Thanh Nguyen is the Managing Director and Chief Happiness Officer at Anphabe — the top-of-mind solution provider for Employer Branding and Human Resources in Vietnam.
Since Anphabe's founding in 2011, Thanh and her team have worked relentlessly to support the company's mission — helping brands build a better and happier work environment; and connecting talented people in Vietnam to the right opportunities and expanding their professional network so they can reach their full potential.
Apart from being a CEO at Anphabe, Thanh had established herself as a seasoned marketer and co-ordinator, having extensive experience managing prestigious brands throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. She also makes regular appearances as a speaker at management & human resources events and is the host of several show segments about business.
In this interview with Vietcetera, Thanh shares with us what it means to be a Chief Happiness Officer, her experience working in HR, and her tips for those pursuing a career in this industry.
What does it mean to be a Chief Happiness Officer?
To me, Chief Happiness Officer is a very special position. It is not just a title. It is a mission. A responsibility. An opportunity to spread happiness. To make sure that employees and managers are happy, so that Vietnam is happier.
I believe that to be a happy employee, you need to know the meaning behind your work. From there, you will naturally become a role model who everyone follows. I am here to help you find that meaning.
What brings you to this job?
I was trained and had achieved a degree of success in the field of Marketing. Wanting to challenge myself, I opened myself to new opportunities, and when an opportunity to launch a startup in the field of HR presented itself, I seized it right away. From there, to my surprise, I realized that the skills needed to succeed in HR are similar to those needed to succeed in Marketing.
I started Anphabe with the mission of using my Marketing skills to empower HR Managers and help them attract and nurture talents. Having worked at Anphabe for over a decade, I truly appreciate my contribution to changing working environments and corporate culture for the better.
What are the three words that best describe your management style?
For me, the words are:
I consider myself someone who is quite open and close to my staff. As far as I'm concerned, being managers shouldn't just mean giving commands, we should be leading and following the team’s progress closely.
Furthermore, I want my employees to collaborate. Instead of working in isolation, they can learn from and interact with one another, thus contributing to the team effort and creating more value.
More than just people on payroll, I see my employees as family. I even go as far as treating the youngests on the team as my children — when they're having a hard time at work or being difficult to manage, I always try my best to empathize with their struggles and communicate with them to help them overcome them.
And that goes for every employee, seniors or newcomers. It's my duty to guide them to become a better person.
Leading by example
“Be your own leader before you lead others”
It's my steadfast belief that when setting standards for others, you must live by them yourself to serve as an example. So before I ask my staff to do anything, I take the initiative to do it first.
If I want them to work hard, I’ll be the hardest working of all. If I want to encourage my colleagues to read, I’ll start reading more and share my habit to inspire them.
What does an individual need to do if they aspire to become a Chief Happiness Officer?
I think any leader can become a Chief Happiness Officer in his or her organization.
First, they must embody happiness. I define true happiness as an engagement with the work that you do, a voluntary effort to create value for those around you even when your job description does not require it, and a long-term commitment to your organization.
Secondly, they must create a nurturing work environment where employees can have the opportunities to flourish professionally.
Third, they must understand the aspirations of employees, and guide them so they achieve those respective goals.
What can businesses do to attract more talent?
First, determine what sort of people you want to engage, both in terms of capability and character.
Secondly, understand their needs and ambitions so that you can build a fitting working environment. A rewarding environment, good company culture, development opportunities, leadership are some of the things that you can offer to those who you want to recruit.
At the same time, you must know how to market your businesses to the right audience. If your brand doesn't reach them, they can’t apply. It ultimately boils down to creating a great working environment and letting folks know how great it is. The reputation will carry itself and attract people to come work for you.
How can we develop a healthy corporate culture?
I think a healthy work environment always starts with good leadership and management.
If you’re in a leading position, try to radiate positivity and let it envelope those around you. A positive-minded workforce will foster creativity and productivity.
Do COVID-related challenges make it more difficult for businesses to build a happy working environment?
Not only does the COVID-19 pandemic make it challenging for businesses to operate financially, it also poses a lot of problems to their internal affairs.
Employees are being bombarded with drastic changes — perhaps their companies are laying off people to cut costs and they're losing close co-workers, or their income is being slashed. All of this can directly affect the psychological and emotional health of the employees.
More than ever, leaders should engage with their staff to build a strong and connected workforce that can weather these delicate times.
What is the new reality in the field of HR?
I expect a lot of adjustment.
For example, we wouldn't be able to properly compensate employees for their hard work. We'd probably even have to reduce their salaries while still having to encourage them to carry on and be productive.
At the same time, we’d still need people to fill certain positions, but we’d have less budget to recruit and train them.
And those are just a few among the endless challenges we'd have to deal with.
In the face of an uncertain future, HR professionals and managers need to revisit the following aspects of their work:
As leaders of the organization, HRs and managers should share their strategic vision and the insights that they have with employees to create a sense of trust between the parties.
The times of hardship can be an opportunity to understand your employees better. For instance, younger employees are often inexperienced. We should be accommodating and supportive so they can gain the confidence to succeed in the workplace.
3. Creativity & Clarity
Clarity in communication and sincerity can spark small transformations all around your organization.
Creativity - look for ideas to generate new revenue sources, or ways to reduce unnecessary costs.
Being agile requires us to explore and learn. I learn from my clients and share my learnings with my employees and hope they also learn from others.
I personally invest in training my employees so that they can gain the necessary knowledge, allowing the company to operate more effectively.
Coming out of the pandemic, what skills do job seekers need to have or improve on to secure a job offer?
During the pandemic, we asked ourselves how we can overcome current and upcoming difficulties. Here are the key takeaways:
Improve productivity by taking on the work of other people; offer to chip in and assist other, related departments if your organization is short on staff.
Committing yourself to the company's cause can help you to become a better employee. It sometimes means doing volunteer work for your employer. During this period of hardship, true commitment means forgetting about your personal interests, pain and worries to bear the shared burden.
These are true not only for Anphabe employees but for all working professionals.
What is your advice for leaders and HR managers?
Be the representation of the organization you would like to build. Be an exemplary figure to your employees. Recognize and reward those who follow in your footsteps.