HR Think Tank: Championing Change

The 2nd HRM Magazine HR Think Tank saw HR managers get together to discuss upcoming challenges and goals for the profession.

Be a champion for change, and HR professionals can help their employees, businesses, and HR teams enhance their value and experience – even as technology and digitalisation disrupt the broader landscape.

This was the key takeaway from HRM Magazine’s second Think Tank event, which saw almost 80 HR managers converging on CulinaryOn in Singapore on July 27.

The free event kicked off with a networking breakfast, followed by three different brainstorming sessions -- all visually recorded by professional illustrator Gene Whitlock of Up2Speed in a colourful mind map mural.

All in the experience

The first session, facilitated by Sam Neo, HR Business Partner at Changi Airport Group, saw participants discussing the employee experience and how to perfect it.

A common challenge, for example, has been navigating the minefield of existing organisational structures, resources, and senior management expectations. 

Technology was raised several times as a possible tool to tackle that obstacle, including keeping new hires engaged while they serve notice at their preceding employer. One way to avoid having staff go “missing-in-action” on their planned start date could be to give them access to IT portals before they actually step inside the door, one participant suggested. This would allow them to learn about the business and their role, and to hit the ground running on Day One.

Upskill, or be obsolete

The theme of technology continued through to the second session, which centred on digital skills for HR. Facilitated by HR veteran Laurence Smith, this session saw participants brainstorming how to digitalise HR – and how to start treating it as a new type of literacy, rather than yet another box to be ticked.

Smith encouraged participants to step out of their comfort zones and make an effort to understand the disruptive technologies and innovations that are on the horizon. This alone would stand them in great stead relative to others in the profession.

“I spent three years going to every start-up, think-tank and technology event I could find, including events specifically designed to bring start-ups and corporates together,” he noted. “I met a lot of business and IT people, but I never ever met another HR person at those events.”

One point raised by participants during this session was the philosophy of continuous learning. Digital, after all, is not learned once and then never again. Rather, a digital mindset must be built because technology is constantly changing.

“You need to get in the habit of learning – be curious, be open,” Smith advised. “You can’t ignore technology, because denial is not a viable long-term strategy for digital.”

Don’t keep calm

The third session saw Ravi Bhogaraju, Global Head HR and Talent at Archroma, lead participants in an intense discussion on the evolving role of HR in the age of digitalisation. “What is HR’s purpose,” he asked. “How does HR re-think, pivot, and accelerate?”

Bhogaraju had one key suggestion. “Don’t keep calm, go crazy,” he said, noting that it would be important to keep looking forward, rather than driving while looking only at the rear-view mirror.

A recurring point brought up by participants was the concept of HR professionals being change agents to help employees upskill and move up the value chain, especially with the prospect of automation looming large in the near future.

HR could evolve from a function to an eco-system, it was suggested. In this hypothetical eco-system, the role of HR might then be to manage “human transformation” – empowering staff to become “freerange agents” who would carve out their own roles.

Lastly, participants agreed that with the rapid speed of technology change, “inside-out” coaching and reverse mentoring (from younger generations of employees) would become increasingly vital to survive and thrive.

Returning in 2018

The HR Think Tank series is a free, peer-to-peer development programme for HR professionals working in Singapore and around the Asia-Pacific region. It will return with new events and new formats in 2018, but will remain free to join, and free of sponsored, sales-driven content.

Look out for more details at the start of the new year.


Tasty Teamwork

Around one third of the HR Think Tank delegation stayed on after the event for a special, hands-on team cooking experience, designed by the team at CulinaryOn. The budding chefs cooked up a storm and went home with more than just a better understanding of HR practices – they also got to bring home new experiences, new friends, and, most importantly, a happy belly! 

This unique 7,000 square-foot venue in the heart of Singapore’s central business district has hosted more than 2,000 events since opening in 2015, bringing people together through their one common love of food.

CulinaryOn Singapore’s General Manager Kate Pershina says bringing people through this intimate channel allows every participant to fully immerse themselves in the experience put in front of them, and ensures that people foster good relations through working as one towards their goal of putting together a good meal.

As a premier events space, CulinaryOn prides itself on being fully customisable to suit the needs of each event. The venue itself provides the food and beverage options, audio-visual equipment, and an experienced events management team is always on hand to make sure that everything is well-thought out and meticulously planned. Guests very often just have to show up and have a good time!

With four individual kitchen studios and a conference room, the venue has space to accommodate up to 200 participants at a time. “A variety of event-types can also be catered for, from corporate team building activities, to MICE-related events, and networking-cum-brainstorming sessions like the HR Think Tank.


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