HR in the Hot Seat: Tricia Duran, HR director, Unilever Asia

by Lucy Hook09 Aug 2016
What is your job title and what brought you into this role? 

My job title is HR Director for Unilever Asia. What’s interesting is that I started my career in marketing but early on decided that while brands, products, systems and process can all be copied by competition, people are the unique competitive advantage of a company. Hence it’s important that we attract, select, retain and develop every employee, to maximise their human potential and bring to life the best versions of themselves. That’s my mission and what led me to HR.

What motivates or excites you the most about your current position? 

I love creating a relevant people agenda, landing it in the business and seeing the results. Our employer brand is strong, our attrition is down, our engagement index is up, our talent is strong, my team is exceptional, our office space is beautiful and voted by the Straits Times as one of the ‘funkiest offices in Singapore’. What more can I ask for?!

What is unique about HR at Unilever? 

Unilever is the number one Employer of Choice, as voted by HRM Asia this year. We were also voted Best HR Team in the HR Excellence Awards for 3 years in a row. Being a winning HR team is grounded in our ambitious and inspiring business vision – to double our business while halving our environmental impact and increasing our social impact.  Fundamental to the delivery of this vision is a very strong HR strategy based on a winning balance of care for people, care for the environment and care for performance. We invest a lot of time, money and energy in attracting the best talent in the industry and in the development of our people. An example of this is our recent investment of €50m into our premiere leadership development centre, Four Acres Singapore, where we house world class learning and leadership programmes. Our guiding principles as a HR team is ‘to be human, to be simple, and to inspire'.
What will HR’s biggest challenges be for the coming year? 

The biggest challenge I forsee is the ability of our profession to be 'high tech and high touch' - it will be a real challenge for many organisations to find that magic spot. In this day and age of big data, digital and globalisation of process and systems, how do we keep the human element of the term 'human resources' alive? We must continue the journey of moving with the times, leveraging technology, bringing robust data and analytics to the table, but at the same time we must keep it engaging, caring, personal, tailored where necessary, flexible and inspiring. We’re working on it!

What has been the strangest HR scenario you’ve ever experienced? 

At some point in my career, it was reported to me that there were ghosts in the office and I was asked to see how to address that... Needless to say, there is no such thing as ghosts and if anyone thought there was, they could consult their own spiritual advisers on the best way to manage the issue. HR are not ghostbusters!

If there’s one piece of HR-related advice you could give, what would it be? 

“Anything worth doing is worth doing well” - I truly believe in this saying. Make sure you’re equipped with the skills and capability to exceed the leadership roles you’re given and the goals you’ve been set. That plus a true passion for your job will lead to great results.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of HR?

I’m an internationally accredited yoga teacher and find time to practice yoga whenever I can. I also love singing and sometimes (when my arm is twisted!), I am the lead singer in a band. In the next year, my goal is to create a cover album with me in the lead vocals and post it on Spotify. Wish me luck!
Where’s the best place to go for dinner/drinks in Singapore? Why? 

My current favourite place to go is Spago, at the top of the Marina Bay Sands. They have a beautiful colonial inspired bar that has the view of the city and marina on one side, and the ocean in the other.  If you arrive just before sunset, you will experience the sun set on the ocean in one side, darkness cover the marina on the other side, and then slowly the darkness fades away as the city awakes with lights from the many ships and sky scrapers. It’s beautiful. And yes, the food and drinks are great too!