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Having seen transformations succeed and fail around the world, Thomas Reineke, senior vice-president, human resources at BASF Asia Pacific discloses the biggest HR challenge and the key HR leader attributes for the future.
With a doctorate degree in law, how did you get started in HR?
My association with human resources is not exactly unusual. My doctoral thesis was about labour law. In my first role at BASF as a consultant on labour relations, structural changes and mergers and acquisitions, in the course of due diligence and integration concept design, I got a lot of insights into strategic HR topics such as compensation and
benefits. Most lawyers often only come into play when a problem comes up. My ambition at that time was to learn how to shape HR concepts, rather than only evaluating them from a legal perspective.
You have worked for BASF for over 15 years in Europe, South America and Asia. What is the biggest HR challenge?
Attracting, developing and retaining the right talent are mission-critical for the sustainable success of any company. The career mindset of talent varies in different regions. In Germany, a long-term career within the same company is still appreciated by many candidates. In comparison, candidates in Asia have a much higher expectation for quick promotions.
Overall, there is a clear demand from young talent across the regions to be treated more individually, especially towards employment conditions and benefits. Therefore, we implemented flexible work arrangements in South America and Asia Pacific.
Can you highlight an HR initiative at BASF you are very proud of?
As part of the new corporate strategy, BASF is rolling out a leadership feedback tool on a global level twice a year, starting with the board of directors and cascading it down step by step to all levels of leaders. In addition to the evaluation of leadership behaviour, team members are also invited to suggest leadership elements they would like to see. All results will be the basis for the development discussion between each leader and his/her superior. This is a clear indication that role-model leadership is an essential factor for sustainable success at BASF.
How will the HR function evolve in five years, and how can HR leaders prepare for that?
There is an increasing demand to boost the efficiency of the standardised HR processes through leveraging shared services, automation and robotics. HR must sharpen its strategic edge and develop into the role of a business partner.
Business acumen, market connectivity to identify trends early, as well as agility and capability to develop concepts based on predictive data, are key HR leader attributes for the future.