Ten years ago, when Catherine Chen relocated herself from China to Malaysia, a very well-known HR director told her that she had to change her career from HR to other areas. The reason is that she does not speak Malay, and she is not familiar with Malaysian labor law so that no company will hire her as an HR in Malaysia. Although she was upset, she decided not to follow the HR director ‘s advice.

Ten years later, Catherine Chen is still working as an HR practitioner in Malaysia. She has a passion for HR, and she is still working hard to help her clients to improve their competitiveness by optimizing people management processes.

During her past over 10 years HR practitioner’s experience, a lot of managers and leaders had shared with her challenges like:

How to motivate and engage employees?

I know my employees are busy but why they are not providing me the expected results. Why?

My team is not working together. They are only protecting themselves instead of working towards my department’s goal. What to do?

To overcome those challenges, Catherine Chen has been actively promoting OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to organizations in the new world of work. OKR is created by the founder of Intel, Andy Grove, in the 1970s. Both OKR and KPI can help in employee performance management. Compared to KPI, OKR can improve focus, alignment, and engagement of employees. It transforms employee’s mindset from “I do the work for you” to “I do the work for myself.”   Since the 1970s, more and more companies started to implement OKR successfully, such as: Intel, Google, Facebook, and Hua Wei, etc.

This time our interview with Catherine Chen focuses on HR practitioner career advancement and OKR.

Question: HR is usually the OKRs champion in the organization. What advice do you have for HR who want to promote OKRs in their organization?

Catherine Chen: OKRs are about culture and change. Before HR promotes it to the company, they must have a firm belief that OKRs will help them improve alignment, focus, and employee engagement. Otherwise, when senior management questions about OKRs, HR is frustrated.

Question: You mentioned questions and doubts from senior management to OKRs. Is that very common senior management is not aware of the benefits of OKRs?

Catherine Chen: From my observations, OKRs will be successfully implemented when commitment is given by senior management. But that does not mean if the top management does not understand OKRs, HR has no chance to promote OKRs. Indeed HR adds value to business by introducing OKRs to the senior management. If today HR can roll out OKRs successfully in an organization, they will bring their career exposure and experience to the next level.

Question: What other benefits can HR get by applying OKRs in terms of career advancement?

Catherine Chen: OKRs is a management strategy framework, and it can be applied to manage HR’s career development. For example, if you want to be an HR business partner/director, or performance management expert. You can set this as an objective. To complete this objective, what would be your key results? Perhaps you need to plan your key results such as: complete OKRs implementation in your company this year, optimizing your company’s people management process, etc.

Apart from that, OKRs promote stretching objectives and innovation. When you set objectives for your HR career, push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You cannot achieve anything extraordinary by using the same methods again and again. When you have the habit of striving for excellence, you will accelerate your career development.

Question: What kind of companies will provide the best environment for HR to grow?

Catherine Chen: I think every company will provide an opportunity for HR to learn and grow. From my own experience, I had worked in 3 different countries and  6 industries. When I look back, I think the most impactful working experience I had was from the 1st listed Chinese software company in China as they have the world advanced Human Capital Management system. I grew rapidly when I was working there.

Another valuable working experience was when I was working with a global 500 fortune company where I had to train new employees and managers about company culture and people management skills. It improved my competency in training and public speaking, and it helped me a lot later when I become an OKR coach.

Question: What advice will you give to HR practitioners who are also thinking of transforming from an internal employee to a consultant?

Catherine Chen: When I was working with internal HR practitioners,  many of them also asked me this question. My advice would be: Build your T profile. “一” refers to your working experience in HR functions. HR is a broad function, and it includes recruitment, employee performance, talent development, employee relationship, and compensation & benefit, etc. I had working experience in all the functions, and they helped me to under HR and business better.

“I” refers to your subject matter. Before you leave the corporate world and become a consultant, ask yourself: what are you specialized in? The market likes specialists. Among my HR career, I spent most of my time in talent development areas within HR; that’s why before I left the corporate world, I have made my decision to work as a talent development consultant. Along the journey, I re-learn OKR again, and I decide to become an OKR coach.

To learn more about OKRs coaching, please visit the website: www.growthmindsetglobal.com