HR in the hot seat: Seah Gek Choo, talent partner at Deloitte Singapore

by Miklos Bolza12 Jul 2016
What is your job title and what brought you into this role?
 
At Deloitte, I have two different roles. I am a partner with the assurance and advisory services team and, in 2010, I was appointed as the talent partner overseeing talent management.
 
I have been with Deloitte for over 21 years. I joined the organisation immediately after graduating from Nanyang Technological University, where I studied accountancy at the then School of Accountancy and Business.
 
What motivates or excites you the most about your current position?
 
The most exciting part of my job is interacting with people – clients, internal functions and business associates. It is always great to be able to make new connections and introduce clients to the people that could positively impact their business.
 
In my assurance and advisory role, I support clients in their needs to help them run their businesses more effectively. I am also responsible for attracting new clients.
 
For the majority of our businesses, the professional work is just one part of the overall relationship with our clients. But when clients ring me up to seek my views because they value my opinion as a fellow professional, that is when I feel the most valued and have the greatest sense of achievement.
 
My other role in talent management gives me a different perspective on things. In the field of assurance, we tend to be very focused on achieving our goals on behalf of our clients. This sense of drive can sometimes cause us to overlook certain people-to-people aspects of our work.
 
Taking care of talent management provides me with a reality check as I am constantly reminded that it is our people who are delivering the services we provide to clients. To me, we must continuously understand how our people learn and work, and how to help them achieve their full potential, especially since talent is our most important asset; what really counts are the people we have.
 
At Deloitte, we believe in making an impact by providing a distinctive experience to each and every individual employee, recognising that everyone is unique and that each individual has his/her own needs and desires.
 
What is unique about HR at Deloitte?
 
We have a ‘What’s your Deloitte?’ initiative that came to life as a commitment to our people that there will be opportunities available for everyone to define who they are and what they want their career to be at Deloitte. There are several components to the ‘What’s your Deloitte?’ employee experience – learning opportunities, exciting projects, mobility assignments as well as co-curricular activities that include sports and corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects forming a key part of the Deloitte experience for our people.
 
At Deloitte, we offer a wide spectrum of career paths across our core practices of audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management, tax and other related services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries. Our people have the opportunity to work with many blue chip companies from various industries.
 
Under our Global Mobility program, staff are able to seek exciting assignment opportunities across the globe and gain international exposure in over 150 countries worldwide, including 25 offices in Southeast Asia.
 
We also take pride in providing enriching learning experiences for our people to ensure that Deloitte remains a place where leaders thrive and ideas prosper. As part of our commitment to cultivate leadership skills at every level of the organisation and ultimately serve our clients better, we opened the Deloitte University Asia Pacific in Singapore on 27 June 2016. Using a leader-led curriculum, our Deloitte leaders who teach at the facility will share their “on-the-job” experiences and knowledge, based on current Asia-Pacific business needs. This offers our people a rich, interactive and experiential learning environment, which allows them to learn first-hand skills that are relevant and applicable to their day-to-day work. The curriculum includes business development, leadership, functional, and industry learning. Courses range from negotiation, developing business strategy, and leadership excellence to c-suite management. 
 
What will HR’s biggest challenges be for the coming year?
 
With Southeast Asia becoming one of the fastest growing regions in the world today, we need to be able to adapt our organisation to respond to the regional growth in these markets where our clients will be.
 
Some of the challenges will be to drive innovative talent solutions, improve employee experience through the application of design thinking methodology and digital solutions for better engagement and empowerment to attract and retain the best talent.
 
We also need to continue to pay close attention to millennials as they make up 50% of the professionals in our firm. To be successful in retaining and attracting millennial employees, we need to continue our efforts to provide opportunities for leadership development, connect millennials to mentors; encourage a work/life balance; provide flexibility that allows millennials to work where they are most productive; give them control over their careers; and foster cultures that encourage and reward open communications, ethical behaviour and inclusiveness.
 
What has been the strangest HR scenario you’ve ever experienced?
 
I have encountered many experiences with different types of people throughout my career but none that I have found to be very strange. You cannot use a cookie cutter approach with every employee and we must tailor our communication approach to the needs and style of each individual.
 
If there’s one piece of HR-related advice you could give, what would it be?
 
To treat every individual with sincerity and fairness. 
 
What hobbies and interests do you have outside of HR?
 
Jogging – an exercise that I started two years ago.
 
Where’s the best place to go for dinner/drinks in Singapore? Why?
 
I like local food especially the Hainanese pork chop at Chin Chin coffee house at Purvis Street.