The one big thing that the global pandemic has taught HR, she says, is the need to have the capacity, and capability to manage crises and navigate a number of different platforms including legislation and politics & employee wellbeing.
Motorola Solutions Singapore was recently ranked among the nation's best employers, standing tall among the likes of Economic Development Board (EDB), Tanglin Trust School, United World College of South East Asia, but also steering ahead of international brands such as Amazon, Ikea, and Coca-Cola.
Elise Mann, Head of Human Resources, ANZ & APAC, Motorola Solutions, recognises that, calling is "a significant achievement", but what she really pins it down to is an ongoing commitment to uphold the team culture, employee wellbeing, and values across the board. However, she is fully-aware that it is necessary to take the HR function even farther. As such, Mann feels that there is a need "to keep building on the foundations" that the Singapore team and the wider HR function in Asia has laid.
"This includes continuing to make diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) a top priority, adapting to the needs of workforces of the future, as well as maintaining culture and connection in the aftermath of the global pandemic," she shares. "We also have to continue to provide learning & technical development for our people in a way that is nimble, and reflects their needs. That includes continuing to invest in hybrid work models, while driving stronger connections for new employees through facilitated mentorship programme".
In addition to the business side of things, Mann shares more below with Lester Tan as she dives into her HR career, leadership style, inspiration, and more.
Q Was HR a natural career choice for you? If not in HR, what is another career would you have chosen?
I started my working career in finance, but soon realised my true interest lay in leveraging human capital instead of balance sheets. If I wasn’t in HR, I would have liked to be a veterinarian. However, I was always better at accounting, economics, and computers at school than I was at chemistry, and sciences.
Q What was the most innovative HR campaign that you've worked on, and what was your biggest learning from that?
By far, the most rewarding and innovative HR work I have been involved in is in the mergers & acquisitions space. This has included performing due diligence, pre- and post-acquisition work, and developing a skill set that has allowed me to work on multiple projects in Chile, the UK, and Australia. Aside from learning the legal frameworks in other countries, I gained experience in culture & change management, and learned how both of these elements can impact organisations, individuals, and teams on both sides of the transaction.
Q On the other hand, what is the hardest decision you’ve had to make as a HR leader?
In a previous organisation, I had to downsize my own team which was by far the most difficult and emotionally taxing decision I have ever made. This gave me a much greater appreciation for our role in HR when supporting leaders and individuals during downsizing. People often say "I don't know how you can do this to me". I try to help them to understand that it’s hard for both the person being made redundant and the manager involved.
My role is to try to make the process as smooth as possible, while ensuring people are treated with respect.
Q How closely do you work with the CEO, and what are the specific projects that both of you work closely on?
Through Motorola Solutions’ organisational structure I partner closely with our Vice President for Asia Pacific, and our Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand.
People are at the heart of every key business decision our business makes, and I feel blessed to be included in many projects. Some key standout projects for me include: supporting the ongoing integration of our software business into the corporate structure, leading gender diversity initiatives, planning and facilitating our leadership programmes, and working on cultural diversity initiatives. I am part of a fantastic leadership team who is proactive, and engaged in people initiatives because they understand the benefits. It’s a positive, and rewarding experience but one that I have not always had in my career.
Q Who is the one person who has inspired you the most in your career, and why?
Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston marathon. Katherine was told "no woman can run the Boston Marathon", because it was assumed the distance was too long, and women were too fragile to complete it.
I have now run that marathon twice, certainly not to Katherine’s level - but it’s a proud achievement nonetheless. I think that spirit of determination relates back to HR too. Throughout our careers we are faced with challenges and sometimes told "that will never work here", or "the business will never invest in that".
That’s when we have to remind ourselves that affecting change is a marathon, and not a sprint.
It takes time, determination, consistency, and hard work to build up the strength, and capability needed to have influence, and drive change.
Q How would you describe your leadership style?
My top five Gallup strengths, an online talent and strength assessment, are: relator, harmony, individualisation, achiever, and responsibility. So, my leadership style aligns with each of these. For me, it’s about connecting with others, working on your relationships, being curious about the people you work with, setting meaningful goals for yourself and your team, and being accountable for them.
Q With today’s rapidly evolving environment, what do you believe is HR’s #1 responsibility/ to add value?
The past few years have shown me that HR needs to be nimble and flexible to move with, and adjust to, the global environment, and the changes in the business we partner with. The global pandemic has taught us that HR needs to have the capacity, and capability to manage crises and navigate a number of different platforms including legislation and politics, employee wellbeing, and always being a voice of reason to support our most valuable resource - our people.
Q Is there a phrase that you believe HR professionals should do away with? And what should they replace it with?
"Millennials are not here for the long term".
Let's replace that with "embrace new thinking" - this is the same as any generation, we need to evolve, and embrace new thinking of work practices as we move into a new era of work.
Q Before we conclude the interview, we’d like to ask: since Motorola Solutions is one of the global leaders in keeping communities safe and businesses productive and secured, what is are one to two things you wish to see in the HR community so that HR leaders like yourself can also be safe, secured, and productive? And why?
I have had two memorable experiences in my life where the work that Motorola Solutions does really did make a difference. One was the bombing of the Boston marathon that I competed in, and the other was a serious road accident that my father was involved in. Both of these moments make me reflect on Motorola Solutions’ company mission of "helping people be the best in the moments that matter". These were two moments in my life that really mattered to me.
I am proud that the work I do every day plays a part in providing critical communications to front line workers including those that supported me and my father when we needed it most. We as HR professionals need to play a key role in guiding the culture of our organisations, and ensuring people are aligned with the purpose of their organisations.
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