In a conversation with Harpreet Singh, senior director of human resources for Asia Pacific at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, he shares the steps HR directors need to take to avoid unnecessary administrative processes, and how to become a holistic business partner for the company. 

Q: How did you venture into HR? What drew you to it?

I commenced my career in the F&B industry, but I’ve always had the knack for training and motivating employees. Driven by my inspiration, I transitioned into a training and development role. While in that role, I pursued an executive post-graduate certificate in HR from XLRI Jamshedpur, India, where I broadened my scope in human resources and elevated the level of thinking in this area.

Q: What is the best career advice you have received?

Always contribute from the perspective of your next role and do more than what is expected of you.

Q: What is the one persistent problem in HR and what do you think are the steps to be taken to solve this problem?

HR in many organisations gets caught up with unnecessary administrative processes and often perceives HR as a silo department, rather than a holistic business partner. At Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, this is addressed through our way of working and culture within the organisation. Additionally, human resources workshops for on-property hotel leaders reinforces the HR business’ role.

Q: When coming up with innovative HR practices, what are the three things HR directors should take note of in order for the practices to be truly beneficial?

HR directors need to get out of their corporate caves and relate to the day-to-day employment cycle of employees. Having senior leadership buy-in fosters a culture of innovation. It is also essential to realise that a coherent culture takes time to culminate and sustain. Building a coherent culture stems from the people, therefore, take the time to interact with teams and individuals across the organisation to positively influence and understand challenges for continuous improvement.

Q: In the same vein of innovation, what is the most unique and memorable HR campaign you have been a part of and what was your biggest take away from it?

There have been several HR initiatives which have involved the designing of learning and development programmes. The one that stands out for me was the end-to-end work of conceptualising, designing, delivering and evaluating the human resources workshops for the hotel’s HR leaders. The programme which was inducted in 2015 stemmed from the theme of evolving the role of HR leaders to be HR business partners. HR leaders are challenged to think beyond the current paradigm, and owning several key indices which influences employees and guests. Participants view the programme as a robust one which fosters executive learning and is implementable.

Q: What is the future for HR in the next five to 10 years and how can HR leaders prepare for it?

Technology will continue to be a vested focus in HR – whether it’s about processes, learning and development, recruitment and more. With technology, learning will become extremely self-driven and borderless. HR teams will need to think and align in their delivery. HR leaders will also need to take a proactive approach of having an active network of talent and engaging them before an opportunity (to leave) may arise.

Q: What is one piece of advice you have for aspiring HR leaders?

Think business first and then HR – it is crucial to understand the company’s strategy and align it to what is required to support those goals which includes the culture and HR philosophies.

Q: Is there someone in HR who inspires and motivates you? What did you learn from them?

Great leaders steer growth in an organisation. I have been highly inspired by my leader Robert Chessen, vice-president of human resources for Asia Pacific. A motivated and driven leader, he steers us to be strategic thinkers. He has also cultivated the notion in the team to be forward thinking to instil positive changes to the culture and anticipate challenges to stay ahead of the curve.

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