Redefining the role of HR leadership in reshaping work

More than 170 HR and business leaders discussed topics like modern HR mindsets, flexible work and employee wellbeing at HR Leadership Series: Live.
By: | September 12, 2022

Today’s CHROs need to embrace a modern HR mindset to help their organisation grow a purpose-led and inclusive culture that mobilises employees, said Gaston Carrion, Strategy & Consulting, Managing Director, T&O/Human Potential APAC Lead & Global Employee Experience Lead, Accenture.

Speaking with more than 170 HR and business leaders in Singapore as part of his keynote address at the inaugural HR Leadership Series: Live on September 8, Carrion highlighted, “Our research found that by meeting six fundamental human needs through work, companies can unlock their people’s full potential.”

Including elements such as financial, emotional and mental, relational, physical, purposeful, and employable, the role of CHRO, he added, is to help employees create a boundary between work and life, while keeping them employable through upskilling and reskilling.

As the way we work continues to evolve, winning the war on talent will also pivot around employees’ total experience.

“The successful design and delivery of employee experiences requires us to take a holistic and considered approach to balance the relationship between physical, digital and human dimensions of work,” Carrion said.

Excessive time spent at work has created persistent stress that has left employees exhausted and choosing to leave their jobs, said Stephanie Silvester, Senior Marketing Director, Asia Pacific, ADP

Citing findings from ADP’s People at Work 2022 report, she pointed out that besides the length of work being a major source of stress, employees having to take on more responsibility without increased pay is by far the single biggest stressor employees are faced with today.

She continued, “Time translates to flexibility, and flexibility is highly desired. Employees want to be able to construct their time in a way they may fulfil their obligations to their families. The challenge is that when employees do utilise the flexible working arrangements that employers offer them, they are subject to scrutiny.”

“Flexibility is important and is not a luxury perk. It’s a basic expectation of being able to live a life that combines the employee’s family commitments and their social contract with the employer.”

In shaping their HR strategies for 2023, organisations should focus on workforce trends that they can control and help their workforce acquire the skills and competencies to be successful, advised Low Peck Kem, Chief Human Resources Officer & Advisor (Workforce Development), Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore.

As workplace emotions continue to shift in terms of employee loyalty and devotion to work, human development and ESG are becoming increasingly important for organisations, added Dr Bob Aubrey, Founder & Chair of the Advisory Board, ASEAN Human Development Organisation (AHDO).

During an engaging fireside chat, Dr Bob and Low discussed how work should no longer be looked upon as merely a job description. Instead, organisations should create a more inclusive work environment that shows employees that you care and want to invest in them.

“Support employees to upgrade and reskill themselves, so that they can continue to be relevant and are able to contribute to the organisation and communicate with them on why certain decisions are made,” Low said.

To be truly disruption-proof, organisations need to build a strong foundation that goes beyond a mindset of agility, said Rob Squires, Vice President and Head of Sales for Asia and Japan, Ceridian.

This, he added, involves embracing a change-ready culture and having agile systems that can quickly adapt to changes as they occur.

Adding to Squires’ comments was Suyin Enriquez, Vice President, International HR, Ceridian, who highlighted how a change-ready culture can help to create an environment where employees feel comfortable embracing change.

Organisations may, for example, put in place comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and employee retention programmes, or offer more flexible roles throughout the organisation, she suggested. 

She further encouraged employers to create an environment where employees feel they have the space to consider their personal development within the company.

“As leaders in the company or as HR leaders, we need to help create the mind space, and learning must be employee-led but manager-enabled. Employees must take responsibility and understand what they would like to achieve, but managers have to help them throughout the journey by guiding and coaching them.”

A community-first approach encourages inclusivity and fosters a culture of wellbeing in the organisation, said Leon Leong, Co-Founder, MindFi.

Drawing on studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that shows the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide due to the pandemic, he added, “Support from the community is critical for workplace wellbeing. Unfortunately, there is little or no awareness of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), leading to low utilisation.”

With traditional EAPs being individualistic, reactive, passive, stigmatic, inhibiting, and represents a “checking of the box”, Leong recommended community-first EAPs that can more effectively enhance psychological safety, reduce social stigma, and promote open conversations on topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

These EAPs, which can include combing private counselling and coaching with group sessions, are designed to be social and communal, proactive and preventive, inclusive, empowering, and focuses on fostering organic growth and a culture of wellbeing, Leong explained.

To look ahead, the HR industry must learn from the challenges brought about by the pandemic, including the talent crunch, said Alvin Goh, Executive Director, Singapore Human Resources Institute, who moderated a panel discussion that featured Federico Donato, President, Eurocham Singapore; and David Hendrick Jr, Director, People Development, Centre for Healthcare Innovation, Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Donato observed that while the labour market is facing manpower shortages, businesses may find it difficult to retain high-performing employees and suggested they look beyond the talent’s profile and consider their personal traits and characteristics.

He added, “The market in Singapore has been really strong, which I think is one of the challenges with retention. In the last 15 to 20 years, it has been harder to retain employees because they can earn more elsewhere. In the banking industry, for example, it is extremely competitive to retain employees and provide reasons for them to stay.”

Advocating for the approach of providing employees with lifelong employability and the infrastructure for lifelong learning, Hendrick also provided an alternate perspective on employee retention. “The other way of looking at it is, when an employee leaves, at least we know we have helped train them for the industry and they leave as a better person.”

With employees no longer wanting to be part of an organisation that is not purpose-driven, the priority for HR leaders is to develop a purpose-driven culture that can attract and retain the talent they need, said Elisa Mallis, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL).

While discussing the key areas that HR leaders should focus on as they head into 2023, Mallis also highlighted how HR leaders need to cultivate a safe environment where they balance flexibility and control as they look to lead their organisation in a hybrid world.

She also provided fresh insights into the key finding of CCL’s newly released Global Asian Leader: From Asia, For the World report, which outlines a five-step action plan for aspiring global Asian leaders, along with organisational shifts needed to build a diverse leadership pipeline.

“While Asian talent has developed tremendously across multiple leadership attributes over the last decade, our latest research reveals an alarming trend over the last few years of decreasing representation of Asian leaders in top multi-national teams. There has never been a more important time to enable global Asian leadership to better equip organisations to overcome the massive regional and global challenges we face,” Mallis concluded.

Organised by HRM Asia, HR Leadership Series: Live brought together more than 170 HR and business leaders in Asia to discuss the critical strategies that prioritise hybrid leadership and change management skills.

To provide more key insights into the role HR leader can play in shaping work in 2023, HRM Asia will also be organising the CHRO Series, which will be taking place on 20 October (CHRO Indonesia), 17 November (CHRO Malaysia), and 1 December (CHRO Singapore).

Join us and be part of the discussion on how as CHROs, you can put HR strategies into action with impact!