HR Think Tank: Championing change

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

Be a champion for change, and you can help your employees, business, and HR team enhance their value and experience even as technology and digitalisation disrupt the broader landscape.

This was the key takeaway from HRM Asia’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 Up 2 Speed in a colourful mind map mural (pictured). 

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, was on 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, for example, to keep new hires engaged while they serve notice at their previous companies. 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.


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.

“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. I met a lot of business and IT people, but I never ever met another HR person at those events,” he noted.

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 said. “You can’t ignore technology, because denial is not a viable long-term strategy for digital.”


Don’t keep calm

Finally, Ravi Bhogaraju, Global Head HR and Talent at Archroma, led 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.

It was also suggested that HR would evolve from a function to an eco-system. In this hypothetical eco-system, the role of HR might then be to manage “human transformation” – empowering staff to become “free range 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.

With that, the second HRM Asia wrapped up, with a third of the attendees sticking around at CulinaryOn for a special cooking experience and networking lunch.

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