Navigating the new world of work: Highlights from InspireHR 2022

Navigating the new world of work: Highlights from InspireHR 2022


From talent acquisition and retention to employee wellbeing, over 100 HR professionals gathered together to discuss some of the most critical issues facing the industry at this one-day conference. Event report by Tracy Chan.

In the face of disruption, how to keep up with the changes, and make strategic business decisions, have become the keys to success in this new world of work.

Human Resources Online had the pleasure of hosting our one-day flagship conference InspireHR in Hong Kong on 12 October 2022 at Hotel ICON. It offered a unique opportunity for business and HR leaders to share and exchange the industry’s best practices.

During this one-day conference, an experienced line-up of HR experts shared their insights on some of the most critical issues facing the industry, from talent acquisition and retention, to employee wellbeing. More than 100 delegates also engaged in long-anticipated in-person networking with their HR peers during the roundtable sessions.

Here's a quick summary of what was discussed during the sessions.

The pandemic has changed the way we live and work forever. As an HR professional, having a human touch, with the support of facts and data, is always at the heart of every HR work, stressed Mukta Arya, Managing Director, Chief Human Resources Officer, APAC, Société Générale, at the opening keynote presentation of the day.

“For me, human resources going forward is definitely a combination of both an art and a science,” she said. “It is very important that when we are grooming people in our team, or when we are grooming ourselves, you need to keep in mind that it is a holistic approach. We can’t be just one or the other.”

When it comes to HR priorities, Arya said HR professionals are now not only doing things as human resources professionals, but also as psychiatrists, counsellors, and even data analysts. “You have to choose your battles in an organisation. We cannot be everything to everyone at every time. We also need to prioritise with the support of our business managers,” she added.

“What is important is to have a consensus-based approach on the priorities for the business, and that we are clear that these are the main priorities. Otherwise, we will be spreading ourselves thin and becoming a jack of all trades and a master of none.”

inspirehr 2022 mukta arya

The changing world has brought a worldwide phenomenon – the Great Resignation. So the next keynote speaker, Wicky Cheng, Human Resources Director, Talent Management & Organisation Development Asia Pacific, Fresenius Medical Care, shared his insights on acquiring and retaining talent in this lens.

Cheng said people nowadays, especially the younger generations, have different priorities and expectations towards their work and life, and some of them even prefer to be a “slasher” or build their own careers rather than having a full-time permanent job at one company, which makes attracting and retaining talent more challenging.

He said what they also care about is what the company stands for, and how it contributes to society. “They don’t just work for themselves or for a package, they also look at a company’s standpoint.”

Cheng stressed that on top of listening, it is also about partnerships; allowing employees to join the discussions in building the company together to show their values. “Their values are key for them when you are trying to attract them to join and to retain them. They want to show their values before they join a company.”

inspirehr 2022 wicky cheng

In the first panel discussion of the day, moderated by Gerard Timbol, Senior Conference Producer, Human Resources Online, we heard from Kim Leung, Head of Talent & Culture, Classified GroupSteven Filby, Head of Talent & Learning, The Hong Kong Jockey Club; and Sadia Liu, Head of Human Resources – HK/TW/SEA/South Korea, Organisation Development Lead for AP, Knorr-Bremse; on the efficient workforce strategies to mitigate talent disruptions.

All the panellists agreed that amidst the emigration wave, and shrinking talent pool, talent acquisition and retention are two key challenges facing all industries.

“For taking in people, I communicate and share with all the hiring managers that we should revise our expectations,” Liu said. “To focus more on potential and motivation rather than, in the past, we just focused a lot on industry knowledge and years of experience.”

Filby also mentioned the importance of wellness and listening. “I think that is really important. Many organisations and divisions are short-staffed at the moment, which means people there are under a lot of pressure,” he said. “So we need to equip them with tools for wellness because you want people to be performing at their best.”

Added Leung: “So I guess one of the things that we can do is to set up a flexible system that can cater to the unique needs of different generations and people with a more diverse background.

“There are a lot of things that work and don’t work. But I think for HR practitioners like us, be creative, be bold and be disruptive, and try different things, and we will learn from it.”

inspirehr 2022 panel 1

After the morning networking break, Andrew Yung, Team Lead, Digital Transformation Services, BDO HKRonald Poon, IT Talent Development Manager, Cathay Pacific; and Wesley Ling, Human Resources Director, FundPark; delved into the hot topic – HR technology – during another panel discussion, moderated by Zoé Auclair-Boissonnat, Head of Conferences, Human Resources Online.

With so many tools available nowadays – artificial intelligence, cloud, and people analytics – how should HR leverage them to make better business decisions?

“From an IT perspective, we always ask our business units, what is the problem statement?” Poon shared. “Where there is a problem, then we will be able to sit down and talk about whether it can be solved by a system, application, IT, or some other way. If we cannot clearly identify the problems or the challenges, there is no way to go further.”

An increase in efficiency is one advantage that technology can bring to HR professionals, said the panellists.

“I know that HR professionals are extremely busy every day,” Ling said. “So when it comes to investing in or implementing HR tech, the primary question I ask myself and the team is whether it can help us get a little bit lazier,” he quipped.

“So get a little bit lazy, get a little bit more efficient, then we can focus our energy and time on some more important stuff.”

Yung also shared some examples of how digitalisation can help companies stay in compliance, create a fair working environment, eliminate bureaucracy, and contribute to a better company culture.

“To automate things that can be automated so that we as an HR professional can do something more value-added,” he said. “Therefore, I think HR tech is not only about efficiency, but also retention and compliance, I think those could be important ROI generators.”

inspirehr 2022 panel 2

Amidst all these changes, how to do something to cause disruption rather than reacting to things happening was the focus of the next keynote speaker CY Chan, Chief Talent Officer, EC Healthcare.

“We as an HR or talent and culture team, all we need to do is to understand the situation of the company and then react,” Chan said. “And react, I mean not according to the instruction of the team, but think about what we should do as the HR team so that we can disrupt instead of being disrupted.”

Chan stressed that HR should be more “aggressive and innovative with some courage”, on the foundation of “intelligence, diligence, and ownership”.

“We, as the HR practitioners or the HR professionals for a company, have an option to be disruptive and help the business to change before they get disrupted,” he added.

inspirehr 2022 cy chan

In a highly stressed, demotivated, and disengaged city such as Hong Kong, it is critical for HR professionals to know how to revitalise the workforce and turn disengagement into high performance, stressed Chris Jaques, Head of Team Science, Make Great Teams, who started on this subject by showcasing how to build real engagement with the audience.

He first identified two core drivers of workforce engagement. The first thing is to work on a project team.

“When I talk about a team, I am not talking about an organisational unit,” he said. “The highest engagement happens in cross-functional and dynamic teams that change over time. It's a group of people coming together to work together to achieve an agreed goal together. That is where engagement really happens. It is not reporting up through a hierarchy.”

And the second thing is to trust the team leader.

He then shared five simple principles to build an engaged team:

  • Keep every team small, the magic number is four to eight;
  • Limit top talent because team performance declines if there are too many top talent on a team;
  • Demand diversity to get collective intelligence;
  • Women always come first, half of every team’s members must be women; and
  • Team leaders must do the right things well by applying proven tools, which includes huddles, debriefs, and weekly check-ins.

inspirehr 2022 chris jaques

After lunch, delegates engaged in roundtable sessions over two hours covering four topics: talent management, HR transformation and inspiration, L&D, and employee wellbeing.

Following the vivid discussions, Annaliza Woo, Head of Human Resources, Asia, AesopVince Wong, Senior Vice President, COO, Human Resources, DBS Bank; and Fanny Lau, Head of Learning & Development – Human Resources, New World Development Company; came together to discuss how HR can build a healthy workplace experience, and manage holistic employee wellbeing, during another panel discussion moderated by Gerard Timbol, Senior Conference Producer, Human Resources Online.

Woo said it is a holistic and humanistic approach for Aesop. “Wellbeing means very different things to different people, it's about how we can capture those needs through understanding their thinking from their perspective,” she said. “It’s about making sure that we encourage and empower employees, recognise their needs, and provide those resources and platforms for them to tap into.”

In DBS’ case, while building an employee wellbeing ecosystem that covers physical, mental, social, and emotional wellbeing holistically, celebrating employees’ life moments is also one of its focuses. “To a longer term, we are celebrating some important milestones and life events of our people, so they also feel they are part of the organisation,” Wong highlighted.

Apart from physical and mental health, employee wealth and their families are two elements that Lau believes are important. “We invited our partners to talk to our staff about how to do their wealth plan, for example, for their retirement,” she said. “We also focus a lot on the family pillar because we believe it is important for the company to take care of not only the employees themselves, but also their families.”

inspirehr 2022 panel 3

Winnie Tsien, Regional Head of People Experience, APAC Work Dynamics, Jones Lang LaSalle, wrapped up the conference by sharing some key takeaways to inspire HR to be modernised, yet resilient in an ever-changing world.

She stressed the first thing is to understand what is happening in the world and what people are thinking about, otherwise, “it will be difficult for HR or employers to think about a good measure or methodology or way to tackle that”.

And, most importantly, the employee experience. “This is more about what exactly our people are expecting from the experience point of view.” And the key is “whether the company can accommodate or help them address the situation”.

Looking ahead to 2023, she said the focus should continue to be on “knowing our people and building a more diverse team”, “finding a good way in terms of communication and preparing for change management”, and “leveraging innovation and technology”.

Closing her presentation, Tsien shared a piece of advice to all HR professionals: “If we can, before you say ‘yes’ to someone, make sure that you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself,” she said.

“We need to look after ourselves. We need to help ourselves to make sure we are not burning out. That is very important.”

inspirehr 2022 winnie tsien

Human Resources Online would like to thank all speakers, panellists, moderators, and roundtable hosts for their immense time and mind space invested in leading the industry conversations. We would also like to thank all sponsors and exhibitors for putting their innovative might behind this event and supporting HRO all the way:

  • Platinum sponsor
    • Make Great Teams
  • Silver sponsor
    • BDO
  • Exhibitors
    • LHH
    • Paradigm21 Group
  • Brand sponsors
    • Cornerstone OnDemand

Photos / InspireHR 2022

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

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