Joanne Low, Human Resources Manager Asia, OEMServices, admits that dealing with people issues is never an easy job - yet the career in HR is extremely fulfilling.

Q What drew you to HR as a career?

I knew I would enjoy work that interacts with people, so I picked HR management as my major in university. After graduation, I was at the crossroads of customer service and a HR career, but decided to head straight to HR as the profession sounded real cool. Well, cool jobs don’t grow on trees; even they have their downside and I do get burnout. But I have to admit my career in HR has been fulfilling.

Q What was the most innovative HR campaign that you worked on?

I implemented a “Talent Fast Track” programme designed to accelerate the development of young talent based on skills development and knowledge to groom them to be future managers over 24 months. Over this period, they rotated across functions to learn complex business skills and to develop their analytical and leadership skills.

I also included a dialogue session with each functional/business unit to know more about their job, how the senior managers moved up the career ladder, and how they might see themselves in a managerial role with the programme. There were also opportunities to be based overseas for projects and to experience the corporate culture.

The programme was a success. My greatest takeaway was a better understanding of the young talent’s mentality in order to provide sound advice to the senior management team in managing their expectations. Young talent want to grow with and within the business; there is an increasing need for employers to promote entrepreneurial spirit and allow this opportunity for people who want to progress and be successful.

Q On the other hand, what is the hardest decision you’ve made as a HR leader?

Dealing with people issues is never an easy job and it requires delicate consideration. Some decisions are rarely black and white.
There was once when I experienced four company restructures in a year; one can imagine the impact on human issues.
On occasions where the HR team and its stakeholders’ perspectives are different, having to stand behind the company’s decision that may be a result of poor business decisions or mismanagement of costs can be a challenge. There was once when I experienced four company restructures in a year; one can imagine the impact on human issues.

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

My previous SVP of HR impacted me most in my career. Despite her busy schedule, she was always willing to put aside her tasks and provide guidance and advice when I was in my first regional HR role. She demonstrated what a true leader/mentor is. I picked up much of my analytical and people skills from her.

She knew what worked best for each and every member of her staff. She would constantly push me out of my comfort zone. By challenging and encouraging me to take on new accountabilities, she allowed me to reach goals I never thought were possible.

Her favourite statement has been instilled in my heart and I’m using it in my work and life: “If you ask/try, you have 50% chance. If you don’t, the answer/chance is always zero.”

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

Absolutely! It is an important aspect of a healthy and positive work environment. Chronic stress is one of the most common health issues in the workplace and we know how too much stress can lead to other workplace issues and burnout. There are cost-savings and long-term benefits employers can reap by creating an environment that promotes work-life balance.

But, of course, promoting work-life balance can be challenging, since “work-life balance” can mean something different to different groups of employees, and it also involves balancing between business/operational needs and employee needs. There may not be one best way to satisfy the work-life balance needs of most employees.

We also need to understand work-life balance could mean more than simply hours, in that, it extends to providing flexibility in workplaces such as flexi-work hours, telecommuting and job sharing. With careful consideration and proper implementation, it can be an effective tool to enhance recruitment and increase retention.

Q With today’s rapidly evolving environment, what do you believe is HR’s no.1 responsibility in adding business value?

Staff engagement. Engagement is a key differentiator when it comes to growth and innovation. With today’s rapidly evolving environment, organisations with an engaged workforce outperform their competition, and successful organisations are those that are value-driven with an employee-centric culture. HR plays a vital role in helping their employer create an effective employee engagement strategy to bring company success.