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Suite talk: Lawrence Chia, chairman at Pico



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Starting out as a warehouse stockman more than 30 years ago with the company right after as a fresh graduate, Chia shares his journey  to the top.  

Having served in the same organisation for more than 30 years, what keeps you passionate?

It probably comes down to commitment.

Pico originated from a family-run commercial art business, where we kids would help out during the holidays. After university, I started my career at Pico as a warehouse stockman.

So what I feel about this company and my role in it is all bound up with family in a quite literal way, and the passion and commitment stem from that.

That’s not to say you can’t be passionate about your work unless you have this sort of personal stake. If you’re just starting a career or a business, you just have to be committed to it, whatever it is, and from that, the passion comes along later.

What do you see in the future for the exhibition industry?

Pico is especially attuned to trends among clients and within our industry because we don’t specialise in just one narrow part of the picture. Pico is today a global “total brand activation” company offering 360-degree integrated marketing solutions – from brand strategy to execution – for a wide range of blue-chip companies.

So our share of the exhibition industry represents just a part of our total market presence.

In any case, we have fairly optimistic expectations for the industry and this segment of our business.

If you’re just starting a career or a business, you just have to be committed to it, whatever it is, and from that, the passion comes along later.

What are your HR challenges for the company?

One of our key HR focuses is talent retention and development. We only recruit talented people who see working at Pico as a career rather than just a job.

To this end, we’ve co-organised an emerging leadership programme with Singapore Management University and have also developed a talent acceleration programme. Both aim to develop high flyers into leaders.

Our remuneration system is based on a balanced scorecard that ties in pay with 12 KPIs covering targets relating to “customer satisfaction”, “internal business processes” and “learning and growth” in addition to financial targets.

Employer branding is very important in attracting talent so what is your company’s approach towards building your employer brand?

We believe in nurturing talent from within. Pico is a reputable name with 47 years and a deep culture behind it. This includes our talent acceleration programme, which we developed over three decades ago in collaboration with prestigious universities, and which to date, has had over 1,000 graduates.

We are also cultivating character to imbue our people with more than knowledge – we want them to be passionate about what they’re doing.

For example, there’s our annual Pico “Global Care in Action” programme under which 200-plus senior executives from our global offices do voluntary work such as donating buses to schools or taking orphans out to the cinema.

We are also cultivating character to imbue our people with more than knowledge – we want them to be passionate about what they’re doing.

What do you like doing during your free time?

I’ll do an hour of intensive exercise whenever I can as it keeps me sharp all day. I’m also a fan of what I like to call a “distributed holiday” – taking one or two days off per month instead of lumping 10 or 12 days together.

This way, you relax without totally switching off your brain – you’re giving yourself just enough distance from work to approach problems from a different angle.

Image: provided 

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