HR in the hot seat: Chan Yit Foon, senior VP of HR at Marina Bay Sands

by Miklos Bolza20 Oct 2015
What made you decide to work in HR?
 
I began my career in human resources with IBM Singapore. In my 24-year tenure at IBM, I took on various roles across different business functions within HR, managing local as well as regional HR issues. That was a very valuable opportunity and it was how I got started in this profession.
 
HR is a very dynamic profession and has ample growth opportunities. It is a profession where one truly has the ability to shape the culture of the organisation.  From meeting basic business needs like hiring and training the right talent, to analysing market trends that impact manpower flow, no day is ever boring.
 
What is your job title and what brought you to this role?
 
I am currently the senior vice president of human resources at Marina Bay Sands and I look after the full spectrum of the integrated resort’s (IR) HR function. Together with my team, my responsibilities include prioritising and implementing the human capital strategy for the company’s 9,500-strong workforce.
 
The IR model of business is very diverse and robust. It encompasses hospitality, entertainment, food and beverage as well as meetings and exhibitions. It was – and is still relatively new – to Singapore.  It is the diversity of the business and its ensuing HR needs that attracted me to my current role and this is what keeps me motivated every day.
 
What would you say motivates or excites you the most in your role? 
 
I am attracted by the opportunity to shape the future of best HR practices for an IR. How can a HR practitioner in an IR implement a learning and development strategy for an employee population that is inherently diverse from a functional, cultural and business perspective? How can HR best leverage the endless possibilities that an IR offers in terms of lateral and vertical movement as the company’s employees grow their careers with us? These are questions my team and I ask ourselves every day.   
As you can see, there isn’t mundanity in my work. I am challenged every day to uncover new ideas to enhance our human capital strategy. Importantly, I aim to make our HR work relevant to the business constantly.
 
What is your favourite aspect of the job?
 
I like the fact that my role enables me to adopt both the helicopter view of a strategist, while allowing me to delve deeply into the needs of each individual in our organisation. For instance, I could be planning the quarter’s recruitment needs with stakeholders, while at the same time, conceptualising the biggest year-end party to reward our team members.
 
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work?
 
My goal is to make Marina Bay Sands the top-of-mind company and the employer of choice for jobseekers and our existing staff. As such, our recruitment and retention efforts are equally important and my team works extremely hard to keep our 9,500 workforce happy, motivated and rewarded.
 
What’s next for you in your work?  What are you looking forward to?
 
We just crossed our fifth year of operations in April and I am happy to share that our efforts have been recognised this year in areas such as employer branding and as one of the best companies to work for in Singapore. Winning the Employer of Choice by HRD Singapore has also added another feather in our cap.
While I am very proud of our achievements, the truth is that our work is never done – we hope to create better jobs for Singaporeans and help them in their professional growth. This will continue to be our focus.
 
What is the best piece of HR-related advice you’ve received?
 
There are times when, as a HR professional, we have to make difficult decisions that affect the careers and lives of our colleagues and co-workers. No matter how difficult these decisions are, HR professionals should be balanced in such decision making and do what is right. At the end of the day, even if these decisions are seen to be unpopular and negative, HR professionals must not be personally affected and must “still be able to go to sleep at night”.
 
Did you have any key mentors who have influenced you? If yes, tell me about them.
 
I regard a few of my colleagues and ex-colleagues whom I have had the privilege to work with in my 30 years of professional experience as my informal mentors. I value their opinions and experience deeply and I reach out to them for unbiased and frank feedback on challenges I face at work. I benefit greatly from these discussions as it spurs me to find solutions to challenges at work.