Interview with Katherine LIU, Human Resources Director, China

Katherine LIU, Human Resources Director,  China

Since joining Veolia in 2004, Ms. Liu has experienced two "seven-year" at Veolia.

Ms. Liu has worked for the Human Resources Department for 14 years. She has not only demonstrated her high EQ and IQ building a two-way communication channel between Veolia’s management and employees, but also developed programs suiting the needs of Veolia employees with her comprehensive and professional knowledge and strong ability and ensuring all employees work happily without worries.

Are you also curious how Ms. Liu managed to work for the Human Resources Department for 14 years? Whether she finds her work boring or fun?

What is your work mainly about?

It is difficult to summarize my work in a few words. I have worked in the Human Resources Department at Veolia for 14 years, and I have done almost all HR task you can think of, including recruitment, salary and benefits, performance appraisal, training, employee relationship management, etc.


Looking from the outside, working in Human Resources is easy. Isn’t it?

It seems that people who have not worked in Human Resources before know little about our work. It is easy indeed to start a career in Human Resources, unlike Finance, which often requires a finance background or finance certificates. But the longer we work in Human Resources, the more we feel that we know little and there is so much to learn.

Let me give you a simple example, ie. Salary and employee relations.

In terms of salary: To work in Human Resources, you need to understand various income tax calculation methods. This not only involves Chinese employees, but also foreign employees. Once the latter is involved, we need to understand how the foreign employees involved obtain a permit to work in China, whether there is a double taxation agreement between their country of origin and China, and how their social and medical coverage should be paid and handled, etc.. The 2018 Personal Income Tax Law Amendment is one of our recent concerns.

In terms of employee relations: Taking the labour law as an example, although a national law, it is implemented according to the different interpretations of different cities. Since we have businesses across provinces, cities and regions, we need to understand the local laws and regulations where our businesses are located, which pose challenges to our work.

Therefore, in addition to my busy work schedule, I also need to spend at least two hours a week to learn new or revised laws or regulations, for example like the "Notice Regarding Adjustments to Individual Housing Fund & Individual Housing Loan Policy" released by the Beijing Housing Fund Management Center last month.

In your opinion, what makes an effective executive of the Human Resources Department?

You need to have high EQ. People working in Human Resources are actually a bridge between employers and employees, and they need to use appropriate communication methods to deal with different people.

I started working in Human Resources since 1995, so you must be able to guess my age (laughs). Therefore, when I am working with colleagues in their 20s or 30s, I can feel that they are different from my generation. I need to adjust myself and communicate with them in ways they find comfortable. 

Therefore, on one hand, I try to understand what interests them and learn to communicate in their language. On the other hand, I have faith in these younger colleagues and allow them to demonstrate their key strengths at work.

Is it any different working as an Human Resources executive at Veolia than in other companies?

I have worked as Human Resources executive in other Fortune 500 companies before. I feel that the culture here in Veolia cares a lot about the well being of employees, for example, it guarantees employees a work life balance. It also provides staff welfare and has been working on the enhancement of staff welfare. For instance, 5 new body check packages have been rolled out this year that cater for the needs of different age groups.

What kind of challenges have you faced at work and how did you overcome them?

I faced huge challenges in recent years. In recent years, Veolia is experiencing rapid transformation and accelerated development. Current talents we have are insufficient to cope with new business needs. Therefore, we need to enhance our key strengths and nurture more talents, which poses challenges to us.

For example, since a lot of employees used to work in municipal services, we need to help them learn and adapt to new industrial service businesses through a series of training, exchanges, job transfer and other arrangements, so that they can develop competency in the new work aspect as soon as possible. In addition, campus recruitment is also an important source of talent.

What is your most unforgettable task working in Veolia?

It must be the Girls on the Move project that I participated in. On 8th March each year, Veolia visits major colleges and universities to give lectures to female science students. The purpose is to help them abandon traditional gender stereotypes at work, such as girls are not capable of engineering and technical positions etc..

In 2018, we invited 21 female technical staff, who joined Veolia after graduating from college, to give lectures in 8 universities in 8 cities in China. More than 300 female students attended the lectures.

As a female employee, what is your biggest feeling towards Veolia?

I think Veolia is a company that focuses a lot on gender equality. One example is the Girls on the Move project endorsed by the management team. Another example is that with our efforts in recent years, the traditional thinking that men are more suitable fits for technical operations roles is less prevalent. Instead, more women are taking up these positions.

In addition, I enjoy the benefits of gender equality myself. As the director of three Veolia subsidiaries, I have the opportunity to get in touch with operations and management outside the HR field and learn about them. I cherish this opportunity very much.

What is the most fulfilling thing about working at Veolia?

Of course, it is seeing Veolia employees coming to work and leaving work happily.

Can you describe your job using 3 keywords?

Responsibility, growth and perseverance.

How would you explain your job to your kids?

I usually don't talk to my son about work. I think my role at home is a mother, and I try not to bring work back home. What my son knows is that his mother deals with the environment and water, and she loves her work and her son dearly. Here I want to thank my husband, who has a good temper and takes up a lot of responsibility for the family.


From the above interview, can you feel the challenges our Human Resources Director face? In fact, there are many Human Resources Directors like Ms. Katherine Liu at Veolia.

They have not only demonstrated their high EQ and IQ building a two-way communication channel between Veolia’s management and employees, but also developed programs suiting the needs of Veolia employees with their comprehensive and professional knowledge and strong ability and ensuring all employees work happily without worries.