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True Corp's HR CoE Director on the biggest talent challenge Thailand is facing

Thailand has moved beyond 'talent shortage' and 'talent war, to really measure impact in terms of business results, affirms Adipat Chaichanasakul, HR Centre of Excellence Director, True Corporation, in this interview with Nadya Oenara. 

Q In your experience, what is the biggest talent challenge Thailand is facing, and how are you tackling that?

I think we are now going beyond 'talent shortage' and 'talent war', which are the trends we faced in the past few years.

To solve the talent shortage, we went to 'war' in order to win over talent. For example, we adjusted salary structures, increased benefits, renovated offices, improved employer brands, utilised more recruitment agencies, etc.

It all seems well and good, but we need to realise that we are creating another problem of its own as the aforementioned activities do cost lots and lots of money.

As a result, cost of hiring, average salary, and overall personnel expenses have increased tremendously over the years, which eventually impacted our EBITDA and the bottom line of our businesses. Businesses then increased prices of their products, impacting our cost-of-living, which ultimately would create a need to increase the salary of our talent. This vicious cycle will definitely impact us in the long run, especially if we face with economic downturn.

To attack this problem, at True Corporation, we have done all those activities (also guilty); but at the same time, we focused heavily on supporting our talent to produce more productivity.

We are making sure that we do more with less talent. This is done through the digitalisation of our company along with embedding a 'start-up like' structure within our traditional hierarchical structure. Learning & development activities also aim to develop additional skills for employees, so they can be more productive as well as create more value for themselves.

Even within our HR team, our talent is expected to be able to be a great HR person; but at the same time, join the sales force to generate revenue, research and develop new products that can be commercialised, or join strategic projects to help digitalise our organisation.

By doing so, not only are we helping to generate more revenue to help compensate for higher personnel experiences, but we are also adding more values for our talent, which means that their chances of being unemployed during challenging times, is minimised.

Q Share with us how you ensure employees are constantly motivated, especially during the current challenging economy.

Simply put, we question every HR policies and practice throughout our organisation, from why we are paying annual variable bonuses to why our payroll needs to transfer money to the bank for salary payment; from why we need to pay insurance company for health and life insurance to why we need to have so many job titles, job families or job levels; from why we need to come and work at the office to why we need to use e-mail, etc.

After asking enough questions, we discovered many opportunities to do more with less, while improving employee experiences to ensure that they will continuously engaged to our company.

We also ask questions directly to our talent in term of needs and wants. What we later realised is that every talent, despite coming from the same generation, same year of service, and/or same job level, has different wants and needs.

Thus, benefits, privileges, activities and programmes for our employees need to be able to reflect that. They need to be truly flexible and customisable for each employee, on-demand, and right on time, and not just giving three-four options for our talent to choose from and being able to only change once or twice a year like it used to be.

Remember the time when Napster disrupted the music industry? I believe it's time for HR professionals to openly share best practices and even some of the data that can help improve all HR practices in every company.

Q If there was one crazy HR practice you could implement, with no budget or time constraints, what would it be?

Open-source HR!

Remember the time when Napster disrupted the music industry? (Yes, I am that old) Look at where we are today. I believe it's time for HR professionals to openly share best practices and even some of the data that can help improve all HR practices in every company.

Imagine a world where all the companies are able to effectively manage and develop talent. Our economy will be strong, unemployment rate will drop, innovation will happen everywhere, and the society will be stronger. It's going to be very different.

Right now, HR typically tries to improve its practices in a vacuum. We read about best practices somewhere, attend site visits, go to conferences, or hire HR consultants to tell us what to improve and how to improve them. What we end up with are half-baked HR practices, policies and systems that may not yield the best results.

Take the hype of OKR as an example. Without a full understanding of how OKR works, how it should relate to other HR practices, policies and systems, as well as challenges and pitfalls of OKR, we may end up falling into the trap of creating change (with the best intentions) that actually would create chaos in a company.

Let's take another extreme example: competencies model and proficiency levels.  Let's think about this. In the process of a developing competencies model and coming up with proficiency levels, we commonly hire HR consultants, where actually we need to provide most of the inputs, and the end result is that we get competencies that are so very similar to other companies!

Q Reveal to us the one thing you will look for in a winning entry submission by participants at Thailand's debut HR Excellence Awards.

I am looking for HR practices and professionals that can actually make a difference, not only in their company, but to the society, country, or perhaps even at the global level.

Call me a dreamer, but I sincerely believe that HR holds that much power to create positive change in our society, strengthen competitiveness of each country through the company, as well as solve global issues.  That is why I believe all HR professionals should fully support the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Yes, HR can help end poverty, create gender equality, become a platform for good health and wellbeing, reduce hunger, improve quality of education, revive life below water and life on land, and much more. That is what I am looking for in a winning entry submission. If not this year then in the many more years to come.

It’s time to showcase your HR excellence at the debut HR Excellence Awards in Thailand, to be held on 5 June at Radison Blu Plaza Bangkok. Enter the awards and get started on your entry submissions as the entry deadline is on 30 March 2020.

Feel free to reach out to our Project Managers,Renamel Torres,, andReggie Ola, reggieo@humanresourcesonline.netor call them at + 65 64230329 for assistance in submitting your entries.

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