Angelina Chua, First Vice President, Group Human Resources, Yeo Hiap Seng (Yeo's) affirms that talent curation is one of the company's top priorities, given that good strategies require good people to execute them, in this interview with Aditi Sharma Kalra.

Q Was HR a natural career choice for you?

It was definitely a natural choice for me. I have been in HR for almost 20 years and I enjoy my work tremendously. My HR career has taken me on international assignments and the exposure has provided me with the opportunities to work with diverse groups in different countries. Understanding the cultural nuances and subtleties in communication broadened my horizons. I have had opportunities to work on organisational change projects as well as post M&A harmonisation, which widened my ability to think beyond HR.

My passion is constantly ignited, energised and renewed by the positive impact I am making on peoples’ careers and lives. In the course of my career, I have taken on additional portfolios in the areas of CSR, IT, general insurance, data protection, and more. If not in HR, I would still aspire to a role that allows me to make a positive impact to the growth of the lives and careers of others.

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

The most exciting part of HR is working in close collaboration with people from all levels. This year, we kick-started a “We Love Yeo’s” Employees Series where the 2019 seasons’ greetings on our LinkedIn page will feature our own employees as our brand ambassadors.

The first of the series, a CNY greeting with our new products as a highlight, was well received. This HR campaign combined the use of digital marketing, social media and HR skills. More importantly, our people feel proud of being our organisation’s poster boys and girls. It is something they can talk about with their family for a long time to come.

HR is about driving a strong people-focused culture. In today’s fast-paced digitalised world, HR must learn competencies beyond those of our functional core to harness integrative thinking skills. I believe HR can lead disruptive initiatives as well as inspire people to believe in themselves.

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

The hardest decision as a HR leader is on separation arrangements. It is always such a delicate situation where a lot of deliberation and rationalisation must be diligently thought through. The outcome could have a thousand and one consequences, as you are working with emotions here as well.

The compassion part of such a decision must be a priority consideration. We cannot underestimate the impact such decisions have on the ecosystem. As a HR leader, the ability to filter out noise, as well as approach matters using an evidence-based approach, is critical.

I would encourage HR professionals to proactively and regularly review systems and processes to challenge themselves and be more critical of their current policies.

Q As CHRO, how closely do you work with the CEO?

Our group CEO is very passionate about people and believes that the success of Yeo's is because of our people. Therefore, we work very closely, and our conversations surround the business and they go hand-in-hand with human capital. Given that good strategies require good people to execute them, we see talent curation as one of the most important priorities.

We are working on leadership development and talent mapping as part of our business transformation to enable Yeo's to compete globally by creating a sustainable competitive advantage through our people. We are also working on a structured e-learning road map where we bring digital and mobile learning to our people on the go.

We believe in investing in our people and are committed to supporting them to be future-ready. Learning does not necessarily need to be confined to their current functions. We are building skills needed for the future.

Q Is there something HR professionals need to stop saying, and what should they replace that with?

For me, this would be: “This has always been the past practice.” I would encourage HR professionals to proactively and regularly review systems and processes to challenge themselves and be more critical of their current policies. What made sense in the past might have worked when the policies were created, but that same set of policies may be irrelevant in today’s context.

If we want to encourage creativity and innovation in the organisation, HR needs to facilitate conversations, and be creative and bold to revolutionise a total rewards system to support new initiatives.

As HR leaders, we also need to avoid being overly prescriptive in providing HR solutions. Having frameworks and guidelines is great, but we need to consider the specifics of each case to have a credible approach. Logical thinking in HR is important to decipher and decide the most suitable approach to any given challenge or opportunity.

This feature appeared in the June-July (Singapore) edition of Human Resources magazine. Read it in the special Learning & Development edition out now!

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