HR Tech Festival Asia 2024: Employees first for a resilient future

To thrive in 2024 and beyond, organisations must prioritise the importance of human-centric policies and initiatives.
By: | April 26, 2024

Day 2 of the 23rd edition of HR Tech Festival Asia 2024 continued the momentum set by the first day at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore. The second day of the event explored the theme of human-centric approaches to organisational processes, with aspects of how things like AI tools, better employee engagement and benefits, as well as cultivating a culture of safety, trust, and openness could help organisations navigate through an evolving HR landscape in 2024 and beyond.

What does it mean to navigate through the future, especially in such disruptive times? Dr Tanvi Gautam, HR Influencer, Keynote Speaker, Best Selling Author and Transformational Leadership Expert, Leadershift Inc, took to the stage to give an opening keynote discussing the concept of organisation resilience and long-term profitable growth. Besides pushing the idea of organisations having to shift their perceptions of what to focus on, as well as the issue of change fatigue within organisations, Dr Tanvi also introduced a term she coined, “future-fluid”, which is the act of being in a state of radical openness to embrace imagining the future, whether it meets the prediction of the user or not.

“I’m calling a Code R.E.D. on HR,” said Dr Tanvi, referring to the initials R.E.D. as a part of three mindsets that HR practitioners should take note of in HR: reinvention or reinventing leadership, the need for energy to execute an ecosystem economy, and the need for deep collaboration. “Deep collaboration is a human-centric approach to creating value and co-creating it with stakeholders,” she declared. “At the heart of it, it’s about being co-conspirators in each other’s success, in a strategic, resourceful and wholeheartedness in their goals.”

The sentiment for sustainable ways to invest in their organisations continued as Adam Walker, Vice-President, Asia-Pacific, Avature, spearheaded a captivating session that focused on mastering the talent lifecycle for sustainable business growth and enhancement. Walker argued that organisations should look beyond just traditional employees and consider a broader “total talent” strategy, which includes leveraging AI to improve engagement and development for all contributors to the organisations, from full-time employees to contractors.

He explained, “However, as the business world becomes increasingly demanding and undergoes more frequent changes, organisations rely heavily on a wider range of individuals contributing to their success. These go beyond traditional employees and include freelancers, contractors, and others who play a crucial role in supporting the organisation to achieve desired business outcomes.”

This is a sentiment agreed by other experts at the event. “Today’s workforce looks nothing like the past. What we’re experiencing now is a boundless workforce,” shared Rob Squires, Vice-President and Head of Sales for Asia and Japan, Dayforce. “Our main goal is to provide primary clarity for organisations navigating the many complexities in the workplace today.” With the help of the flagship Dayforce programme and the payroll service that the organisation provides, Dayforce looks to help organisations navigate the complexities of the increasingly changing workforce today. Considering these conditions, including risks and compliance across multiple jurisdictions today, and the needs of employees, HR is becoming essential to serve as a strategic partner to organisations.

Squires exemplified this with the help of Susan Vaughan, Senior Vice-President, Global Head of People Operations, CBRE. CBRE, which works in commercial real estate services and investments, has been working with Dayforce for around 10 years within Asia-Pacific and operates within many countries. As such, the organisation must grapple with everchanging conditions such as inflation and interest rates. To navigate that, Vaughan established that there is a need to keep an agile mindset when it comes to pushing their organisation forward, all while applying a human-centric approach in all HR processes and policies, optimising results with real-time insights from data, giving accurate results and sufficient HR services, as well as creating policies that will help employees in the long run.

The realm of using AI for better, more efficient processes and better accuracy is also explored when it comes to hiring. Building on the importance of a “total talent” strategy, one highlighted by Avature’s Walker, Sujay Bhat, Human Experience Value Advisor of SAP Asia, emphasised the critical importance of focusing on skill development to thrive amidst accelerating innovation. Bhat highlighted the need for organisations to define relevant and reliable use cases for AI, ensuring alignment with data privacy laws and ethical considerations. He further underlined the pivotal role of responsible AI implementation in driving organisational transformation while maintaining employee motivation. “Transformation should start with the people who are at the heart of the sustainable future,” he concluded.

Grant Meyer, Managing Director for Asia-Pacific; and Jana Zafirovska, Customer Success Director for Asia-Pacific, both from HireVue, delivered a session that delved into how organisations can leverage AI to achieve greater efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness in their hiring process.

The discussion centred on streamlining talent acquisition through skills-based assessment and automated processes. It explored how candidates desire a quick, simple, engaging, transparent, and informative process that provides an opportunity to showcase their abilities. A key concept explored was Human Potential Intelligence, a data-driven approach that empowers HR professionals to build high-performing teams for the future.

But how does one look to revolutionise the hiring process in organisations using AI, all while still maintaining the personalised hiring experience? This was what Singtel looked to discuss in a case study with Paradox, which helped to create a more personalised hiring experience, thanks to AI. Joshua Teo, Head, Group Strategic Resourcing and Talent Acquisition, Singtel, with the help of facilitator Joshua Secrest, Vice-President, Marketing and Client Advocacy, Paradox, shared with the audience the specifications of Singtel’s workforce and hiring numbers, with around 25,000 employees globally, and hiring 4,000 employees annually across all sectors and levels within the organisation.

“When we spoke to our clients, our candidates, and our internal teams, what we found was that a lot of the processes were manual and administratively intense,” said Teo. “Our candidates told us that our processes were very impersonal, they never got the answers they wanted, and the career website was hard to navigate.” Thus, working with the Paradox team was pertinent to examine the processes. Teo summarised that the team wanted to redesign the hiring process around four principles of what they wanted to achieve: optimal user experience; adequate data protection; consistency of quality, speed, and service; and customisation of services for each of their entities.

What is Singapore’s hiring landscape like? This was what Chew Siew Mee, Managing Director, Jobstreet by SEEK Singapore, sought to share with the audience. The outlook, as she continues to venture, is an encouraging one, with many employers progressively making changes and advancing a more holistic approach to things such as employee benefits, be it on a financial or non-financial stance.

Emerging trends that can be observed within the region include the rise of flexible working arrangements, with around 40-50% of 700 employers already implementing flexible working hours or locations, such as the four-day workweek. Other employers, she continued, are also establishing workplace benefits, such as upskilling opportunities, and looking to invest in mental health and wellness for their employees.

The emphasis on positive talent management helping to create good, healthy organisations and thus great service of customers was explored as the critical link between employee experience and customer experience. Christopher Ong, Senior Vice-President and Managing Director of DHL Express Singapore, presented a session that delved into the strategic importance of designing and delivering an exceptional employee experience that translates to superior customer experience.

He emphasised the interconnectedness of talent acquisition and customer loyalty, highlighting how a positive employee experience reverberates positively throughout the organisation. Furthermore, Ong advocates for devising a holistic approach to win both the hearts and minds of employees and customers alike, and explained, “Motivated people is key to customer satisfaction so make sure people feel it when there’s success in the organisation.”

The discussion on employee benefits and happier employees continued as Larisa Beckhouse Okeke, Chief Marketing Officer, Singapore and Hong Kong, Global Head of Research and Insights, International Health, Cigna Healthcare, explored the subject. “The biggest investment in your organisation is in your people and your talent,” Beckhouse declared. There is thus an imperative to invest in keeping your employees high in vitality, not just physically but also mentally, to thrive in the now. Sharing insights from a study that Cigna did with eminent psychologist Dr Richard Ryan in measuring vitality in employees, Beckhouse identified eight elements that made up vitality: emotional health, environmental health, financial health, intellect, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual health.

What they found was that on a global level, only two out of 10 people were able to achieve vitality from a combination of all eight elements, and only one out of 10 in Singapore, which Beckhouse saw as “not unusual” compared to different countries. The thing that was driving these elements down was pressure, and as Beckhouse breaks it down, women, Gen Z and millennial employees were facing more issues of burnout than ever. It becomes imperative thus to listen to what these employees want to retain employment numbers and engage with them, and it starts with more flexibility granted in the way they work, more private health care plans for security, and better wellness programmes offered in organisations. 

HR Tech Festival Asia 2024 also delved into the multifaceted realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) through a panel discussion moderated by Leadershift Inc’s Dr Tanvi. Industry leaders—such as Sophie Guerin, Global Head of Inclusion, Wealth and Personal Banking, HSBC; Roman Matla, Director, Asia-Pacific DE&I Lead, Google; and Marcela Esquivel, Vice-President, People Experience, Asia and Middle East, Sony Music Entertainment—explored actionable strategies for DE&I initiatives.

Notably, Matla stressed the potential for the Asia-Pacific region to influence global DE&I efforts. He highlighted the concept of “belonging” as a key thread that binds diverse teams together, suggesting that successful strategies in this region can be valuable models for other parts of the world.

Ultimately, what does it mean to encourage belonging and inclusivity at an organisation? For Loh Chuan Hui, Chief People Officer, Asia, Lendlease, it means delving into aspects such as discussing equity to get everyone on the same playing field. Loh explored the connotations behind the term, “belonging”, and how equity does not necessarily mean an equal proportion of resources.

READ MORE: HR Tech Festival Asia 2024: Be future-ready and embrace change

More needs to be done to boost a better and more vital workforce, she shared, and it starts with establishing good psychological safety within the workforce, which then leads to encouraging trust among employees. This involves starting with leadership, focusing on the values and behaviours of these leaders and employees, and leveraging data for good insights to create policies within organisations.

Capping off two days of insightful discussions and valuable connections, HR Tech Festival Asia 2024 concluded on a high note, and HRM Asia would like to take the opportunity to thank all the speakers, sponsors, partners and attendees who have contributed to make the event a success and we hope to see you again in 2025!