Michael Yeong, senior vice-president of human resources at Cerebos Pacific, talks about his passion for HR and the future of the function.
What was your first HR job, and why did you choose HR as a profession?
As an engineer by training, my first job was as a technician working in a Japanese manufacturing company, and subsequently, I joined an American MNC as a quality control (QC) technician.
I slowly discovered my passion is interacting with people, and training the QC staff on how to conduct various QC tests to ensure the incoming materials were within our specifications.
My passion for constant interaction with people and guiding people through the steps on doing things made me decide to make the career switch and choose HR as a profession.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
One of the most enjoyable things about my work is the ability to align, design, customise and build an integrated HR system to support the business directions of the organisation.
It is important to customise the system to the current business requirement and this is dependent on the readiness of the culture and the business leader. Thus the enjoyable part of this whole system design is being able to pace it according to the business growth.
As an HR practitioner I spent time educating business leaders on human capital management and development.
Once the leader understands the importance of how their human capital can impact their business directions and strategies, they will commit themselves to be the main drivers behind the human capital strategy.
Can you describe a regular workday at your company?
I start my day with about an hour of “Bagua Walk” at about 4.30am and then send my daughter to school. I usually reach the office at about 7.30am and have my well-deserved teh tarik and catch up on the news.
A regular workday for me involves discussions with the executive team comprising my group CEO and CCO on human capital issues and challenges, develop strategies to drive an effective and efficient culture, and ensure key performance indexes are aligned with the corporate and business levels.
My day also involves monitoring our “grow from within” initiatives to ensure they are on track.
A person who has a story to tell will be able to create opportunities to enhance the current system and inspire his team to build on these opportunities.
I will also conduct talent review discussions with the various local business and functional leaders to identify high potential talents and their individual development plan.
Following that, I meet with functional managers and/or heads of departments to discuss organisation development matters or operational issues.
A regular workday will also see me having a quick operation discussion with my HRM and HRD team managers to address any outstanding issues.
Periodically, I also conduct follow up meetings with local business HR managers to address their challenges.
I will end my day with silent meditation for at least an hour with my spouse which is part of Cerebos’ quality work-life activities. Cerebos donates $5 to The Straits Times’ School Pocket Money Fund for each staff who keeps themselves healthy.
What is the best career advice you have received?
Instead of mentioning the best career advice I have ever received, I would instead like to provide some thoughts to those who are trying to grow their career.
As an individual, we must be very proactive in creating opportunities for learning and development both for ourselves and our staff.
Continuous learning will increase our knowledge and the application of this knowledge will allow us to gain skills and experience.
Thus, it is that we transfer what we have learned into actionable initiatives. I believe in making it happen, making it work.
That is how I have built my career over the years to reach my current role.
While some may ask if I have reached the peak of my career, I think there are more peaks to be scaled. Through meditation, I have been able to think clearer, connect the dots and continue building my future.
A person who has a story to tell will be able to create opportunities to enhance the current system that he is in and inspire his team to build on these opportunities and implement systems to create the future.
How do you think the HR function will evolve in the next five years?
Top management understands the importance of human capital and it will take a bigger involvement in the management of talents, especially talent management within the organisation.
The HR function has to evolve fast to be an engaging function – from top management to employee level. HR has to move from traditional practices to an integrated talent management system.
HR needs to know where its performing talent is – what their strengths, weaknesses and potential are.
We need to have a strong understanding of how to assess and identify this talent pool. This is the most critical skill that HR practitioners need to build now.
HR will work hand in hand with top management and the board of directors to allow them to get to know the top talent within the company who will have the capabilities/abilities/potential to be future management.
In this way, top management and the board of directors will have first-hand knowledge and interaction with potential staff who will form the next generation of leadership, thus allowing for effective succession planning.
Is there anything you feel HR can do better to play a bigger role in organisations?
HR will need to work closely with top management and the board of directors to guide them in talent management.
This will allow the role of HR to evolve and play a role of a meaningful business partner. An effective succession planning process will contribute in building a sustainable business model.