Let us get in the solution mode by acknowledging the fact that things will change, thus HR has to keep up, affirms George Xavier, Head of HR, Asia Region, FLSmidth, and jury member for the first-ever HR Excellence Awards in Thailand.

Q Did you enter HR by accident, or was it always your passion?

HR happened purely by accident. It was when I was transitioning from military life to the world in civies that I was offered the role of HR manager at Genpact. Though I had no idea what to expect ahead, I am very glad that I took that opportunity. It has been a fantastic journey since, spanning multiple domains including BFSI, ITES, consulting and engineering; across Asia and the Middle East.

Q What do you find most rewarding about your role?

It can impact lives - in true sense. I am fortunate to be dealing with the most valuable and critical element of any business - people. It’s a fine balance between changing business priorities and maintaining a motivated workforce to steer the organisation in the right path, and then staying on to reach the (changing) destination. This can only be achieved with human resources operating in absolute rhythm and collaboration with the business.

Q What are your views on current COVID-19 situation, and the impact on workforce?

I must admit, this has been an eye-opener. Who could have guessed the impact of a tiny virus - it has certainly caused a lot of damage at large, but it will not succeed in dampening our winning spirit. I am so proud to see the motivation displayed by our people in fighting this invisible enemy. Such flexibility and agility cannot be compared to any AI or robotics, and it reaffirms the importance of the human mindset in navigating through any crises. While I firmly believe in technology and data science, it cannot operate standalone without human motivation - and that has been my biggest learning recently.

From an impact on workforce perspective, it will make us stronger and open to new ways of working in future. It also has created some interesting discussions about the need and sustainability of many existing work practices which had crept in over a period of time, and will be interesting to see who will be the early adopters. We still remember a few classic examples of some extinct brands due to unwillingness or delay in adapting to change - and we should all be smart enough to learn from the past.

I do appreciate change is very tough for most of us - but it is also the only constant. That is one journey we all need to start preparing for from here on.

Q HR is typically seen as a bridge between the management and staff. How can HR work to improve communication barriers between the two?

The solution is a really simple one - the need to translate messages in the language where it could be well understood. The most important link to this chain in my view are the front line people managers and not just HR. People managers can make or break any organisation, and hence so important to specifically look at these set of employees when we plan learning and development opportunities.

I still remember my first job with General Electric, before the military stint; where I was fortunate to be part of GE Capital's Management Trainee Programme as they groomed selected employees over 12 months into assistant managers - the frontline; and that was my first and most important exposure to the criticality of this layer in ensuring robust employee engagement and motivation.

Any communication can either be delivered or owned; it's the ownership that matters in creating the desired impact - that's the key!

Q What are the typical manpower challenges faced in your sector? What unique initiatives are you and your team undertaking to address this?

Not specific to any particular sector, but there are several challenges which are common when dealing with manpower planning. The complexity of organisation's service delivery, changing customer expectations, lack of sensitivity to diversity and cultural aspects, short term view when looking at talent as cost, absence of good forecast and rapid changes in the organisation particularly when resisted; can be few examples.

Let us get in the solution mode by acknowledging the fact that things will change and a solution which works today will be obsolete sooner than expected - and we must be ready for it at all times, whether we like it or not. The methods used to predict and manage these changes are the key to ensuring efficiency in the long run. It is certainly not easy, and is most likely to be challenged at every step; the success mantra here is perseverance.

Q As part of the jury for #HRExcellenceAwards, what will you look for in a winning entry submission by our participants?

Honesty and impact. Nothing can add more value to a winning entry than these two simple elements.

Q Why should Thailand be excited about the inaugural launch of #HRExcellenceAwards 2020?

An award is not only a certificate or plaque but a reflection of true commitment and hard work which not only motivates the recipient to do even better going forward - but also the people who are witnessing it. That’s the power of recognition, which I am sure #HRExcellenceAwards will be able to create. I look forward to reviewing some of the entries and learning from the same. See you at the awards!

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