Total Rewards Asia Summit 2024 Singapore
Snapshot: Why HR needs to 'fail fast, learn fast' to get to where you want to be

Snapshot: Why HR needs to 'fail fast, learn fast' to get to where you want to be


HR's #1 priority today is to be the 'solution enabler' (to all stakeholders) rather than be perceived as the 'problem giver', says Dr Henry Yeoh, respected HR practitioner, and Deputy President of Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management.

Q Was HR a natural career choice for you? If not in HR, what other career would you have chosen?

Not really. I actually wanted to become a psychologist in my undergraduate studies. As fate has it, after a series of job roles rotation from marketing to finance & accounts, I found my calling in HR after about five years and have been in the practice since then.

Q What was the most innovative HR campaign that you've worked on, and what was your biggest learning from that?

That would be, creating a team of 30 internal corporate coaches drawn from various functional departments. Having completed a formal coaching programme, this team was successfully deployed to facilitate and conduct national conventions, seminars and workshops for more than 3,000 participants nationwide (business partners and employees alike).

Biggest learning: Recognise, build and unleash your internal workforce capabilities. It’s not only cost-effective, but more importantly cultivates high employee engagement and results in higher productivity, building trust and credibility for all.

Q On the other hand, what is the hardest decision you’ve had to make as an HR leader?

Having to be involved in the removal of two very senior management team members.

Q How closely do you work with the CEO, and what are the specific projects that both of you work closely on?

I am blessed and privileged to have a very close working relationship with him, and to have him as my coach and mentor in building up my business acumen skills and knowledge. Specific projects will be on the six-year Business Transformation Plan, setting up a Foundation for CSR activities, and strategising on the Centre of Excellence of our 200+ managers and leaders.

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

I would attribute that to my former executive chairman and business owner for his very down-to-earth philosophy of enriching lives in his business philosophy, which is then built into the corporate vision, mission, and core values.

Q How would you describe your leadership style?

An apt description would be, facilitating open communication, and placing emphasis on interpersonal harmony by being the social glue and affiliative force for my team members. Often more fun and social, and challenging my team to succeed and leverage their strengths in our undertakings and assignments.

Q With today’s rapidly evolving environment, what do you believe is HR’s #1 responsibility/the top way that it can add value?

To be the 'solution enabler' (to all stakeholders) than to be perceived as the 'problem giver'.

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

Wishing and wanting won’t cut it, e.g. I want to have a seat at the table. An HR person can wish all he/she wants and often to no avail. You have to earn it. That means you have to work smart so that your peers and bosses get to see you as a clear thinker, a good leader, and a smart business person.

You need to take risks and not be afraid of failures. 'Fail fast – learn fast' would be my advice to get to the position the HR professional aspires.

Dr Henry Yeoh's photo / provided

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