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Keeping it simple and implementing benefits that meet employee’s needs were some of the key takeaways of Employee Benefits Asia 2017, Malaysia, the biggest regional conference dedicated to compensation and benefits strategy.
Organised by Human Resources, Employee Benefits Asia is back for the third year with insights on some of the top rewards strategies that stimulate effective long-term capabilities. Produced by Sammi Zhang and held from 16 to 17 May 2017 at Connexion@Nexus, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the event was attended by more than 180 delegates, speakers and sponsors.
The event was started off by Mohd Sidki Hasan, director of the National Human Resource Centre (NHRC), Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), who took the stage to analyse the future outlook of HR standards in Malaysia.
He advised the room: “In order to transform traditional HR to business partner, we HR practitioners must transform ourselves. We must benchmark our profession like the marketing or accounting profession.”
Next on stage was Derrick Lim, training and employee engagement lead, HP.
Shedding light on how HR should prepare themselves for the gig economy from a compensation and benefits perspective, he said: “In the gig economy, HR needs to reinvent its politics and compensation packages; drive employee engagement; support changing initiatives and workforce; carry out meaningful conversations; and continue to play key roles to business alignment.”
Up next was Shah Rouf, chief business development officer of group corporate solutions, AIA Group, who spoke on how firms can make a real difference to employee benefits.
He said: “Work life balance is different to everyone, it’s not just about hours worked. It’s also about being able to choose the hours. Wellness is a bit like work life balance, it means different things to different people.
“Wellness is an opportunity to make sure your employees are healthy. It is also an opportunity to tackle the health care costs to ensure it doesn’t affect the business.”
After a quick tea break, delegates were welcomed back with a keynote by Hash Piperdy, CEO, Mercer Malaysia.
Sharing tips on how HR professionals can cut costs without cutting benefits, he said: “One way to do it [to reduce cost without cutting benefits] is to set up employee benefit programmes by listening to what employees want and empowering them to choose their own benefits through flexible plans.”
Following that was a panel on stretching the compensation and benefits budget in a slowing economy. Moderator Rhenu Bhuller, partner, Frost & Sullivan, was joined by panelists Henry Yeoh, deputy president, Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management (MIHRM); Lai Tak Ming, director, group human resources and administration, Gamuda; Sainthan Satyamoorthy, chief corporate solutions officer, AIA Malaysia; Shahmi Samsuddin, head of compensation and benefits, iflix.
A tip Lai of Gamuda has for implementing new flexi benefits is to keep it simple.
“What employees want is what they can use today, so keep it simple. Give them a pool of money they can use on the benefits they prioritise according to their needs,” Lai said.
After a hearty lunch break, Daryll Tan, co-founder and director, OpenMinds, took the stage to share tips on how to leverage on benefits to attract and retain a young workforce. He said: “We want to focus on the needs of people especially in a startup.”
He further reveals that as a startup, in order to sustain the benefits offered, the company is very transparent with their financials.
Next, delegates welcomed Penelope Gan, deputy group CHRO, AmBank Malaysia, on stage to share about using flexi benefits to address demographic challenges.
She said: “The key thing to create sustainability is to keep it simple. This means that everyone has to understand what is in it for them, from the CEO to the junior executives.”
After a short coffee and networking break, Andrew Ng, HR director, Fonterra, took the stage to share the case for flexible arrangements.
When implementing new flexible work arrangements, Ng shared that organisations should start with a pilot and determine eligibility. Then, they should establish a policy and communication plan. Finally, establish accountability and success measures.
“When we take care of employees’ needs, we are also trying to help them make the best use of their time, knowledge, skills, and abilities,” he added.
Wrapping up day one of the conference was Samuel Wee, general manager – business operations, REV Asia. Tapping on his experience, Wee shared tips on how organisations can foster a culture of engagement, alignment and loyalty.
He said: “There always needs to be a culture champion if you want to align the culture of the team, and it cannot be human resource department – it needs to be the business leaders.”
The second was kickstarted by Ezekiel Vicente, chief human resources officer and vice president for technology, Mindvalley, with a presentation on how companies can drive better business outcomes through better employee experience.
He said: “When people see that their leaders are constantly happy, they will feel that it is ok to be smiling and happy in the office too.
Happiness is the new productivity. People want to work in workplaces that make them feel fulfilled.”
Following him, Sulaxmi Prasad, head of performance, rewards,and analytics, Digi, took the stage to give an essence of the telecommunications service provider’s total rewards strategy.
She said: “We started with a one size fits all approach, but as we embarked on the evolution journey, we started to customise and humanise. We have started exploring more variable compensation plans which are tailored to the nature of the work.”
Post a quick networking break, the conference dived into a panel on how to build a competitive compensation and benefits package. Moderating this panel was Andrew Yeo, director, group human resources and technology at New Tokyo International Holdings. Joining him on stage were panelists Lisa Wong, human resources and administration director, Land Pacific Development; Petrina Chong, group director, human resources, Berjaya Hotels & Resorts; Chandralakshmi Thiruchelvam, head of performance and rewards, Heineken; Cilia Rasasegram, chief experience officer, The Employee Experience Project.
Rasasegram of The Employee Experience Project shares that discussing about compensation and benefits doesn’t start from when the employee is hired, but from when the candidate comes in for interviews.
She advised: “In terms of employee experience, try to create that one thing that has that halo effect so that when people come in for interviews, people will talk to their friends and family about it.”
Next on stage was Dr Jaclyn Lee, senior director, human resources and organisational development, Singapore University of Technology and Design, on how to harness HR analytics effectively in order to design and track rewards programmes.
She said that the future of HR departments will depend on having people who are more comfortable with data, adding that “before you start doing analytics, you have to understand the business.”
Post lunch, Then Sik Kwang, head of human resources, DHL IT Services, took the stage to discuss creating a comprehensive strategy to manage costs and creating a culture of health for employees.
He shared: “We used three approaches to drive the focus on health at DHL. We need to know ourselves through conducting surveys. Then we need expert advice. Thereafter, we also need ambassadors and change agents.”
Up next, John Garrido, Asia regional director, Virgin Pulse, shared why wellness isn’t enough and how holistic employee wellbeing can be embedded into organisation culture.
He shared: “In order to engage the high risk employees, you have to make sure health and wellbeing programmes are fun and make sure that people engage in it frequently such that it improves their health over time.”
He added that organisations have to make the healthy option simple. For example, firms should start with encouraging employees to walk more often or take the stairs instead of starting off with encouraging them to go on a 20km run.
Following a quick coffee break was Adriad Choo, human resources and administration director, Puratos.
Sharing his insights on re-inventing benefits packages to improve work-life balance for internal stakeholders, he said: “More people are talking about work-life, but what does that mean to you? You are also an employee. I feel that people want work-life balance such that their work doesn’t interfere with their life or family time.”
Wrapping up the conference was Florence Tan, corporate responsibility senior manager, PwC.
Speaking about strategies needed to make wellness programmes sustainable and cost-effective, she said: “Leadership support is one of the key elements to sustaining a wellness programme.”
Tan further shared that one of the key challenges faced along PwC’s health and wellness journey was competing priorities. To overcome that challenge, she said: “We try to get people to participate at various times when they are not so busy and have less work.”
The Human Resources team would like to thank all sponsors, exhibitors, and partners who contributed to the success of Employee Benefits Asia 2017, Malaysia:
Mercer Marsh Benefits
Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management (MIHRM)
International Professional Managers Association (IPMA)
Vietnam Human Resources Association (VNHR)
Centre of Executive Education (CEE)