'We must always be adaptable and open-minded'

Merz Aesthetics' Karen Tay on creating a positive work culture

'We must always be adaptable and open-minded'

For Karen Tay, one of the most fulfilling parts of working in HR is the opportunity to facilitate the growth of an individual’s career.

“I feel that there's nothing more rewarding than playing a role in helping employees fulfill their potential and achieve their professional aspirations,” said the Vice President of Core Services Asia at Merz Aesthetics.

“Witnessing firsthand how the transformation can occur when individuals are given the tools, resources and support to be successful is very inspiring. And that resonates with me especially when career growth actually has a strong impact on an individual’s life; when they advance in their career, it provides greater financial stability and improves the livelihood of their families. So it's very gratifying to know that all this directly contributes to enhancing the quality of life of our employees and their loved ones.”

Tay — who was named as one of HRD New Zealand’s Best HR Leaders in Asia — added that she also feels great pride in building an environment where employees feel valued, supported and empowered to thrive.

“HR provides me with an opportunity to make a difference in an individual's life, whether it's through career development opportunities, initiatives or providing an environment where they feel safe and happy to work in,” she said.

Strategic talent acquisition at Merz Aesthetics

Merz Aesthetics is a medical aesthetics company providing a range of skincare treatments, devices and injectables. Tay recalled what first prompted her to join the company nearly 10 years ago. At the time, she was inspired by the company’s commitment to creating a culture of innovation and excellence and fostering a sense of community and purpose.

“I have always been motivated by an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to something larger than myself and hope to leave a lasting mark around,” Tay said. “So this vision aligned perfectly with my values and career goals, making it very clear to me that this is the right place for me to grow personally and professionally.”

Tay has been involved in a range of initiatives during her time at Merz, but one that she is most proud of is supporting its geographic expansion.

“When I first joined Merz, we had three entities across the whole of APAC – Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore – with very limited presence within the region,” she said. “Our president, recognising the growth [potential], tapped into this untapped market and I played a significant role in spearheading our expansion efforts by identifying and hiring the key personnel and the current team that has played an important role in driving the success in this market.

“Through strategic talent acquisition and effective HR management, we were able to scale operations successfully and achieve remarkable growth. Witnessing the tangible impact of our efforts on the organisation's growth has been incredible. I feel that this is also a testament of our dedication to being collaborative as a team.”

Another initiative Tay has been involved in is introducing shared services within the organisation.

“When we first started, all entities were very, very small as we were just starting to build a presence in the market,” she said. “So it was evident to me that we needed something that is efficient and scalable in the future. So I championed the implementation of shared services, which are streamlined HR processes, to increase efficiency and subsequently enable us to meet the evolving needs of the organisation.”

Culture of inclusivity boosts culture

Merz Aesthetics also has a strong commitment to fostering a positive and inclusive workplace culture.

“First and foremost, our culture of inclusivity plays an extremely significant role in creating an environment where employees feel valued, respected, and of course empowered to contribute their best,” she said. “We actively engage employees from all backgrounds to ensure that they feel that their voices are heard and we include them in decision-making processes as much as possible.”

Tay added that Merz has an open-door policy where employees can discuss what they feel and need, and the company tries its best to accommodate that.

“Another key factor is transparency,” she said. “Today, information is currency. We share information regularly with employees, providing them with clarity and clear directions. This level of transparency fosters trust and accountability, enabling employees to understand the company's goals and what their role is in achieving them together as a holistic entity.”

In addition, Merz puts a strong emphasis on employee engagement, providing opportunities for employees to engage with each other through activities such as hiking or trekking to build a sense of community.

Adaptable, open-minded for positive workplace culture

When asked for advice on creating a positive workplace culture, Tay said it’s a multifaceted endeavour.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that guarantees success,” she said. “But from my experience, being open minded and being deeply aligned with the organisation's mission is the foundation for cultivating a thriving workplace culture.

“HR teams must first be able to recognise that every organisation is unique with its own set of values, goals and future challenges. So there is no universal formula but we must always be adaptable and open minded and willing to listen to the needs and perspective of employees and leaders alike.”

Tay added that HR plays a vital role in translating the organisation's vision and mission through various strategies, ensuring that every aspect of the workplace – from recruitment to onboarding to performance management – reinforces the organisation's identity.

“Being HR professionals, we must… have genuine passion and dedication with the desire to make a difference in an employee's life, so that we can all contribute to the organisation's success,” she said.  

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