HR Luminary: Susan Chen’s Odyssey of Transformation

Susan Chen has been immersed in the world of HR leadership for over 17 years, spanning across different continents and industries. Her journey began with notable roles in large organizations such as an oil & gas company in Norway, as well as American financial giants like AIG and Visa. Transitioning into the realm of startups in Southeast Asia, Susan has been involved in ventures within Indonesian healthcare, GoJek, and Riot Games. Currently, she holds the dual roles of founder and advisory partner at Co:Grow, a boutique HR consulting firm dedicated to supporting startups and scale-ups across the Asia Pacific region. We, at EliteX, are honored to introduce Susan Chen as one of the 10 Extraordinary HR Leaders to Watch in 2024.

Susan’s journey into HR was inspired by her desire to work closely with people and contribute to societal sustainability through organizational dynamics. She brings a unique perspective to HR leadership, driven by her diverse experiences and a keen understanding of the interconnectedness between business and human psychology. What sets Susan apart as an HR leader is her ability to deeply understand the pulse of a business, ensuring that her recommendations are aligned with its growth trajectory and transformational journey. She challenges conventional best practices, preferring to tailor solutions based on the specific needs and future implications for each organization. Susan isn’t afraid to advocate for what’s right, even if it means encountering resistance from those who may not initially appreciate her approach.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords; they’re the cornerstones of organizational excellence and societal progress.” – Susan Chen

To stay abreast of the latest trends in HR, Susan emphasizes the importance of continuous learning, humility, and engagement with a diverse community of professionals. She actively seeks out new knowledge through reading, listening, and asking questions, recognizing that there’s always room for growth and improvement. One of Susan’s recent accomplishments includes the publication of her book titled ‘The Death of Best Practices,’ which challenges HR leaders to adopt a more adaptable mindset in today’s dynamic world. Professionally, she takes pride in her ability to build and expand HR teams, as evidenced by her roles at GoJek and Riot Games. Susan has played a pivotal role in reshaping the relationship between business and HR, facilitating cross-country expansions and supporting product growth initiatives.

In fostering a positive workplace culture, Susan emphasizes the importance of addressing negative behaviors that can undermine cultural integrity. She believes in creating an environment where negative behaviors are not tolerated, regardless of seniority, as they can significantly impact the overall workplace experience. By focusing on eradicating these behaviors, Susan fosters an environment where teams can thrive and contribute to organizational success. Susan Chen implements various strategies to enhance employee engagement and retention. She emphasizes honoring and appreciating each individual’s contributions while fostering a safe and inclusive environment. Empowering employees to take ownership of their work fosters a sense of control and autonomy, ultimately contributing to their engagement and satisfaction.

In Susan’s view, HR plays a crucial role in driving organizational success by serving as a bridge between leaders and employees. It’s essential for HR to advocate for the greater good, considering the impact of decisions on both the business and its workforce. By comprehensively understanding and communicating intentional trade-offs, HR can effectively support organizational goals while prioritizing the well-being of employees. As a strong advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, Susan emphasizes the integration of DEI principles into decision-making processes and organizational culture. Rather than viewing DEI initiatives as mere programs, she believes in embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion into the fabric of the organization.

“In a world of constant change, HR’s role is not just to adapt but to lead, guiding organizations towards sustainable growth and collective prosperity.” – Susan Chen

Regarding the future of work, Susan acknowledges that it will vary across industries and organizations. HR’s role lies in redesigning organizational structures and workflows to adapt to this evolving landscape, rather than blindly following best practices. Embracing flexibility and innovation will be essential in navigating the changing nature of work. Balancing the needs of employees with organizational goals requires prioritizing collective needs while considering the organization’s context. This involves aligning actions with broader objectives while addressing individual concerns in a manner that supports organizational success.

Susan emphasizes the importance of approaching difficult HR situations objectively and with long-term sustainability in mind. Making decisions based on careful consideration of short-term and long-term effects helps navigate challenging circumstances effectively. For aspiring HR professionals, Susan advises against limiting career advancement to vertical moves. Instead, she encourages exploring areas of specialization within a generalist role, acquiring specialized expertise to drive comprehensive and impactful outcomes.

Looking ahead, Susan envisions HR evolving into an integral part of business operations, driven by swift adaptation to technological advancements and changing workforce dynamics. The biggest challenges and opportunities lie in establishing HR as essential drivers of organizational success, providing future generations with the tools and opportunities to thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape.

“The true essence of HR lies in transcending boundaries, embracing innovation, and championing the transformative power of human potential.” – Susan Chen