HRM Asia Watch List 2018: Clayton Tan

The HR director at Vinda Group SEA is combining startup and consultancy experience to blend "East" versus "West" approaches to people management.
By: | October 8, 2018

The HRM Asia Watch List 2018 (#watchlist2018), brought to you by Armstrong Craven, showcases the brightest next-generation HR leadership talent from across Southeast Asia.


HR technology is the next big thing. Any HR leader who can bring that tech savvy to the job has considerable leverage over their peers – and Clayton Tan, currently the HR Director for Southeast Asia at Vinda Group SEA, is no doubt one of them.

HRM Asia Watch List

Clayton Tan

HR Director – Southeast Asia, Vinda Group SEA

Based in: Kuala Lumpur

HR focus areas: Transformation, Talent Management, Performance Management

Favourite aspect of HR: “The joy of seeing people grow cohesively and positively impacting organisation results.”

Career-defining moment: “It’s a series of little defining moments, but the decision to move from developing machines in IT to developing people in HR is definitely the beginning of them all.”

In addition to 10 years of direct experience as a HR leader, Tan has also founded his own successful HR tech start-up, WorkExcite PLT.

This stint wrapped up when WorkExcite was brought under the auspices of another growing HR tech company, leaving Tan free to return to HR with the first-hand knowledge of how to be quick and agile within a start-up environment.

Beyond that, Tan has done everything from specialising in specific functions, especially learning & development, to leading HR teams in regional roles, to even honing his consultancy skills.

During a stint at IBM Global Business Services, Tan hopped between Brunei, Singapore, India, and China, and consulted for multi-national companies to spearhead transformation and change management projects.

“To really make an impact to organisations, it’s not just about people learning, but how the organisation develops and evolves as a whole,” he notes.

These days, he’s looking to create a unique employer value proposition approach that blends the “best of both” worlds, as it were. Vinda began life as a Chinese company, but since 2016, its majority shareholder has been Essity, a global hygiene and health with headquarters in Sweden.

At Vinda Group SEA, then, the challenge for Tan has been to create a unique blend of the dual cultures – Vinda’s ‘East’ with Essity’s ‘West’, as it were.

“The Eastern approach is perhaps more focused on speed and results; helping people maximize productivity and recognising achievements Whereas the Western approach leans more towards collective decisions and people empowerment.

“But interestingly, blending the two has actually been great for innovation and growth in today’s environment,” says Tan.

The HRM Asia Watch List aims to showcase the up and coming generation of HR leadership talent in Southeast Asia. The list will be unveiled daily between September 27 and October 19, 2018. Check the dedicated archive for the latest updates, follow #watchlist2018 on social media, or see below. 

Introduction | Welcome address by Tom Mason

Profile #1: Jaspreet Kakar | Profile #2: Dianne Goette | Profile #3: Chen Fong Tuan

Profile #4: Felicia Teh | Profile #5: Monica Oudang | Profile #6: Evangeline Chua

Profile #7: Agapol Na Songkhla | Profile #8: Clayton Tan | Profile #9: Tony Tan

Profile #10: Vanessa Mercado-Maningas | Profile #11: Jahja Soenarta | Profile #12: Minn Yan

Profile #13: Rudy Afandi | Profile #14: Norazlina Idris

Profile #15: Naveen Chhabra | Profile #16: Monir Azzouzi