HR leaders from McCain Foods, MoneySmart, P&G, Schneider Electric, and Tan Chong Group shed light on the trends and challenges in the HR landscape for 2018, in interviews with Jerene Ang.
The world of work is evolving every year, and so is the HR landscape.
In this feature, we speak to five HR leaders across Malaysia, Singapore, and the rest of Asia to present a special focus on some of the key HR considerations anticipated in the coming year.
1. A challenging recruitment and retention landscape
Chiou Thien Ling (Michelle), head of group human resources, head of group employee relations and organisational development, Tan Chong Group, shared that as the conglomerate expands into Indo-China, one of the major challenge faced is recruitment and retention especially when it comes to the younger generation.
"The younger generation is quite selective; they have the tendency to think they want to be a manager in five years. But it’s about how they can get there, whether or not a degree is sufficient. We have issues trying to get people who have language capabilities and who are open to learning beyond their degree and who put in effort to learn beyond what they have already learnt. They also have to be able to adapt to different cultures and environments. That is what makes anyone successful even without a degree," she said.
She added that in an expanding business like Tan Chong Group, it is necessary to post people to different areas.
However, Chiou noted that employees may have an apprehension to try new fields or environments, adding that "they have this mentality that if they are away from home, they can’t accomplish anything or they might fail in the new assignment - that fear is there."
To overcome this challenge, she shared: "It is all about people, the communication and the psychology of what people needs and wants at a given time. If you don’t know how to motivate people, communicate it effectively and get people to feel comfortable in an environment they are unfamiliar with, you will have these challenges of getting people to do other new things, and go elsewhere where we need them to develop themselves with the business."
2. Adding value to the business through work-life balance
Another way HR can help retain people and add value to the business is to provide them with a good environment to work in.
Choong Wai Bin, HR director – Korea, SEA and Taiwan, McCain Foods, shared: "Nowadays, HR is different from how it used to be traditionally. To me it is important that HR should add value to the business in the sense that we should look into not just management, but also look into taking care of our employees especially work life balance. I think this is part of retention to me. If you want to retain people, I think you have to have a good environment to work in."
Choong is of the opinion that employers should think about empowering and trusting employees especially when it comes to implementing flexi-timings to support work-life balance.
"If you hire this line manager, I think you should trust them. That is important because at the end of the day, whether the employee is performing or not, it is the line manager’s responsibility as well. Also, as long as the line managers agree that this is the working time they have with their direct reports, I think that’s perfectly fine.
Unless there is an issue where the employee takes it for granted - and it will happen; that is when HR will step in to take necessary action, or rather to have a conversation with the employee and see how serious it is. If it affects their performance, I think the necessary steps will have to be implemented."
She shared that in her previous experience flexi-timings really helped to retain employees - especially working mothers.
"In KL, traffic is really bad during peak hours. So flexi timings help allows them to avoid this morning rush when they send their children to school in the mornings. It also gives them the choice to pick up their children after school. As a result of this, they actually value the company more. It also helps them see the value in life."
3. Leveraging on digital technologies
Olivier Blum, chief human resources officer, and executive vice president, at Schneider Electric, believes that digital technologies not only transforms businesses, but also the HR function.
"The power of digital and data analytics can help to transform the HR function in decision making and managing a company. This is one of the biggest transformations at Schneider Electric, that we already have in place.
"Moving forward into 2018, we are looking to accelerate the use of digital technology. Digital has allowed us to perform many talent and project management processes more efficiently. For example, the use of HR systems that can help manage digital expenses for employees, as well as improving the organisation of performance management and feedback."
Blum added that technologies such as mobile applications have been deployed to support employees in their overall job functions. This includes a global recognition program which allows employees to connect and recognise people everywhere in the world, to build a true culture of appreciation easily and quickly – simply by using a smartphone.
The company has also invested in data and smart analytics to anticipate and make decisions in areas of strategic talent management and will be starting a pilot with artificial intelligence (AI) for recruitment where AI will be used to do the initial screening of candidates.
Sharing the reason behind the pilot, Blum said: "Today, most people have their profiles on LinkedIn, and one of the challenges for a large company is how to connect job opportunities with the people who are most suitable for them. We see opportunities for technology to help us with this."
In line with this, MoneySmart’s head of talent, Ian Jongho Im, said:" In 2018, we will see employers more aggressively searching for talent skilled in new technology capabilities and engineering, While this trend was previously attributed to supply and demand, it is now being driven by companies who want less outsourcing of these functions to other countries."
4. Diversity and inclusion
Vinitaa Jayson, vice president – HR, P&G Asia, noted that more companies are now driving focused efforts to create a diverse workforce.
Shedding light on the multi-national consumer goods company's view on the matter, Jayson said: "At P&G, we believe that a diverse organisation outperforms a homogenous organisation every time. So we are committed to developing the most diverse mix of talent by gender, ethnicity, culture, geography, experiences, personality and so on. As a consumer products company, the more we reflect and mirror the consumers we serve, the better equipped we are."
Jayson pointed out that the majority of people who buy P&G's products are women. Hence the company believes in gender equality - with equal voice and equal representation.
"Our #WeSeeEqual program empowers women, inside and outside the company – it’s our vision to create a world free from gender bias. In Asia, we are proud that over 50% of our managers are women. We hire men and women equally at entry level. We provide equal pay, equal benefits and flexible work arrangements.
"We manage our talent pipeline to ensure we have a diverse pool of experienced talent at all levels. We have affinity groups and women’s networks in each site for informal advice and peer coaching. We work to create an inclusive culture where women can be successful at P&G, and we educate our men on their crucial role as allies in closing the gender gap."
P&G is not the only company prioritising diversity and inclusion. Schneider Electric's Blum noted that diversity and inclusion is also a core priority for the technology company.
"Our diversity and inclusion philosophy aims to provide equal opportunities to everyone everywhere, and ensure that all our employees feel uniquely valued and safe to contribute their best. This year, Schneider Electric was included in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index, among 104 companies across sectors worldwide. Our inclusion in the index reinforces our commitment to create an inclusive culture where all forms of diversity are valued," Blum said.
Another trend pointed out by MoneySmart's Im is localisation.
"Employees who have deep understanding of cultural nuances in specific markets will also be highly sought after, as businesses develop more localised go-to market strategies for better relevance and audience engagement."
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