Caroline Walters, MIMS's regional people and culture director, imagines how HR will look like in 5 years, and explains why working in the industry is akin, for her, to solving a 'jigsaw puzzle'.

How did you get started with HR?

Before I started out in HR I was a child protection social worker and when I decided to look for a new career move, the two areas of focus I wanted to try and keep were 1) working within a legal framework 2) being people focused. Thus a move across to HR seemed to tick these boxes.

What do you love most about your job?

I love employee relations and I feel I am at my best when most things aren't going right. I love analysing the issues, understanding legally where we stand and what we should do next.

It is like a giant jigsaw puzzle which I find very interesting. This area of work really pulls a management team together to work at their very best, despite being stressed.

The other element I have loved, is working with some of the most inspiring, intelligent and hilarious business leaders and for me this has been something I have been very fortunate to be a part of.

I feel I have been driven in Singapore to prove what HR can do more than ever before - to ensure it is no longer seen as a more back office function by the employee base.
What’s a typical day at work for you like?

My typical day has changed hugely working in Singapore as compared to London. In London an HR role can consist largely of employee relation elements, whereas in Singapore there is a different employee culture.

ALSO READ: HR’s role in rebranding an established brand: MIMS’ story

I feel I have been driven in Singapore to prove what HR can do more than ever before - to ensure it is no longer seen as a more back office function by the employee base.

Thus, it has been about culture creation, huge management training programmes and brand awareness focus.

At MIMS, can you highlight an HR initiative you’re really proud of?

One of the HR initiatives I feel proud of at MIMS is to provide a platform of training to our line managers. For me, these guys are the glue to the business.

If we can ensure we have line managers who have been trained thoroughly in a variety of different topics, then we would have set a standard and conveyed the behaviours we wish to see emulated.

These include, for example, communication skills and change management skills.

Having recently transformed your business model from print to digital, what is the biggest learning you gained from a people/HR perspective? 

For a business in transition, there needs to be a lot of consultation, education and planning. Whilst planning for the future, we need to take good care of the present.

Thus, we aim to gain more insight on which new digital skills our current talent are interested in learning, in order to consider transitioning them over to a new digitally focused role.

We want the employees who want to learn these new skills to be given the opportunity to add new skills to their current strengths so that they can maximise their career opportunities. We need to ensure we value the people we have and invest in them in the first instance.

In Singapore, what do you think is the biggest HR challenge facing most companies?

Hiring talent. As we all know, this should be the most rigorous and time given process, to ensure that you hire right. However, in reality this is most often not the case.

At present there is a lot of talk about HR data analytics. However, for most companies, using data to add value will not be an easy process.
In your opinion, do you think HR has succeeded in becoming a strategic business partner today? Or is there any room for improvement?

Without a doubt yes. HR is at the top working alongside the CEO.

However, to improve in how it contributes to the process, HR needs to be resourced sufficiently and ensure it can make its presence felt.

Companies which don't do this will not survive and be competitive. You only need to look at the most successful companies to see that this is where their focus is.

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

At present there is a lot of talk about HR data analytics. However, for most companies using this to add value will not be an easy process. To be seen as a more strategic partner, it is an area that should be given sufficient resources to achieve.

I think it will also be focusing on brand values, culture creation and employee value proposition, to achieve differentiation from other companies. Doing so will enable businesses to hire the best and keep their workforce motivated.

I think the future of HR will go in 2 directions.

Firstly, it will be data driven: A situation where everyone and everything is measured to enhance productivity.

Secondly, we will be focused on global talent and engagement management.

These two areas are quite different in skills set requirements and impact. However, for me, this is why HR needs to focus on becoming more analytical and quantifiable. In addition, it needs to become more knowledgeable on global talent engagement.

Complete the sentence:

I cannot imagine HR without... smiling.