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Right since then, Kristine Cheong, Associate Director, HR, Duke-NUS Medical School, was intrigued to see HR’s engagement efforts to shape the workplace culture, she tells Aditi Sharma Kalra.
Q How did you venture into HR? What drew you to it?
I worked as a HR clerk during one of my school vacations, providing administrative support in overtime pay, documents filing and other logistics. I was intrigued to see the work of HR; and its engagement efforts to bond the organisation and shape its workplace culture.
It was also the happy and smiling faces of employees during joint birthday celebrations and lunchtime bingo games that drew me to this profession. I realised HR plays a very strategic role in developing people and in steering the workplace culture and environment.
Q What was the most innovative HR campaign that you’ve worked on, and what was your biggest learning from that?
The most innovative HR campaign that I worked on was the automation of training operational processes and procedures. The aim of the project was to reduce the paperwork involved in approval processes, while ensuring accuracy of records, and efficient rendering of services, and utilisation of resources to accommodate the varying departments’ business requirements for learning and development purposes.
The biggest learning point for my team and I was the importance of management buy-in and engagement with the right stakeholders, which included identifying department representatives to rolling out the training system.
Q Have you had a mentor through your career?
I did not have the luxury of a mentor throughout my career. My past work and life experiences shaped my values, principles and actions at work. I observed and learnt from various leaders’ management styles and behaviours.
I personally find that trust and respect are the most important characteristics of leadership, yet they are difficult to earn and can be easily lost. This is not an overnight affair and takes time to build.
As leaders, our staff often look to us for guidance and behaviours that influence the way they react. It is paramount to maintain open communication and be consistent in our words and actions during challenging situations.
We should, at all cost, avoid telling our line managers and staff to read and understand HR policies.
Q Is there a phrase/mindset that you believe HR professionals should do away with? And what should they replace it with?
HR has evolved from being an administrator to a business partnering role. As a partner to the business units, we should make every attempt to understand their business needs and support them in their manpower management. We should, at all cost, avoid telling our line managers and staff to read and understand HR policies. We should instead help interpret and contextualise the policies to their circumstances.
Q Do you believe there is a thing such as work-life balance?
It is all about balance. The workplace is ever-evolving and moving dynamically. Gone are those days where we could easily distinguish work and life where any unfinished work would be dealt with the next working day. With the advancement of information technology, work and life have become integrated.
Having a work-life balance is all about making judgment calls in the midst of your priorities, and this would include working beyond official work hours to address work issues. Organisations have also put in place flexible work programmes for staff to attend to personal needs during working hours/days.
Q When coming up with innovative HR practices, what are the things HR directors should take note of for the practices to be truly beneficial?
I always believe there is a time for everything. Organisations should not change for the sake of changing or blindly follow best practices. A change that works for one organisation may not necessarily be beneficial to your organisation.
When coming up with innovative HR practices, we should implement pragmatic solutions to meet existing and future needs and gaps. Importantly, we must be mindful to engage our employees. When our employees see the value in change, they will embrace it.