TAFEP Hero 2023 Oct
human resources online

The productivity secrets of successful HR leaders

Aditi Sharma Kalra finds out the secrets to the stamina of successful HR leaders who manage to pack in enough work and life in their already-busy days.

Fifty-two - no, that's not the new amazingly accurate answer to life, the universe, and everything; that remains 42 just as Douglas Adams wants it to be. No, 52 is the number of minutes we all spend procrastinating during work hours each day.

And don't tell my MD, but I reckon this is the one metric where I'm performing above the average.

Here at the Human Resources office, we enter the busiest time of the year, with four award shows, three conferences, and two special editions all being produced by a super-busy team.

But when it comes to making the most of the 24 hours we all get, some of the HR leaders we speak to seem to have it all admirably sorted out. Commute and calendar, they tell me. Make the most of your travel time, while living your life by the calendar.

Read on as I speak to three senior HR pros to find out the secrets to their stamina.

Kabir Julka, vice president for HR - Asia, at American Express International, starts his work days by spending the morning with his eight-year-old son and one-month-old daughter. "Hearing my son’s stories gives me an adrenal rush and a reason to look at the brighter side of life," he says.

"For my commute to work, I leverage the super efficient public transport system in Hong Kong, which gives me sufficient time to check my emails and plan my day. Once at work, the day passes quickly attending meetings and conference calls, but I ensure I take a lunch or coffee break and spend time with my team," he says. Taking time out for lunch to important, he explains, as it gives an amazing opportunity to engage and bond with the team better.

Julka tries to wrap up his day at office around 6 pm, and keeps his evenings free between 7 – 9 pm to spend time with his family before the kids go to bed.

He adds: "On most days of the week, I have conference calls with the US or UK that end up going till midnight. These are challenges of working in an ever connected global world, but I try and maximise every moment of my day and get some work-life balance."

Weekends for his is family time and hitting the gym, while intermittently checking emails for urgent stuff, he affirms.

Another HR expert who gets her inspiration through the daily commute is Ivy Lau, director of HR at Amara Hotels & Resorts - "by watching people from all walks of life and being able to visualise how I can make a positive change to each and everyone of them through the work that I do."

For her, travel time is well spent reflecting on her profession: "As a HR practitioner, to be able to identify potential and nurturing that potential into an asset for an organisation is in itself a reward.

She likens the managing of human capital to managing a portfolio of investments, but instead of stocks or commodities, it's investing into the potential of staff, nurturing and developing someone to achieve their personal life's goal.

"When I look at people go by every morning, I cannot help but love my job," she shares candidly.

In spite of all this advice, Neema Mehta, talent and L&D director for Asia Pacific, at Amcor, sums up quite nicely how many of us feel: "Time management is a skill that feels ephemeral. One day you are managing your calls, meetings, work, family and friends and seemingly the next day it can all fall apart without notice."

Two key tips she finds incredibly helpful is to review her weekly notes every Friday. to make sure she hasn't missed anything, and creates her to-do list for Monday morning. "So Monday morning, I am ready start the week with a clear list of objectives and priorities," she says.

Finally, and this is something my friends tease me mercilessly for, Mehta adds: "I live and die by my calendar – everything from dinner with friends, calls, meetings and even blocking off time to for 'thinking' sits on my calendar."

Wish those tricks in the bag, I wish you a productive month!

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