While Asian markets offer immense potential for growth and expansion, they are also highly competitive, explains Lucie Edwards.
It has been a turbulent time for all industries, and the impact seems to be more evident for the global financial sector in the face of the ever-changing economic landscape, market volatility, regulatory changes, and geopolitical risks. These external factors, among many others, have had a direct impact on talent acquisition, retention, and development in the industry.
"As HR professionals, we need to be proactive in identifying key challenges and opportunities from the external environment and align our talent strategy accordingly to ensure that our organisation has the right skills, competencies, and diversity to navigate the changing landscape, while fostering a culture of innovation and agility," as highlighted by Lucie Edwards, Chief People Officer, Home Credit Group. "We should also adopt technology-driven solutions to attract and retain top talent in a very competitive environment.
As the HR head of an international consumer finance provider with operations across Asia and Europe, Edwards shares how to put her insights into action by developing a comprehensive recruitment strategy, creating a positive workplace culture, investing in employee development and training, as well as using data analytics and metrics to secure the most needed talent and skills for the company, in this interview with HRO's Tracy Chan.
Q: In your opinion, what are the most pressing talent challenges that the industry needs to address immediately?
HR in the financial sector faces several talent challenges. Firstly, a shortage of skilled professionals, particularly in areas such as data analytics, cybersecurity, and digital marketing. Secondly, there is a need to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce, with a focus on promoting gender and ethnic diversity as well as improving representation at senior levels. Thirdly, we should develop more agile and adaptable talent strategies, given the rapidly changing nature of the industry and the increasing need for digital transformation.
HR leaders should focus on developing new ways of attracting and retaining top talent, including offering more flexible and remote work options, investing in employee development and training, as well as creating a positive workplace culture that fosters innovation, collaboration, and growth. By addressing these talent challenges, we can position our organisations for success.
Q: Talent and skill shortages have been a real worldwide concern across all sectors. Could you share the strategies you have used to secure the most needed talent and skills for Home Credit?
In order to secure the most needed talent and skills at Home Credit, we identify the key competencies required and develop a comprehensive recruitment strategy to attract and retain top talent. This includes leveraging social media and professional networks, partnering with universities, as well as offering competitive remuneration and benefits packages.
We create a positive workplace culture that fosters collaboration, innovation, and growth. As well, we invest in employee development and training programmes to upskill and reskill employees to ensure that the organisation has the necessary skills/talent to adapt to the rapidly changing industry landscape.
Last, but not least, using data analytics and metrics to measure and track employee performance and engagement can help identify potential areas of improvement and improve future talent strategies.
Q: With a majority of your workforce primarily based outside of the headquarters, in the Asia region, covering China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and more, what is your assessment of Home Credit as an employer brand, and the challenges/opportunities you face in these markets?
When recruiting and retaining talent in Asia, Home Credit faces both challenges and opportunities. On one hand, Asian markets offer immense potential for growth and expansion, with a large and growing middle class and increasing demand for credit products.
On the other hand, it is highly competitive market, with a wide range of domestic and international players. Cultural and language differences, as well as varying regulatory frameworks, pose significant challenges. To address them, we are building strong local brands and partnerships, developing a deep understanding of local needs and preferences, and creating a strong employer brand that resonates with local talent.
Q: With operations in eight countries, how do you ensure the initiatives you put in place are inclusive to all markets and cultures while catering to local priorities and needs?
As a general guideline, to ensure that our initiatives are inclusive to all markets and cultures while catering to local priorities and needs we have adopted a data-driven collaborative approach. This involves extensive analysis to understand the unique cultural and regulatory contexts in each market and strong leverage on local expertise to develop tailored initiatives.
Local leaders are in the driver’s seat to give us insights into local needs and priorities, and together we build cross-functional teams to work on those initiatives.
By adopting a collaborative and inclusive approach, we meet the unique needs of local markets, while promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organisation.
Q: The financial industry has long been seen as a male-dominant sector, how do you build a level playing field for everyone?
Fostering an inclusive workplace culture is crucial, not just in terms of gender, but also diverse cultural backgrounds, ages, minorities, etc. To promote diversity at all levels of the organisation, we create awareness where relevant, and with ongoing reporting/visibility, we check that the situation is improving.
It’s important to have transparent hiring and promotion policies, providing equal opportunities for training and development, and implementing a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or harassment. It is also useful to create a flexible and supportive work environment that accommodates the needs of all employees, including working parents, caregivers, and those with disabilities.
By creating a level playing field and fostering a truly inclusive workplace culture, our organisation can not only attract and retain top talent, but also drive innovation, creativity, and improve the overall business performance.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style and how it has evolved over the years?
I personally prefer to inspire and motivate my colleagues and achieve our shared vision through empowerment, innovation, and collaboration. I would call myself an authentic leader, who emphasises transparency, self-awareness, and ethical decision-making, promoting a culture of trust and respect.
One of Home Credit's leadership values is ‘customer obsession’ where the People Department serves the needs of our employees, and the broader community, with a focus on empathy, and accountability.
Over the years I have become a more mature person focusing on long term prosperity rather than immediate gain. I try to focus on a deep understanding of the needs and aspirations of our employees, customers, and stakeholders, coupled with a commitment to continuous learning and growth.
Q: As an industry veteran with over 20 years of experience, what has been your most memorable milestone in your HR career?
I actually do not have one particular memorable milestone, my career has been a succession of very interesting experiences that has helped me to be the person I am today. I have always worked hard to be ready for the next challenge and it paid off.
I still enjoy what I do every day and consider myself lucky being able to positively impact not only careers but the lives of many people, that is the most enjoyable and memorable thing for me.
Q: On the other hand, what was the hardest challenge you had to deal with?
The hardest challenge is the quest for a change in your team or organisation. Change of mindset, culture, opinion. I have succeeded quite a few times, but not always.
These experiences provided me with valuable lessons on how to better approach these situations next time. Using different arguments, different timing, knowing when to let go. And since I like challenges, I will continue to strive for change and enjoy getting better at it as I go. I hope!
Q: With today’s rapidly evolving environment, what do you believe is HR’s #1 responsibility?
I think that the HR function’s primary responsibility is to anticipate and address the changing needs of the workforce. This includes understanding the impact of emerging technologies, shifting workforce demographics, changing employee expectations, and developing proactive strategies to attract, retain, and engage top talent.
We should prioritise employee health and wellbeing, by providing mental health resources, flexible work arrangements, and other support mechanisms. By focusing on these priorities, we can create a more resilient, adaptable, and innovative workforce that is equipped to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the future.
Q: Is there a phrase/mindset that you believe HR professionals should do away with? And what should they replace it with?
The one phrase I advocate that we stop using is: “We’ve always done it this way.” This mindset can lead to complacency and resistance to change, which can hinder innovation and growth.
Instead, we should adopt a growth mindset, which involves a willingness to learn, adapt, and experiment, even in the face of uncertainty or failure. By embracing a growth mindset, HR professionals can challenge traditional practices, identify new opportunities for improvement, and drive meaningful change within their organisations.
We should all prioritise a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, encourage all employees to contribute their ideas and perspectives, and foster a sense of ownership and accountability for driving positive change.
Q: Concluding the interview on a funny note, if not in HR, what is another career you would have chosen?
My husband says I should have been an interior designer. And there is actually a connection, I might consider myself being a “people’s designer” – someone who designs spaces for human interactions and connections.
Just like an HR manager, a people’s designer needs to understand the unique needs and preferences of each individual, while also considering the overall atmosphere and vibe of the space. And just like an interior designer, they will need to be creative, innovative, and able to think outside the box to create truly unique and inspiring environments.
An excerpt of this article first appeared in the H1 2023 edition of Human Resources Online's Hong Kong e-magazine. View the e-magazine here, where you'll find power-packed features and interviews with leaders from Hong Kong, Singapore, the US, and more!
Photo / Provided (Lucie Edwards, Chief People Officer, Home Credit Group)