Inspiring Female Leaders: Michelle Turner

Michelle Turner from RB talks about her international career and offers advice to leaders who want to create a more diverse and inclusive culture as part of our IFL series.

​Michelle Turner is a Regional HR Director ASEAN, Japan & Korea at RB. She is an experienced, commercially-focused senior Human Resources professional with a demonstrated history of success and impact working in the healthcare and consumer goods industry.

Can you tell us about your career progression into your current role?

I joined RB 2 years ago, but I’d only been with the company for 3 months when they asked me to move to Singapore into my current role. I’m very motivated to have an international career, but that was particularly fast! One of the reasons I joined RB was because I knew I would get the career stretch I was looking for and my move to Asia was the perfect example of that.

Looking back at my time before RB, my most enriching career experiences have been through moving into different roles within HR across commercial, global functions and manufacturing, which is where I started. Those kinds of roles, combined with moving internationally, have given me a commerciality and a holistic view of how a business operates, as well as the diversity of experience that you need to grow your career quickly.

It's a great advert for RB that you mobilise talent internally

Our ambition is to grow our internal pipeline for our senior management roles. As an HR leader, I get to help people move on in their careers internationally. The amount of internationally mobile talent we have in RB is amazing; the commitment our people have to move overseas with RB is phenomenal, because they know they’ll get the right support, sponsorship and development. The support the company gives makes that possible, which is pretty special.

Looking back at your career, can you pinpoint when you first noticed an emphasis on diversity and inclusion?

Working in HR, there’s always been D&I on the agenda at every business I’ve worked for, but I think for many businesses it’s a checkbox exercise. I found it very refreshing when I came to RB to see how alive the D&I agenda has been. We have a program called DARE – developing, attracting, retaining, engaging talented women in RB. We plan to increase the number of women in senior leadership and have a target of getting to at least 40% women in senior leadership roles by 2022, from about 25% today. Within the DARE community, we have an Accelerate program to develop and sponsor our female leadership potential, where those with high potential are partnered with mentors; we also have a strong maternity and paternity policy; and a DARE network that fuel the women in work agenda. In Singapore, we have a DARE council run by people from other functions, who are all passionate about supporting women at work; this team is currently working on normalising flexible working within RB. I’m very proud that as a business it’s not just HR coming up with policies, but that others are active as well.

Can you expand upon the Women in Leadership program?

Accelerate is a global program aimed at our up and coming female workforce. It’s a 3-day bespoke program we run with an external provider to support women through their leadership journey. Senior female leaders come in and share their stories of their careers, we teach core skills and techniques to use every day plus we have one-on-one coaching follow ups. Those I know who have done it have found it very empowering. The one piece of feedback we’ve had is how do we also make sure that men in the organisation are learning about how to enable female leaders, which will be our next step and we are currently trialling a dual program. If we fully engage our male leaders in our efforts, more progress will be made than when efforts were driven exclusively by women or ethnically diverse talent. To drive cultural change, we believe in moving beyond just creating initiatives to being proactive in our leadership actions.

What is your advice to leaders who want to create a more diverse and inclusive culture?

Leaders need to be open-minded to new ways of working and able to share with their teams how they operate and what their expectation is of their team members. A transparent and honest relationship means that there are no surprises for anyone. For example, I don’t expect anyone to ask for permission to work from home, but I do expect that they tell their manager up front that that is what they are doing. That’s the kind of frank relationship that needs to be forged to foster a good relationship. Secondly, leaders need to lead by example. I firmly believe in being authentic as a leader and doing what you say you’ll do. If you’re going to support a specific approach or allow things to be done differently, you need to demonstrate the flexibility to make it happen. If you commit to something, like our 40% target in RB, then you must do something really targeted to reach it. It’s great to make those commitments, but it means everyone must do things differently, including leaders.

When you have senior women as new starters, do you get feedback on these initiatives?

Not really in any such formal manner– things like Accelerate are for people who are further into their RB careers rather than new starters. But for senior women who join, we get them involved in lots of our activities from day one. For example, our relatively new Finance Director for the region, within 4 months of her joining, was sponsoring one of our Accelerate programs. I think most senior women are impressed by what we do and want to be involved.

How do you balance long hours with your personal life successfully?

This is something we talk about on the Accelerate program. Throughout my career, I’ve often felt that because I’m not a mother, I don’t have a reason to leave the office at a reasonable time. Many of the delegates on Accelerate don’t have kids yet, so I do stress that you shouldn’t feel like you need permission to leave the office at a reasonable hour or before others. Many businesses have a presenteeism culture, but when I came to RB, I decided that I would overcome this old habit. It’s about managing the peaks and troughs, and taking a blended approach to life and work. Until you make a decision to leave before other people with no embarrassment, then I don’t think you’ll get that work/life balance right. If someone gets their job done, is talented and delivers great results, it doesn’t matter what hours they keep. Who cares!? This is one of the agile ways we need to work differently these days. So, I consciously made that decision to get my balance in check when I moved to Singapore because our time zone does often create unusual work hours, and flexible hours is the way to achieve that.

Posted over 4 years ago
About the author:
Tristan Bullworthy

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