The region’s biggest conference dedicated to compensation & benefits strategy, Employee Benefits Asia 2017, Singapore, was held at Shangri-La Hotel on 18 May and 19 May 2017. This year’s conference was produced by Priya Veeriah and saw over 100 attendees sharing industry ideas through a series of case-studies, panel discussions, and keynote presentations.

Day One

Organised by Human Resources, and produced by Priya Veeriah. the conference kickstarted with a keynote presentation by Shah Rouf, chief business development officer at AIA group. Sharing his expertise on making a real difference to employee benefits, he said: “When it comes to the top three factors of job satisfaction in Asia, work-life balance comes at the top, followed by salary and benefits; and work location.”

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After a quick morning break, delegates were welcomed back with a panel discussion moderated by Rupert Slezak, total rewards lead, AMEA region at Mondelēz International. Speaking on designing a sustainable total rewards package, the panellists included Alvin Fu, chief corporate solutions officer at AIA; Stephanie Tan, HR business partner APAC at Fitbit; and Stephane Michaud, senior director at Mitsubishi Corporation.

During this discussion, Tan said: “Yes, it is hard to convince management since it’s not something tangible in terms of ROI. Regardless, HR must continue to work on it as we can still gather feedback from employee engagement surveys.”

EBA SG 2017

Moving on to a keynote presentation on using data to reduce premiums, Cecilia Deasy, regional consulting leader at CXA Group takes the stage next. She commented: “If the premium continues to go up, the value (of the programme) continues to go down over time.”

Here, she also revealed that key cost drivers of premiums are prescription drugs, specialist referral and declining health.

Check out photos from the conference here.

Delegates then went for a hearty lunch, to which a case study awaited after the break. Elaborating on HR analytics and measures, Sim Beng Khoon, director of Health Promotion Board shared his case study on designing customisable HR options with data analytics.

When it comes to internal health programmes, Sim recommended doing health risk assessments to determine the baseline. Depending on the nature of the job, it requires different things. He said: “Some may like mental-health activities while others may prefer more physically demanding activities.”

Next up, Neil Narale, employee health and benefits leader of Mercer Marsh Benefits shared his insights on making a data-driven approach work for you. Touching on topics such as utilising big data to develop informed opinions, he commented: “It all begins with your current benefit spend, followed by who and what are driving your costs.”

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The conference then geared up for the next panel discussion. Moderated by Alan Tan, head of HR (APAC) at ERNI Asia Holding, the discussion was joined by Madhumita Banerjee, SVP of HR at Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Yvonne Koh, regional HR business partner at Huntsman Singapore; Lai Looi Sing, regional rewards manager, APMEA at Kerry; Andrew Ing, COO at The Lo & Behold Group; and Atul Sharma, HR director at Monsanto.

During this panel discussion, the experts shared their insights on managing expectations of a complex workforce, as well as winning the argument between monetary versus non-monetary benefits to tailor the needs of Millenials.

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Back from a refreshing coffee break, delegates were presented with a case study from Dow Chemical (Singapore). Speaking to the delegates, its talent management lead (SEA), Rohaya Roslee reveals what goes behind the company’s success. She said: “It lies in the 3 E’s of success: evidence-based implementations, empowerment of employees, engagement of different groups”.

Rohaya Roslee

Before the day ended, we moved on the growing trend of the gig economy with a panel discussion. Moderated by Anika Grant, APAC and LATAM HR director of Uber; the panel saw Ng Kok Eng, director of HR at Duke NUS; Fermin Diez, deputy CEO at National Council for Social Service; and Julia Yeo, employment partner at Squire Patton Boggs engaged in a lively discussion on how HR can deal with the contingent workforce.

Day Two

The energy continued on day two of Employee Benefits Asia 2017, Singapore. John Garrido, Asia regional director of Virgin Pulse set the stage with his keynote presentation on the global shift from wellness to wellbeing.

Speaking on the components of holistic employee wellbeing, he said: “This is how the wellbeing journey should look like - traditional wellness, social wellbeing, integrated wellbeing, strategic wellbeing.” Additionally, he highlighted to delegates that while population health is a really good metric, it’s not enough for companies as firms want to see business outcomes.

Delving deeper into the topic on total health and wellness, the next panel discussion saw Jeremy Broome, head of HR (APAC) at Deutsche Bank; Katarina Uherova Hasbani, board member at Female Founders; Joy Chan Seah, director of business development at Ministry of Design; and Lim Teck Yong, head of people team at Shopee; dive into an exciting dialogue on staying competitive when it comes to a cutting-edge C&B programme. This discussion was moderated ably by Joanne Chan, head of total rewards, AMEA, Boston Scientific.

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One of the interesting points that Seah brought forward was how employees would rather have the money in their pocket than in the pantry. She commented: “So while it is ok to ooh-ah about an envious pantry, it may not be what employees really want.”

After that engaging discussion, delegates jumped in a quick-fire case study by Derek Goldberg, MD (SEA and Hong Kong) at Aetna International on how innovations may help firms better manage their benefits costs.

EBA SG 2017 delegates

Presenting the next quick-fire case study, Geoffrey Kuhn, SVP and global health analytics leader at Aon shared his views on the future of employee benefits. As he moved to the topic of adopting a data-driven approach, he said: “Moving away from the traditional approach to a data-driven one allows you to produce compelling data insights, rather than just masses of it.”

As we invited the next speaker, Webster Zhou, total rewards director at Jabil, steered the conference towards the topic of cost and governance. Apart from sharing Jabil’s total rewards model, Zhou also spoke on setting the business context, while grappling with total rewards challenges in APAC.

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The delegates then took a break to further share success stories and experiences over lunch. After that, it was another round of case-study by Sim Choo Lee, head of HR of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). At the institution, employees get to enjoy a comprehensive range of benefits such as its family care leave of up to 9 days.

On that note, Sim said: “Work-life balance is not about working lesser (hours); but more of work-life integration.”

Before the delegates take a quick coffee break, they were presented with a case study by Aspa Lekka, MD of foodpanda Singapore. Sharing on what truly matters to employees, she revealed the 6 important factors - salary, career growth, leadership, job title, company vision, and family culture.  

“It’s important to have a clear plan for staff on how they can grow, even if they have a low starting pay. You need to tell what they’re gaining from joining you,” Lekka highlighted.

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After the last coffee break, delegates dived into another case study by Dawn Wong, GM of HR and administration of Rakuten. Here, she gave insights on the importance of transforming the business front with HR strategies in the early stages. Not only that, she shared how intangible rewards are critical to a total rewards strategy.

Speaking more on intangible rewards, the next speaker - Sun Ho, founder of LittleLives - addressed how to seamlessly blend the company culture with organisational development. In fact, she shared how at LittleLives, they start Mondays with chit-chats, story sharing and a little cheer just to get rid of the blues.

Concluding the conference on a high note, she said: “Someone who goes beyond a normal (employee’s) behaviour is what you want to bring to the team.”

Special thanks to all sponsors and exhibitors:

Platinum Sponsor - AIA The Real Life Company

Gold Sponsors - CXA Group - Mercer Marsh Benefits™ - Virgin Pulse

Silver Sponsors - Aetna International - Aon

Exhibitors - Banyan Tree & Angsana Bintan - Management Development and Consultancy (MDC) - Prudential - TMF Group

Event Partner - Health Can Be Fun

Association partners - British Chamber of Commerce, Singapore - European Chamber of Commerce, Singapore - Japan HR Society - International Professional Managers Association - Vietnam Human Resources Association

Media Partners - Centre of Executive Education - Clocate - Senior HR Forum