The CEO and the Leadership Team are the ones to mould the organizational culture with feedback and inputs from employees

Lay Pin is a professional coach and certified facilitator. She is passionate about talent management/development and it has been in her DNA since the beginning of her career. In her current assignment, Lay Pin is working as a Talent Management/Development Manager in an American multinational in Penang, in charge of SEA, Japan, Korea and India. She spends most of her time traveling around the region, facilitating training and coaching managers. She enjoys experimenting with new training concepts and she feels lucky to be able to do that in her present role. She has piloted microlearning where she split a 2-3-day training into a series of half-day training, spanning a few months for participants to be able to go back to their workplace to apply the knowledge they learned during training. When they return for the second session, they will report back their application at the workplace and the changes that they have experienced. Thus, her method ensures the actualization of the training she parts.

Thank you, Lay Pin, for giving your valuable time to this interview.  We look forward to your candid responses.

Let’s start.

We would be pleased to learn about your professional journey from the beginning. So, please share with us about your first job interview. 

How did you get to know about the job opening?

Lay Pin: I actively wrote into the local MNCs located in Penang, Malaysia.

How was the interview process?

Lay Pin: It was quite simple as I had done my industrial experience there before and the hiring manager knew me as an intern, so the interview went rather smoothly.

How did you prepare for it?  

Lay Pin: I read up about the company and mentally prepared what questions would be asked and what answers I would give.

Can you share a couple of questions asked in the interview?

Lay Pin: I don’t really remember the questions but there were mostly behavioural questions.

How was your overall experience?

Lay Pin: it was not quite difficult as I did a good preparation.

As the first job holds a special memory, let’s discuss your first year at your first job.

How was your experience?

Lay Pin: It was quite a culture shock as I had done my industrial training in that organization before, but the first real job was quite a different experience.

What were your expectations of your employer and your role?

Lay Pin: I liked the role and the colleagues were friendly but not my manager, who was the apple of the boss’ eye, so she was quite cocky.

Were they all fulfilled?

Lay Pin: No, especially my manager who was cold and not empathetic at all.

What didn’t coincide with your expectations? 

Lay Pin: I was a greenhorn and expected my manager to guide me in my work, but she just dumped everything on me to do and then blamed me when something went wrong.

Why did you choose HR as a profession?

Lay Pin: I am always passionate about teaching, so Training was just a role that I chose in the industry.

What was the motive and what was the motivation to pursue a career in HR?

Lay Pin: I briefly lectured in a local college and I enjoyed my time there. Unfortunately, the job did not pay well so I left to work in the manufacturing company.

Do you think workplace mentors and coaches play an important role in settling fresh graduates in their first job? How was your experience? 

Lay Pin: Yes, very important. As mentioned previously, I didn’t have a mentor/coach in my first and second jobs as those were very short stints, but in my third job, I had a great mentor and coach, an Admin Director, whom I indirectly reported to and the person who hired me. When I reflected on my experiences, I must really thank him for moulding me to what I am today. He would always mentor/coach me as I was very junior in my role. He would spend time talking to me, asking me questions, and guiding me in my role. He also sent me to Dale Carnegie training which helped to build my confidence and my presentation skills, and I really thank him for that.

COVID-19 has changed workplace dynamics in many ways. What has been your learnings during this phase?

Lay Pin: Flexibility and willingness to change to fit the situation. As a full-time trainer, my role is to conduct face to face training in the sites that I support. With the travel freeze, I’m unable to travel to the SEA and Japan sites that I support. So, I had to convert my face to face training into virtual training which was a challenge as virtual training is not as effective as face to face training. It was a sharp learning curve to me as I had to quickly modify the training materials to suit the virtual environment and I had to redo most of my training activities so that they can be done virtually effectively. Also, I’m using Zoom that our IT has put in place so that all the virtual training can be done smoothly and securely.

What permanent changes do you foresee at the workplace post-COVID-19?

Lay Pin: I think I will be conducting virtual training until September or even the end of the year and that would be one change that I have to face. Another one is if I were to start traveling again, the new normal would be the smaller class size with social distancing, masks and hand sanitizers in the training room. So, I must revamp the activities that I can do incorporating all those new normal.

Organizational Culture is a key differentiator between successful and not so successful organizations? What determines the organizational culture?

Lay Pin: In my opinion, the CEO and leadership team are the ones to mould the organizational culture with feedback and inputs from employees.

What is the role of HR in creating organizational culture?

Lay Pin: HR and Communication Team would be supporting the leadership by cascading this to the whole organization, like organizing training or forums to communicate this and to continue to encourage managers to implement/role model the culture.

Please share an experience when a person's cultural background affected your approach to a work situation?

Lay Pin: I’ve managed a regional team before and, I must adjust my management and leadership style when dealing with them. For example, I had subordinates in China, and they were more conversant in Mandarin, so I used Mandarin in my 1:1s with them so that they were more comfortable and able to share all their work concerns with me.

What kinds of experiences have you had in relating with people whose backgrounds are different than your own?

Lay Pin: I used to hire someone who has the same background as me but as I gained more experience on diversity and inclusion, I would make it my intention to hire someone different from me so that the person can complement me and the team with different perspectives.

What do you think about Talent Shortage?

Lay Pin: Based on my hiring experience, I don’t think there is a shortage of talents, but we need more candidates with a good attitude, who are willing to learn, etc.

What are a few practical tips you want to give to CEOs and Hiring Managers to manage the challenge of Talent Shortage?

Lay Pin: If the person has a good attitude and willingness to learn, it’s easy to train the person. Also, to ensure that the person fits the organization culture.

How Social Media has changed the workplace dynamics?

Lay Pin: Very much. It’s easy to share any information online and it’s fast and real-time. It enables us to engage with anyone globally and at a faster pace.

If you need to draw a landscape of the future workplace, how will it look like?

Lay Pin: More people will work from home using technology to communicate and share real time.

Lastly, what is your message for fresh HR Graduates?

Lay Pin: It is an exciting world out there. There are so many things to learn and do. So, just go out and explore the opportunities available. Most important is to have a positive and good attitude and willingness to learn as much as you can in whatever job that you do.

How should they prepare themselves for a career in HR?

Lay Pin: Talk to HR professionals to understand the role further and explore whether you would like to be in this role and make your own decision. OR, try out the role to see if you like it. If not, then, look for a role that you enjoy doing.

Thank you, Lay Pin, for sharing wonderful insight. We appreciate it. 

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