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MyRepublic: Navigating teams with the “new values compass”

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The pandemic is proving to be the ultimate workplace equaliser. Nobody has come out unscathed. Two years into it, many of our deeply-ingrained work practices, beliefs, and habits have been both shaken and stirred. Regardless of stature within their organisation, many people have felt a sense of loss at different levels. While others have found a deeper essence of work and life, in general, it was not without a stage of contemplating and questioning.

Chief of Staff Asia’s conversation with Deborah Woollard, Group Chief People Officer at telecoms player MyRepublic in Singapore, provides an insightful direction for HR leaders to navigate that mothership called “employee experience”, ensuring trust, empowerment, and inclusiveness at every stage. Woollard highlights the “new values compass” as the true north that MyRepublic abides by, giving employees more ownership over their careers and the company itself. 

Follow Chief of Staff Asia’s exclusive story about this people navigator who has led global teams for over two decades for large-scale acquisitions, integration, aggressive market expansion, and talent acceleration.

The workplace’s new values compass

COS Asia: Please tell us more about your ‘new values compass’ and operating model at MyRepublic.

Woollard: Our new values compass is our expression of the workplace culture we are aspiring to create. As a compass, it is designed to help all our team members navigate our path to success by articulating the ways of working and behavioural muscles we want to build to accelerate our growth in the new normal. 

At MyRepublic, we are not looking to just make a few tweaks to processes here and there. Instead, we rethink and reimagine the entire concept of “work” based on the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic. 

We started by looking at some gaps in our culture that arose as a result of people working in isolation. We also wanted to retain and broaden the benefits of working from home, and how it has amplified our existing values, including the high level of trust for each other. 

Over time, this journey culminated in our new values framework and operating model centred on employee experience rather than cliche corporate slogans. It embodies new levels of trust, empowerment, and inclusiveness by giving employees more ownership. 

As our employees have become accustomed to doing great work remotely, we’ve taken the bold step to reimagine what “work” means in the years ahead. We need to keep ourselves agile and innovative, so we’re aware of our employees’ changing needs and priorities. “Work” now is not a place you go to, but what you deliver, how, when, and where you choose.

COS Asia: How have your employees responded to the model?

Woollard: Our team has wholeheartedly embraced the new operating model. Our employees have shared that they appreciate the flexibility that they are entrusted with, the empowerment to create their working patterns, and the opportunities to recharge. Ninety-eight percent of our employees have already taken advantage of the new quarterly Well-being Day, a day off to focus on themselves. 

They have also told us they feel more respected and recognised as individual human beings through our recognition of their unique needs and passions beyond work. 

COS Asia: For how long would you apply the model in the current, fast-changing environment? Do you think it will still be relevant, post-pandemic?

Woollard: This is only the beginning. Our new operating model and values compass were structured in direct response to the evolving world of work. We will commit to this model from here on. We look at more progressive and dynamic practices, further digitise the employee experience, and pilot innovative ways to work for our people to continue thriving. 

COS Asia: Do you foresee any additions or modifications to the current model?

Woollard: Because our people are at the centre of these initiatives, we are listening closely to them to understand how they adapt to the current model. We ensure maintaining clear communication channels for prompt feedback. We will continue to explore creative ways to bring the human connection to our work practices and build on our employee communities. We will keep exploring technology for employee engagement and free up time and space to focus on the most important.

Building a holistic people strategy

Where does Woollard draw her HR management abilities? Is there any part of her job that she finds unenjoyable? We delve deeper into her career and MyRepublic’s unique position in the market.

COS Asia: How would you define or measure the success of any program that you implement?

Woollard: We measure it by its impact on business and people’s performance through a range of input and output measures. But ultimately, we will look at our success through the attainment of business objectives and employee engagement. As we experiment with different work practices, staying connected to our employees is most important. We are constantly evolving to meet emerging needs and stay at the forefront of innovative and disruptive thinking. 

COS Asia: With your programmes’ successes, where did you gain your expertise?

Woollard: The knowledge and expertise come from my experiences. I have had the privilege over the years to work in some amazing companies across different industries and geographies at very different stages of their business life cycle. This has allowed me a first-hand experience of different people, philosophies, and approaches whilst building an appreciation of what greatness looks like, as well as learning from the lessons of others.

I have been very fortunate to have worked with outstanding leaders and mentors who challenged and stretched my learning at different career stages. They encouraged me to continue to step outside my comfort zone, where the best learning often happens. 

I have also led incredible teams that helped build my capabilities and appreciation of diverse styles, thinking, and approaches. 

COS Asia: Is there any uninteresting aspect of your job, one that you struggle to embrace as part of your duty?

Woollard: There is no aspect of my role that I do not enjoy. An exciting and challenging aspect of building a holistic people strategy is that no one part can work successfully in isolation. Everyone has thoughts and aspirations for an ideal workplace. We have to ensure that these expectations are aligned and integrated into all aspects of the employee experience.

The HR “north star” for MyRepublic

Woollard is used to juggling a wide range of tasks and priorities at any given time. The pandemic and its impact on working cultures and environments have only further exacerbated that challenge. Chief of Staff Asia asked what it takes to stay focused on the issues that matter most.

COS Asia: Any tips for HR teams that face challenges in their current work setup?

Woollard: There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and we must always start by understanding and meeting the business where it is today.

My best advice to HR leaders and teams struggling to chart their way forward in these uncertain times is to focus on culture and employee engagement as your anchor. Clearly articulate the culture and workplace you aspire to create. That provides you with the framework and “north star” to align your people’s practices. 

Not every employee experience needs to be groundbreaking. Sometimes, the best experience is quick, effective, and pain-free. Start with the moments that matter most in your organisation and how you want to differentiate your employee experience. 

Don’t be afraid to bring your employees into the process to co-create the strategy and provide ideas and feedback. You will achieve far greater buy-in when you create together and access powerful insights to support your strategies. Learn together, and experiment. It’s unlikely to get everything right the first time, so do not be afraid to pilot initiatives with smaller groups and iterate as you go.

When employees see that the company is open to experimenting and accommodating new ideas, they will feel more inclined to share their thoughts. It encourages a co-creation culture,  which can benefit the company at large. So, make sure to provide as many channels as possible for employee feedback, and never stop listening.

 

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Getting to know: Deborah Woollard

Job title: Group Chief People Officer (Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand)

Company: MyRepublic

Location: Singapore

Years in role: One

Corporate Background: More than 20 years of global business experience, passionately developing talent and cultures in a diverse range of roles and industries across Southeast Asia, China, Europe, the Middle East, and the US.

Academic Background: Master’s Degree in HR Management and Coaching Psychology from the University of Sydney, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce (Business Administration) and Arts (Applied Psychology) from Monash University in Australia.

“Go to” quote on leadership: “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders” – Tom Peters, US business management author

 

MY REPUBLIC COMPANY PROFILE

Industry: Telecommunications

Regional headquarters: Singapore

Employees: Estimated 400

HR focus areas

  • Employee experience
  • Culture and Values
  • Empowerment

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