Very few companies on the Fortune 500 list can boast of a 130-year-old legacy, yet ABB continues with a strong show in all the market segments it serves - utilities, infrastructure, power plants, petrochemicals, robotics, data centers, transport, and many more.

Shedding light on the organisation's journey in this part of the world is Johan de Villiers, managing director, Singapore and Southeast Asia, ABB, who as keynote speaker at HR Tech Interactive 2018, Singapore, spoke about the four key ingredients for building success in artificial intelligence (AI).

ABB has been in Singapore for four decades, currently employing more than 1,000 employees. In this time, the company has evidently seen much success in digitalisation and AI, shifting focus from heavy manufacturing to investments in new, digital technologies and robotics. So despite having a similar number of workers as we did previously, we have tripled productivity in this period," de Villiers shares.

"More importantly, staying agile to respond to the market changes has helped create new opportunities for our employees," he adds. In fact, among the management team at ABB, there isn't a single person who is in the same role as they were 10 years ago - in fact about 95% are not in the same role as even five years ago, he affirmed.

With that, he shared the four key ingredients for success in AI:

  1. Be bold: 'Dare to dare'
  2. Team and skills: 'Shape the people'
  3. Safeguard integrity: 'Hygiene'
  4. Organisation: 'Break the mould'
"Businesses are no longer just end consumers of ready-made human capital," de Villiers explained. "We need new mindsets to understand the opportunities and challenges employees face, and develop an HR strategy that unlocks their potential. That potential, combined with value-based use of AI will allow us to drive productivity, growth, wealth and prosperity."

Further takeaways from the presentation:

  • "It's so important that as a company we can articulate clearly where we focus, and what problems we are good at solving in this world. With digital, there is a risk that you can easily digress on a path that diverges from your core business."
  • "You've got to solve a problem or deliver value in the world ofhyper-digitalisation. Lots of gadgets and apps will never bring good results on their own - we have to be extremely focused, understand our customers, and make something better."
  • "What's more important than the technology we deal with is our bedrock of values –integrity, innovation, collaboration, speed, and more. Wherever we operate, we make a massive effort to build those into the local culture and all our operations." 

This knowledge was shared at the Human Resources’ conference, HR Tech Interactive 2018, Singapore. To attend more events, please visit

In addition to Johan de Villiers, presenters for HR Tech Interactive 2018, Singapore included:

  • Inna Wahlberg, general manager, Asia Services, Ascender
  • Arun Biswas, managing partner, global business services, IBM Singapore
  • Raquel Suarez, talent and organisation director, Southeast Asia and Australasia, Unilever Asia
  • Daniel Kusmanto, global head, HR analytics, ASM
  • Nikhil Shahane, vice-president HR and communications, Asia Pacific, TechnipFMC
  • Alan Sumano, director, people analytics, Schneider Electric
  • Valen Ng, regional sales director, Panopto Asia
  • John Chee, first vice president group training and sales performance management, United Overseas Bank
  • Nina Devouge, talent acquisition director, APAC, Essence
  • Natalie Tait, APAC talent acquisition executive, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Mark Foo, product and technology director, FastJobs
  • John Ong, vice president, human resources and head of learning and development, SGX
  • Low Xin Wei, director, digital workplace programme office and second director, HRMIS, Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office
  • Alvin Goh, global head of HR processes and projects, Sivantos Group
  • Samuel Ho, HCM practice leader, global business services, IBM ASEAN
  • Ingo Laubender, head of people solutions, Grab

Human Resources would like to thank our sponsors and partners for supporting us through this event:

Platinum sponsor IBM

Gold sponsor Ascender

Silver sponsor FastJobs Panopto

Exhibitors ManpowerGroup MetroResidences Ramco

Check out highlights from the Malaysia edition of this conference.