On 20 April, ChapmanCG co-hosted an HR Leaders gathering with Google at the company’s Singapore offices. The topic of ‘Successfully Managing Change: Preparing Asia for the Workplace of the Future’ stimulated interesting discussions among the 21 Talent Acquisition Leaders present, and a number of key insights were shared. Hosted by Kerry O’Shea, the TA Lead for Sales, SEA/China with Google, the event saw the participation of leaders from a diverse group of industries including technology, FMCG, pharmaceutical, hospitality, media, oil and gas and consulting.

Challenging Convention

Kerry started the meeting by challenging conventional TA practices. Traditionally, Asia has looked towards and even adopted western models for managing commerce and the economy. However, the success of the Japanese economy is instigating a rethink about the potential of an insular approach to economic recovery. China, a serial infringer when it comes to copyright laws, is known for duplicating existing inventions and incorporating marginal innovations, but the country is now coming up with more innovative business ideas on its own. Asia, formerly a ‘follower’ of the U.S. and Europe in the corporate world, has turned the tables and is now leading the change with some of the region’s best practices being emulated by the West.

We are seeing that in China and other Asian countries, MNCs are having to rethink their Employee Engagement models, as these international companies are losing talent to local conglomerates, which are becoming more appealing as employers of choice. Asia’s time has come due to a combination of the increasing market potential, revenue contribution, lower costs, large talent pool, innovations, values and of course the calibre of its HR.

How is HR in Asia Leading and Contributing to This Change?

Global HQ is not only listening to Asia, Asia is increasingly leading and influencing practices and views. In Talent Acquisition, the need for customising the Employee Value Proposition to take into consideration the diversity in Asia is becoming increasingly important, especially in markets like China, India and Japan. The ability to do this will differentiate the employer in the market. Microsoft HR in APAC is now finding that it has increasing influence with HQ, due to the strong working relationship and chemistry between TA, the larger HR team and the business stakeholders. Schneider Electric mentioned that a third of its global leadership team is now based in Asia, and it also has its fair share of Asian leaders based in Europe. All of this is contributing to Asia’s transformation from ‘follower’ to ‘leader’ when it comes to business practice.

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‘Disruptive’ Talent

It was agreed that the ability to assess, identify and hire a ‘disruptive’ leader will be a game changer in a high-growth market like Asia. Leaders who are bold enough to break the rules, and maybe even redefine the playing field in the process, are often the most effective in markets that are still developing. Building an in-house tool and using the analytics to calibrate and identify talent who can handle stress will also contribute to the grooming of such leaders. Bloomberg believes that one way of grooming these types of leaders is through a cross pollination programme where business leaders do a stint in HR and vice versa.

The group touched on the fact that in order to encourage disruption, there may be a need to redefine what success looks like. Asian leaders tend not to tolerate mistakes, whereas many lessons learnt from mistakes have resulted in game changing business ideas and inventions.

HR also plays a key role here. As part of transformation, Joan Soong, Director Global Executive Recruitment, Schneider Electric shared that Schneider Electric, a 107 year old organisation, sent its HR leaders to forward-thinking companies like Google, Wipro and Adidas to learn about disruptive HR practices. Armed with this new knowledge, these HR leaders were tasked with selecting and adapting the ideas they felt could be customised for Schneider Electric.

Talent Acquisition – the Next Wave of Change

Many in the room felt that Talent Acquisition is on the verge of doing something new and exciting. Alexander Nicolaus, the MD Leadership/TA Growth Markets and APAC from Accenture, shared some exciting trends in the market. These included getting job applicants to register as ‘insiders’ instead of applying for jobs, on-demand interviewing, mobile Applicant Tracking Systems and social recruitment, which models recruitment on dating.

Innovation is also brewing in the hospitality sector where it typically takes 15 to 17 years to groom a General Manager (GM) through a structured career path. For InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), this meant it would not be able to groom GMs fast enough for the 50 new hotels that it is adding to the group every year. Andy Willshaw, IHG Head of TA for APAC and MEA, shared that his organisation has successfully piloted a new accelerated GM development programme in Singapore, which has won both an external award and internal validation. This programme will be adapted in China, and its continued success will help to ease the talent crunch for the company’s new properties.

Voice of HR in Asia

The voice of Asia is gaining ground in the Talent Acquisition space, and HR in the region has a key role to play in leading innovative and best practices, so that the world will continue to listen. Many thanks go to Google for hosting this engaging meeting, and we look forward to our next Talent Acquisition gathering later in the year.