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Gary Lee, Soo Kee

How HR can prepare for the unknown

Talent Experience Forum - a new one-day conference discussing candidate and employee experience, happening in Kuala Lumpur on 23 October

As corporate landscapes in Asia and the world shift, how can HR equip itself with the right skill sets to overcome the challenges of change? Gary Lee, head, learning & development at Soo Kee Group shares his view. 

Newer technologies have made certain industries redundant and created new ones. It has also evened the playing field for companies of various sizes and created new advantages and disadvantages for organisations.

For HR, the challenge is that employees have skills today that may not be relevant for tomorrow’s challenges. This is made harder with the fact that HR practitioners today have to prepare and plan for the unknown.

Some questions HR practitioners have about this include the following:

  • What does the future look like for my industry?
  • What capabilities are required for organisational sustainability?
  • What are my staff’s current skill sets?
  • Are they prepared for tomorrow? If not, do we have initiatives to help them be better prepared?

To manage this change challenge, HR might want to adopt mentoring and reverse mentoring as a strategy to perform informal cross learning so that rich knowledge can be shared and tapped within the organisation rather than perpetually having to source for external providers.

An interesting phenomenon has surfaced in 2015 for the labour market in Singapore.

The newspapers report more job vacancies are available as companies struggle to fill manpower demands, while recruiters are claiming a quieter job market as compared to the same period last year.

Who is telling the truth about the current state of the job market?

Review interview procedures

I do believe it is both, as companies are taking much longer to fill positions, especially for mid-management and above. An average hiring period of about two months has lengthened to up to six months.

A suggestion I received from HR professionals I met at a recent conference was to promote from within rather than hire from external sources. There are merits to both approaches and it is important to have a balance between the two.

To manage change, HR might want to adopt mentoring and reverse mentoring for informal cross-learning, so that knowledge can be shared within the organisation rather than sourcing for external providers.

Promotion from within will mean that the existing organisational culture can continue to grow and it will take less time to immerse the newly promoted individual in the new role.

On the other hand, hiring from external sources can bring about expertise that was previously unavailable in the organisation. At the same time, this individual may not be a good fit with the culture and may cause more harm than good.

Another suggestion I heard involved reviewing interview procedures to better measure the fit of the candidate. Asking soft-skill related questions can help better indicate a person’s behaviour and language at the workplace, which serves as a more accurate determinant of a culture fit.

Increase engagement through transparency

Many HR professionals understand the importance of staff engagement as part of talent retention. But there remains little emphasis on it because it is difficult to measure the effects of staff engagement initiatives.

Many HR professionals understand the importance of staff engagement, but there remains little emphasis on it because it is difficult to measure the effects of such initiatives.

Some HR practitioners confuse engagement with happiness. As such, their initiatives are geared towards deriving staff happiness rather than engagement. So what can HR do instead?

Promoting transparency, and open, honest communication can increase staff engagement.

Using various communication media at a regular frequency, sharing information about the state of the organisation, and its future plans and profitability, employees will feel greater ownership about being an important part of it and thus be better engaged.

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