Cindy was with the iconic Mandarin Oriental, Singapore for over twenty-six years. As Director of Human Resources, during her time with MO, she was a role model, teacher and 'mother' to hundreds of Colleagues over the years. When she retired from the Group, she left behind a rich legacy of heartfelt inspiration and kindness.
What are you a Fan of?
I love the vision and mission. When I joined MO, our vision was to be the best luxury brand in the world and the mission was to completely delight and satisfy. This helped you set your alarm clock – you came to work and this was how you had to operate. You were there, knowing that you were going to make sure you breathe, live this vision and mission, and whatever you did, you made sure it was top-notch because it had to match the best luxury brand in the world.
MO Colleagues are very special – no matter where they go, MO never leaves them. I normally tell our Colleagues to spread the MO culture. You can take Colleagues out of MO, but you cannot take MO out of them. The DNA is so ingrained - it’s the MO way, not the my-way. That’s the thing that sets us apart from other people.
How did your career grow with Mandarin Oriental?
I was the Executive Housekeeper and Group Housekeeper of Hilton International in Singapore, so at that time I travelled quite often and opened hotels. During my travels, I spent more money on phone calls with my children more than anything else. After eight years, I told myself I needed to be grounded, and that's when Mandarin Oriental, Singapore then came to me. I thought, at the time, "Yeah, why note? New hotel, new concept, new challenge," so I joined - that was in March 1994.
Then after five years, the General Manager told me, “Cindy, you shouldn’t waste your talent in Housekeeping alone; you should share your talent with the rest of the hotel.” When I asked him, "How to?" he replied, “You should be the Director of Human Resources.” I didn't have any experience in HR, I had no formal education in Human Resources Management; I did Housekeeping, Laundry, Dry Cleaning - all these things I knew. My GM said not to worry and that there would be a lot of support.
I always told myself that if I take on a new challenge, I should challenge myself to do a good job. I was President of the Housekeeping Association, so I knew a lot of Executive Housekeepers in Singapore and through them, asked them to please introduce me to their DHRs. I brought them in, we had lunch and networked. Through them, they became my consultants. I also took many HR courses and grew from zero base.
What would you consider your achievement in your twenty-six years at Mandarin Oriental, Singapore?
The reason why I wanted to take all these courses was to make Mandarin Oriental a preferred employer, an employer of choice. With all these awards come criteria to step up the department or hotel. As a result, over the years, we won a lot of awards. One of the biggest challenges was the three-year journey that we did for Aon Hewitt's 'Best Employer Award'. It took us over 3 years to get all the best things that we could do.
After all these awards, I could see that recruitment became easy for us and turnover rates became better than other hotels. What we did was the right strategy and with the challenge where everyone shares one piece of cake, Mandarin Oriental's name became very prominent in the market.
It was challenging, but it was fun. My team worked very hard, and my team also won a couple of awards as “Best HR team” under the HR Asia and HR Local Magazine. We also developed one of the rising stars in Asia to get the Rising Star award. All in all, it has given me some sort of endorsement to say that our HR was on the right track to compete with the best.
Who is a leader that made a difference in your MO experience?
Even though there’s quite a few of them, one of them is the Area Vice President / General Manager, Christian Hassing. Some managers like for people to know they are the boss, but Mr. Hassing is a true MO culture person. I found the word ‘respect’ in him, and he is a good example of it. He has a lot of respect for everybody in the hotel.
Sometimes, we had occasions where we agreed to disagree. But there was always a mutual trust. He was always very good and always supportive of HR every time I wanted to implement something for Colleague welfare, celebrations, awards or prizes. He was always there, very willing to listen. He's not the kind who would say, "I don't have time for you." Every time after the morning meeting, I will just straight away go to his office – no need to make an appointment. He never stops me from coming in.