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Vasumathi Balan, APAC, COE, Talent Development & Acceleration, Motorola Solutions, cites a programme where employees were encouraged to develop themselves, and in return, they were recognised for these efforts. Full interview below.
Q. What drew you to HR as a career – was it accidental or passion?
First of all, I am thankful to be accepted as part of the HR community. I am grateful to all my leaders for giving me ample of opportunities to practice HR operations, and now being the COE for talent development. Collaborative partnership with my HR business partners and the centre of excellence is vital to any HR initiatives.
Many years ago, I was given the responsibility to communicate and increase awareness of organisation culture and I partnered with the HR team to roll-out this assignment. During the execution, I witnessed how amazingly the HR team thrives to instill organisation culture and values into each employees’ heart. I thought it was noble and that changed my career and mind forever. Along the way, I discovered my passion for developing people, and enabling learning in modern yet smart ways.
Ironically, my foundation studies in architecture helped me to conceptualise people development needs. I still practice design thinking skills to design any programmes in order to have better user experience and create stickiness. It is not that I want to be a ‘Picasso’ of my work, but rather to make sure that the initiatives or programmes will be purposeful. Trust me, the result is amazing!
My passion for HR has never decreased an inch. Every task excites me to give above and beyond.
Q. What was the most innovative HR campaign that you’ve worked on?
One of the initiatives close to my heart is the ‘Learn and Be Recognised’ programme. We created this to encourage employees to continue to develop themselves, and in return, they were recognised for their efforts.
We were aware that the success of this programme was highly dependent on good communication. To increase awareness, we worked as a team to develop attractive slides, posters, and processes.
We were glad to see how it came to fruition! At the end of the programme, not only did all of us have an ‘aha’ moment, but we also began to understand each other’s strengths better, and we leveraged our strengths in productive ways. Most importantly, all of us did it with great love.
To manage both job expectations and being a mother of two, I learned to prioritise tasks and be disciplined in managing my time effectively.
Q. How closely do you work with the CEO, and on what kind of projects?
Two years ago, I reported to our Managing Director of Motorola Solutions in Penang. I worked closely with him on a couple of projects.
One was ‘Sprint for Success’ for first-time managers. I observed how he coached the managers and contributed his thought leadership through sharing. The experience was phenomenal.
The other one was ‘Jump and Start’. Alongwith the senior leadership team, he showed interest in developing young engineers. He empowered me to lead and roll out this programme end-to-end. I collaborated with senior engineers and architects to curate the content and facilitate selected courses. We had more than 10 colleagues participate and they gained skills, knowledge and the ability to close the gap between academic and career readiness.
Q. Who is the one person who has inspired you the most in your career?
That would be Norita Wan Mat. She was the HR senior principal from Maxis Communications. I like the way she communicates boldly and influences the business. She articulates the HR strategy very well by addressing the people and business needs. She mentored me for a short duration and I am grateful to her to this day.
Q. Do you believe there is a concept such as a work-life balance?
Yes. I’m experiencing it today, but I believe it requires a mindset shift from both the employer and the employee to reap the benefits of it. It also depends on the career aspirations of the employee.
To manage both job expectations and being a mother of two, I learned to prioritise tasks and be disciplined in managing my time effectively. My day starts at 5 am with exercise, journaling, prayer, and learning, which I learnt from Robin Sharma. This ritual allows me to have better focus, know more, do more, improve my professional capabilities, be energetic and embrace blessings to do well.
Being a morning person, I usually plan and complete my top to-do list and I will concentrate on the rest of the tasks that require me in the office. This allows me to manage my expectations, stakeholders at work, and of course, spend the rest of the evening with my family meaningfully.
I am so lucky that my manager encourages me to work from home at least once a week and I can discuss with her openly about my challenges too. Anyone can appreciate work-life balance if you can align and have an agreement with your manager.
Q. Is there a mindset that you believe HR professionals should do away with?
We should be bold, take risks, and innovate. We should stop being a follower and we should challenge the status quo. Anything we initiate should be data-supported, referenced and not based on assumptions or opinions. Anything we define should be purposeful, mindful and meaningful for the employer and employees. By doing so, we gain trust and add value to the business. This is what I have learned from my manager.
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