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The multiple identities of HR: Investor, relationship manager and strategist

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Human Resources: Do you think it’s a blessing or a challenge that originally you came from an engineering background?

Ben Chan: It’s a blessing to have challenges. With my computer science degree, and primarily corporate banking and consulting work experience, the knowledge gap in HR was a challenge, but that gave me the opportunity to pick up new knowledge very quickly.

The cross-industry experiences often help me to have different perspectives on human capital. I am also convinced that, in order to be successful, a HR professional should have multiple identities – an investor (thinking about return on capital), a relationship manager (dealing with talents), a strategist (having a long-term vision).

What are some of the human capital trends you see but want to know more about in Asia?

Millennial talents: the impact of these generations in the talent market is already here. While there are many articles about Gen-Y and Gen-Z globally, I would like to see more Asia-specific research and content.

Hong Kong vs Shanghai vs Singapore: I have always been intrigued by how talents are developed in the three cities, and how HR practitioners position themselves differently, their best practices, and how we can learn from each other.

A trend of returnees: I sense that there has been a return of Hong Kong talents who have worked in mainland China or overseas for the past 15 years. Hong Kong students graduating overseas are more willing to come back and work here. I have always been intrigued by where they are, and how they can be attracted to Hong Kong.

How do you see the role of AI in helping HR professionals? What can/can’t it do?

There is an increasing number of AI applications for assessing talents, like CV screening by machine learning, gamified psychometric tests, and facial expression analysis via video interviews. I have even seen AI-enabled solutions for culture transformation. The trend will be how to connect seemingly unrelated and unstructured data together. One thing which AI can’t do – and what HR professionals should focus (or refocus) on – is human interaction.

How important is a good staff benefits package in talent development and retention in an organisation?

We all need to think like a marketer and understand the true insights of the customers (i.e. talents) real needs, rather than just competition on price. One needs to be innovative in thinking what values an employer can bring to the talent, what are the values that can be raised / created, and what can be reduced / eliminated.

What is some of your recommending reading on HR-related topics?

Two books inspired me a lot. It’s not the how or the what but the who: Succeed by surrounding yourself with the best and Great people decisions: Why they matter so much, Why they are so hard, and how you can master them. Both written by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz.

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