From a modest farming family in the peaceful province of Kampong Cham, Settha Yok has a natural rigour for the details of administrative life. But if you spend more than a minute with him, you’ll also meet a man full of humour and heart, with a deep attachment to the human values that are at the root of Thalias’ success.
As the director of human resources, Settha holds one of the core positions at Thalias. He oversees many essential, sometimes thankless, aspects of the company’s life, such as the updating of regulations in the field, administration and many other tasks requiring rigour, precision and diplomacy. But the other side of his mission consists of ensuring the wellbeing of managers and employees, their development within the company and a thousand and one details that he undertakes with passion and pride.
What did you study at university?
In 1997 I took the entrance exam for two courses. I enrolled in the Bachelor of Economics programme at the Royal University of Law and Economics and I also chose the forestry option at the Royal University of Agriculture. But for practical reasons, I soon stopped the second programme. I decided to concentrate on economics and obtained two degrees in 2002, one in banking and finance, and the other in business management, in association with the French cooperation.Afterwards, I won a scholarship from the French government to pursue the MBA programme at the Franco-Vietnamese Management Training Centre in Ho Chi Minh. I graduated with honours in 2004.
Once you’d finished studying, what did you do?
After getting my masters in 2004, I started working at a higher education institute. I worked there as a registrar, head of the business school and academic affairs, and then as a deputy director. After a few years in this sector, I ventured into banking. Then I joined the human resources department at Vattanac Bank for a few years and finally moved into the hospitality industry. For this first experience, I worked for Thansur Bokor Highland Resort, a subsidiary of the Sokha Group, located on Bokor Mountain in Kampot Province.
Under what circumstances did you become HR Director of the Thalias Group?
In 2015, a former colleague recommended me for this vacancy at Thalias. I met the CEO of the group, Mr Arnaud Darc, for the first time and he gave me the opportunity to prove myself. I have now been working for Thalias for more than 5 years.
During this time, I have gained incredible experience under the guidance of Mr. Darc. He doesn’t let up when it comes to the development of every one of his managers and employees.
I like living with the culture and values of this group and it is with pride that I fulfil my role within this large company with more than 500 employees.
What business challenges did you face?
Before the pandemic, the focus was on recruiting the right people; we ensured that the skills matched the company's expectations and that they were distributed in anticipation of the company’s expansion. With the tourism industry booming, and growing rapidly, we were short of human resources. Finding good candidates for the vacant positions was excessively difficult. As a result, Thalias decided to focus its recruitment policy on broader and slightly less stringent criteria, with an emphasis on integration, continuous training and career plans. This ambition requires a considerable commitment and investment of time. It is also sometimes a risky choice, because we train very good professionals in our group and they then become highly sought after on the market.
Since the pandemic began, maintaining morale and motivation has been difficult in the face of reduced activity. However, even with of the rigorous health measures we had already put in place and then reinforced, and of course the reputation for quality of our brands, our outlets are none the less seeing a minimal footfall.
Our management also reacted very quickly in commercial strategic terms in almost immediately launching a home delivery system with all of the necessary precautions needed for the health crisis that we are currently working through, while also communicating the possibility for private events and finally launching a range of fresh products which are now available in supermarkets. However, it seems to me that it is still necessary to take particular care and permanently support our teams. It is a major preoccupation of the group. It’s easy to understand that the atmosphere is somewhat difficult and that I and my colleagues are extremely busy at this particular time.
What are your ambitions with Thalias?
I can’t hide my joy at having joined this dynamic team and being able to contribute to the development of the group. At the beginning, I knew Thalias very little but, since my trial period I have discovered a culture within this company that I like a lot. That is why I decided to stay, and perhaps it is my final professional destination.
What does your working day look like?
It’s very varied. There are recurring tasks that I manage with my colleagues, and which largely concern employee activities. I also take care of professional training, a very important aspect that I mentioned above. I’m also charged with keeping everyone aware of changes and updates to ministerial texts and decrees and finally to examine and respond to anyone’s grievances.
I’m also President of the Human Resources Committee of EuroCham, a section of the European Chamber of Commerce made up of businesses and professionals with a significant interest in the human resources sector. This Committee is a platform for sharing information and discussions uniquely concerning HR. The primary objective is to improve the general situation of human resources in Cambodia, to draw the public’s attention to the questions needing urgent revision and to provide Cambodian authorities with relevant contributions.
What are your future projects?
I think, like many others, I will work until retirement and then volunteer with an NGO or the vocational schools that help vulnerable people.
I would also like to share my knowledge and skills with the young generation.
Finally, I would also like to express my deep gratitude to my grandmother, my parents, family, neighbours, friends, teachers, school and work colleagues, as well as my wife. Without their help and support, I would never have been able to achieve my professional goals.