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This article is brought to you by Societe Generale

"The equilibrium between grooming the right talent and creating a positive workplace environment is the key to a progressive organisation," says Mukta Arya, CHRO, APAC, Societe Generale.

Building has always been the historical role of banks, in order to create the foundations for economic development. But Societe Generale goes a step further to build a better and sustainable future for both its clients and employees.

Throughout its 150+ years of existence, this leading financial services group has always believed in a people first philosophy, but this focus intensified manifold given recent global events and business environment developments. “A caring and responsible employer for employees’ wellbeing and employees’ long term career development” is, in fact, how Mukta Arya, Chief Human Resources Officer, Asia Pacific, Societe Generale would define the organisation.

socgen aug 2022 building

For example, when the pandemic continued to evolve in Hong Kong, addressing issues around business continuity and employee wellbeing became a priority. To counter that, Societe Generale adopted a three-pronged approach, which included:

  • Flexible working arrangement to assure business continuity and employees’ wellbeing
  • Financial support on hotel quarantine to allow staff to reunite with their families overseas, and
  • Support measures for staff, including but not limited to one-off cash allowance to support additional costs staff may incur due to COVID situations and Family Care leaves.

Beyond crisis management, the bank has prioritised holistic leadership development and continuous learning as key parts of its strategy to future-proof the workforce. Providing employees with a full suite of leadership development programmes is something the bank is striving for in the past few years. Holistic development opportunities are offered, ranging from short-term assignments (to allow employees exposure to different cultures in different locations, possibly different functions), to certification programmes relevant to their area of work, through to high-calibre talent development programmes either in the region or in the global headquarters.

These programmes are not being put in place for the sake of building a leadership portfolio but to demonstrate real results – for instance, a robust ROI study has been conducted for all their development programmes with encouraging ROI alongside a host of tangible benefits. All of this naturally ties back into employees’ career development, which the HR team rolls out using a user-centric approach that takes into account not only the learning methodologies, but also input from management, managers, and all staff.

Among a series of programmes developed using this feedback, the latest is the ‘Live my Life’ programme launched in 2021, which enables employees to discover jobs and departments outside of their own through cross-learning opportunities. The programme leverages resources such as lunch-and-learn sessions, internal career fairs, and webinars to widen staff’s understanding. Trainees also benefit from face-to-face or virtual meetings with senior representatives as well as job shadowing.

On the topic of career, another novel initiative is their ‘Returnship Programme’ tailor-made for candidates returning from their career break. This initiative helps them integrate back into the workforce and also bring fresh eyes to the organisation. Through this, the bank has welcomed six “returnees” in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan, whilst supporting them with networking, training, and coaching.

Spearheading such initiatives, Arya is a firm believer in HR constantly challenging assumptions. She explains:“In many organisations, not only ours, with all the challenges arisen from COVID, HR has played a more important and strategic role in business decisions, tackling all the challenges in business continuity, employee wellbeing, staff retention and new ways of working.

“All of these make the value of HR more visible (during tough times), compared to the good times. I foresee HR to further transform to a business advisor who can anticipate and cope with changes in the market and the workforce in advance, which equally requires HR to be nimble and agile.”


Photos / Societe Generale

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