Mrs. Mildred Tan is the Managing Director of Ernst & Young Advisory Private Limited. Chairman of National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) and former NMP are amongst her many credentials.
We speak with Mildred to see what motivates her, drives and fuels her daily work.
1. We see that you are very active in community work, especially with your appointment as Chairman of NVPC. What are some causes that you hold close to heart?
There are many causes that I am concerned with, such as developing active seniors (the elderly) in education. In the area of healthcare, it would be cancer patients who need financial assistance. I am all for values-based education, equipping our children with the moral compass as well as developing stronger ties between the community and their schools. In the arts, it would be opening up channels where people can work in terms of sector development and appreciating all forms of arts and culture… The list goes on.
At the end of the day what do we want for Singapore? What is the society we want?
Our founding father LKY once said, “He (A Singaporean) is a hard-working, industrious, rugged individual. Or we would not have made the grade.” I would add that Singaporeans can also be described as caring and giving people. The question before us would then be this: Can we create a society and a community steeped in deep values of pride for the country we live in and evolve a culture of caring and giving no matter the cause?
My aspiration is a more caring and giving Singapore – one where we can take pride and stand up to be counted.
2. Given the recognition of community service hours in schools, and some mandatory, do you think youth volunteerism these days is no longer completely altruistic?
Recognition of community service has long been embedded in our school system, even when I was in school – and that’s a long time ago. I learnt so much from the different activities I was involved in. Yes, initially it was because I had to or because it was part of the school or uniformed group activity (I was in the Girls’ Brigade and proud to have been part of that movement). Later, one will begin to learn life lessons and hopefully grow to realise, “I don’t have to but I want to…” How else will one learn?
3. What are some issues that concerned you most during your time as NMP from 2009 to 2011?
I was concerned (and still am) about our economic development (from workforce development to trade tariffs to tax incentives), values-based education, and evolving a good healthcare system.
4. What do you think of the role of Human Resources in Singapore… Is it like a “hobby” department? Do you think Singaporean businesses take this role seriously and harness it to its full potential?
I think the role of HR has come a long way (from back room) and it will constantly evolve (to Board room) where people (talent) must be an essential part of the conversation. The war for talent especially in the emerging digital revolution is a challenging one. Definitions of a job needs to be redefined, what does the workforce of the future look like? HR is not a compliance or administrative role but a business imperative. I think we live in exciting times where HR is no longer just a department but it’s a role that everyone has a responsibility in.
5. Do you agree with this sentence: “There is no such thing as work-life balance. Right from the start, we already spend too much of our lives at work”.
I struggle with the ‘work-life balance’ phrase as it means almost a win-lose situation (Is it more work, less life or more life, less work?) I’ll say it’s about knowing what your work responsibilities are and your personal life responsibilities are. It is about the need to prioritize what’s important to you. If it’s a certain type of work or position you aspire then that’s a personal decision but I agree with Mr LKY that “Singaporeans are indeed hardworking and industrious” and we tend to be high performing and high achievement-centric. We want to do our best! Look at our sportsmen and women in the recent SEA Games. They did extraordinarily well and I dare say they must have worked very hard and trained very hard. Otherwise they wouldn’t have achieved the medals they did.
Want to hear more from Mildred? She will be speaking at the Future Leaders Summit 2015 alongside a notable list of speakers. You may register for the event here!