While having a job is a must to survive, this particular time we live in reveals having a stable employment status is a privilege. Work has a different meaning for everyone. Regardless of your reason for taking a job, it’s about your intrinsic need to fulfill something meaningful, aligning with your purpose in life.
To Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hang, working as the Head of People, Performance & Culture at KPMG in Vietnam means a lot of things. It goes beyond keeping each employee’s salary and benefits fair. It’s about keeping them engaged, making them feel they can always voice out their suggestions freely, initiating opportunities for growth and development, and providing them a place of work that feels like home. After all, that’s the kind of life she’s living — balanced, open, nurturing.
Hang started her career in the corporate world as an English interpreter and then switched to HR. Back then, Vietnam did not even adopt the term HR yet — her department was simply called "personnel.” From having to "look after the employee’s system of record,” Hang's job began to expand to playing an essential role in supporting, developing, and making a friendly culture in the workplace.
Presently, with over 15 years of solid experience, she’s leading the human resources team with 35 people from across three cities in Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang) and Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
In a conversation with Vietcetera, we asked what having a work-life balance means to her and how she’s extending that kind of balance to everyone at KPMG. We also had a chance to ask Hang what’s the best part about working at KPMG.
What is your typical workday like?
I always begin my day with an hour of yoga - I cannot miss that. My mornings are followed by a complete breakfast. It’s easy to prepare, no need to cook. After that, I attend work meetings, training, team discussions, research, planning, and wrap up for the next day. My schedule is always set ahead, at least a week in advance. For the things I have not planned, I work on them towards the end of the day. However, my door is always open for anyone here at the KPMG office, or virtually for everyone else outside Vietnam. At KPMG, everything moves and changes quickly, I have to be ready for whatever people need me to do, and they know they can always discuss things with me whenever they need to. And of course, unplanned meetings let me tap my creative side and develop instant solutions.
How do you define work-life balance?
My definition of work-life balance could be different. My philosophy is different, and my view is that we cannot separate work and life. Balancing life is two things: how we balance our mental and physical capabilities and our desire to create that balance. If we can do that, we will be 100% okay to tackle anything in life.
From an HR perspective, how do you measure success at KPMG?
I have two ways to measure success. When I see people smiling and happy working here, when I hear people are bonding and collaborating at work, that is one way to know that people are contented and healthy. To me, it means we’re doing a great job at keeping a workplace safe and ideal for growth. Second, we have set goals and KPIs. Every year, we initiate a survey for our people to tell us what’s working and what could be improved. That way, we maintain two-way communication and address how we can achieve more in the future.
Based on your definition of work-life balance, how do you communicate that with the rest of the KPMG employees?
We design our processes and systems to initiate open communication. For example, about deeper connections, we have mentor-mentee relationships. We organize training talking about the role of the mentors and the mentees, how the relationship should work, what topic they should discuss, etc. At KPMG, we have annual promotions as we drive people to handle more responsibilities and take on greater challenges. With that, we have “milestone training,” where we talk about how to prepare to take a new role effectively, discuss a person’s professional status, and where they see themselves. We also have coaching programs and systems to facilitate that and more. Apart from that, we run “people passion” events to showcase music, art, and sports that our people may be interested in. We also have clubs for them to join, and we allocate a budget for them so they can organize activities outside work like swimming or biking, and others. Also, I’d like to mention a great perk we have for our employees, we call MyLife Perks, a unique program offering a range of discounts at food, retail, and lifestyle outlets.
We try to shift our focus not just on the job or the workflow but also on our life quality.
What makes you proud to work at KPMG?
I would say the values at KPMG… it’s something I’m extremely proud of. We are encouraged to do the right thing. We are encouraged to do what matters and initiate new things. I feel like I can be myself. Another thing, we focus on sustainability at KPMG. Before, we went to universities to recruit, but now we create an impact by inspiring the students from our partner universities to define themselves and their values. We show them how to be the best versions of themselves and be attractive to employers, not just to us but to all brands. That is something I find very rewarding here.
For those still working remotely, what are some work-life balance hacks you can share to help them manage their time and life?
My daughter is also working from home, and I can share a few lessons we’ve both had to learn while navigating through the changing times. Firstly, manage the expectations of the people at home. For example, you have to tell your parents or your housemates that you’re having a meeting at this particular time so they can also adjust their movements and keep them down. We have a dog, so when my daughter tells me she’s going on a call, I make sure the dog’s quiet and won’t cause a disturbance. The second is to set up a proper workplace at home and dress up.
It doesn’t have to be as formal as the one we wear in the office, but changing your appearance is essential because it will also affect your mindset.