After over 20 years as a Human Resources professional in the Banking and Finance industry, Caroline Tan had an eye-opening experience after being involved in a part-time stint in St. Joseph’s Home (Catholic Welfare Services) (SJH). It inspired her to make the leap into the Community Care sector. Now as the Head of Human Resources at SJH, she uses her wealth of experience to help build a stronger talent pipeline for the Community Care landscape in Singapore.
1. You held regional roles when you spent 20 years in Human Resources within the banking and financial services sector. What life lessons did you glean from this experience?
Working in different countries with different cultures highlighted to me the importance of being adaptive and resilient. Although my overseas colleagues then worked in the same roles, I was impressed by how differently and creatively they had managed the fulfilment of their customers’ expectations.
2. How and when did you get to know about the Community Care sector? What inspired you to make the switch to Community Care?
When I left the financial services sector in late 2016 I took up a full-time HR-related certification programme. A few months later, there was a call to set up an e-HR system in SJH. Since the project allowed for a flexi-time work schedule, the arrangement worked well for me.
Stepping into SJH, I was struck by the depth and breadth of potential for transformational work in Community Care. There is so much promise to make a positive and constructive difference in the lives of our seniors, hospice patients, and the children and infants in our Childcare Centre.
To me, this makes up the spiritual aspect of the workplace where individuals see that serving here is about care, compassion, and support of others, and that is where I derive satisfaction in the job.
3. Could you describe your current role in St. Joseph's Home?
Currently I helm the Human Resources role for the Home, where we oversee a comprehensive suite of functions that support our manpower needs.
Although HR may not be involved in the direct care of our residents, one of the most important aspects of the HR role here is to curate our human capital to develop, sustain, and advocate the desired culture for the Home.
All these efforts lead up to the assembling and shaping of diverse options to generate opportunities for our people to forge a viable and fulfilling long-term career with us in the intermediate and long-term care (ILTC), or Community Care, sector.
4. As a veteran HR professional, what are your thoughts on the sector’s efforts to upskill and develop manpower (such as Senior Management Associate Scheme)?
Having undergone SMAS, I appreciated the opportunities to meet people from other healthcare organisations. They shared their wisdom and expertise, much of which were gleaned from experience, and not available in any textbook!
A critical challenge we face in this sector is succession planning. Effective succession planning enables a climate of stability to be sustained through the smooth transition of leadership. In order to continue the good work, we need to raise the next cohort of leaders with strategic critical thinking skills and effective foresight. In this age of hyper-change, leaders who can think ahead will be better prepared to capitalise on the upcoming opportunities and analyse emerging risks that a rapidly evolving society can face.
5. What are some skills you found transferable from your previous roles to your current one at St. Joseph's Home? And did you pick up new skills after entering the Community Care sector?
One of the benefits that I appreciate is the chance to jump in and experience wearing several hats outside the traditional HR arena. This has given me the chance to experience more variety and increase the breadth of my skill sets.
Furthermore, I must give credit to my colleagues and the Management who have played an important role in helping me to ramp up quickly, answering my countless questions; even to the extent of teaching me the “language” of clinical acronyms!
6. What keeps you motivated and brings you joy in your work at St. Joseph’s Home?
There is an on-going sense of purpose and mission for person-centred care at SJH combined with an openness to consider innovative and progressive approaches to giving care, while valuing human dignity. What continues to stand out for me is the collective mindset of questing for new ways to future-proof our mission, and remain relevant to our society.
For me, it is important that I never lose sight of why I came into this sector in the first place. Although the challenges of this sector can be far-ranging, I keep in mind the transformational difference that a forward-looking facility like SJH can make in the lives of our seniors, their families, the children, and infants. I am privileged to be a part of all this!
7. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of making a mid-career switch?
- Be humble – Entering a different industry can require a major reboot of one’s paradigms. This includes reviewing previous ways of working, and being prepared to adapt to suit the new job requirements.This sector is such a treasure-trove for growth and improvement, and there are numerous breakthroughs that we can learn from.
- Be grateful – This world-class quality of life that we enjoy today in Singapore was made possible by the hard work and sacrifices of our elders, a number of whom are now our Home’s residents. One of the things that keep me grounded is seeing their strength and resilience, having lived through difficult times of war, independence, and scarcity.
Keen to join the Community Care sector? Find out more on our Community Care Jobs page www.aic.sg/commcarejobs!