Anita Bingwa, EMC’s HR director for SEA, describes how HR can take time out from operational tasks to work on long-term initiatives that give a company a strategic advantage in the future.

What was your first HR job, and why did you choose this profession?

My career in HR began as an HR manager for a fashion retailer. Personally, I’ve always been interested in understanding people and the human psyche, especially in the context of organisations, and this is where I focused my studies and the reason behind why I embarked on a career in HR.

I am particularly interested in the development of company culture. Most of us spend the majority of our day at the workplace during the week, much more than with our family or friends.

A positive workplace culture does not just make coming to work more enjoyable, it also drives innovation and productivity within the business.

Can you describe a regular workday at your company?

Every day brings a brand new challenge and more often than not, my day turns out very different from what I had originally planned.

While it is easy at times to get caught up in some of the more operational tasks, I do like to block out time in my diary each week to work on long-term initiatives that ultimately help give EMC a strategic advantage in the future.

The business landscape today is volatile so our ability to adapt and redefine is of critical importance. One of the longer term objectives that we had set for ourselves was around creating an agile workforce capable of transforming to the ever-changing needs of our customers.

This is why we place a lot of emphasis on embracing diversity within the organisation. We welcome employees from different backgrounds as they share new perspectives and ways of thinking.

One of my previous managers once said to me, “like a good bottle of wine, you will get better with age”.
We also encourage our employees to have a voice and be creative. Innovation is at the heart of all that we do at EMC; the results from our recent staff survey suggest that our employees value this culture.

What is the best career advice you have received?

One of my previous managers once said to me, “like a good bottle of wine, you will get better with age”.

It is not about rushing through the process; rather, it is about taking the time and being dedicated to mastering your craft. Confidence and skills are nurtured through experience and it is important to believe in that process.

When I think about my own team and their development, the one piece of advice I’d pass on to them is that it is OK not to have all the answers. Every day should be viewed as a learning experience and this is where collaboration and camaraderie among peers becomes so important, in helping each other learn and develop as a team.

Our employees, for example, are given a variety of forums to collaborate, even across different business functions, including through CSR activities and social functions.

The aim is to bring employees closer together and give them a chance to get to know and learn from other EMCers outside of their direct teams.

How do you think the HR function will evolve in the next five years?

My sense is the HR function will become more intimate with key business stakeholders, acquire a deeper understanding of the wider business issues and will ultimately play a greater role in addressing business challenges.

With the growing sophistication and importance of data analytics, HR teams will also be better positioned to provide insights for critical decision making.

Is there anything you feel HR can do better to play a bigger role in organisations?

Businesses today need to be agile and willing to transform to remain relevant in their respective markets. I believe it is critical for the HR function to follow a similar path.

What worked yesterday, will not necessarily work tomorrow. HR must continue to look towards innovation – in terms of policy and practice, stay close to the business through active stakeholder engagement and maintain an active voice within the organisation to foster the best workplace culture.

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