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Talent Conversation with Evelyn Kwek

Evelyn Kwek is the Managing Director of Great Place to Work, Singapore. Kwek is also the co-author of two national research papers on work-life scene and is a regular facilitator or roundtables. She is also a member of the Tripartite Committee of Work-Life Strategy. Read this Talent Conversation to learn more about her greatest success, the most important thing she’s learned in business and what she believes is the biggest challenge in today’s leadership journey.

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Published by Talent Plus
on 01 Apr 2018

1. What position do you hold in your organization today? (work, charity, free-time, etc.)

I am the co-managing the Great Place to Work Singapore office together with my partner Joni Ong. We are driven with a passion to see great workplaces in Singapore, workplaces characterized with strong culture. We also lead another firm, thYnk Consulting, a boutique consulting firm, which has carved out a niche in the local market especially in the area of work-life consulting.

Being a mum to three young kids means that there is not much free time on hand. When we do, we like to get the kids outdoors, away from books, devices and malls.

I have recently started to serve as a mentor on the SMU Alumni Mentoring Programme. The programme aims to provide a platform for mentors to connect with student mentees and offer guidance for their professional and personal development.

2. What would you consider your greatest success?

I consider it my honor and privilege to represent Great Place to Work in Singapore.

With 30 years of history, Great Place to Work ® originated with our founder Robert Levering’s interviews with thousands of employees about their workplace, and the resulting realization that great workplaces are characterized by a high level of trust between management and employees.

Today, Great Place to Work has undergone incredible expansion. What started off as a two-person operation is now a global company with officers in 50 countries surveying 12 million employees (representing 7000 companies) worldwide each year.

I consider it a tremendous privilege to represent Great Place to Work in Singapore. The institute has always had a deeply ingrained social mission – to build a better society by helping companies to transform their workplaces. The company's work continues to be focused on this idea of social change, and assisting companies in building high-trust workplace cultures. There is a strong alignment between my personal values and passion and what the Institute sets out to do. That I can do what I love and love what I do, I am grateful.

3. What is the most important thing you have learned in your business?

That things most often do not go as planned. It is important in business to be able to take calculated risks, and make decisions with limited data points and a dynamic external environment. We cannot get paralyzed when there is ambiguity but be able to move forward. Yet there is also a time for not rushing into decisions.

The wisdom is in knowing when to move ahead and when to sit tight in those seasons of uncertainty.

4. What do you wish you had known prior to coming into your role?

That the demands on me as is multi-faceted. From business development to managing the operations of the business, delivering consulting commitments, making technology decisions and building a team – all these requires different skillsets for each activity. It takes flexing and very intentional efforts to ensure that all the actions and behaviors will result in our desired corporate culture.

This is not the easiest journey and requires a ‘keep on keeping on’ attitude.

5. What challenges did you feel the least prepared to handle?

It would be this same challenge and need to manage across the various streams of the business.

6. What would you want your successor to know if you were mentoring him/her?

Count the cost before taking on the role. And once we are in the role, do all it takes to create a thriving business and a strong team.

The leadership journey is never a straight course. It will not be an easy journey and a leader therefore needs to know what helps him recharge and refresh.

A leader cannot run on an empty tank. We cannot lead on an empty. We need to know what helps us recharge mentally and emotionally, set then be intentional about our efforts to do so. In this way, we can then be best placed to continually give and inspire the team.

7. What did you want to become as a child?

Different professions at different times – depending on what games I was into. It was a fashion designer at one time when we were playing with paper dolls and then a nun at another point in time. I attended a

convent school for 10 years and a school project on Mother Theresa got me totally inspired.

Fashion designer and a nun! Total opposite ends of the spectrum!

8. What adjective describes you best?

Structured and Tenacious. I like to put structure and order where there is mess.

The tenacity bit I guess just gets developed over time. Every business owner will need some degree of tenacity – the nature of having to run a business, problem solve, overcome challenges, compete, win, inevitably just means that one needs to be persistent, tenacious.

9. Is there anyone you would like to meet and why?

It may sound really cliché, but it would really be the late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. And to be able to have the boldness and confidence to ask him any question, share different scenarios, hear his views and understand his thoughts

One would have read that Mr. Lee suffers no fools and people typically get overwhelmed in his presence and by his intellect. It would be a great privilege to have a time with him where he freely shares, speaks and mentors.

These Talent Conversations are brought to you by our partner, Talent Plus ®, the leading partner in building and sustaining high-performing cultures through the assessment, development and engagement of talent. Scientifically skilled at helping companies select the very best people for specific job roles and maximize their potential for the growth of the company, we see results including growth in customer satisfaction, increased productivity, reduction in turnover, strengthened employee engagement, sustained excellence and improved profitability. Established in 1989, Talent Plus is an internationally recognized and award-winning management consulting firm with over 400 clients in 20 countries delivering interviews in more than 30 languages. Headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, Talent Plus also has an office in Singapore. Visit us at www.talentplus.com.

Last Modified Date: 05 Dec 2016