Kris Lui is vice president, human resources, Asia Pacific for Vertiv – a company that provides equipment and services for datacentres. Lui manages 22 markets in APAC and the subcontinent.
“It’s key for me to mobilise the whole HR team to take care of our 7000 employees. Our HR team is also acting as business leaders by leading the business contingency plan meeting. This is how HR has stepped up during Covid as a strategic business partner,” she says.
When asked how she has helped her team cope so that they have remained motivated and kept up their morale, Lui pointed out communication, even over communication, has been crucial – at the local, regional and global level.
“We have invested globally with the CEO, senior leaders and employees. We had our first-ever virtual town hall with 7000 people this year,” says Lui.
“We have a live session for recognition and a live session for Q&A. This kind of blending is very good because even with the distance we can be engaged.
“In terms of communication, we also do a lot of Vertiv Cafés. It goes across all levels and we ask, ‘What motivates you? What demotivates you?’ It’s a cosy environment – whether by Zoom or in person – in which to exchange,” she adds.
Going the extra mile abroad
India has been especially hard hit by the pandemic. It’s in strict lockdown – and if citizens leave their homes they may be charged with committing a crime. It is, however, an important market for Vertiv, which operates in 35 Indian cities.
The HR team has been instrumental in getting the business back on its feet in the sub continent. Because Vertiv has a critical role by providing data centre infrastructure for companies, it needs to maintain the connectivity by sending workers onsite to supply data centre and telecommunication needs.
"Covid is accelerating the AI transformation that is already under way. L&D has gone from physical to virtual so we need a lot of tools to make it engaging."
“The Indian government gave us special approval – an exceptional license – to go out on the street. And our HR team was pivotal in getting this done. So even though India is still in lockdown we have now resumed operations to 80% capacity already,” explains Lui.
But the flip side of the coin for the HR team is making ensuring those frontline employees are safe.
“So we make sure they have face masks and all their hygiene requirements are met. We also communicate with those employees’ families to ease their concerns about our frontline staff catching the virus – and to make sure that their husband or wife will come home safely,” she says.
“We also have a care programme for employees,” says Lui, alluding to the importance of engaging with staff in lockdown.
“We also repurpose some of the compensation in our lower income markets, Lui adds.
Vertiv workers in these jurisdictions have many types of allowance to supplement their basic income – such as the night shift and overtime allowance and a transport subsidy.
“So now that many people are working from home this year these allowances are not applicable. But we make it up with a one-time allowance. This can be used to subsidise the Wi-Fi plan. Or employees can buy an ergonomic chair to help them work better. So the employees can appreciate that they are not being abandoned – they are being taken care of,” explains Lui.
Upskilling and engaging the Hong Kong team
Closer to home, Lui and the rest of the HR team work closely with Hong Kong employees to ensure they stay abreast of the fast-changing working landscape that is occurring this year.
“Covid is accelerating the AI transformation that is already under way. AI will eliminate 50% of the jobs so we need to upskill ourselves. So in the L&D side, we can never slow down. L&D has gone from physical to virtual so we need a lot of tools to make it engaging,” says Lui.
"It’s a two-way street. If the company doesn’t constantly track employees, they will feel empowered to do their job."
Despite the highly unpredictable nature of 2020, the HR team at Vertiv believes that one constant has helped them overcome the hurdles.
“It all comes down to the culture,” says Lui.
“This includes exceeding customer expectations, help each other to succeed as a team, challenging your own personal development and assuming positive intent. At the heart of all this is trust. So in this pandemic whenever people are forced to work from home, there may be doubt about if they will really be committed. If you hire the right people, they will get the job done.
“But it’s a two-way street. If the company doesn’t constantly track employees, they will feel empowered to do their job.”