Tham Chien Ping, head of talent and performance management, learning and organisational development, Boehringer Ingelheim SEA and South Korea, highlights the one thing HR heads must do away with.

Q. Taking up a new role with Boehringer Ingelheim, what are your priorities in the coming year?

Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) is on a growth path especially in the region where I am responsible for. With the strong partnership between HR and the different business divisions, I will be very much involved in people, change and organisation-related strategies, to support this growth.

Q. Tasked with driving the people and organisation development agenda for SEA and South Korea, what does a typical work day look like?

Every day is different! Having said this, a typical day starts with the understanding of what has taken place in other regions in their respective time zones the night before, so that my role as part of a highly plugged-in HR team continues to keep in touch with the many developments that are taking place in the organisation beyond the region.

I would then use most of my day to do my engagement with different levels of the organisation, to gather insights and feedback. I am hardly at my workstation most of the time, but only towards the end of the day to participate in conference calls with other regions and finally working to deliver and meet the needs gathered from the engagements made.

Q. You've got an interesting background - having equipped yourself with L&OD tools, including a stint in consulting. What drove you to do take up such roles?

My role is to diagnose and to prescribe solutions to enable individuals, teams and organisations to reach their optimal performance level like a well-oiled machine, free of unnecessary friction and blockages.

In order to do so, I find it extremely useful to be equipped with a kit where I can pull out any tool that can be used for specific purposes. You can also see it as an “occupational hazard.” The passion that I have in people development also means I am also constantly looking at my own professional development.

A typical day starts with the understanding of what has taken place in other regions in their respective time zones the night before.
Q. Having been appointed as one of the company's global champions in diversity and inclusion, what are your tips for delivering feasible yet impactful campaigns?

BI is a very diversified organisation. Diversity and inclusion to the organisation goes beyond campaigns and activities, but it is something embedded in how we do our work. We also hold the importance of collaboration as an important part of our company culture, and believe that as a team, we need to work together to deliver excellence to our customers.

Currently, while we have the mix (diversity), we are constantly working on making this mix work (inclusion), and how we can harness that diversity and align it to business objectives.  It is only when employees can see beyond the activities and recognise the company’s purpose (and truly embrace it), can we truly be successful in what we set out to do in this very important area.

Q. A lot of companies are piloting to do away with annual performance reviews in favour of another system. What is your view, since you're looking after this regionally?

I am a firm believer in having managers and employees regularly conduct a two-way performance conversations, having experienced first-hand in two of my earlier roles in other organisations on how having and not having such conversations regularly would impact on one’s career.

From a tactical standpoint, without such conversations, opportunities would be lost to provide employees with the right focus. From a relationship standpoint, managers and employees would have lost the opportunities to engage with each other.

Therefore, whichever way we look at performance review, in whatever system, it is important to still provide the platform for employees and managers to converse regularly, and to equip not just managers but employees as well, with ways which the conversations can be effective and beneficial to both parties.

Whichever way we look at performance review, in whatever system, it is important to provide the platform for employees and managers to converse regularly.
Q. What was the most innovative HR campaign that you've worked on, and what was your biggest learning from that?

This is a pretty weighted question!

I have pioneered a few programmes in the organisations that I have worked in, probably not innovative but certainly new at that time where I was. One of the programmes I am very proud of is to be given the mandate from the management and the support of my supervisors to use psychometric profiling assessments to drive self-awareness and team-effectiveness learning and discussions.

This was later expanded into many follow up L&OD strategies in the organisation that have continued even till today, after I have left the organisation more than five years ago.

Being one of the key facilitators then, I took away with me the notion that conducting workshops is one of the best ways to get to know the different business and functional units, and learning about the people, their dynamics and their challenges.

Q. Have you had a mentor through your career, and what advice have they shared?

I am fortunate to have more than one mentor throughout my career, and they have each played a significant part in my career growth.

Among the many things I have learnt from them, is recognising that an employee would not care what you can do for them, until they know how much you care to know about them. Credibility, engagement and patience are also my career values, and very regularly I am reminded of how much I need to be guided by them to be effective in my role.

I am happy that till today I can still count on my mentors to provide me with good advice, or just a one-on-one chat to catch up.

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

This is easy. Get out there more often, practice active listening, and move beyond the mindset that it is enough just to be busy, or to look busy. One day technology and automation will radically change the tasks that a HR practitioner needs to deliver, just like how the transport industry with Uber and Grab have impacted on an age-old taxi industry.

At BI, we have a culture that is anchored on ‘lead and learn,’ where we believe in standing up for what we believe in, and inspiring others to do the same. And learning when we find new and better ways of doing things by leaning on each other and the marketplace for knowledge and inspiration.

These two values can be applied for any HR professional as well, when they are looking to evolve their own profession and add value to their function in the business.

Get out there more often, practice active listening, and move beyond the mindset that it is enough just to be busy, or to look busy.
Q. Working in an MNC, do you believe there is a thing such as a work life balance?

Ok now this is a tricky one! My personal view, work-life balance bears a different meaning to different people, depending on the current life stage and needs of the individual.  I have been in different organisations, experienced different programmes in promoting work-life balance among employees, and have even been in a position to promote such programmes.

I would say, MNC or not, if an organisation can provide flexi arrangements and benefits to employees, then employees can feel the 'balance'. For example, as someone with two very young children now, I feel very much 'balanced' having a manager now in BI who is very understanding of me having to take time off to tend to my children when I need to. On the flipside, before I had kids, I preferred staying longer in the office to get my work done and having the basic office amenities still available till 8 pm made me felt very 'balanced' too.

Different strokes for different folks.

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