HR in the hot seat: Tan Li Li, HR director for corporate & hotel operations at Banyan Tree

by Miklos Bolza28 Jun 2016
What is your job title and what brought you into this role?
I started as corporate HR director back in March 2011 with the company. Back then, I oversaw HR matters pertaining to corporate excluding hotel and quickly changed a high turnover in corporate HR to one that was stable with committed team members. I was subsequently promoted in January 2014 to take on a facilities and admin role and therefore become corporate director of HR and office admin. This year, I became HR director, corporate & hotel ops when our company underwent some restructuring. Now, I have taken on an additional role where hotel HR operations now rest with my team.
What motivates or excites you the most about your current position?
I am someone who strongly believes in improving processes, where possible. Therefore, I am at a stage where I am reviewing all HR deliverables and their respective processes to improve turnaround. This will ensure a speedy and accurate response to management and support them in their daily decision making and growth of the company. This is particularly critical to me at this point as my team of seven including myself are doing a job previously done by 14 HR personnel.
As I am also the HR contact person for more than 30 overseas HR directors with regards to hotel operations, my current role is advisory in nature. Even though I was not involved in hotel ops HR previously, the additional function is not something I fear. After being in the role for around three months, in the words of my VP, “We have not dropped the ball yet”.
In short, the daily challenge of doing well both in corporate and hotel ops HR and balancing them within my role really motivates and excites me.
What is unique about HR at Banyan Tree?
I would say our HR team. Our members comprise of baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y.  Five of us, including myself, have been with the company for five years already. This is something that we can be proud of, especially when the turnover of corporate HR before our team was very high. Our HR team members are closely knit and willing to go the extra mile to get things done when required. We can be noisy amidst our daily workload! We also have a fighting spirit and do not give up easily.
What will HR’s biggest challenges be for the coming year?
I would say the biggest challenge is to continue to do well in both roles and not drop the ball. This is especially with our current reduced headcount and will become more challenging as we have more hotels openings in the coming year. My team will have to support these pre-openings with recruitment and compensation & benefits matters which are applicable to our hotel locations.
What has been the strangest HR scenario you’ve ever experienced?
I guess the strangest HR experience I had was when I was at a logistic company some years back. As part of the recruitment procedure, we are required to ensure that candidates shortlisted for the interview were not born in the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese Zodiac. This was essential to ensure there was no clash with the executive chairman’s sign. 
If there’s one piece of HR-related advice you could give, what would it be?
Always take the opportunity to learn and do more as knowledge gained is yours to keep and no one can take it away.
What hobbies and interests do you have outside of HR?
Not much really as outside of work I have housework to look after. On weekends, I spend time with my mum and on Sunday, I spend time in church at the worship service. I do however, steal time to watch Korean drama, news on television and also listen to news on the radio when driving.
Where’s the best place to go for dinner/drinks in Singapore? Why?
To me, food is a necessity for one’s survival. Therefore, I am quite easy. After work, dinner is always at home and I normally eat very little. On weekends, my family either has dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant or some western joints both in the same local shopping centre. I do not really drink except for the occasional wine or beer at formal functions.