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Suite Talk: CEO of GE Malaysia on managing people from different backgrounds



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When managing people from different backgrounds, it is important to know what motivates them, only then can you lead well, affirms Datuk Mark Rozario, chief executive officer, GE Malaysia.

Q. How did your career trajectory get you to where you are today with General Electric?

In the first 10 years of my career, I had the opportunity to work in various countries. I also gained a lot of experience from working in MNCs, Malaysian conglomerates and the government. Each opportunity provided me with unique insights, as I worked with talented individuals across different sectors.

Prior to GE, I was the CEO of Agensi Innovasi Malaysia (AIM). GE is a leader in innovation so having that background from AIM made it easier for me to join GE.

Q. Having spent significant time with Sunway Group and AIM, how has each stint helped hone your business leadership skills?

I was at Sunway Group for 11 years. This was a period of challenges, such as the ASEAN financial crisis and starting new ventures overseas.

With AIM, I was more involved with starting new initiatives at the national level, and helping start-ups create new businesses. Working in the government is, of course, different from a corporate environment. The primary goal is to create wealth for the country. For example, creating new jobs, helping companies to generate income, and improving the social well-being of citizens.

Q. How have you adapted your leadership style according to the different work cultures?

In GE, employees come from international backgrounds and different cultures. There is a strong focus on leadership and empowerment. Employees are encouraged to think like entrepreneurs and make decisions based on data and real information.

I had the opportunity to attend university in UK, and started my career overseas in a multicultural environment similar to GE. This provided a good grounding in my ability to work in different environment and working with people from different cultures.

When managing people from different backgrounds, it is important to know what motivates them, only then can you lead well.

I believe that the role of a leader is to help the team open doors. For instance, through networking and managing key stakeholders, ensuring good communication with the board.

Q. During your time at AIM, we believe 18 separate initiatives were implemented to engage, collaborate and empower employees. How did you handle such a daunting task?

Each of these 18 initiatives had a different objective and covered many different areas. For example, education, industry collaborations and commercialisation. The first step was to find the right people. They should be passionate about what they are doing and what they want to achieve. As the initiatives were so wide-ranging, we also needed people from different backgrounds and interests.

It is important to give people room to “move”. In other words, to empower them to go about their tasks. Having 18 initiatives would not be possible if you try to micro-manage the team. I believe that the role of a leader is to help the team open doors. For instance, through networking and managing key stakeholders, ensuring good communication with the board.

Q. What has been your biggest accomplishment in the first one year at your job as CEO at GE Malaysia?

Prior to my appointment in GE Malaysia, there wasn’t a dedicated leader looking at how to get the different businesses to work together, and to approach customers as one GE. Since coming onboard, I’ve seen more of such instances happening. For example, in Sarawak, we had two of our businesses collaborating on a solution for our customer.

Another role that I play is to demonstrate GE’s expertise in Industry 4.0, which has met with great interest locally. For example, showcasing our BHGE Remote Monitoring & Diagnostic iCenter in Kuala Lumpur – one of 3 such centres in the world that monitors over 1,100 turbomachinery assets compressors across 27 countries.

We also adopt other Industry 4.0 technologies, such as artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, and data analytics to improve efficiencies for our customers.

This is a time where there are exciting technological developments in the industry, and Malaysia is well-positioned to capitalise on this. It gives me a sense of fulfilment to know how our work is helping to develop the local ecosystem.

Q. As CEO, how closely do you work with your HR head, and which talent-related issues do you prioritise in the conversations?

One of the key issues that we look at is developing the workforce of the future. It’s about how we can identify, develop and retain potential leaders, who can leverage technologies in an innovative manner. This would allow us to achieve higher productivity for GE and our customers.

At GE, we’ve replaced traditional performance reviews with an app-based feedback platform called PD@GE.

We also talk about how we can improve the performance management system. We want to ensure rigour in the way we evaluate people. However, it is as important to ensure that people embody the values that will contribute to the GE culture and make us stronger as an organisation. These are values like candour, innovation, collaboration and integrity.

In addition, we seek to ensure that all employees are able to reach their full potential, as part of GE’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We try to identify initiatives or steps that we need to take to work towards this goal.

Q. In your view, what are the main areas where HR leaders can partner better with the C-suite?

Firstly, defining and aligning organisational objectives. This ensures that policies and achievements set out for departments are in line with organizational objectives.

Next, ensuring accurate and effective implementation of key performance indicators. Both parties should discuss how it can help to promote the interests of the organisation, while motivating employees to allow them to reach their full potential.

Building organisational agility is also an area of concern. HR leaders and C-suite executives must work out what is needed for the organisation and its people to thrive amidst the digital transformation.

Q. What are your initiatives in motivating your team, maximising their potential, or guiding them through a rough day at work?

To put it in one word: empowerment. When addressing your team members, you need to know what their strengths are, and the areas they may need help with. Think about how you can create a sense of achievement to motivate them. Let your team know what is expected of them and what they need to achieve.

When I lead, I provide help when needed, but I avoid micro-managing. Indeed, it could be as simple as guiding the team through a rough day at work. I make sure they know that my door is always open, so that they can share any issues they may be facing. I don’t expect them to come with solutions all the time.

Q. What is the one upcoming trend in HR that you are keen to leverage on?

Transforming traditional performance appraisals to better engage employees. As more Millennials enter the workforce, systems should change to fit the needs of employees.

At GE, we’ve replaced traditional performance reviews with an app-based feedback platform called PD@GE. It allows employees to get instant, personalised feedback in a convenient manner. We’re excited to see how we can further develop the app, to empower and motivate employees through digital technology.

Photo / Provided


Datuk Mark Rozario is a keynote speaker at Human Resources’ Training & Development Asia 2018 conference, held in Kuala Lumpur on 14-15 August, Singapore on 16-17 August, and the Philippines on 11 October. Find out more about how you can attend!

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