Total Rewards Asia Summit 2024 Singapore
3 key areas of focus for HR on the journey up the value chain

3 key areas of focus for HR on the journey up the value chain

Mike Chua, Director of HR, NTUC-ARU, says HR has a pivotal role to play as a strategic balance not just by conforming to the labour laws, but also by finding ways to implement best practices and guidelines. Sarah Gideon reports.

The HR function has evolved from a ‘business enabler’ to a ‘business accelerator’, with a greater purpose to achieve sustainable growth of people and organisational development. Navigating the transformative shifts that come into play bring forth one thing — the urgent need for HR reinvention.

This begs the question: How is HR moving higher up the value chain, and what are the key areas of focus HR teams should focus on as it continues on the journey?

Taking centre stage for his opening keynote on the topic, at the brand-new Talent & Tech Asia Summit 2024, was Mike Chua, Director of Human Resources, National Trades Union Congress – Administration and Research Unit (NTUC-ARU). 

The leader talked about the following three key areas of focus HR for HR to look into:

HR as a strategic balance  

First up, Chua shared that HR could play a pivotal role as a strategic balance by conforming to the labour laws and finding ways to implement the best practices and guidelines that the tripartite partners have come up with

"But more importantly, we also need to ensure that there’s a balance between the growth and sustainability of the business with the need to take care of employees," Chua pointed out.  

He added that HR should also focus on aligning HR policies with business objectives, saying:  

“When we want to grow the economic pie of the business, to enable everyone to get a fair share of the success, HR should have the ability to actively and closely monitor the balance between manpower budget against the operating cost.” 

Another point that Chua shared was the need to review the total rewards created within organisations, and be creative in optimising and utilising the benefit cost.  

"Many of us have taxable benefits, but I think we can do more in this area to customise the usage of benefits within healthcare insurance, buying and selling of leaves, holidays, even household expenses, as younger generations tend to focus more on wellness," he commented.  

The leader also emphasised the need for hyper-customising of benefits for employees: “All these (must be) taken together – the headcount cost, the welfare benefits, other descriptive costs have to be taken in totality so that we can have a balanced operating budget to ensure that the business is sustainable and continue to grow."  

One strategic tool he then went on to add about was the ability to advise the business units in organisations to enable approval through other means of manpower acquisition. 

"HR should have a strategy that gives us the ability and the agility to formulate a mix of a build, buy, or borrow strategy to partner the business unit." 

"This will allow us all to help the business grow in a more sustainable and agile manner." 

HR’s role in driving business success through upskilling, technology, and leadership development

Coming to the next area of focus, citing a 2024 Mercer global talent trends report, Chua noted that 48% of HR leaders see skills shortages as a top threat to their business this year. 

Adding on a point from a separate, PwC survey, he shared, 44% of employees believe that the skills required for the job will undergo significant changes within the next five years.

Thus, the need for leaders to prioritise upskilling and development initiatives to equip employees of businesses, he stressed.  

Adding to that, he highlighted other ways HR teams can stay ahead of the curve in today’s dynamic business landscape such as the following:  

  • Identify skills gap 
  • Design training programmes 
  • Encourage lifelong learning  

One avenue for this, for instance, is through the Company Training Committee that develops concrete-level transformation plans to ensure the workforce remains future-ready, relevant, and resilient by involving key stakeholders. 

The above aside, it is also important to constantly review and ensure that job descriptions are up to date and more specific about job requirements that employers are looking out for in terms of: 

  1. Skills 
  2. Qualifications
  3. Experience
  4. Personnel 

Harnessing intelligence tech for competitiveness   

The last key area Chua focused on was the need for HR to harness the power of technology to enhance efficiency, streamline processes, and to remain competitive in the labour market. 

Furthermore, tapping into technology will give organisations a competitive edge in the workforce. 

He said: "We must leverage on digital platforms and data to make data-informed decisions, optimise recruitment & retention, and personalise the employee experience." 

In that vein, he listed out the on the must-haves for organisations when transitioning into HR tech:  

  1. A basic HR management system  
  2. A payroll system  
  3. Applicant tracking software  
  4. Employees' one-stop self-help portal 
  5. A workforce dashboard  
  6. An employee sentiment/ experience dashboard  

He further emphasised the need for HR to move forward by depending on technology, with acknowledging organisations that adopt tech into HR have seen positive outcomes such as enhanced recruitment platforms, with more generative and conversational-like such that it can better filter and search the appropriate candidates that employers are looking for.  

Finally, to end his session, Chua stressed that amidst all shifts, mental wellness is an important factor to take note of.  

He commented: "The issues of mental wellness and workplace burnout cannot be resolved, in my view, with more and more wellness programmes, wellness benefits, welfare benefits, FWAs (flexible work arrangements), or work-from-home." 

Wellness programmes scheduled within the week, such as Wellness Thursdays and Cohesion Fridays, are not going to help with mental illness in the workplace because, after all, employees will still have to go back and work, he added. 

"Don’t take away work time and replace them with mental wellness programmes," he affirmed.

He then pointed out a few other factors that employers should take into consideration when promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace. For instance:

  • Leaders should be chosen carefully, possess the correct leadership attributes, and be willing to perform tasks their subordinates have done, while paying close attention to feedback from people rather than relying solely on computer-generated data. Most importantly, HR professionals should avoid over-glorifying leadership roles. 
  • Establish a solid HR foundation by ensuring efficient management of transactions such as leave allowances, claims, and public holidays; maintaining accurate personal records and clarifying entitlements, and streamlining overall HR operations.  

These are just some of the insights shared at our Talent Tech Asia Summit 2024 (TTAS). Head over here for the full coverage of some other sessions at the event. 

Held at Shangri-La Singapore on 15 & 16 May 2024, TTAS saw more than 200 HR professionals gather to gain insights on emerging technologies and megatrends that are profoundly changing people management practices and therefore forging a people-centred future of work in this tech-driven landscape.

Human Resources Online would like to thank all speakers, moderators, panellists, and attendees for being valuable contributors to this event. 

We would also like to extend our gratitude to our sponsors & partners for making this conference possible: 


Sterling Lexicon

Jobstreet by SEEK
Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP)


READ MORE: How do you overhaul a fear-driven mindset to encourage AI adoption within your organisation?

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