Ries Tay manages human resource matters at TOUCH Community Services, a not-for-profit charitable organisation that serves individuals from all ages, races, religions and backgrounds, including children, youths, families, people with special and healthcare needs and the elderly. In her five years with TOUCH, her duties entail optimising human resource capacity through recruitment, training and development planning, and performance management for the Children, Youth and Family Groups. Her biggest source of motivation lies in managing the needs and well-being of TOUCH staff so that they are well-supported to serve their clients and society better.
A Yearning for Meaningful Impact
I was in the private sector for 10 years before deciding to make an industry switch. I had worked in various commercial organisations, first as a Sales & Marketing Executive, before transitioning to Human Resources (HR).
HR appealed to me because it resembled “matchmaking” in many ways. Like a puzzle, finding a good fit between employer and employee can sometimes be challenging, but it’s always satisfying to witness the relationship between both sides thrive.
After working in the private sector for ten years, my job began to feel routine. I felt a need to engage in a role where I could contribute to society while utilising my corporate skillset to enable that change.
I was aware of social service then. The sector was not new to me, as I had volunteered in community programmes, and took part in Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. I understood that at the core of this sector – it was ‘heart’ work that made a positive difference in the lives of those in need. So in 2013, I made the decision to pursue a new career path in social service.
A Leap into a New Role
I applied to TOUCH as an HR executive in 2013 and dove head first into the work, excited to engage with my new environment.
Even though I remained in HR, I quickly discovered a key difference between the private sector and social service – their end goals. While the private sector worked towards financial gains, I found the social service sector was more about helping the vulnerable. This further resonated with my belief to make a positive change in the lives of others.
However, having been rooted in the private sector for over a decade presented its challenges when I transitioned to social service.
As an HR executive working in a new industry, I had to learn much about our organisation’s programmes, the jobs we are recruiting for, and the social issues faced by the industry. Equipping myself with this knowledge allowed me to recruit the right people for the organisation. From social workers to counsellors, there was a wide range of roles I had to familiarise myself with. But my colleagues were accommodating, friendly, and always happy to guide me whenever I was unsure. This helped me learn quickly and easily.
Finding the right fit can be challenging. We’ve come across applicants who’ve possessed the right skills and qualifications, but may lack imperative personality traits such as empathy, patience and grit that enable them to sustain and grow in the sector. We believe that finding a good job match allows our staff to provide quality services, ultimately helping more families and communities in need.
Creating a System of Support
Through the people I met, I quickly learnt and understood that work in social service was a role that required both heart work, and hard work. It was a very “giving” vocation, and I realised the importance of taking care of our staff’s mental, emotional and physical well-being.
Together with the HR team, we work to implement programmes and classes to help our colleagues at TOUCH achieve a work-life balance. From organising weekly exercise sessions to implementing a flexible leave system for birthdays and wedding anniversaries, we care for our staff’s well-being, and believe in giving them the space to recharge outside of work.
As an outgoing person, I’ve also enjoyed talking to my colleagues in different departments. When feedback surfaces, I bring this back to the team and if needed, we’d work together to find solutions. I’ve also been heartened to hear stories of colleagues thriving in their roles and even going the extra mile. It’s very rewarding to see the right person being hired for the job, and to watch them grow and flourish as an individual and with the organisation.
For example, we once hired a childcare teacher who had both the relevant skills and qualifications, and the ideal traits of compassion and tenacity. During the interview, she shared with us her unpleasant experiences at her past workplace. A few months later, it was encouraging to see that she had a new bounce in her step and looked truly happy in her new role.
These stories give me hope because at the end of the day, I know that creating a happy environment for our staff enables them to do their jobs well and enrich the communities they work with.
A Positive Ripple Effect
In these five years, I have been fortunate to be in this unique position to impact more than one person – akin to a multiplier effect. I now have the capacity to recruit more people to help across the different Services within TOUCH. I strongly believe that HR work should not be seen as anything less just because we do not serve clients directly. We hope that the recruits with a good fit will go on to serve the community well.
I believe that it takes a community and many helping hands to make a real impact in society. And I’m grateful that I can be a part of this giving community in TOUCH.
Induction briefing for the new staff.