HR Excellence Awards 2023 Singapore
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Snapshot: TLBG's Merle Chen on the must-dos to get diversity & inclusion right

Aiming for compositional diversity is only the first step, affirms Merle Chen, Chief Talent Officer, The Lo & Behold Group (TLBG), in an interview with Aditi Sharma Kalra.

Q Having worked in a variety of industries – financial services, consulting, public service, and more – which has been a defining one and why?

It is a hard choice as I have had the privilege of learning and drawing insights from some amazing leaders in most if not all of these places. These have collectively shaped me as a HR practitioner and a leader.

In my time spent in public service, I had the opportunity to experience and test new ideas in HR and leadership practices, and hone a ‘growth’ or ‘learner’s’ mindset; thriving on challenge and stretching existing abilities.

From consulting and in particular working on workforce alignment and transformation projects, not only sharpened commercial acumen, it also helped develop a deeper sense of appreciation of what it means and how to treat employees, business partners, colleagues alike - with sensitivity, dignity and respect.

Q In your two-and-a-half years with The Lo & Behold Group (TLBG), what has been your number one highlight?

Our continuing efforts to deliver our mission: creating awesome experiences for passionate people.

Enabling an awesome employee experience has and continues to remain a centrepiece. In our view, an awesome employee experience is made up of moments that matter across the employee lifecycle that is from attracting, onboarding, talent & performance management, rewards, learning & development to engagement.

It has been an exciting journey thus far over these past two-and-a-half years. The TLBG HR Talent & Organisation Development team have been working hard to transform itself from administrating across the employee lifecycle to focus on moments that matter.

This has entailed taking a critical look at administration and existing workflows (or lack thereof!), identifying and addressing gaps, reviewing workflows, evaluating and implementing technology & innovation where these best fits in enabling our people and teams to focus on that critical personal interaction and what they do best.

In a fairly short span of time, we conceptualised, designed and implemented leadership & competency frameworks that articulate the skills, mindsets and behaviours at all employee levels for success in both current and future roles, along with a curated learning curriculum that supports the continuing professional and personal development, customised to each individual.

If you hire well and diverse but there isn’t an open culture that facilitates inclusivity - then all around, the organisation will not reap the benefits of having diverse perspectives.
We have also designed and implemented talent, performance management aligned with compensation frameworks that improve development conversations and ensure we continue to recognise and reward colleagues who are extraordinary.

We also introduced ‘bite-sized/snackable’ learning content for use at daily briefing sessions at our concepts. These ‘daily dose of awesome’ cover a skill or competency area and/or celebrate a company value (P.A.S.S.I.O.N) in sharing stories of employees who have demonstrated behaviours aligned with a company value. This reinforces desired behaviours while also anchors the right competencies on a daily basis.

All these while managing the everyday operational (and business as unusual!) needs of the business. I am extremely proud of the HR Talent & Organisation Development team and their passion towards our vision and mission.

Q One of the topics you’re passionate about is diversity & inclusion. What, in your view, are the must-dos for employers to get this right?

Aiming for compositional diversity is only the first step. Diversity needs an inclusive culture as a foundation. For instance, if you hire well and diverse but there isn’t an open culture that facilitates inclusivity - then all around, the organisation will not reap the benefits of having diverse perspectives.

In building an inclusive culture that fosters and promotes diversity (of views), employers could first start with the cornerstone on which determines the rest of the structure in reference. At TLBG, we continue to focus and align on what’s core to us – our vision, mission and values, and a dedicated focus on our people.

Having diversity of views opens up discussions that may differ on the ‘how’, giving us new ideas and options but never compromising on what’s core.

Employers would then need to establish and implement effective socialisation and amplification mechanisms that can be propagated throughout the organisation and at all levels, to sustain and possibly unlock the full benefits of diversity.

At TLBG, we continue to pay attention to and refine our onboarding and orientation programs, as well as initiatives such as ‘Catch Me Doing Right’ that recognises and rewards our people who are living out our values.

Q On the job, what is the biggest motivation that keeps you going when things get tough in your role?

Our vision and mission, commitment to our people and the HR team placed under my care.

Q Share with us your most extreme view of the future of HR – recruitment rock shows and what not!

Interesting that you mention rock shows! The Lo & Behold Group name has always been synonymous with provocative branding, throwing the best parties and the like. So maybe not impossible. Watch this space.

Q This is a hard one – if you were not in HR, what would your alternative career have been?

Wedding singer? :D

Art Direction / Mohd Ashraf and Shahrom KamarulzamanPhotos / Noor Hazmee, Prologue PicturesMakeup & Hair / Michmakeover using YSL beauty Singapore; Hairdo by Style You Pretty team using Bedhead by TIGI

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