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How CHROs in Malaysia are fronting and championing the skilling journey

How CHROs in Malaysia are fronting and championing the skilling journey

From shifting mindsets and embracing change, to prioritising HR’s own skillsets and revolutionising the EX, here’s how these leaders are spearheading the leap into HR 3.0. Report by Aditi Sharma Kalra and Priya Sunil.

“If we had the runway and the opportunity, and if time wasn’t a factor, then we would love to continue to build talent in a big way. But often, we are impatient for talent to contribute to the business.”

This was the candid input a CHRO once shared with us, when we asked her about the importance of skilling in the company’s internal talent economy. It reflects the dichotomy of priorities today – where HR leaders, and people managers, are being tasked to grow talent at speeds we’ve never seen before.

This challenge, however, is not the only one that leaders are facing today. Being unable to foresee future needs has also been a roadblock in today’s dynamic era, as is another huge factor – resilience.

These are just a few of the many insights we gained in a recent virtual CHRO roundtable (Malaysia edition) organised by Human Resources Online and Workday, where 10 respected HR leaders came together to demystify the skilling imperative.

Read on for excerpts of the conversation below.

What HR 3.0 means to Malaysia’s employers

HR 3.0 is all about being adaptable, in terms of leadership capabilities. It is a basic need with or without COVID, said one HR leader. “Change is the only constant that will happen – going from IR 1.0, to IR 4.0, and even to IR 5.0. Post COVID, most employers would have prioritised learning, as well as a mindset shift.”

That said, adaptability is not always easy, especially for leaders who come with many years of experience. But once you embrace the concept of being agile, being adaptable and able to shift mindsets comes with it.

HR 3.0 also implies that with digitalisation, everything has been accelerated. And while plans may have already been in place, the pandemic has made it a necessity to move everything to the digital space at the snap of a finger. As a result, building talent has become the need of the hour.

Yet, as affirmed across the table, leaders are constantly faced with time constraints as the business is asking for talent yesterday. No one is willing to wait.

What then, does this mean for leaders? It brings up the need to reposition organisational culture, increase organisational effectiveness, and develop a new breed of leaders.

Importantly, leaders must ask themselves – ‘will my sector/industry still be relevant in the next three to  five years?’ Thus bringing us back to an earlier point – leaders need to change the mindset of their people, to ensure they are ready for the future. Leaders must “learn, unlearn, relearn things to keep abreast with technology, and build a culture of agility, to sustain for the future."

Against this backdrop, CHROs in Malaysia are prioritisinng developing, reskilling, and retraining employees to adapt. For most, skilling is primarily about building capabilities from within the organisation, rather than borrowing or buying from outside. However, this can vary by sector and by the needs of individual organisations.

Further observations on the build-buy-borrow phenomenon as seen as the roundtable:

• Often, the “right” strategy involves a combination of build, buy, and borrow. If the situation calls for a fast response, buying is the answer. For the long term, building from within remains relevant as that is how you sustain the organisation in the long run.

• Some organisations adopt an 80/20 rule – fill 80% of vacancies internally, and 20% can be open to external hires. This also applies to emerging skills.

• Some companies are reducing reliance on foreign workers/talent, and instead focusing on developing internal capabilities.

• One leader noted: “For certain niche skills where there is a need to accelerate the business, and I need to hire a developer, I will hire a ‘black belt’, but I will get this person to train everyone in the 'yellow belt'.”

• One leader said the path lies in learning to grow, not to know. “After you have learnt, you apply it. In order for you to apply it, we let you do it in a fun way. It is not so much about how quickly you do it, rather it is about leaders giving you the resources to do it. HR will support you.”

Through the skilling lens: HR 3.0 priorities

It is crucial to note – the priority for CHROs in Malaysia does not just boil down to skilling the workforce. In addition, they are taking ownership to skilling the HR themselves — not just upskilling HR, but also reorienting and reskilling the HR team and HRBPs.

"As HR, you need to update and upskill yourself. We always tend to focus on the employee experience, and we forget about upskilling ourselves in the HR team. That's why this is something a lot of us have to work on. We must upskill ourselves before we upskill our employees."

As subtly pointed out by the CHRO quoted above, HR 3.0 involves a key focus on the employee experience – and that means, supporting employees in all aspects – whether on the frontline, or those on work-from-home arrangement, on a day-to-day basis. “Ensuring all groups are taken care of. Being transparent in communicating with employees. And not to forget, that while going virtual, maintaining the human connection remains important.”

One leader aptly summed up the conversation: “Whether you're at the front line, whether you are in the office, it doesn't matter because reskilling is the need of the hour. And one of the ways that this is happening very closely is through technology.

“Technology is really helping to front the new-world employee experience. And it is up to us in HR to continuously use the data that technology is providing us to make decisions much faster than we ever have before.”

Challenges leaders are facing in their skilling journey

Evidently, skilling is at the crux of HR 3.0, alongside employee experience and technology.

However, many leaders pointed out that while there is a need and want to develop employees, there is no “crystal ball of the future”, thus there is uncertainty of what to expect in the coming years.

How are they addressing this challenge? Some paint possible scenarios. For instance, imagining full disruption to the industry, and coming up with ‘solutions' on how to tackle these scenarios. From there, detail what skills sets would be relevant for the future.

One CHRO explained: “For example, 10 years ago, only certain industries talked about big data. But now, everybody is talking about big data, which progressive companies would have predicted 10 years ago and been able to prepare for.”

Another two key challenges faced go hand-in-hand - convincing internal stakeholders on the need to adapt and refocus their training efforts, as well as on budgets.

First, on adapting and refocusing training efforts, leaders have struggled to convince stakeholders to meet new requirements/challenges in the virtual workforce, such as mental wellness issues and stress. All while keeping trainers themselves engaged, and ensuring wellness for the workforce.

In tackling this challenge, leaders have made it a point to engage their stakeholders constantly, and have taken the additional step of re-engaging internal trainers on making their sessions more engaging for an always-on workforce.

Second, on budget concerns – leaders have had to overcome the hurdle of convincing stakeholders that shifting to virtual sessions did not necessarily mean having to spend more.

In doing so, these leaders have tackled the shift step-by-step, i.e., by first making do with what was available at that moment – the current home workspace setups, for example. Once settled in, then came the slow shift forward, in adapting to virtual needs accordingly.

Through it all, leaders had to ensure resilience - in themselves, their trainers, and their employees.

How technology is driving skilling today

Technology has been dubbed the enabler of transformation for HR 3.0 – both in people, and in organisations.

To one leader, it has become a “sophisticated value-add", which is now fronting the new world of employee experience. To another, with technology, it equips HR to continuously use data available and ask – ‘how do we get better?’

With technology, leaders are able to leverage a whole lot more business intelligence analytics to gauge what the business and employees are experiencing on a day-to-day basis.

As highlighted by one CHRO at the table: “From an HR perspective, as well, we should be in a place where we are not afraid of using technology and data to assist us in our day-to-day work, because everything right now is very fluid and technology-based.

“HR 3.0 is about being at the forefront of being digitalised. Thus, HR should also be trying to use technology to predict what is in the future, while equally assist in day-to-day HR operations, the business, and also the leadership.”

And on that note, as beautifully pointed out by one leader - HR is very much a key part of this journey, as much as it is a champion of this journey.

The top 3 skills leaders would want to build in their entire workforce

Rounding up the discussion on a fun note, the CHROs were asked - ‘If you had a magic wand, what is one key skill you would want to build in your entire workforce?’

To our pleasant surprise, there were three common skills across the table: Resilience, transformation capabilities (in both people and technology), and mindset.

What an enriching conversation that was – not only were our CHROs in agreement about the evolution to HR 3.0, but also laid out steps on how to leverage technology to get there faster and more effectively.

The virtual roundtable, held on 19 August 2021, was moderated by HRO, and supported by Pei Woan Wong, Head of Solution (HCM), Asia, Workday, and the entire Workday team.

At the roundtable, Wong affirmed that skills truly are the currency of today’s workforce. To support leaders in the foundation of skill definitions, she cited Workday Skills Cloud, a complete anthology of skills that has distilled about 200mn data points into 47,000 unique skills across industries and job profiles.

She also shared the role of machine learning in mapping skills requirements to the workforce, a task which is supported by Workday Talent Marketplace. It enables employees to benefit from best-fit recommendations on skill and interest opportunities, as well as tapping into an ecosystem of available gigs or projects, to pursue growth and internal mobility.

She added: “With three different generations in the workforce currently, we really need to re-look at employee experience for the multi-generational workforce,” pointing to the need for HR & learning leaders to deliver “moments that matter” to make the journey a memorable one across the workforce.

Human Resources Online and Workday would like to thank the following HR leaders for being a valuable part of this discussion:

1. Che Zulhaimee Abdullah, VP HR, Honda Malaysia
2. Lim Ching Mun, Head of HR, Evolution Wellness
3. Syukri Sudari, Chief People Officer, Affin Bank Group
4. Huraizah Baharuddin, Human Capital Director for the Chairman’s Office, GPCEO’s Office & Group Islamic Banking, Maybank
5. Norlida Azmi, Group Chief People Officer, Axiata
6. Kean Mun Loke, Head of HR, Top Glove
7. Rasidah Kasim, formerly Group CHRO, Affin Hwang Capital
8. Monique Yong, Group CHRO, Columbia Asia Group
9. Grace Chan, recently-retired as senior GM of Group HR & Administration, Berjaya Corp.
10. Safinas Ibrahim, Chief Human Resources Officer, AXA Affin General Insurance

Photo / Roundtable screenshot

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

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