People-centric HR management important for the “now of work”

CHRO Malaysia highlighted some of the key challenges facing CHROs today, including placing their people at the heart of all business strategies.
By: | November 23, 2021

The pandemic has forever changed the “now of work”, and CHROs are in a unique position to reshape what the HR function looks like, said Jason Averbook, CEO & Co-Founder of Leapgen, at the recent CHRO Online Malaysia event organised by HRM Asia.

To do that, CHROs must first understand that successful digital transformation in HR starts with the “mindset and vision”, followed by the “persons/audience” involved and their “journeys” before finally deciding on a “technology solution”

These four elements, said Averbook, should always be aligned with the overarching “purpose” of the organisation in relation to the employee value proposition.

He added that companies typically start with technology, with CHROs thinking HR technology is the answer to successful digital transformation when it should be the other way round.

Additionally, HR technology should be developed based on the understanding of employees by creating personas and using “design thinking” – one of the most important people-centric HR concepts today, Averbook highlighted.

In Malaysia, 33% of companies are looking to increase their headcount, while 66% of professionals are expected to seek new employment next year, meaning CHROs will need to focus more on talent retention than talent acquisition, said John Antos, Vice President Strategy, Global Payroll & Asia Pacific, ADP.

85% of firms in Malaysia also see the need to equip employees with digital skills. The need for digitalisation has permeated entire organisations with the focus being shifted from digital productivity and remote working skills to technical skills like data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, digital marketing, and software development.

Employees themselves are also realising this need to upskill digitally, with 71% of workers in Malaysia fearing a job loss due to automation in 2021 – up from 34% in 2020, and 87% thinking it is their own responsibility to upskill, Antos said.

In addition, findings from the ADP Research Institute showed that on-site workers are more likely to get career advancement than those working remotely as managers prefer on-site workers for hiring and promoting. However, if the manager is also working remotely, the effect is more or less “neutralised”.

In a panel discussion, Chella Pitchai, AVP & Head, Talent, Learning and Organisational Transformation at Biocon Biologics, said today’s CHROs are faced with the unprecedented challenge of managing four generations of workers – each with their expectations of what work should look like.

For Gen Z workers who have just entered the workforce last year, communicating company culture and looking for agility in potential hires are important considerations for organisations.

Concurring, Koljit Singh (Ajit), Senior Manager (HRM Excellence & IR) of BASF Petronas Chemicals, said cultivating a sense of belonging, providing opportunities for internal mobility and flexibility at work would be good ways to deal with that challenge, especially when it involves Gen Z workers.

As leaders, CHROs need to shift from a positional authority to one of moral authority, said Fong Tuan Chen, Chief People Officer, Berjaya Corporate Berhad, in another panel discussion. What this means is that CHROs must champion the concept of the often-used phrase “people first”, and not just pay lip service to it, he explained,

Agreeing, Nadiah Tan Abdullah, CHRO, SP Setia, added that leaders need to practise self-discipline and, be resilient and empathetic when managing staff remotely during the pandemic. She added that the CHROs of the future need to have a “renaissance” mindset – being a versatile person with a broad range of skill sets to deal with employee experience, emotional and mental-well-being issues.

As work becomes increasingly digitalised, both Chen and Nadiah concurred that contract or project work will slowly but surely become more dominant than permanent work, and CHROs must prepare for such a scenario. They believe that once contract work becomes mainstream, salary and benefit structures would no longer be as important in HR management as before.

READ: Redefining the role of the CHRO in building the future organisation

Dr Mohan Ravuru, Director, Medical and Scientific Affairs, APAC, Abbott, said vaccination is the most effective way to control the spread of the virus, with workplace adjustments being the second most-effective measure. He proposed a “Swiss cheese model” of defence against COVID-19, where multiple layers of protection, including testing and vaccination, act in unison to block the spread of the virus.

For workplaces that need employees to be onsite, Vinay Dixit, Regional Business Director, Abbott Rapid Diagnostics, said it is crucial for companies to test staff frequently. This is because even though vaccination provides protection for an individual, that same individual can still be infectious.

CHRO Malaysia is part of the CHRO Online Series 2021, which concludes with CHRO Singapore, which is taking place on Thursday, December 2.