Joan Tay, Head of Human Resources, NTUC Health

NTUC Health Co-operative Limited (NTUC Health) was nominated as a finalist for 'Excellence in Crisis Management and Recovery' at the HR Excellence Awards 2021, Singapore.

In this interview, Joan Tay, Head of Human Resources, NTUC Health, shares all about the company's focus on ensuring that employees feel empowered and supported in maintaining their work-life harmony.

Q Congratulations on being a finalist! What is your organisation’s HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

Learning from Dave Ulrich, the winning HR strategy is about enabling NTUC Health to make a difference in the community that it operates in. What we do in HR goes beyond what we do for staff in the organisation. It is also about how we create real value for our clients, patients, and the community as a whole. My colleagues in HR aspire to put our best foot forward, and we believe that doing our best means exceeding expectations of what we thought we were capable of achieving.

Some of our earlier milestones were centred on our employees' wellbeing, and simplifying our workplace processes for them to focus on their meaningful healthcare work. These allowed our staff to stay focused and agile amidst the changing pandemic conditions. 

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?

Our HR strategy focuses on ensuring that our organisation functions smoothly as a whole. This means that we look at the clinical, non-clinical, and ancillary and corporate services teams such as finance, corporate communications, facilities, procurement and, of course, HR.

In NTUC Health, the leadership teams drive the building of systems, cultures, and capabilities.

They spearhead process changes by driving a service-oriented culture, developing future-ready skills and capabilities, and embedding an agile work style throughout the organisation. 

Q What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?

Roadblocks are expected and part-and-parcel of executing any initiative. The largest challenge lies in changing the growth mindsets.

Today, our HR team joins our businesses and regulatory bodies to co-create solutions that make sense for our community. One recent example is the re-designing of a new role as the Community Care Associate. This new role allows our locals to perform clinical duties with some clinical training and supervision. This is a significant milestone for our community.

Another important trait that our HR team has is grit. Our resilience allows us to learn from failure and to never stop striving for perfection. 

Q As evidenced by the nomination, 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?

Some of our positive ROI are as follows: 

  • The employee engagement score increased year-on-year by 20%,
  • Our corresponding attrition rate dropped from 16.2% to 14% over the last two years,
  • Our employee net promoter score doubled from last year,
  • Since 2018, our unique learners have more than doubled from 600 to 1,300,
  • Our training hours per learner increased by 20%,
  • We are hiring to open our two new nursing homes with over 400 beds and expanding our eldercare services to support our community.

Through our efforts to simplify and digitalise HR processes, NTUC Health saw a 25% increase in productivity. We saved 520 man hours every year. Now, HR processes three times the volume with the same headcount.

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?

Our HR team follows Steve Hatfield’s work from Deloitte to find out how the employer-employee relationship will evolve into challenges or opportunities for CHRO. One of his views is that employees will view work as “fashion”. He describes how employers are in constant motion as they chase worker sentiments, competitor actions, and marketplace dynamics. Here at NTUC Health, we connect these actions as an employer to achieve a sustainable workforce strategy.

Steve Hatfield also proposed the use of scenario planning to explore possible futures of the worker-employer relationship. We believe that today’s successful CHRO should not be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, stretch their thinking, and be prepared to be hands-on in charting a new course.


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