The opinion series aims to share knowledge, provoke debate and stimulate conversation about relevant industry topics. The blogs reflect a range of perspectives from our team here at Pomelo. We discuss the importance of Human Resources operations in high-growth startup with our Head of HR, Xueting Ong.
Opinion series: Xueting Ong on how managing operations and acquiring talent shapes a business
The core of any business is its people, and leaders know the importance of having the best on their team. For startups in particular, building an agile team requires exceptional talent.
Once the right people are in place, an HR team is required to manage them on a day-to-day basis, completing all tasks from onboarding new talent to conflict resolution. Right now, more and more companies are working remotely or have teams distributed globally, presenting an even bigger challenge for management and HR operations teams.
We spoke to Xueting Ong, our Head of Human Resources Operations to find out how her role is critical to the success of any company. She also gave us some insight on what it takes to succeed as an HR manager, how to ace interviews and what it takes to get the role you’ve always wanted.
What are your responsibilities as the Head of Human Resources Operations?
I oversee the HR department in the company. My responsibilities as the Head of the Human Resources Operations include owning the employee life cycle, managing performance as well as reviewing compensation and benefits. In addition, I plan engaging activities, ensure that our staff have access to learning and development opportunities and take care of their wellbeing.
How important are HR operations when it comes to running a company?
HR is vital to running a company, as each organisation or company has to establish a healthy work culture and comply with the employment laws in the country they operate in. A positive work culture brings out the best in employees and this translates into better productivity and output.
The HR team is also responsible for conducting activities, events and celebrations within the company. This gives us the opportunity to foster team spirit through team building activities. Through these activities and events, trust is built among employees. This is especially important when teams are dependent on each other as a good working relationship will help to make the company run smoothly.
What are some of the indicators of success in HR?
Employee satisfaction is the most important indicator. From what I have noticed, employees that embody the phrase "work hard, play hard" are often the most satisfied. This is reflected in their work. They are more productive and take on additional challenges to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. Beyond the added exposure, employees challenging themselves fuels their professional and personal growth, something that we are certainly happy to be part of.
Staff retention is another important indicator in HR. High turnover results in added manpower needed to hire and re-train new hires, and impacts on the overall morale of the remaining employees. Possible reasons for high turnover include high workload, competitors offering a better package or problems with managers. These underlying issues should be reviewed and tackled by management before resuming hiring.
One of our reference points is our Glassdoor reviews, where we are rated 4.4/5 stars. We take feedback seriously and encourage employees to voice their concerns. I will also reach out to each employee periodically to ask how they are doing and if there is anything that could be done to improve their working experience here at Pomelo.
What are some of the tools you use to manage HR operations?
I use Bamboo HR, which is our internal HR system. We use it for recruitment and to organise employee data, employee documents and annual leave. We also utilise Slack to collaborate, as we work in different countries and different time zones, so communication is very important. Slack helps us to connect with our colleagues from the UK and Vietnam, which constantly keeps us engaged and in touch.
How has your experience been working in a startup?
It has been an exciting journey so far, no two days are the same. There are new challenges and tasks every day, helping me grow every day. I have been afforded many opportunities here that have allowed me to test my capabilities, which I don't think would have been possible in other companies.
Working at a startup also means that most of us take up a number of different roles that we never thought would be possible in a company with an established hierarchy. This means that your career can move in any direction, with the right training. The possibilities are endless and I am very happy to be working in Pomelo.
What are some tips you would give to candidates attending interviews?
Research the company and the role you are applying for. Candidates should have some knowledge of the company's industry and products. They should also project the right body language, which includes direct eye contact, firm handshakes (or fist-bumping due to covid), speaking clearly and good posture. Dressing appropriately also gives off a great first impression.
Interviews are a two-way street, they are for the interviewer to learn more about you, and for you to know more about the company. Ask questions about the company culture, team dynamics, expectations and what it takes to be successful in the role you are applying for.
What are some of the important attributes someone would need to be an HR manager?
Due to the nature of the role, they have to be a people person and be comfortable adjusting their style to suit a myriad of different personalities. They need to be empathetic yet rational when handling conflicts and able to uphold confidentiality.
What advice would you give to other startups managing a team that is scattered globally?
We conduct virtual team activities. For example, due to the restrictions in Singapore, we organised a virtual amazing race and half our staff played the game while in the office and some played the game from home. This helps us to bond and interact with each other even though we are unable to meet.
Recently we had a company retreat in the Maldives, and we held our global town hall in person, with everyone from the different offices present. We intend on making this a once a year tradition, as it was a huge success and everyone enjoyed themselves tremendously.