe HR needs to transition from “supporting” to “partnering” the business stakeholders. It really boils down to the approach on how you do things. As a business partner, we want to ensure we add value as content experts and be that trusted advisor our clients want us to be. When we partner, we strive for win-win solutions.
I don’t view HR as merely just executing to the demands of the business groups, but rather proactively engaging our stakeholders in driving the right HR interventions that solves business problems. That I believe is the bigger role HR needs to play.
I can’t work without … connecting to the social media from time to time. You’ll be surprised what you can learn from the social network. There’s a lot of good information out there, if you know how to filter.