Tan Wan Choon | Head, People & Culture, NCS

At the forefront of the change journey

Posted on May 12, 2022

You need to have a genuine passion for the profession and the drive to “make things better”.

As Head, People and Culture (P&C), Global Delivery at NCS, Wan Choon has an exciting job scope ranging from providing HR consulting and advisory to business leaders in the organisation as well as partnering them on the full spectrum of employee lifecycle from manpower planning, performance management, career development and progression, employee engagement, etc to overseeing restructuring processes that could affect thousands of people in the company.

One significant restructuring exercise was the integration of the then EDMS (now known as Infrastructure) from Singtel into NCS, to realign EDMS capabilities to NCS.

The restructuring, which took place in November 2019, meant that about two-thirds of the 4,000-strong team at EDMS had to be re-deployed to NCS, and the P&C team played a key role in the entire process.

More recently, NCS has conducted further restructuring exercises involving the integration of Trustwave teams into NCS in April 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Mindfulness in people management

The pre-integration period was “particularly critical” as it involved conducting the due diligence needed to ensure the successful amalgamation of teams.

“We have to find out which roles would be affected and the required competencies for the various positions as well as identify any potential callouts,” Wan Choon said, “This was necessary in order to map out an effective organisational structure.”

P&C team also had to come up with clear and effective messaging to be cascaded from business leaders to their teams.

Different communication channels were employed – from townhalls where teams were given a heads-up as to what was going to happen and why; to small group sessions addressing questions from colleagues within the same team; and even one-to-one engagements where specific colleagues may require more information.

The timing of information release also had to be executed back-to-back to prevent any gaps in communication. she said, “The last thing you want is for people to distort or second guess the story and worry unnecessarily.”

Throughout the integration process, P&C team had to be mindful of the emotional well-being of affected colleagues.

“Some people were worried about losing their jobs so we had to assure them that the company will leave no man behind,” she said, “There were also some who had forged a strong bond with their colleagues over the years and were saddened at the prospect of having to transfer teams.”

Fostering a harmonious team dynamic

P&C also played a role in harmonising the dynamics of the new teams, helping to foster rapport among new teammates and supporting the newly appointed leaders in managing and engendering trust within their team.

“After things settled down, we had to routinely check in with team leaders and members to find out how everyone was coping, whether they faced any issues and if there was anything, they wanted us to look into,” she said. “If the needs arose, a focus group can be set up so that they could raise their concerns.”

The key to ensuring a smooth integration is planning, change management and communication.

“You really need to plan in detail and run through it again and again,” she said. “You need to go through the planning regardless of the scale and you cannot miss any of the steps. You also need to ensure precise execution of the communications plan, manage emotions and sentiments and help build trust in the new teams and leaders.”

As a P&C professional, she acknowledges that “managing people is never easy”. “Even with the same issue, the reaction you get from two different people will be very different. But you need to do what is right, and you must have the courage to do it.”

One of the greatest satisfactions that Wan Choon gets from her job is to be able to solve issues that colleagues come to her with. And that also takes passion.

P&C professionals need to like what they do, whether it is responding to employee concerns or figuring out more effective ways of doing things and “challenging the possibilities”, she said.

In order to help others, they also need to take care of themselves to ensure that they can deal with the pressures of their work.

Rest and relaxation with her pets

For Wan Choon, her two “four-legged daughters” – a golden retriever and a miniature schnauzer – play a big role in helping to take away her stress after a long day at work.

“They are authentic, innocent and will always give you their unconditional love. Spending time with them is very relaxing and a form of self-care to avoid burning out,” she said. “And it is only with a well-rested mind that we will be able to find the patience to solve other people’s problems.”

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