On 30th March, nearly 30 HR Leaders from both global and local companies representing a variety of industries gathered at the Mondelez offices in Bangkok to discuss ‘Successfully Managing Change: Preparing Thailand for the Workplace of the Future’.

Our host, Yosayut Sahawatcharin, Head of HR of Mondelez, started the meeting by taking the group through the Mondelez journey of change over the past few years. Yosayut identified the company’s drivers of change as: 1) Organisational Change Drivers, such as Leadership Transitions, M&A, Restructuring; 2) Macroeconomics: Customer Demographics, competitors with new technology-driven business models, new laws and regulations, and the political environment; and 3) Technological: Big Data, data-driven products and mobile capabilities.

It was no surprise to see that the rate of change has nearly doubled in the last three years for the company, but what was really interesting was how this has affected employee performance. Yosayut told us that Mondelez found that the more frequent and/or drastic the changes, the more stress the employees felt, which had a negative impact on performance. As such, in what has become an ever-changing environment, HR has a much bigger and more important role to play in guiding the leaders to manage the pace of change in a way that limits the negative effects on performance.


Engagement in an Environment of Change: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

The discussion then turned to Employee Engagement, which is always a concern in times of transition. Grace Munsayac, Country Director of HR for Yum Brands, shared the journey that her company has been through recently. Grace told us that HR at Yum Brands trains the business leaders specifically to help them adapt more quickly to change. The company encourages employees to be more aware of themselves and each other, and about how they are reacting to the changes the business is going through. She felt that this constant communication helped the employees and the management to embrace the changes more quickly, and Grace also emphasised the importance of using a simple enough message and communicating this to all levels. Yum Brands does regular town halls and recognises success, and through this regular engagement, employees feel that they are part of the journey the company is going through, and they take ownership to make it work for them.

Employee Engagement Survey? Get it Right

While much of the discussion focused on how to improve Employee Engagement, Matthew Grose, Head of Human Resources and Business Excellence from MSIG, shared that his company performs Engagement surveys bi-annually, and the scores are quite high. In his opinion, this is due to the longevity of the HR Leaders and how proactively engaged with the Business they have been over the years. He also made a very interesting point about the surveys themselves, which are often generic or western-centric. According to Matthew, cultural differences do affect the way the employees answer the surveys, which could be another reason that some of the scores were so unusually high. It is important to have local input and to customise Employee Engagements surveys for the market in which they are being used, if you want to gain relevant insights.

GE’s Constant Evolution

Sherman Ip, Organization & Talent Development Leader for Asia-Pacific with GE, shared with us the current changes happening at his company, which these days is all about change and growth. The four key catalysts that keep GE evolving are globalisation, the extremely interconnected world, a multi-generational workforce and technological changes. The company has moved away from feedback and annual performance reviews and instead has adopted a programme of constant ‘Insight’. The organisation has even developed an app for employees to share anonymous insight at anytime, which has helped to create a continuous performance dialogue, rather than a conversation that happens once a year.

In addition to these specific changes around performance evaluation, the larger landscape of the business has changed, as it was felt that the old model was too slow to adapt to the constantly changing business environment. The company was previously very hierarchal and relied on the executive team for timely and accurate decisions, which wasn’t always possible. Now GE has created a more linear structure, so the leaders have to learn and adapt more quickly, connecting with the right people in the organisation, in order to do this. This is a much more fluid and agile structure, which helps the company to adapt to changes in a much more timely way.


The Ever-Changing Landscape

And finally, Graham Tollit, and Vargin Yeke, both Directors at ChapmanCG shared the trends that the company is seeing globally. Graham shared that mankind has experienced more change within the past 10 years than in any 100 year period previously. Market disruption is happening faster and faster, as evidenced by the fact that only 57 of today’s Fortune 500 companies have appeared on the list every year since 1955. The principal effect of this is that leaders, both in HR and in the wider business, must be agile and open to repurposing assets and people to accommodate the changing markets.


Leaders of the future will need to have a global perspective, and they must have the ability to be connectors and influencers across borders. Millennials see social interaction via technology as a very natural extension of, or even a substitute for, in-person social interactions. As this group becomes ever more prevalent in the workforce, it will be interesting to see how influencing and engaging develops as a result. The most important qualities found in leaders today will be an on-going commitment to continual learning and leaning into the inevitable changes that are coming down the track.

We would like to thank first and foremost Yosayut Sahawatcharin and his team at Mondelez for showing us true Thai hospitality in hosting this wonderful event, as well as everyone who attended and contributed to making the discussions so informative and engaging. We look forward to our next Thailand event later this year.