In this conversation, Imre Vadasz, regional HR director for AMEA, at Sony Electronics Asia Pacific, divulges what he has learnt working across Europe and Asia, and shares the number one talent challenge on his mind.
Q. Where was your first HR experience, and what did you learn from it?
I was working as a sales operations manager at a US-based MNC with a commercial operation and sizeable factory in Hungary when I was offered to move into the HR function as the head in 1996.
It was an interesting move because I did not have any previous experience in HR and that was true for the rest of my team as they had also rotated from sales and marketing roles.
We had lots of ideas on how to make our company a better place to work based on our own experience as employees and managers and our MD put a lot of trust in us and supported the ideas that we developed and implemented.
We also had access to our company’s well-founded robust corporate HR resources. Those were great pioneering times with lots of freedom and independence to use resources to develop a company culture of empowerment and accountability.
Q. Having moved from Europe to Asia across your career, what was the biggest learning?
Working in a very different cultural environment helped me to rediscover the importance of the universal leadership qualities of openness, listening and empathy.
When I work with others as a leader, I try to understand the values, personality and strengths of everyone in my team as they are all unique in their own way.
This is a beautiful element of leadership and working in Asia helped me to realise again the endless opportunity that lies in having a diverse team.
Of course, to understand and value difference is only one side of the coin. At the same time, I also try to help my team benefit from me coming from a different cultural background by offering alternatives that may enrich their professional and personal repertoire.
I try to help my team benefit from me coming from a different cultural background by offering alternatives to enrich their professional and personal repertoire.
Q. Apart from geographies, you’ve worked across HR functions, such as compensation & benefits, HR operations, and talent management. Which did you enjoy most?
I liked all my jobs as they provided me with a great opportunity to make a positive change in the organisation. However, I find talent management the most exciting.
At the end of the day, the biggest impact you can have in any organisation is to develop and appoint the right leaders into the key leadership positions.
Therefore I believe talent management and succession planning is the most crucial and most strategic part of HR and is also the most complex and long-term to implement.
Q. What is the best advice you have received so far?
Once we had a debate with one of our professors at the university where I studied to become an engineer. We talked about the role of a professor and the role of a cleaning lady.
He said ‘it doesn’t matter if you are a cleaning lady or a professor. The only thing that matters is that whatever you do, you put your very best into it to become the professor of your job’.
I tried to follow this throughout my career and always focus on how to achieve the maximum results from my job.
When I moved to HR in 1996 without previous experience, I was lucky to have two great mentors; two very experienced senior HR professionals.
They had broad business and HR experience and helped me to learn to look at each situation in a business context while balancing the needs of the organisation and employees.
They taught me through their questions and provided me the freedom to make the decisions and choose the direction that I thought was the right one for that particular situation. Then they also helped me to learn from my mistakes… 🙂
He said ‘it doesn’t matter if you are a cleaning lady or a professor. The only thing that matters is that whatever you do, you put your very best into it’.
Q. What’s your regular workday at Sony like?
Most likely it is not much different from other companies. It is a mixture of working through face-to-face and virtual meetings, and on focused individual tasks.
We try to balance time between progressing with our strategic priorities and being responsive to operational issues and employee concerns.
Currently, we are working on the implementation of a global HR transformation in AMEA with many of my team members taking on extra responsibilities.
This is a major stretch on top of our normal operation and it is also a great opportunity to challenge ourselves and learn new things every day.
However, what I find specific about working at Sony is a genuine love of our brand and a friendly and cooperative working style that makes a lot of us enjoy working here. You feel you are in good company every day.
Q. In wading through work, what is the number one talent challenge on your mind?
We are currently working on the enhancement of our talent management activities by increasing the focus on succession planning, and the identification and implementation of individual development plans for our colleagues who have the potential and ambition to grow into bigger roles.
Q. In your view, what can the HR function do make a numeric impact to the bottom line in the near future?
I am more keen to understand how our customers, our business, our existing and potential employees and how our world will evolve. We can only add value by understanding the needs of our key stakeholders and how we can enable them to align those needs.
Luckily, there are always new tools and resources becoming available for us and we must utilise them to become more effective.
This is why we are now moving to a global cloud based HRIS solution for better analytics and using social media for better connectedness and blended learning solutions for stronger development just to name a few.
However, I do think we should still keep our focus on how to develop world class leaders who can make a positive impact on the people around them. If we can assign great leaders to capable teams, there is no question that we will contribute significantly to the bottom line.