Q&A with UPS Asia-Pacific's Vice President of HR Tanie Eio

Tanie Eio shares her thoughts on the role of top-line HR leaders with regional responsibilities.

HRM Magazine Asia recently caught up with Tanie Eio (pictured below), Vice President of HR, Asia-Pacific, UPS. She shared her thoughts on the role of HR leaders today, and some of the workforce challenges at the top of a massive, multinational operation like hers.

 

What are the biggest challenges facing Chief HR Officers and Vice Presidents of HR in Asia at the moment?

Digital disruptions in the marketplace such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and data analytics technologies are changing the way we search, hire, and develop our workforce. Besides keeping up with these developments, it is crucial that companies continue to identify people with the right skills that help move the business forward. For Chief HR Officers, the primary challenge is fostering an environment that allows that to happen.

An equally interesting challenge is to cultivate the high-performance culture needed to then retain this talent.

 

What does the performance management strategy at UPS entail?

Performance management has always been a core component of UPS’s growth strategy. At UPS, we believe in letting our employees take ownership of their career development and work performance by empowering them to set their own performance goals and targets relevant to their work assignments.

This encourages employees to think about how they can contribute meaningfully to the growth of the company – and at the same time, how they would like to grow in their career. The goals are reviewed on a quarterly basis and are tied not just to compensation, but also to career progression.

Rather than looking at changing the tools to manage performance – which is important for transparency and seamless communication throughout an organisation as large as ours – I believe it’s more important for each individual to be able to influence and be accountable for setting their own meaningful goals, and work towards achieving them.

 

How important is career development to HR leaders across Asia at the moment?

With more than 434,000 employees globally, our priority is to nurture our talents and constantly challenge them, providing them with growth opportunities. We believe that talent management is critical for us to retain an engaged workforce.

To ensure that our employees remain engaged, we help them to meet their career goals. Our employees take ownership of their Career Development Plans, which provides a platform for UPS to formally acknowledge these goals. Together with individual and peer performance assessments, we identify high potential employees that would benefit from job rotations, which may include an international assignment. When employees realise that their employer is genuinely concerned about their personal development and will invest time and resources into it, they become more engaged with the organisation.

Policies like this help us to retain a strong talent pool with a high retention rate. Many of our employees have been with

us for more than 15 years, and a lot of our senior executives started off as part-time loaders or package car drivers.

 

Should HR leaders in Asia be taking their cues, particularly in performance management which will always have some cultural elements, from trends and innovations happening in the West?

I would not differentiate between “East” and “West” because every geography and company is different and unique. Whether or not a company chooses a specific type of performance management method or programme, or even chooses to have one at all, is really up to each individual company and its culture, priority and focus.  We see advancements in technology, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things coming from both the “East” and the “West” at the same time – so there is really no cultural or geographical bearing or need to take cues from one particular area.

 

Is there pressure to transform the HR team? Or indeed, is there pressure to change other wholesale parts of the UPS organisation as a result of this changed landscape?

UPS has been around for more than 110 years now, and we’re good at adapting to the changing demands economically, politically, socially, environmentally and even culturally, across the 220 countries and territories where we work and serve.

A strong part of UPS’s culture involves being “constructively dissatisfied”; so often times, whether internal or external, there is always a desire to improve. We want to continually develop, train and prepare our people to serve the evolving distribution, logistics, and commerce needs of our customers worldwide, offering excellence and value in all we do.

In fact, we’ve created an Asia-Pacific region “Vision Map” that defines the company’s goals and aspirations, and describes how every employee based in Asia plays a key role in achieving that collective vision. It inspires employees to adopt three key people traits: to be agile, empowered and innovative. This will enable them to respond quickly to changes in our external environment, transform our business to stay ahead of market disruptors, and execute our operations flawlessly.

 

What is the risk of not adapting to this new, disruptive, and volatile business environment?

We risk becoming irrelevant and uninventive. Ultimately, this creates an uninspiring environment where you have talent that are not adequately motivated to excel or grow to their full potential.

 

Given the holistic, all-encompassing role of the Chief HR Officer, what does it mean to also be an effective business partner?

You need to have strong business acumen and foresee human capital issues that may arise from high-level business decisions. At the same time, you also need to be able to diagnose anticipated issues and provide solutions or recommendations so as to influence organisational decisions. It is also important to have a finger on the pulse of the HR industry so that you can make well-informed decisions, particularly when it comes to making investment calls.

At the end of the day, it is all about being able to understand what is good for the business, and providing the right advice and insight to the boardroom. 

I believe HR professionals can benefit from an “outside-in” approach. As a department helping to shape the environment and culture of the company, HR needs to be plugged in to the marketplace and macro-trends so as to create up-to-date and aligned solutions to take the company to the next level.

With all these changes happening right now, it’s an exciting time to be in HR!

 

What happens when the HR function is cut off, or siloed away from other parts of the business?

It is possible for the business to still go on, but with the risk of a fragmented workforce and conflicting culture without HR’s involvement to manage it along with business needs.  People management is both a science and an art. HR professionals must take into account human psychology, behavior, and emotions to anticipate and plan ahead.

This is not possible when the HR function is isolated.   

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