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Snapshot: How DAN's Talent Management Director 'accidentally' got into HR

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Having moved from the 'business' side and getting into HR by 'accident', Gan Mei Lian, Talent Management Director, Dentsu Aegis Network Malaysia, sheds light on why HR needs to know the business well, in this interview with Aditi Sharma Kalra.

Q What drew you to HR as a career – was it accidental or passion?

It was “accidental”. I was actually from the “business” side having spent 20+ years there.

The opportunity arose when there was a vacancy for this position. Our business is a people business, so in this regard, our Country CEO felt that it would be beneficial and progressive to have someone with commercial and operational knowledge of the industry, in addition to people management skills.

Q In your view, what is the one moment that changed the course of your career?

There were several moments actually, during a difficult phase. I have been fortunate that during these difficult times when I least expected it, opportunities have arisen taking me to unexpected paths, which ultimately turned out to be better for my career, in hindsight. So I do believe that there is such a thing as a silver lining on cloudy days, and carpe diem!

Q Who is the one person who has inspired you the most in your career, and why?

It’s difficult to narrow down to one person who has inspired me as I’ve learnt so much from so many people through the years. Collectively, they’ve inspired me with values such as persistence, resilience, adaptability, assertiveness, courage – these are the ones that come to mind immediately.

Q Do you believe there is a thing such as a work-life balance?

It depends how one defines work-life balance. If work-life balance means being able to compartmentalise work and personal life into separate sections, then I think it is a rather idealistic delineation in this day and age of technology and the expectations that come with it. So work-life balance to me is more about work-life integration – the flexibility in being able to balance my professional responsibilities without having to compromise too much on my personal needs.

Q With today’s rapidly evolving environment, what do you believe is HR’s #1 responsibility/the top way that it can add value?

Every business is unique and has different challenges. HR needs to know the business well, from a financial and commercial aspect to operational efficiency. This understanding will give you a perspective of the business and helps you identify the gaps – what’s stopping the business from doing even better, what’s dragging the business down and so on. This then crystallises the key focus areas in which HR can make a meaningful difference.

Q Is there a phrase/mentality that you believe HR professionals should do away with? And what should they replace it with?

Too much academics / theory / jargon and a cookie-cutter approach as opposed to identifying key areas where we can contribute to the business and focusing on these core priorities that directly impact the business.

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