You joined DHL Express Singapore in 2015 as its vice president of HR. How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe in being democratic and participative – this involves setting broad directions and clear objectives, involving the team and gathering inputs before making a final decision. Facilitating an open and collaborative culture is crucial in today’s business environment, which is being disrupted at a spectacular rate. I believe we can arrive at the best decisions by facilitating conversations, encouraging people to share their ideas and sourcing inputs from all quarters.
I also maintain an open-door policy and make time for the team when they need to consult me. I think the ability to build a good rapport with the team and to engage every team member on a personal level is essential. This is especially important at DHL, where having motivated people is an important pillar of our global focus strategy.
What would you say is your proudest HR campaign?
I’m proud to have led the team on a journey towards being Employer of Choice for the past two years, since I joined DHL Express Singapore in 2015. We have an employee opinion survey (EOS) that is distributed globally every year.
Introduced in 2009, it is our central tool for assessing employee engagement. The survey invites employees across the group to share their opinions and take an active role in shaping their immediate work environment. Last year, I led the HR team to follow through on feedback from the EOS by conducting focus group discussions to identify areas of improvement.
Resulting from this exercise, we saw over 98% participation in the survey in Singapore this year, and saw scores across all categories such as employee engagement, teamwork and job fulfilment rise two to three points, hitting scores of 90 and above.
In particular, the score of the active leadership category has risen over the past three years from 83 in 2015, to 90 in 2016, to 92 this year, which highlights the proactive stance our managers are taking in working together with our employees.
What are some of your HR priorities for the coming year?
For the year ahead, I will be looking into how we can continuously deliver the high standards attained thus far, and how to further improve our position.
The workplace accolades we’ve been conferred confirm that our efforts are working and that our employees trust in our continual commitment to be the Employer of Choice. The year ahead will see us continuing to work and evolve our journey in this area, and to continually keep our employees happy and motivated.
In a landscape which is rapidly being disrupted by technology, I also look to upskill our people by opening up their minds and helping them gain knowledge and navigate the changing world. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation are maturing and finding new applications, particularly in logistics.
As the more mundane and repetitive tasks are taken on by technology, new skill sets have to be built for our staff to take on more challenging and higher value work. Employees have to be able to take on more “thinking” jobs where decision-making needs human deliberation.
I believe in being democratic and participative – this involves setting broad directions and clear objectives, involving the team and gathering inputs before making a final decision.
The three words are: “Right first time”. This has to do with being accurate in what you do, and recognising the impact of the quality and speed of your work in subsequent steps within the organisation (and supply chain) – even if you are in a non-logistics role.
For HR, this involves getting the basics right from recruitment, contract drafting, compensation and benefits – so that we can elevate our game as a true business partner and focus more on employee engagement to truly remain the “Employer of Choice”.
How do you think HR has changed since you joined?
For the longest time, one of the perennial challenges faced by HR practitioners was getting a seat at the table and being included in strategic business decision-making.
To me, HR attains the status of being a true business enabler when HR advice is sought before strategic decisions are made. I’d say this is the biggest industry transformation I’ve observed, within the time I’ve been in the industry.
Today, HR is not seen as purely administrative: it’s increasingly perceived to be strategic. HR is increasingly an essential part of the executive team, a business partner that provides valuable advice. As a function, we’ve come a long way – from being roped in purely on the executional side of things (personnel management) to being able to shape and fulfil strategic directions today.
While HR at DHL has always been business-centric, I’m proud to say that HR has truly been elevated to being a business partner over the years.
My team works closely with their stakeholders and provides good counsel on resourcing and personnel matters. Their views are respected and taken in during decision making, and these are reflected in the excellent result of the HR quality survey.
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