Ong Seok Bin, Senior Director (HR), MPA

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) took home the gold award for 'Excellence in CSR Strategy' as well as the silver award for 'Excellence in Leadership Development' at the HR Excellence Awards 2021, Singapore.

In this interview, Ong Seok Bin, Senior Director (Human Resource), Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), shares about the implementation of the 'Change Leaders Programme' and how it has helped to develop the competencies of middle managers.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

MPA adopts a three-pronged approach to effect change in the organisation:

  • Top-down: Leaders set clear directions for change following staff consultations,
  • Ground-up: Officers are empowered to develop ideas and initiate change,
  • Across: Organisational processes are designed to support change implementation.

Additionally, MPA involves its middle managers to drive organisational transformation and address complex issues in the maritime industry. It introduced the 'Change Leaders Programme' in late 2020 where middle managers are appointed as 'Change Leaders' to teams to work on commissioned projects that represented areas of high strategic priorities for the organisation.

The Change Leaders Programme offered structured professional training and group coaching to help officers understand team dynamics, develop personal awareness of their working style, and explore ways to lead changes in the new normal.

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

MPA’s leadership supports the growth and development of middle managers who operationalise and implement organisational strategies and priorities.

In this vein, the Change Leaders Programme developed the leadership competencies of middle managers. With the support of a development coach, Change Leaders applied the lessons learnt to address identified issues that had arisen as the organisation and the maritime industry evolved.

Q Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?

Participants were understandably concerned about the additional workload that came with joining the Change Leaders Programme, especially in view of the COVID-19 situation. As such, participants embarked on projects that were aligned to their existing work priorities. At the same time, participants with complementary strengths and experiences were drawn from across various divisions to work together in addressing problem statements in a holistic manner.

Q As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your gameplan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

Commissioned projects under the Change Leaders Programme represented areas of high strategic importance for MPA and Maritime Singapore.

Their findings and recommendations were incorporated into MPA’s annual work plan. As such, the outcomes of these projects received considerable attention and high priority for implementation.

By working in teams on the identified projects with professional guidance, participants of the Change Leaders Programme acquired a shared consciousness and a deep appreciation of the complex challenges faced sectorally and institutionally. They developed the knowledge, skills and the mindset to transform MPA and the maritime industry for success. 

Q We’re now seeing HR manage portfolios that were previously considered far from their job description. In your view, what are the top three skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO?

  • Adaptive leadership – Deploy HR resources swiftly and flexibly to manage change and meet organisational needs as they evolve.
  • Talent management – Understand an organisation’s business model and track industry trends closely to make effective decisions on present and future talent needs of the organisation; apply effective talent management practices to anticipate and address human capital challenges that an organisation faces.
  • Sound communication – Share a compelling vision and articulate well-defined goals to employees in a transparent manner so that they appreciate the basis of enterprise change.

Image / Provided by MPA

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