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Archive & Talent of Thalias : Settha Yok, discipline and commitment to human values

Settha Yok comes from a modest farming family in the peaceful province of Kampong Cham. Behind his eyes, which are often taken up with administrative details, lies a Cambodian who is rigorously focused on his mission, with a great sense of humour, but who is also deeply attached to the human values that contribute to a company's success.

Settha currently holds one of the key positions in the Thalias Hospitality group, as Director of Human Resources. He is the person who looks after many essential aspects of the life of a company, some of them thankless, such as updating regulations in the field, administrative procedures and many other tasks requiring rigour, precision and often diplomacy. But other aspects of his mission involve ensuring the well-being of managers and employees, their development within the company and a myriad of other details that the young Cambodian says he takes on with passion and pride.

CM: What kind of university training did you have?

In 1997, I sat the entrance exam for two courses of study; I enrolled in the economics degree programme at the Royal University of Law and Economics and I chose the forestry option at the Royal University of Agriculture. I soon stopped my second course for practical reasons. I decided to specialise in economics and obtained two bachelor's degrees in 2002, one in finance and banking and the other in business management, in association with the French cooperation agency. I then received a grant from the French government to continue my MBA programme at the Franco-Vietnamese Management Training Centre in Ho Chi Minh City. I graduated with honours in 2004.

CM: What did you do when you finished university?

After graduating in 2004, I started working in a higher education establishment. I worked as registrar, head of the business school and academic affairs, and then deputy director. After a few years in this sector, I ventured into banking. I then spent a few years in the human resources department at Vattanac Bank, before finally moving 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.

CM: Under what circumstances did you become Human Resources Director of the Thalias Group?

In 2015, a former colleague recommended me for this vacancy at Thalias. At the time, I was meeting the Group's CEO, Mr Arnaud Darc, for the first time and he gave me the opportunity to show what I could do. I've now been working for Thalias for over 5 years.

"During this time, I have gained incredible experience under the mentoring of Mr Darc, who is relentlessly committed to the development of each of his managers and employees.''

I love living with the culture and values of this group, and I'm proud to fulfil my role within this large company with over 500 employees.

CM: What professional challenges have you come up against?

Before the pandemic, the focus was on recruiting the right candidates; we made sure that the skills matched the company's expectations and were distributed in anticipation of business expansion. With the boom in the tourism industry and rapid growth, we were running out of human resources. Finding good candidates for vacant positions was extremely difficult. As a result, Thalias decided to focus its recruitment policy on broader and slightly less strict criteria, giving priority to integration, continuous training and career plans. This ambition requires considerable commitment and investment of time. It's also a sometimes risky choice, because we train professionals of very high calibre within our group, and they then become highly sought-after on the market.

"During the pandemic, keeping morale up and motivated was no easy task with the reduction in activity. However, because of the rigorous health safety measures that we were already applying and that we have reinforced, and of course because of the reputation for quality of our brands, our establishments were still attracting some customers.''

Our management also reacted very quickly in terms of commercial strategy by launching a home delivery system almost immediately, with all the necessary precautions linked to the health crisis we are currently experiencing, by focusing our communication on the possibilities of organising private events and finally by launching a range of fresh products which are now being distributed in supermarkets. However, I still think it's vital to provide our teams with special care and ongoing support. This is a major concern for the Group. It's easy to understand that the atmosphere was somewhat difficult, and my colleagues and I were extremely busy at a very special time.

CM: What are your ambitions within Thalias?

I can't hide how happy I am to have joined this dynamic team and to be able to contribute to the Group's development. At first, I knew very little about Thalias, but as soon as I started my trial period, I discovered a corporate culture that I really liked. That's why I decided to stay, and it may well be my last professional destination.

Settha in the Topaz kitchen
Settha in the Topaz kitchen

CM: What's a day's work like for Settha?

It's very varied, there are recurring tasks that I manage with my colleagues and which mainly concern the employees' activities. I also have to look after professional training, a very important aspect that I mentioned earlier. I'm also responsible for informing people of changes or updates to the Ministry's texts and decrees, and finally for examining and responding to everyone's grievances.

CM: What are your plans for the future?

Like many others, I'm thinking of working until I reach retirement age and then joining NGOs or vocational schools that help vulnerable people as a volunteer.

"I would also like to share my knowledge and skills with the younger generation.

Finally, I'd also like to express my deep gratitude to my grandmother, my parents, my family, my neighbours, friends, teachers, classmates, colleagues and my wife. Without their support and help, I would not have been able to achieve my professional goals.

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