The HR industry has changed dramatically overthe past decade, but where will we be by 2022? HR has already, in most organisations, moved from simply being a transactional function to becoming a strategic business partner. Now, HR leaders have a seat at the executive table, and are helping leaders make valued decisions.
The advent of technology, the influx of new and younger generations and the ever-changing business needs, are just the beginning of a series of transformations the profession will encounter in the future. But there is much more in store.
We’ve rounded up 41 top HR practitioners and business leaders from across the region to share their insights and opinions on where HR will be in 2022 – and what we need to do today to get there. The overwhelming response is HR is doing a lot of things right, but there’s plenty to be worked on. Essentially, it’s the end of the road for HR as we know it today.
Concerns have been raised by our “futurists” over the integration of technology, continuing employee loyalty, as well as how organisations will address the challenges of managing a workforce that thrives on flexibility and freedom.
One of our cover stars sums it up in one sentence. “Broadly speaking, most of HR’s challenges will be about whether it evolves enough as a profession to lead the business in managing all these factors in a planned and measurable manner,” says Syed Ali Abbas, executive director of HR for AT&T in APAC and India.
Abbas’ views are only one example of what today’s typical HR director is pondering about for tomorrow. Our cover stars – including Alice Foo, vice-president of HR for Discovery Networks Asia Pacific; Patrick Fiat, general manager of Royal Plaza on Scotts; and Lorraine Lim, head of HR for Tokio Marine – represent a sample of the powerful HR professionals, decision-makers and thought leaders featured in this issue. Their concerns and predictions are echoed – and challenged – throughout this special futuristic spread.
Read on and find out what they think about what we’re doing today, and how they foresee the profession panning out in the lead-up to 2022.
Syed Ali Abbas Executive director of human resources for APAC and India – AT&T
The key “macro” factors businesses will face in the next decade include effects of the ongoing economic rebalancing of the east and west; the ever-increasing pace of globalisation; the rapidly retiring workforce in developed markets and the general shortage of experienced talent. Broadly speaking, most of HR’s challenges will be about whether it evolves enough to lead the business in managing these factors in a planned and measurable manner.
When it comes to technology, the three biggest changes are as follows:
• Today’s ERP software will increasingly be replaced by end-to-end talent management software running in the cloud, which will drive better analytics and decision-making on people issues. This is the reason for the string of acquisitions being done by major HR software and service players today.
• The increased “consumerisation”, “gamification” and “mobilisation” of IT will create new legal, policy, process, privacy, intellectual property, and information security challenges (and opportunities) for companies and HR teams.
• The concern about the impact of new technology in reducing work-life balance will fade away as companies and their employees get used to increasingly flexible ways of working, instead of the traditional nine-to-five model.
The next step in the evolution of HR is to drive business results in a consistent manner. For that, HR leaders need to learn from their peers in professions such as finance, legal and IT.
What needs to be done includes developing more global bodies of work and research for HR; driving more relevance in HR practices by using this research to combine the best ideas from both developed and developing markets; drive better analytics and decision-making by harnessing technology; and maintaining a strong focus on the quality of talent and leadership within HR. Koay Saw Lean Director of human resources Rajah & Tann
In a professional organisation such as ours, people are our greatest asset. In a business where talent is a revenue generator, hiring and acquiring the right talent and retaining them is the forefront of any HR initiative. However, all the other HR functions are equally important because they play a pivotal role to the business.
HR needs to partner the business units and know how to add value, as well as aligning itself to the goals and strategies of the firm.
For HR leaders to strategically move to the place they want to be in 10 years time, leaders need to constantly review and reinvent themselves to move ahead. Having a good sense of the big picture and, at the same time, being able to dive in and dwell into the details when the situation calls, are important traits.
The ability to introduce necessary change to drive out inefficiencies at the back office using information and technology will enable HR to focus on more value-added roles and build relationships with its stakeholders.
Elsa Critchley HR global head – Coutts
HR has to move beyond being transactional – and I hope we have already – and look at what challenges businesses will face in the future and the impact they will have on people.
We are potentially going to have four generations of workers at one time, and they’re going to want very different things. HR needs to be aware of that, and challenge the business around things such as flexible working, and how important community and regular feedback is to younger workers.
For me, it’s about HR really challenging the business on what the future holds, and putting in place programmes and initiatives to address it. There are so many things we know are going to happen such as people retiring and the skills gap, and HR’s role is to make sure businesses are aligned so nothing comes as a shock.
The history of talent management is all about long-term planning and succession, but things such as talent analysis is pretty outdated because it’s based on a very predictable environment. What we know now is the future isn’t predictable. HR needs to be much more flexible and adaptable and to encourage businesses to be as well.
In 10 years, recruitment is still going to be key, as well as internal and external talent management.
Engaging employees is another huge thing HR can support. There are so many factors to it, but our role as a function is critical to understanding how people are feeling and putting things in place to make sure they’re positive about the firm.
Laurent Low HR director – Heinz Asia Pacific
I see HR playing an increasingly important role. Business will become more competitive than what we see today, and we will continue to see more demands on HR in helping make talent a true competitive advantage.
HR will play a myriad roles as a business partner, a listening ear, an architect of talent development and a sounding board to the business.
Technology will continue to evolve and make the global talent market a more connected, shared and “smaller” place. At the same time, I see a growing sentiment that employees feel technology should not replace, but complement the human touch in talent management.
The best companies find the right balance between technology and human interface on talent management. Interestingly, the ageing population trend is also surfacing in emerging markets such as China.
Singapore’s ageing population represents opportunities to tap on invaluable experiences and the tacit knowledge accumulated in our talent to help organisations advance our business objectives. Experiences are built over time and this is something which will not change.
People are likely to retire later and we have to start rethinking about how to attract and grow our people in a talent profile, skewed towards more tenured talent.
I see an interesting trend whereby today’s generation are more accepting of changes and ideas, yet retaining their existing cultural core.
In a way, we can keep the cultural fabric of societies while embracing acceptance of new ideas.
Adzhar Ibrahim Regional head of people – AirAsia
In the future, Malaysians will play even more on the world stage. We have proven we can excel at the highest levels anywhere in the world and this will continue. Many Malaysians are already trained via rigid initiatives to be competent in their fields, but the scenarios we are likely to face in the future will require a more fluid mix of technology and the arts, as well as the need to be more commercial and marketing-oriented in just about everything we do.
A new generation of workers – as well as new economic scenarios brought about by high growth and escalating costs – means we will need to be prepared to deal with some vastly different working cultures.
We will have to start dealing with “Western” workforce issues that we don’t deal with now (yet).
I feel technology will play a big part in the way we work and how we interact with each other and our employers. In the future, this will change our ability to operate, run a business and reach out to customers – particularly for internet-based organisations.
Asia’s growth has been rapid, and we are not a heterogeneous region, so there will be many leftover cultural issues we will be dealing with in the future, such as the more hierarchical way our society is divided up.
Hew Evans Director of regional HR – Sony Electronics Asia Pacific
I did a survey in both the UK and Singapore, asking senior managers what they wanted from HR. The senior managers in the UK said they wanted business partnering, performance management and talent management. Here in Asia, five years after I did the UK survey, the results were pretty much the same. If they still want it, it means they haven’t got it yet. In the next 10 years, we’ll really start to see some good models, but we need to get organisations to understand them and then embed them a lot more.
On the other hand, we’ll also start to see technology coming through and new ways of outsourcing. We’ll be using technology not only for online transactions such as applying for leave, but we’ll see companies figuring out how to use Facebook or LinkedIn-type programmes to organise work to be more productive and effective. It will be interesting to see where we go with that.
Christina Lu Vice-president of HR – Volvo Construction Equipment
Today’s challenges are about talent attraction and retention, and I think this will still be the case 10 years from now. But I think employee profiles will be very different. By 2020, there may not be the usual brick and mortar, instead there will be more flexible arrangements and contract work.
HR’s challenge will be how to stay relevant and evolve with the demands of the future. It will have to come up with top-notch innovative ideas to look for talent and engage them.
Overall, the function of HR will not change, but what needs to be looked at is talent and how the organisation develops for the future.
In terms of attraction and retention strategies, they need to be customised. You can forget about loyalty in the future. People are not going to tie themselves to one organisation – jobs will need to be very fluid and crafted around each individual.
Technology will also play an important part in powering all of this. We’ll be wired and on cloud technologies, and that will allow people to be based anywhere. In fact, training in the future will be very much web-based, with e-learning and individualised learning. HR has to stay relevant and updated, and keep up with the times. Martin Hill Senior recruitment consultant – Reed Human Resources
There’s an increasing need to develop a global mindset with a better understanding of international teams, online collaboration and business processes.
HR professionals with the experience and acumen to lead business transformation will be at the forefront and a valuable strategic partner to their business. Also, reaching the best candidates in the market will require an advanced approach to sourcing talent. Talent management, retention, and development will remain critical issues to help HR add perceptible value.
With high-speed connectivity becoming available, we expect to see more companies move towards remote working, and employees enjoying greater flexibility to work from anywhere.
Strong HR leadership should be at the forefront of any transformation, and we are now seeing a variety of HR models emerge.
Regardless of the business model, it is important to make sure HR has the skills for organisations to quickly adapt to a changing global environment, so they can help support business generation, improve customer service and increase organisational efficiency.
Mohd Khalis Abdul Rahim Chief human capital officer – Telekom Malaysia
In 10 years time, the Gen Ys will be deeply entrenched in organisations. HR practitioners need to understand their future workforce – they are driven, technologically savvy, information hungry, have short attention spans, seek immediate gratification in everything they do, and need constant feedback and positive reinforcement. These Millennials will be the leaders in organisations.
This future workforce will tend towards a more co-operative-based leadership model, which provides greater empowerment, independence and freedom of choice in the way they work. Formal organisational structures will stifle Millennials, so a more fluid reporting structure will allow them the ability to work in groups and achieve quick results. Flexible work schedules will appeal to this workforce, which will allow them to do a variety of tasks at the same time.
HR needs to get close to the business and get to know it beyond our given area of responsibility. Be curious, get involved in cross-functional assignments, have a point of view, engage in healthy debate, challenge traditional thinking, coach, and give and seek feedback.
We also have to continually look for strategic ways to improve our competitive position to help take the company to higher grounds.
Dr Ian Williamson Director – Asia Pacific Social Impact Leadership Centre
It is often noted it takes 10 years to develop a person from a novice to an expert. The question then is, how can firms cut short this process. I believe for HR to meet the talent needs of their organisations, it must truly orientate itself towards the firm’s external market.
Often at times, HR units are internally oriented, focusing on implementing internal practices and serving internal customers. While this makes sense and is important, the true challenges and opportunities come from the firm’s external environment. HR often does a good job of this when it comes to recruitment (that is, monitoring trends in available talent).
However, market research on customers and industry trends must also guide HR decisions on succession planning, training and development, and performance management. A tighter coupling will place firms in a better position to have a pipeline that is reflective of a firm’s needs. Successful firms in Asia must develop practices that allow them to enhance their workforces.
This means a greater investment in training and development, better managerial competencies in managing talent, and a serious commitment to employee retention.
As firms in Asia attempt to develop a competitive workforce, they will likely spend millions a year on training – but only a limited number of organisations will have a rigorous evaluation process for matching how this training leads to changes and performance outcomes.
There is a lot of room for improvement. When there is a lack of data to support training ROI, it will be easier for firms to cut training during rough periods, which only hinders long-term talent development.
HR units serious about the use of metrics to capture data on the performance of HR initiatives will likely be able to help their organisations stay on course during uncertainty.
Phan Yoke Fei Vice-president of HR – SMRT
HR has always facilitated the successful execution of business plans by getting the right people to perform the right functions. The rapid rise and fall of giant corporations in this era of technology has far outweighed anything else from the past decade, and the ability to sustain quality human capital on a continuous basis will be a big challenge. Business life cycles have been shortened beyond expectation.
Leaders must be able to embrace existing technologies, while anticipating what will become available on the not-so-distant horizon. No corners can be cut because access to information has become almost instant. Technology is making the boundaries of business inseparable from various corporate and operational functions. With unprecedented inroads in virtual and mobile technology, the environment of tomorrow will converge into a few powerful key executive roles. These will cover a broad spectrum of competence in general management, financial and technological capabilities, as well as HR and people management skills.
Today’s HR may have to adjust to this new paradigm to ensure we remain relevant. The strategy of today will become obsolete without a constant pulse being kept on global development that is shaping tomorrow and beyond. Blend this well with local circumstances, and you have a recipe for success.
Pushp Deep Gupta Regional head of talent management solutions – Korn/Ferry
If HR leaders today don’t pick up the mantle of organisational sustainability and renewal seriously – and put in place the right strategies and tactics – in 10 years, organisations will be in a weaker position because of a lack of capability and talent.
The quality of the HR leadership could also be an issue in 2022. I am not sure enough bright, entry-level talent is coming into the HR profession today – because of a multitude of reasons. If the best and the brightest are not being attracted into HR, the quality in 10 years time will reflect that.
Social and mobile access technology will be mainstream in 10 years – gone will be the clunky and user-unfriendly HRM modules that are the trend today. They will be replaced by fast, on-demand applications for HR practitioners, line managers and employees. Social networking technology will change how HR transactions happen, but this, like all technological advances, will be most beneficial only for those organisations that exploit their potential.
Dr Jean-Francois Manzoni Director – INSEAD Global Leadership Centre
I think there’s going to be more skilled-based work. We’re going to need to move in that direction and learn to better use technology. There is a place for face-to-face communication, but we have to be better at leveraging what happens outside the modules.
Helping managers learn to manage themselves is also going to be crucial, particularly among senior executives. The lives they lead are absolutely brutal.
I think that we have too many organisations that send expensive people to expensive programmes – remember what you pay us [consultants] is one thing, and what you pay that individual to sit in my class is another – but not much changes when they go back.
Fortunately, it has been fine, but I think now the world is starting to ask where the evidence and results are.
We need to pay more attention to how many benefits people are getting and we need to start caring about the implementation of new knowledge more.
But it’s not about measuring ROI. If we measure it and find it is no good, it doesn’t do anything for us. Companies need to look at increasing ROI instead.
For me, the obsession is not so much the measurement, it is more about making sure people are doing more with the knowledge they are being exposed to.
Alice Foo Vice-president of human resources – Discovery Networks Asia Pacific
HR plays an important role in supporting the business. At Discovery, the function has a “seat at the table”. I have regular conversations with our president and the management team, which allows me to not only provide feedback, but also keeps me updated on various aspects of our business, giving me the ability to strategically plan and resource accordingly.
In order to be integrated, HR must stay relevant and add value through the things we do. This requires us to firstly engage with business leaders in the company and align our HR strategies and programmes to drive and support growth through operational efficiency and cost-effective strategies.
We also need to provide leadership to help identify, attract, manage and develop talent.
From a regional perspective, one of the key challenges will be talent attraction and retention. I believe we have already started to see this trend when dealing with top talent in fast growing and competitive markets such as India and China. Companies are going to have to ensure they not only offer attractive packages, but also be committed to developing up-and-coming stars. You are no longer competing locally for talent, but across borders.
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn have definitely opened doors by providing a new avenue for us in the HR industry to network and identify talent, but they have also created some challenges, since good talent are directly exposed to external opportunities and are more easily approached.
This has become part of our modern life, and will continue to grow as a means to connect people – we can’t stop this development or fight it.
Karina Kuok Senior manager of human capital, Southeast Asia – Deloitte Consulting
Over the next decade, the HR business partner (HRBP), organisation effectiveness (OE) and workforce analytics (WFA) functions will be at the forefront. The HRBP will continue to provide value as strategic people advisers to the business, driving people strategies to achieve the organisation’s business strategy, as well as proactively addressing the people implications related to external game-changing events and business trends.
The OE function will encourage business transformation success by providing in-house expertise on organisation design, governance framework, change management and workforce effectiveness.
On the analytics front, WFA specialists will educate and support various HR functions in presenting data-driven analysis to demonstrate the ROI of HR initiatives to the bottom-line.
New technology innovations will lead to more flexible arrangements, increased virtual collaboration, a cloud-savvy workforce and frequently evolving job profiles that reflect a new way of working to capitalise on technology.
The overall business plan will also be incomplete without people strategy because business leaders will turn to HR to advise them on the people dimension of a business plan execution.
Invest in advanced analytics systems and upskill the HR team with future critical skills and knowledge such as business orientation, strategic advisory, workforce analytics, change management and organisation design.
Professor S. Rajagopalan Dean of executive education - S P Jain School of Global Management
One of the major challenges for HR in Asia in 10 years is employee engagement. How do companies gain commitment from employees?
Whether people like it or not, the workplace will be filled by many generations. How do we get them to work together and appreciate each other? How do we manage their aspirations?
Another challenge will come from technology. People have to use technology in the right sense and to their advantage or they will be knocked out because the technology is too fast.
For the younger generations, technology is no longer a new toy. Children these days are familiar with technology from day one. Younger staff want more access to data, and a lot of the data is available, but what is important is they develop the right analytic skills to use that information. People have to be careful of data overload.
Communication is important to managing expectations. Some baby boomers are very confidential with the information they have, but successful companies are those who share information with employees. When you do that, it shows you are seeking their commitment and letting them have ownership.
Employees can’t feel it’s the bosses’ headache and not theirs. You need to collectively transfer your pain to them so they will better understand the business.
If you don’t share the pain, there will be no gain.
Ciaron Murphy Head of business and operational HR – Nokia Siemens Networks
In the future, technology will have massively changed the HR industry. Cloud architecture, coupled with innovations in database technology, will make real-time data manipulation, forecasting and modelling, changing the way we work.
For an HR leader to get to where they want to be in 10 years, they must ensure their respective organisation has the cultural and organisational agility to proactively and efficiently acquire, develop and utilise its human assets, particularly when it comes to MNCs.
In my view, this is only possible if the organisation has project management and enterprise resource planning as an integral part of its DNA. HR professionals have to stay current and learn from the kids.
Sanjeev Nanavati Chief Executive Officer, Citibank Malaysia
HR is and will continue to have central of plate attention in executing business plans. Leaders and businesses who truly value their employee capital will never let HR be relegated to the background. Talent acquisition, development, mobility and retention are likely to be at the forefront. What will be at the forefront will be how the various HR functions are executed in light of developments in social media and changes to communication channels.
Technology enables HR functions to focus on building strategic business partnerships while automating administrative, transactional work in centralized setups. It also allows companies to implement flexible work strategies that allow employees flexible options to work thereby enhancing employee retention and changing job designs more suited to emerging employer/employee needs.
Joel Whitaker Head of research – CEB Asia
Asia’s leaders of the future will need to seek opportunities early in their careers that can expand their skills. Too often rising leaders get “stuck” in specific roles, jobs and functions, which then creates a perception of limited upward mobility and slows the development of broader business skills and perspectives.
The best learning environment for leaders is on the job, specifically in positions that will test and build leadership and broader management skills.
Finding these challenging or “stretch roles” in Asia is not difficult, but just any job won’t do. Stretch roles should be crucibles of development – real jobs with significant business impact and importance to the company.
In Asia, these roles are more than an opportunity to deepen knowledge of an important market; they allow leaders to sharpen specific problem-solving and decision-making skills, as well as learning from success and, yes, even failure.
Many new leaders believe they have to prove their worth by achieving big, quick wins in their new roles. However, leaders who succeed in challenging stretch roles rarely do so alone.
By working collaboratively with teams and committed colleagues, leaders create a lasting foundation for success.
Dato Norashikin Ismail Group HR director – Maju Holdings
In the next 10 years, the demographic of the workforce will change. Gen X will be at their retiring age, Gen Y will be in leadership positions – and they will make up the majority of the workforce – while Gen Z will be joining the workforce and contributing to the economy and society. Understanding the traits of Gen Y will help us prepare them to be effective leaders.
We all know Gen Y grew up with technology and rely on it heavily to help them work better. They prefer to write emails and send text messages rather than communicate face-to-face. They are very much achievement-oriented, appreciate flexibility and value a work-life balance.
Regardless of which generation we are part of, it remains true that great leaders build a great workplace. But what is great today will not necessarily be great tomorrow, so it’s imperative to build leaders’ capabilities for them to stay relevant.
Within the HR function, I foresee organisational development being at the forefront. Innovation is needed for an organisation to survive. HR through the OD function will need to drive the innovative culture. It needs to engage with employees in ensuring the initiatives link with the overall company goals and objectives.
Be it past, present or future, HR continues to play important roles and continues to evolve. Organisations depend on HR to prepare for the future.
Mary Sue Rogers Global managing director for HR managed services – Talent2
One of the biggest challenges facing the HR function in a decade is how to avoid becoming the chief compliance officer. Because we are faced with an increased level of audit, statutory, labour relations and data protection-type legislation, the head of HR runs the risk of being too focused on compliance rather than people.
Another challenge will be the access to talent. The world is getting smaller; the workforce is maturing and the needs of Gen X and Y have to be taken into consideration. All these aspects are contributing to the increased challenges of finding and keeping high calibre talent.
One last challenge will be becoming “the same as the CFO” – being taken as seriously on the people agenda as the CFO is on the financial agenda.
Compensation will also be a key issue, although not in the traditional sense. This will be focused on “how to build a portfolio of benefits, salary, holiday entitlements or whatever that will allow organisations to attract and retain the right talent”. It will look to include areas such as flexible work hours, paying for output instead of input and various types of employment contracts.
HR leaders can accelerate to the place they want to be in 10 years time by focusing on what differentiates: outsource or stop doing the rest. They can also focus on building flexibility into the structure, skills and mindset of HR.
Lorraine Lim Head of HR and administration – Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore
Talent engagement and leadership development will be at the forefront of the HR agenda. Today, while many high performing talents are good managers, they are not necessarily effective leaders – yet.
The role of HR in this capacity must be to transform these individuals – and ensure they are challenged, mentored and recognised – so they can effectively rise to the challenges of the boardroom.
An effective HR strategy, integrated with the overall business plan, is crucial in ensuring the right personalities, practices and values are in place. This will help enable the necessary change to keep pace with an ever-evolving and complex business environment.
To support this, HR must provide value in developing the right teams, with the skills and mindset for business in a reliable, cost-effective and sustainable manner.
In engaging senior management, we need to anticipate its vision and manpower needs to drive the company – and advice on the best structural changes to support these organisational changes.
We need to review who we have and the recruits we want. If it is difficult to hire externally, we need to look within the company. It is important to start building the talent pipeline.
At Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore, our mission is to be one of the best-known, trusted and preferred insurance partners.
To achieve this, we continually ensure our core values of customer focus, integrity and service excellence, are embedded into our organisational DNA.
HR leaders must focus on creating value for their stakeholders and channel resources to strategic functions, not just administrative tasks. They also need to spend more time engaging senior management, and identifying ways to bridge the HR priorities to strategic business imperatives. To achieve this, it is essential HR leaders accelerate their strategic thinking and develop strong and savvy business abilities.
Andrew Thomas Regional managing director, Southeast Asia – Ogilvy Worldwide
Welcome to the 24-hour office environment. Imagine that, by 2022, the 24-hour office becomes mainstream, with teams of people working mornings, evenings and night shifts across multiple projects to maximise productivity. A key challenge for HR professionals will be creating a consistent culture and a sense of team among all employees, regardless of when and where they work. The culture will have to be defined by collaborative efforts rather than individual skills.
With every aspect of our work and personal lives online, HR professionals will need to become masters of online relationships, operating as effectively via tele-presence as they do today in person, to get the most from employees.
The impact of social media has fundamentally changed the way we communicate – from top-down to collaborative two-way conversations.
HR will need to help leaders and managers proactively drive this change. Of course, cultural barriers will still exist.
When it comes to culture – “le plus ça change plus c’est la même chose” – the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Identifying with a culture is part of human nature. Rather than cultures based on geography, sub-cultures within business will grow and it will be HR’s role to ensure a common set of values is understood by all.
HR as a function needs to get better at telling its own story to be seen as “mission critical” to business success.
Building strategic partnerships at all levels will be the key to moving HR from a function that enables excellence to one that drives it.
Sarah Miles Managing director – CIPD Asia
If I reflect on where HR has come from, I think we’ve worked really hard at demonstrating the value we think we can add to organisations.
We have invested in building our expertise in the technical aspect of HR and that’s a really important part of what HR needs to do. There are definitely organisations where HR has a very powerful voice, but for me, it’s still the exception rather than the rule. We’ve made great progress, but I think the function is a little stuck.
In the work we have done to unpick what it is that makes an HR function powerful, what we’ve seen is practitioners have almost jumped a step. They have some functional expertise, but that’s not what gives them the power.
What gives them the power and influence is their capacity to run a really unique commentary on what’s needed in the organisation.
Statistically, of the organisations we’ve spoken to, only 5% to 10% of companies are doing that, while a majority don’t even know they’re doing that.
HR needs the ability to be really embedded in the organisation, to run a really unique commentary and to use those insights to provoke the business into doing what’s needed.
The opportunity is here now for us to say we know what great HR looks like; we know what practices work and the challenges HR are facing; and we need to talk about it and build processes into the function to align growth.
Stephen Yee Assistant executive director and director of learning and development, SNEF
The challenges facing organisations in the coming 10 years will be obtaining human capital and optimising human capital investments. Getting and making the most of human capital is a key priority for the HR industry. To attract and keep the best talent, organisations should work towards flexible work arrangements and cultivate a culture of trust, open communication and fairness.
Honing in on a successful method of strategy implementation should be at the forefront of HR functions. HR should be a leading factor in the implementation of strategy. Regardless of an organisation’s size, function or ambition, HR should think strategically and not become buried too far within its own issues to see clearly. An outside perspective can offer a crisp new form of insight.
Caroline Lim Global HR head – PSA International
For large organisations looking to gain a strategic advantage for themselves, I see organisational development and global talent management functions gaining prominence. These functions should take a long-term view of a company’s ultimate business goals, which are essential for ensuring they can “go the distance”.
Beyond supporting business strategy, HR can play a critical role as a key enabler by helping a company be more proactive, responsive and agile in the face of inevitable and constant change. Inherently, any sound business plan would be underpinned by a well-integrated and aligned HR strategy, which adapts to changing business plans and environments.
HR leaders need to ensure the organisation benefits from their ability to function as a decision science, and also to evolve our role from reporting to transforming information into insights that can drive better business decisions. Jeremy Blain Managing director – Cegos Asia Pacific
Welcome to Generation Z! How we integrate Gen Z into the workplace will be a major challenge in the future. Within the next four years, Gen Z will represent more than 50% of the workforce, meaning the trend over the next 10 years will be an influx of young people who are technology savvy, social media literate and comfortable with change.
In my mind, the biggest challenge will still be how quickly companies are able to deal with change. Globalisation is an unrelenting ever-present beast, and a key aspect will be the shift of talent. Traditionally, in the West, talent has been conditioned to look mainly at Western multi-national companies, but they will now have the opportunity to sell themselves more widely. With increased competition from talent in emerging economies such as Brazil, Africa, the Middle East and Russia, this will drive a “first world war for talent”.
The writing is on the wall, and I’m convinced this will happen over the next five to 10 years. Essentially, those who are more accepting of the cultural mix will win.
Companies must realise the future is now and look at how to change the game from an HR standpoint. In fact, this could be the end of HR as we know it, and the start of RHC – resourcing human capital – where the tools, support, technology and communities, need to collaborate and contribute to the workplace of the future – today.
Robert Zampetti Director of HR service delivery (APAC) – Towers Watson
Cloud computing or software as a service (SaaS) is gaining ground and is only going to increase. As internet penetration grows and bandwidth increases, we are seeing many organisations adopting SaaS to displace the traditional licensing Enterprise Resource Planning agreements.
Moving to subscription-based internet-delivered applications results in significant cost savings (usually driven by the fact IT headcount is no longer needed to support HR applications internally).
But there are many other advantages to SaaS – including HR finally being kept up to date and staying connected with emerging best practices and advances.
As a new generation of workers enter the workforce, they are very comfortable with technology.
But they also have a different set of expectations and experiences in the use of technology. This new generation is quite comfortable leaving employers who are not providing state-of-the-art tools for managing their work and communicating and transacting with their managers and fellow employees.
For example, we envision an infrastructure where individual work history, performance, training and competencies, are maintained in the cloud and accessible from mobile devices using game mechanics and social media to make the experience interactive and fun.
Filia Lim Head of HR for Southeast Asia – BT Global Services
One of the key challenges has always been the ability to attract the best talent at the right time and cost.
However, globalisation has created a workforce that is increasingly competitive and mobile and attracting talent is now just the tip of the iceberg. A bigger challenge will be talent retention – with a myriad opportunities available, organisations have to put in a considerable effort to ensure employee satisfaction such as training and creating a career roadmap that allows them to have a long-term career vision.
Organisational development is equally crucial because organisations need to create capacity to respond to change to achieve greater effectiveness.
It is now a standard requirement for organisations to develop creative organisational solutions to achieve congruence among internal structures and processes. Because employees play a huge role in this, it is imperative for HR to drive this area with equal focus.
HR leaders are encouraged to create open communication channels with internal departments to effectively forecast and understand their challenges and requirements within the broader framework. To further engage with employees, HR leaders also need to anticipate and understand what employees require from their employers, not only from a local, but global perspective.
Charmaine Sim Director of country human resources – IBM
Talent acquisition may no longer be done in the traditional manner – already we are seeing recruitment done through online vehicles, including video resumes. Perhaps crowd sourcing will become a viable option? Tried and tested talent development methods may also not be feasible in the future.
Will there be a possibility where talent is “exchanged” across companies for development? How will a company develop their leaders in such scenarios?
HR also needs to think about whether there is a need to re-define the workforce – how will the company look at regular employees versus the transient workforce, or local versus globally sourced?
Compensation may lean towards paying for the project versus longer term employment. HR business controls is another area where HR has a critical need to keep up with the changes in technology, globalisation, data-sharing and data privacy.
Ten years down the road, being culturally sensitive is also an important asset to push the envelope further. As future generations become more interconnected globally for work and pleasure, to achieve success, one has to be even more conscious and respectful of other people’s cultures. It may not be easy to embrace and collaborate, but it’s certainly achievable if one puts their heart and mind to it.
Lee Quane Regional director for Asia – ECA
It’s hard to imagine that just over 10 years ago many employees in HR departments didn’t have email accounts. Present debates about technology and HR revolve around social media and the extent to which this impacts companies – but it is likely these arguments will be obsolete in 10 years. Think about it – 10 years ago companies were debating the impact on employee productivity if they were allowed access to the internet at work. Singapore has seen an immigration influx over the past five years and the next 10 will help us see how this population assimilates. Crucial to Singapore’s success is the extent to which companies can foster working environments where locals and newly arrived colleagues feel comfortable. Modern Singapore was built on a legacy of immigration, so if history is a lesson, this should be a challenge well within our reach.
Companies will continue to become more international and in doing this, talent management will remain key and the war for talent will stay at the forefront of people’s minds.
Most companies are pyramidal in structure, meaning that when a person in a senior capacity leaves, the company can choose from a pool of more than one subordinate candidate to promote.
However, this may not be the case in 10 years, when an ageing population means they may only have one or two people underneath them. Companies need to identify which positions present this risk and make sure they receive priority when it comes to succession planning.
Shahrukh Marfatia Global HR vice-president – Shell
The challenge for HR today – and in the future – is to go beyond the transactional HR functions to focus on core people issues, so we truly partner with the business to meet its longer term vision and annual business plans.
Shell’s vision is to be the most competitive and innovative energy company. Underpinning this is to operate according to Shell’s general business principles and values.
Our HR, with the support of the executive leadership team, recently introduced many innovative programmes to emphasise leadership attributes and development, diversity, and an enhanced focus on Asian and talent development, especially in emerging markets to enable future sustained growth.
HR will continue to be an integral part of our leadership teams and a strong “people strategy” remains a key component.
The technology is already there to give us the necessary tools to do our work more effectively, such as online portals through which managers, employees and HR, can manage data, have relevant HR reports on tap, manage life events, time attendance, learning and development, and query remuneration and benefits-related matters.
In the future, I see more interactive tools being made available. There will be a greater use of social media, with more mobile-enabled applications, which should significantly aid work/life balance, smarter work and enhance employee engagement. All of this means core HR people will be left to focus on partnering with the business to manage and grow, develop people and enhance organisational capability.
Patrick Ghielmetti Vice-president of human resources - Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts Asia Pacific
I think there will be a lesser need for expats further down the road as local companies grow their own leaders from within. I think we’ll see this more and more in 10 years time. Regretfully, cultural barriers will still exist – for example, that expat behaviour where some simply believe they are better people – but these differences will lessen as the world becomes a smaller place.
Talent management and finding talent is going to be one of the key challenges, as well as fully integrating technology. Company-wide, we are implementing a new system called My HR, which is a fully integrated management system. We’re spending a lot of money on it and it will take us through the next 10 years by revolutionising how we have conducted business for the past 50 years. I firmly believe technology will change dramatically, and you won’t be able to hold it back.
I’m not sure it’s a major factor, but I believe the differences between Gen Y and X is something we need to be conscious of.
Will they be fundamentally different? I don’t know, but I do think there will be some differences that apply.
Jean-Bernard Rolland Vice-president of HR solutions – SAP
HR challenges are going to vary from country to country, but there are three trends that will be the same across the board. Those trends will be driven by technology – and the first will be mobility.
There is no technology that has spread at the speed smartphones have in the past few years. That means change for HR in the way it does business and the way it measures and supports the business. It is my strong belief every single process in HR should be made available on mobile devices.
For example, performance reviews are a very static once-a-year process. But imagine if I’m a boss, and I see something that reflects on that employee’s performance.
I can go into my mobile device to update the review and immediately that process moves from being static to interactive and instantaneous.
The second big trend is data and analytics. Corporations have accumulated information for many years through process automation, but they’ve never really done anything with that information.
They are now in a position to leverage this information to help executives make outstanding decisions.
The third one is social media. Employees as citizens are acquiring new ways and habits of doing things. They are going to start demanding new social media trends be made available to them through applications. They want sleek profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – that is what they are demanding. Companies should allow social media sites in the workplace.
Mary Barton Head of people and knowledge – WWF
A futuristic HR means being flexible to adapt with constant change, emulating best-practices and developing talent continuously while keeping them engaged.
Retention will be at the forefront in the near future. While talent can be attracted into the organisation, retaining it will become a challenge.
The Gen Y talent will be the most challenging because they tend to seek careers with monetary rewards, constant challenges and work-life balance. If any of the three elements are not met, Gen Y employees will seek an organisation that does provide them. With the rapid evolution of technology, I see virtual roles and working from home becoming a common work practice.
Roles that require presence would be the only ones where colleagues are required to be at their workstations.
HR will be the main focus of integration in any organisation because it is becoming evident that putting people at the heart of an engagement strategy will enable the success of the business plan. Rightfully, it is the talent that determines what is put into a business plan and what can be delivered.
All the plans and strategies formulated cannot be achieved without the right talent.
The sustainable pipeline of talent must be part of the strategy in the business plan to ensure delivery.
Patrick Fiat General manager – Royal Plaza on Scotts
Globalisation will make the search for the right employees even more challenging. Qualified local talent will be even more highly sought after, which raises the bar higher because we are competing with global organisations, not only APAC. As employers expand their businesses globally, local employees will be hired for their knowledge and familiarity in the new locations. I foresee more locals will hold the positions of department heads and general managers in the industry in 10 years time – not only in Singapore, but also overseas as expats.
HR functions likely to be at the forefront, include adapting strategies to meet the expectations of the millennials, and developing leaders with a high EQ to manage the new generation, who are increasingly making up a substantial part of the workforce. The millennials are individuals who value opportunities to develop and contribute within the organisation in a short time-frame. The workplace is changing to accommodate millennials.
It is crucial for organisations to strengthen their organisational culture and consistently put in the effort to sustain and develop these areas. Passion for work and having an emotional link are important factors to draw and develop HR. Leaders should place interest in individuals’ growth, not only in skill sets and knowledge, but also in character development. This will help individuals find their role meaningful and rewarding.
Encouraging innovation will also set the stage to improve processes and enhance productivity. The key is to shift from being labour-intensive to having workers who take on cross-functional roles, coupled with the adoption of technology to cut processes.
Customised work relationships will take the market by storm with the availability of technology. With this, employees are looking for flexible work arrangements for better work-life balance. Organisations need to provide the flexibility for employees to work from home, especially for administrative and supporting offices.
Chia Chew Lee Deputy director for office of human resources, Republic Polytechnic
The attraction and building of the next generation of leaders – to ensure a leadership pipeline and sustain business success – will be at the forefront in the future. In addition, developing and retaining talented leaders to meet the global demands of present and future challenges will be most important because of the shortage of capable and competent leaders worldwide.
HR strategies and directions will have no choice, but to be integrated and fully aligned to the business plan. HR professionals need to know how to help achieve business targets through effective HR and leadership practices. We must create high performing teams and a workforce who will fully contribute to the desired goals and outcomes.
Technology has changed the world and organisations need to transform. Becoming fully mobile and paperless is the culture we have to shape, and HR processes have to be streamlined and automated for us to do so. Gen Y are IT savvy and computer literate and, as they – and subsequent generations – continue to join the workforce, the need for the industry to change is unavoidable and essential for survival.
To get to where they want to be in the future, HR leaders need to develop an engaging workforce and increase the productivity of all individuals – from the most junior support officers to the highest management teams.
Sunny Khoo Managing consultant – Human Synergy
Key areas within HR will include talent development – which focuses on skills that are transferable across regions – managing across borders, cultural diversity and leadership development.
As more young people enter the workforce, the average age of CEOs will be below 40. Starting them young will build strong foundations.
There are companies who have invested in coaching and mentoring programmes, which use a “token” approach. They usually start with a workshop for all their identified leaders and proceed with specific action steps and coaching activities. Alas, many companies stop at the workshop level.
As a business partner, we suggest HR develops tailored intervention with proper coaching and mentoring systems, followed by periodic assessments, and setting up a coaching council, who will in turn ensure development activities are being carried out.
Additionally, the impact of technology on HR will be in the area of knowledge management.
In the progression towards a more knowledge-based workforce, technology will play an important role.
However, the human touch can never be replaced, especially in the areas of face-to-face interaction, such as coaching and mentoring sessions.
Nothing beats the human five senses when it comes to making well-informed decisions and solving problems.
The challenge in 10 years will be around talent and finding the right people at the right time. This is a major challenge now, but in many industries and sectors the demand is clearly greater than the available pool. HR professionals will need to be really creative; not only in identifying talent, but also in how they develop and train them. The ability for organisations to truly identify talent globally is going to be key to corporate success.
One area where I feel technology will really add value is in virtual interviewing of candidates, and reducing the time to hire. Added to this will be how technology can support the management of a team or workforce from a remote location. We will continue to see software and processes that improve payroll and HR services.
My belief is that cultural barriers will become non-existent and it will become only about the skills and the depth of available talent. To some extent we've already seen this happen with off-shoring and outsourcing, but I believe to remain competitive, the smartest companies will do all they can to break down these barriers as quickly as possible.
HR professionals will move towards becoming talent strategists. In my team, we are business people first and foremost, and behind that we’re all about the people. It’s about being smart and knowledgeable about the industry and where we’re going, and having the people to support that. Second of all, if people aren’t already in the digital space, they might as well hang it up and go home. It’s about leaning into that space and being comfortable with it, rather than afraid of it. It’s going to be about continually staying connected with our people and creating communities.
As our world gets more complicated, the work community becomes critical as a place where you have the strongest connections. HR is really going to have to play a role there and be really flexible about how people work. We currently still have managers who think that if they cannot sit across the table from someone, then that person isn’t working.
The other thing that we’re seeing is people are staying in the workforce longer. So how do you engage them? I think now is one of the most exciting times in my field that I’ve ever seen, and I’m hearing all kinds of conversations that are happening as the world continues to change.
Paul Draeger Chief talent officer, CCL
The challenges and demands of the “global war for uniquely-skilled talent” will drive a greater focus on effective global HR practices at levels never previously experienced. Job design will be a big focus for HR professionals as jobs morph. I suspect compensation and benefits will also have to become more creative along the way. Performance management will continue to focus more on outcomes as a result of telecommuting, sourcing and continued “de-jobbing”.
Workforce planning, particularly for strategically critical roles, will continue to be key for effectively executing business plans. We need to understand what talent we require and how engaging, developing, and deploying that talent is essential to making the magic. No talent, no magic. From recruitment, to development, to rewards, to career planning and to performance management, successful organisations will leverage flexible HCM strategies to navigate a volatile and uncertain future.
Andrew J. Calvert Regional director and solution architect – AchieveGlobal Singapore
Moulding HR into a strategic business enabler is not easy in today’s unpredictable environment. Creating structured talent management and lifetime career development processes that fit ever-evolving corporate strategies is becoming increasingly difficult compared with 10 years ago.
HR will need to be much less about workforce hygiene and more about becoming a strategic function that adapts quickly to shifting organisational goals. It will need to mediate greater communication across the organisation so innovation and positive actions can take place at all levels.
A multi-generational workforce inevitably creates tension at the workplace because of perceived differences. This may worsen with an ageing workforce if organisations don’t put in enough measures to foster respect and collaboration across generations.
Paul Endacott Managing director – Ambition Singapore
One of the biggest challenges, which is already happening now, is helping people manage generational diversity. It’s looking at how an organisation is going to manage Gen Z and their influence on a culture.
Secondary to that is managing work-life balance and mobile working. Technology has allowed companies more mobility and therefore there will be a challenge in managing that. Finally, we’re already seeing social and professional boundaries becoming blurred, so how will that be managed?
A lot of recruitment will be in social media and through networking. That said, if we look at the past when job boards became active, that fundamentally changed recruitment. I think it will be the same with social media.
Accelerating growth has to be on the strategic agenda for CEOs and the board. They need to have it as a key part of their strategy in terms of what they’re going to be doing in talent management, attraction and retention.
If we look at the recruitment landscape, there are challenges in retaining and developing people and that’s only going to get tougher as the demand in Asia increases. That needs to be a core focus at board level.
There has to be a strategy put in place now for people to retain employees and attract talent in the next 10 years.
Brenda Wilson Partner and Asia Pacific leader for talent management consulting - Mercer
To slow down departures and increase attraction and retention in the future, there are a few specific actions to follow.
HR needs to know the workforce like organisations know the customer. Who are they, what do they want and what motivates them? Employee segmentation is key. Undertake some basic analysis to understand what motivates each segment of the workforce. Simple engagement survey work, for example, allows organisations to identify drivers of engagement revealing elements of the value proposition that are most attractive to different segments of the workforce (particularly Gen Y).
You can fundamentally change how your organisation thinks about compensation and benefits and provide choice by introducing flexible benefits immediately. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t delivering the ROI. Armed with insights on what motivates different segments, build an infrastructure that allows for choice. Flexible benefits online, for example, allows employees to re-allocate company sponsored funds into benefits most desirable to that employee.
Engagement can also be driven by focusing on each worker’s career. Most organisations provide insufficient visibility on career opportunities, yet millennials, the most wired-generation, lives in a 24/7 instant-access world.
Arguably, they know more about what your competitors are offering than what their next career move is with you. Create a compelling place to work by introducing transparency, velocity and control.
• Transparency: Ensure employees can understand and have access to career opportunities.
• Velocity: Ensure employees can advance at their own pace, while at the same time enable your organisation to have a full pipeline of ready talent.
• Control: Ensure employees can influence their career direction, while at the same time enabling your organisation to flow the best talent towards the most critical roles. _______________________________________________________________________________