Singapore

SMRT beefs up HR with more former military leaders

Rail operator SMRT has roped in more military top brass to beef up its ranks.

Mr Clifford Keong and Ms Lee Yem Choo - both colonels in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) previously - have taken on human resource roles within the rail operator.

Mr Keong, 45, joined in May as head of HR for SMRT Trains, while Ms Lee, 49, has been hired to head HR at SMRT's Thomson-East Coast Line division, which may have more than 1,000 employees when it is fully opened in about six years.

The first northern section in Woodlands is slated to open in the second half of next year.

The Straits Times understands that both were hired during former chief executive Desmond Kuek's tenure.

SMRT has confirmed the new hires but would not say more.

Meanwhile, Mr Gerard Koh - a former colonel who was hired by Mr Kuek along with several other former senior military men in 2012 - is now chief corporate officer.

Mr Koh, 48, started as director of HR just over five years ago but is now overseeing group corporate functions in information technology, procurement, human resources and training.

Mr Keong was previously commander of Personnel Command and had passed the baton to Ms Lee in 2016.

That year, the SAF clinched the Leading HR Practices Award in e-HR Management, as well as in Learning and Development, for the third year in a row.

Organised by the Singapore Human Resources Institute, the annual awards recognise organisations with commendable HR and people management practices.

Mr David Leong, managing director of human resource firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said the SMRT's reliance on people with a military background for its key posts "will make SMRT like a quasi-military outfit with an entrenched protocol".

However, Mr Low Boon Seong, managing director of human resource consultancy Align Group, said it does not matter where managers are from, but whether they can "effectively align the team with the company direction (and) at the same time build trust and empathy to foster a positive culture".

- CHRISTOPHER TAN

Transport