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Iki Ng, Director – Human Resource, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) shares about the mentality HR should adopt, how his team is his career inspiration, and more, in this interview with Aditi Sharma Kalra.
Q What drew you to HR as a career, and what do you love about it?
I made a mid-career switch to HR more than nine years ago after previously working in the banking sector and have not looked back since. I have been really fortunate to be given the many opportunities during this time to learn and grow as a HR professional and now as a HR leader.
I love how the work that we do in HR, if carried out with professionalism, humility and authenticity, can create a positive impact to the culture, development, and ultimately, the outcome of an organisation.
Q What was the most innovative HR campaign that you’ve worked on, and what was your biggest learning from that?
The single most important HR campaign that my HR team has embarked on was the re-engineering and alignment of HR operational processes and procedures, and the innovation came about through finding ways and approaches to balance accuracy, efficiency and resources with the flexibility to accommodate the unique business requirements.
The biggest learning for me and my team is the importance of early engagement with the right stakeholders, including identifying champions that are aligned with HR’s initiatives.
Q Do you believe the talent shortage is real?
It is typically skills shortage rather than talent shortage in my opinion. Hence, reskilling and retooling of existing employees may be necessary as one way to address the shortage. Such situations usually become acute for many organisations within a short space of time as a result of increasing globalisation and connectivity. Hence, strategic forward planning of manpower resources and skill sets required for an organisation is becoming a must for HR professionals.
Q In the same vein, what is your message to graduates who are about to enter the workforce?
My message to new graduates entering the workforce would be this: Adopt a learning mindset from the start and continue this throughout your lifelong career. Be prepared to try different work experiences even if they may not at first seem relevant to your current work or long-term career aspirations.
The discovery journey at the beginning of your career will provide you the confidence and appreciation of your strengths, weaknesses and passions, thereby enabling you to decide on a long term career, while having the ability to stay agile and navigate in an increasingly uncertain world.
Q Who is the one person who has inspired you the most in your career, and how so?
I am inspired by my team of HR colleagues past and present as they have often reminded me through their work ethic and commitment that HR can only create a positive impact to the organisation if everyone in the team carries out their work with professionalism, humility and authenticity, whether it is the most junior HR officer fulfilling a back-end HR payroll operation or a HR business partner addressing an employee’s concern about working relations with his/her supervisor.
Q Is there a phrase/mentality that you believe HR professionals should do away with? And what should they replace it with?
“The HR policy says so.” It should be replaced with: “Let me understand the context of deviation (from the HR policy) and see if we can address the issue.”
Q Do you believe there is a thing such as work-life balance?
I am a believer of work-life integration in that I don’t allocate specific time for work and for personal time/activities. It is about making judgment calls, depending on the situation, urgency and priorities at that point in time, on whether to address a work issue during personal time or vice versa (through flexi-work arrangements). Respect and communication is key for this to work.
Q What lies in the future of HR 2020? Paint a picture of how you envision HR – what’s on your wish list?
The future of HR is a digitised function that seamlessly integrates technology and systems to automate/robotise standardised operational HR processes; and a development analytics capability and capacity to facilitate HR’s engagement with management on human capital objectives and priorities. Both are on my wish list.
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