Skilled professions have, and must continue to, learn to successfully work alongside machines, says leLainya Koutereba, Managing Director, Otis Southeast Asia & Singapore.

Q Having been with Otis for more than 15 years, what has been a driving passion for the job?

My passion for the job is driven by my team and people – working alongside people who are committed to supporting our customers’ complex and changing needs while staying true to our three absolutes: safety, ethics and quality. Another aspect that keeps me driven is the way Otis is continuing to lead the industry we created more than 166 years ago. We are transforming into a digital industrial company to meet the evolving needs of intelligent buildings, smart cities and connected passengers.

Globally, Otis has increased R&D investment by 45% between 2014 and 2018, with a focus on passenger experience, next-generation solutions as well as smartphones and custom apps that enable our field professionals to work more safely and more productively. By leveraging technology and empowering people to truly move the world, we are taking our commitments to new heights – all these are very meaningful and enriching for me.

Q What is your most memorable Otis moment?

Working at Otis has afforded me many amazing opportunities. In the past 17 years, I have led many teams each with a purpose to deliver excellence to our customers and stay true to our core values; safety, quality, and integrity. Prior to coming to Singapore, I led the company’s global service operations and service transformation efforts. In that role, I worked with a global team of leaders to define our vision for the future. It was inspiring to be part of the team that redefined our customer experience by using technology and staying true to our legacy.

Q Define your leadership style.

I like honest, open communication and often ask for inputs before making a decision. When I first moved to Singapore to lead the Southeast Asia team here, it became even more important for me to listen and learn about the business, people and culture. I firmly believe the insights gained from these interactions are valuable for facilitating engagement of people and promoting collaboration across teams of various expertise for improvement. As equally important to be able to lead, is the ability to empower and help others to develop and become more successful. I connect regularly with my team members 1-on-1 to discuss any topics that are top of mind for them and provide guidance and feedback. Through these conversations, I believe I can better support their ability to deliver on our customers’ expectation.

Q What do you think organisations can do to empower more women leaders like yourself?

I believe that any organisation must recognise the necessity for a diverse and inclusive workforce in order to drive business growth. Leaders must foster an environment that supportive of all high performance by all employees. For example, at Otis, we’re always exploring opportunities to identify, train and develop our best talents through a structured development program.

Having these candidates at hand allows senior leadership to plan a detailed, tangible road map to develop the competencies necessary to groom an individual for success.

I also feel that more women must believe that they belong at the director’s table. Often there are unconscious self-biases that may hold women back from reaching their full potential. It is crucial that they can identify and overcome their own personal biases along with support from their families and organisations.

Q Safety is fundamental for any company, particularly those in the high-risk industries like maintenance. What can companies do to better ensure this?

As a starting point, it is always helpful to work with in-market industry organisations and ensure industry standards are met. Otis works with stringent standards for Environment Health and Safety and is guided by Otis’ worldwide jobsite safety standards.

Internally, safety is a responsibility shared by the company, employees and partners. Companies need to create a workplace safety culture that encourages all who are involved to make safety top-of-mind. Increasingly, companies are also leveraging technology to help implement and improve safety practices.

Q What is your view of human resources as a business function? How closely do you work with your HR head and on what kind of issues?

The human resources function is integral to our business, especially its efforts surrounding employee upskilling. I work closely with my company’s HR department to ensure that the business is supported by the right people with the proper skills and tools needed to get the job done. I have strategic goals, and I know I can rely on the expertise of my HR team to ensure availability of adequate skills, knowledge and experience within the organisation to achieve those goals.

Q Describe your ideal Chief Human Resources Officer.

To me, an ideal CHRO is a partner to business decision-makers. This means understanding the human element of the business and balancing that with the importance of delivering business results. That person should also help foster an inclusive workplace culture.

Q How do you envision the workforce of the future?

To me, the future workforce will be digitally focused with people at its core. I believe that automation and artificial intelligence will help shape the workplace as people use smart machines to be more productive. The demand for technological, social and emotional skills will create an innovative, agile and diverse workforce. I think that our professional skillsets will continue to grow alongside this demand. At Otis, we are committed to helping every employee develop the skills they need to grow and stay competitive in their field. No matter if someone has worked here for one day or one decade, we offer programs to help every employee advance their career.

Q How will skilled professions such as elevator/lift maintenance evolve into the future, given this traditionally has been a labour-intensive, hands-on task?

Skilled professions have, and must continue to, learn to successfully work alongside machines. Today’s machines help skilled workers be more precise, gain better insight, and ultimately increase the quality of their work. Artificial intelligence offerings, such as Otis ONE, help our field professionals perform condition-based maintenance. Essentially, this offering analyses elevator performance data on an individual basis, which helps us to better predict potential issues and perform preventive maintenance. This ultimately translates into higher equipment uptime. To share another example, most Otis field professionals now use smartphones loaded with custom apps to help them perform their job more efficiently. These digital tools can help employees to diagnosis and fix issues faster than before.

Q Innovation and agility are core to the future workforce – how can HR work with business leaders to inculcate these in today's employees?

Working closely with business leaders, HR can identify opportunities to be more efficient, streamline processes, and develop a robust talent pool. This helps in managing change and improving the employee experience. In my experience, workplaces that foster a culture of innovation generally work on the belief that innovation can come from anyone in the organisation. Our HR team helps to facilitate this belief by encouraging creativity and idea-sharing as well as alleviating fears around trying something new. This practice helps our company to become more agile and innovative.

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