FOCUS 75: Think Big With Empathetic Leadership

Jeannie Wong, HR Director, Thales in South East Asia, believes that empowering employees is at the heart of organisational success. 


How does Thales plan for the entire workplace ecosystem and equip employees to support critical business operations while keeping teams connected, engaged and productive?  


Thales was quick to adapt our ways of working last year, with our employees showing incredible resilience and agility when we adopted new work practices. As an Essential Firm providing critical solutions to the rail, defence, aerospace and digital identity and security sectors, we remained operational throughout the entire Circuit Breaker to support our customers and partners. 


Globally, the Thales Group introduced “Smart Working”, an initiative where each country or business unit has the ability to adopt a hybrid work model that would be the most effective for their teams to deliver optimal performance. Thales in Singapore also adopted this hybrid work model, where teams who could work from home without any compromise on efficiency or quality continued to do so. We also established a good IT infrastructure and tools to support employees working remotely. 


To keep employees engaged, managers do frequent check-ins with employees – to ensure that the communication flows stay intact despite not being able to physically meet. Formal trainings moved to digital learning platforms where learning takes place anytime, anywhere, on demand. In addition, there are also several (non)-business related clubs like the Young Employees Society (YES) and our recreational club, LE CLUB, who moved all their activities virtual. From organising workshops on wellness and mental well-being to fitness workouts and e-bazaars, these clubs are helping bring together people from all walks of the company to network and bond.  


Finally, the small gestures count.  We encourage each department or manager to organise their own virtual sessions like regular coffee catch-ups, or to mark celebrations and milestones over video so no one gets too lonely. 


Individual and team accountability is key in a smart workplace setup. As a large MNC with 7 business units, how does Thales foster this responsibility? 


As a technology company, we believe that employees can flourish when they are empowered to do their jobs well. We encourage all employees to align with the Thales Leadership Model, which embody three key elements: “Think Big; Make it Happen, and Together”.  Across all our sites, we cultivate an environment of trust, and this includes managers having regular check-ins with their employees to ensure that communication lines remain open.  


As part of the “Smart Working” initiative, we are implementing a “Managing for Success” approach where success is measured through high quality outputs and outcomes rather than the means or the procedure. This allows our people to be trusted and empowered to organise themselves in the best way possible to achieve results, serve our customers and deliver their commitments with the highest of standards.   


In a traditionally male-oriented industry, how can companies like Thales and other industry giants encourage more women to step into the roles engineers and technical operators?


Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a strategic topic for Thales, and gender diversity is one key parameter. Over 35% of our employees in Singapore are female, higher than the Thales Group average, and profiles include software developers, engineers, data scientists and researchers, amongst many other skillsets. A woman leads Thales Research & Technology (TRT) in Singapore, one of five R&D centres for the Group globally. 


Whilst some of the industries we operate in such as defence and aerospace are indeed traditionally male dominated, it is encouraging to see a growing number of women taking up business and technical roles in these industries. Personally, I would like to see progress in attracting more female students into STEM. We strongly believe that we can foster greater innovation and creativity through a wider variety of approaches, perspectives and ideas, brought by both women and men. 



Interview with Jeannie Wong, HR Director, Thales in South East Asia, for FOCUS #75. To read more articles from this issue, download your digital copy here


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