Leading the people agenda for 4,000 employees across nine markets, Bella Chan, HR Director of Lenovo Central Asia Pacific, and her team, run an average of 100 programmes a year to keep everyone engaged.
As a seasoned HR leader with more than 20 years of solid and extensive experience across Asia and industries, Bella Chan, HR Director of Lenovo Central Asia Pacific, knows very well how to manage talents with diverse backgrounds and expertise.
She joined Lenovo in August 2018, where she oversees people strategies across nine markets in the region. She believes HR should be a strategic partner to business leaders, empower managers and people, and “not act like an elementary school principal”.
Being a female leader, Chan is also proactively collaborating with senior executives and management to drive various initiatives across the company to build a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace that allows everyone to grow and thrive.
In this exclusive, the HR leader shares with HRO's Tracy Chan tips on managing talent across different markets, the person who inspires her the most, and her advice for HR peers.
Q: What are the different HR challenges you’ve faced around managing talent across the various sectors you have worked in?
Different industries face different talent management challenges and opportunities at different times. These ranged from a lack of front-line talent during the telecom expansion, or a desire for industry-specific portfolio analysts in the financial sector, and consulting solutions sellers in the technology sector when transforming from hardware to comprehensive services and solutions.
At Lenovo, we hire talent from different industries, bringing their diverse expertise to add value to our company. We also provide training to help our employees build the necessary skill sets. Grow@Lenovo is the company’s learning management system, which hosts almost 3,000 different online and instructor-led courses, combining internally developed training and off-the-shelf eLearning from business to professional skills.
Q: What was the most innovative HR campaign that you’ve worked on?
In 2019, we launched the Asia Pacific Women in Lenovo Leadership (WILL) chapter that saw Lenovo’s female leaders from across the region coming together to discuss how the company can take bold and decisive steps towards ensuring women’s voices are heard around the world.
In conjunction with International Women’s Day in March 2022, we held more than 20 training and networking sessions with over 1,000 employees in attendance. We also launched the Lenovo EDGE (educate/develop/grow/excel) programme in AP, with 53 participants in the first cohort.
On top of this, there is the ‘Wonder Women Series’ where we invite reputable female executives from Asia markets to share their career journeys with our people. Our female leaders also share their career stories, success mantra, and advice to the younger generations on career planning. These are part of our efforts to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Q: On the other hand, what is the hardest decision you’ve had to make as an HR leader?
In workforce planning, we often struggle between investment and affordability. We need to ensure the productivity trends remain healthy and continue to improve while investments are in place to ensure business growth is sustainable.
Q: With today’s rapidly evolving environment, what do you believe is HR’s #1 responsibility/the top way that it can add value?
Nowadays, HR leaders can add value by partnering with business leaders to create a purpose-driven, high-performance organisation.
This will support a more precise business strategic direction and make people understand the link between contribution and business outcomes. We have programmes such as ‘Lenovo Rewards' and 'Lenovo Listens’, which help employees get recognition as well as identify retention opportunities. As a result, managers and leaders are empowered and have a stronger sense of belonging, which increases employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.
Q: How closely do you work with the CEO and leadership team, and on what specific projects/matters/issues?
Being the HR leader, I’m part of the leadership team in the region, and our employees are our most valuable strategic resource. We are working to provide a supportive environment that looks after employee wellbeing, including the provision of an inclusive and safe environment, as well as competitive compensation, employee benefits, learning, and career development.
Q: With a Central Asia Pacific (CAP)-wide remit covering Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and more, how do you keep employees engaged and create an inclusive working environment?
There are more than 4,000 employees in the nine markets in the CAP region: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. We have been using virtual platforms to keep everyone engaged.
For example, we launched the ‘People First’ campaign a few years ago around wellness, celebration, and giving back. Every year, we run an average of 100 programmes, 70% of which are online. This includes virtual workout sessions and fitness challenges.
We also launched the ‘Me-Time’ video campaigns to showcase our employees’ work and personal aspects, as well as a virtual experiential learning journey on leadership mindsets for all the people managers in the region.
We are a technology company driven by an inherently inclusive vision: ‘smarter technology for all’.
Ultimately, there is no ‘all’ without inclusion. We drive inclusion from the inside out and remain committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in our workforce.
As of March 2022, Lenovo’s global workforce is made up of 36% women, while in AP, we have increased the proportion of women in managerial roles by 3.2% since 2020. In addition, we launched the Women in Lenovo Leadership (WILL) to drive diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. In 2022, Lenovo Korea was certified as a Great Place to Work®.
Q: Who is the one person who has inspired you the most in your career, and why?
My father. He worked for the same employer throughout his 40-year career. However, he took on a new role every three to four years. He showed me through practice what “change is the only constant” means. He said life is like a game of chess. Forethought wins. I still keep it as my success mantra.
Q: Is there a mindset that you believe HR professionals should do away with? And what should they replace it with?
Do not act like an elementary school principal. As HR professionals, we work with leaders to manage the people’s agenda and contribute to business success. We are not here to take on what people managers should do. Instead, we should provide resources to empower the people managers, so they can manage their teams effectively.
Remember that your attitude determines your destiny.
No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist, so do not wish for it. Work for it. Great things never come from your comfort zone; big journeys begin with small steps.
An excerpt of this article first appeared in the Q3 edition of Human Resources Online's Hong Kong e-magazine. View the e-magazine here, where you'll find power-packed features and interviews with leaders from Hong Kong, Singapore, and more!
Image / Provided (Lead image: Bella Chan, HR Director, Lenovo Central Asia Pacific)