Home' HR Monthly : August 2016 Contents 18
have to figure out how HR is going to plan for this and what is the
As an HR chief, I need to ask how I'm going to lead and how I'm
going to help shape and support the business. We can be the catalyst
Taking Singtel as an example, many of our new emerging
portfolio businesses are never going to be run as a night job for
somebody else. It cannot be a part-time agenda. We are actually
running two agendas concurrently and that's very tough because if
you look at the digital business and you look at the core business,
they are very different. The capabilities required for each one are
In our core business, the network has got to be 99.9 per cent
reliable, which means you have no room for a lot of experiments.
In our digital set-up business, the culture that you want to build
is experimental and fast. You hire differently. Regardless of the
differences, we still need to be accountable to shareholders.
PW: How has digital changed things?
AT: When we first started there were a lot of things happening
on the social front, such as Whatsapp. But, interestingly, many
of them have morphed into core business because consumers are
telling us, "I'm using this, it's part and parcel of my day-to-day
life." So as much as we're managing this digital portfolio, the core
business is also digitizing by itself. And we have to consistently
look out for what is the next emerging technology because
eventually it will become part of the core.
PW: In that environment, what are you expecting of top leaders
in the future?
AT: If you're going to be a top leader, your mindset has got to
be very open to what is coming your way and you have to think
globally. At the same time, you must have that curiosity to want to
learn and pick up new things and apply them very quickly, in a way
that makes sense to your business.
Enterprise leadership is also key, whereby we have to collaborate a
lot more. Look at where the inter-dependencies are with each other
and leverage on every possible resource that we have within the
organisation. At the same time be very strong in terms of execution
and make it happen.
PW: What have you learnt about what engages your people?
AT: We typically ask two questions at Singtel -- why did you join
us and why do you stay? We then analyse their response by their
profiles such as age and gender.
Firstly, we find that people want good pay and a career, but it's
also important to them that the company has a good reputation.
People stay because of strong leadership and challenging
assignments, because they feel the organisation is making progress.
We have a very strong communication agenda with messages that
are authentic. We will share with employees our success but we are
also open about what we need to improve.
Take teamwork. In employee engagement surveys, my favourite
question is: 'What do you think of teamwork in this organisation?'
Answer: 'Terrible.' But when you ask another question, 'Are you a
good team player?' Answer is: 'Yes, I am.' I'm trained in statistics,
but I couldn't figure out the correlation of these two questions. You
tell me that teamwork is terrible but you tell me you are a great
team player. Team player takes two hands to clap. Somebody has
got to make the first move, right? If you are a team player, do your
job, lend support and that's where you will start to see teamwork
coming into play.
PW: What is your approach to performance management?
AT: The good performers, intrinsically, will always love us because
through a strong performance management system like ours, their
performance is differentiated. Our mid-year performance review is
compulsory but we abolished ratings so that people can focus on
conversations. When it comes to the year-end rating, it wouldn't
be a surprise because expectations were already set during the
PW: What are you doing to encourage gender diversity?
AT: The ratio of women to men in executive and management ranks
at Singtel is about 40-60. I think it's easier for women in Singapore
to rely on some family support [for childcare] as compared to
Australia. Singtel is an organization based on meritocracy so when
talented women get a job with us, they know it's not because we
are trying to meet a gender quota, but rather it's because they were
the best candidate. I think that gives women a lot of confidence.
PW: You have the Optus group in Australia. In managing
across international cultures, what are some of the challenges
Photography: Studio Commercial
"IN OUR DIGITAL SET-UP BUSINESS,
THE CULTURE THAT YOU WANT TO
BUILD IS EXPERIMENTAL AND FAST.
SO YOU HIRE DIFFERENTLY."
AILEEN TAN, CHRO, SINGTEL
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