Leading from the Heart : Insights from HR Leaders on Values, Morality, & Ideology | Carmen Wee
July 20 ,2023
Step into the world of HR leadership with us as we dive deep into “The Heart of an HR Leader.” Join Carmen Wee and your host Adrian Tan as they navigate ethical dilemmas and discuss the art of leading with values.
we have the privilege of speaking with Carmen Wee, a global HR leader and author with over two decades of experience in the field. Carmen’s latest book, “From Kampong to Boardroom,” chronicles her journey from a humble upbringing in a kampong to becoming a prominent HR leader on the global stage. In our conversation, Carmen shares her insights on leading with the heart, balancing values with business demands, and navigating ethical dilemmas in the ever-changing HR landscape.
The Accidental HR Practitioner
Carmen’s journey into HR was not a deliberate choice but a lucky one. As she puts it, she was an “accidental HR practitioner.” Trained as a social worker, Carmen realised just before graduating that her true calling lay in a career that combined altruism with a commercial focus. This led her to explore the field of HR, starting with a government role before transitioning to the private sector. Over the years, Carmen has worked in various industries, including FMCG and tech, and has established her advisory firm. Considering her unconventional path, Carmen believes now is the best time to join HR, given the exciting changes and technological advancements shaping the profession.
The Evolving Role of HR Leaders
When comparing the challenges faced by HR leaders in the past to those of today, Carmen highlights the significant impact of technology and the changing business landscape. In the past, HR professionals relied on limited resources and had to navigate the complexities of the role mainly on their own. However, with the advent of Web 2.0 and 3.0, HR leaders now have access to a wealth of information and tools to enhance their effectiveness. Additionally, the expectations placed on HR leaders have evolved. They are now required to possess HR expertise, a deep understanding of the business, and the ability to leverage data and technology to drive strategic decisions.
The Heart of an HR Leader
Carmen has emphasised the importance of leading with the heart as an HR leader throughout her career. She believes that HR professionals must set a high bar regarding ethics and values. Confidentiality and integrity are paramount, especially when handling sensitive information and making critical decisions that impact individuals and the company. Carmen also emphasises the need for HR leaders to be humane in their approach, recognising the profound impact their choices can have on people’s lives. Every hiring or promotion decision can be life-changing for the individual, their families, and the wider community.
Balancing Values with Business Demands
While leading with the heart is crucial, HR leaders often face challenges in balancing their values with the demands of the business. Carmen acknowledges that the operating environment and the expectations placed on HR leaders can vary depending on the company culture and the senior leadership team. In some organisations, HR is highly valued and seen as a strategic partner, while in others, it may be viewed as an administrative cost centre. HR leaders must navigate these dynamics and find ways to demonstrate the value they bring to the table. Carmen advises HR professionals to start by addressing the business pain points and providing practical solutions that align with the company’s goals. Building solid relationships with senior leaders and seeking mentorship and support from like-minded professionals can help HR leaders stay true to their values and make a meaningful impact.
The Impact of HR Decisions
Carmen emphasises that HR decisions have far-reaching consequences, not only for individuals but also for the company’s brand and reputation. HR leaders must ensure that their decisions are based on sound information, ethical considerations, and the organisation’s core values. In an increasingly ESG-centric environment, transparency and accountability are critical. HR leaders must be prepared to stand up to scrutiny and be able to justify their decisions if required. Carmen shares how she recommended hiring candidates who didn’t meet the typical job specifications but possessed transferable skills. These individuals went on to become top performers and made a significant impact on the company. Being open-minded and giving people opportunities, even if they don’t fit the mould, can lead to unexpected success stories.
Developing the Heart of an HR Leader
Carmen believes that the heart of an HR leader is something other than what you have or don’t have. It is a quality that can be developed and nurtured through experience and learning. However, she emphasizes the importance of self-reflection and staying true to one’s core values. As HR leaders progress in their careers and face increasingly complex decisions, they must take time to evaluate their choices and seek guidance from mentors and peers who share their values. Surrounding oneself with the right support network and continuously honing one’s skills and knowledge are essential for maintaining integrity and making a positive impact as a HR leader.
Conclusion and Future Outlook
In conclusion, the heart of an HR leader lies in leading with ethics, values, and empathy. HR professionals must navigate balancing business demands with their core principles. While the operating environment and expectations may vary, HR leaders can make a meaningful impact by addressing the business pain points, building solid relationships, and staying true to their values. The decisions they make have a profound effect on individuals, families, and the wider community. By developing the heart of an HR leader and staying true to their core values, HR professionals can navigate ethical dilemmas, drive positive change, and shape the profession’s future.
As the HR landscape evolves, HR leaders must adapt to new technologies, changing business dynamics, and societal expectations. By embracing innovation, staying informed, and continuously developing their skills, HR leaders can position themselves as strategic partners and drive meaningful change within their organisations. The future of HR lies in the hands of those who lead with the heart, balancing the demands of the business with the needs of the people they serve.
About Rolling Arrays
Rolling Arrays has been driving SAP SuccessFactors-led HR Transformation since 2009. The company specialises in SF consulting, implementation, and support and also builds applications to enhance the utility of the SuccessFactors platform. It is committed to designing systems that help its customers to attract, develop and retain talented individuals. In 2021, Rolling Arrays was recognized as one of the top 75 fastest-growing companies in Singapore by The Straits Times & Statista.