Humanising HR: Putting people first in the modern workplace

Howden Singapore’s Sarah Wong underscores a crucial transition to human-centric HR practices that prioritise employee wellbeing for sustained success.
By: | December 12, 2023

For decades, the traditional HR model has emphasised efficiency, standardisation, and compliance. However, the evolving dynamics of the workforce and the growing recognition of the importance of employee wellbeing have prompted a paradigm shift towards human-centric HR practices. This transformation is not merely a change in approach; it is a fundamental rethinking of how organisations view and value their employees.

Speaking with HRM Asia, Sarah Wong, Senior Director of Employee Benefits at Howden Singapore, attributed the prominence of human-centric HR practices in Asia-Pacific to the shifting demographics of the workforce. “With a younger and increasingly diverse workforce, organisations and their HR teams are reassessing their approach to HR. Millennials and Gen Z employees, who make up a substantial portion of the workforce today, place a high value on workplace culture, employee wellbeing, and a sense of purpose in their work,” she said.

The link between employee wellbeing and organisational performance has also become increasingly recognised, as Sarah explained, “Research consistently shows that happy and engaged employees are more productive and innovative. Employers are realising that prioritising the human element in HR policies directly contributes to improved business outcomes.”

And lastly, the pandemic acted as a catalyst, accelerating the adoption of flexible work arrangements and underscoring the importance of robust employee support mechanisms, she said. “Organisations have recognised the need for agility in HR policies to address the evolving needs of employees, reinforcing the shift towards a human-centric approach.”

Designing human-centric employee benefits

At the heart of human-centric HR lies the design of employee benefits that are tailored to the diverse needs and expectations of the modern workforce. According to Sarah, successful human-centric benefits programmes share several key characteristics, with comprehensive health and wellness initiatives taking centre stage. This approach places a strong emphasis on prioritising physical and mental wellbeing by providing extensive health insurance coverage and implementing holistic wellness programmes.

Sarah also underscored the importance of acknowledging work-life balance through the provision of support for flexible work arrangements. This empowers employees to effectively manage both their professional responsibilities and personal lives.

Transparent communication is identified as another critical aspect of human-centric benefits. Sarah advocated for organisations to communicate the value and details of employee benefits, fostering transparency in the benefits offered. This communication strategy not only ensures that employees are well-informed but also contributes to building trust and a positive employer-employee relationship.

Additionally, regular review and adaption are emerging as vital practices for organisations committed to a human-centric approach. Sarah recommended continuous assessment of the effectiveness of human-centric benefits through regular reviews. This involves considering metrics such as employee satisfaction, utilisation rates, and retention, allowing organisations to stay agile and align benefit offerings with emerging workforce trends and industry benchmarks for sustained success.

“By placing a strong emphasis on these human-centric principles in the design of employee benefits, organisations not only demonstrate a commitment to their employees’ wellbeing but also position themselves as employers of choice.” – Sarah Wong, Senior Director of Employee Benefits, Howden Singapore

She continued, “By placing a strong emphasis on these human-centric principles in the design of employee benefits, organisations not only demonstrate a commitment to their employees’ wellbeing but also position themselves as employers of choice. This, in turn, enhances overall business success by fostering a motivated and engaged workforce, ultimately providing a competitive edge in attracting and retaining top talent in today’s dynamic business landscape.”

“Of course, all these are easier said than done. It is often very difficult for in-house HR teams to achieve all of this on their own, and partnering with a broker who has the right knowledge and expertise around employee benefits will make the job far easier.”

Embracing the digital frontier

As organisations continue to embrace human-centric HR, Sarah outlined several key priorities for 2024. For instance, in navigating the evolving landscape of HR, she emphasised the vital need to embrace digital transformation. This involves leveraging technology, exemplified by tools like Howden’s MediHub app, to enhance efficiency in HR processes, particularly in benefits administration.

Recognising the growing awareness of mental health issues, she advocated for an increased emphasis on employee mental health. This entails prioritising wellbeing through the implementation of support programmes, counselling services, and the creation of a stigma-free environment within the organisational culture.

READ MORE: How great employee benefits can drive up talent acquisition

Sustainability will also emerge as a pivotal theme, from Sarah’s perspective, as she urged organisations to integrate sustainable practices into their operations. This involves adopting environmentally friendly policies, implementing social responsibility programmes, and upholding ethical business practices.

“By focusing on these priorities, organisations can position themselves as forward-thinking, human-centric, and adaptable to the evolving demands of the business environment,” Sarah concluded.