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Korea: "Big Data" in a Smaller Market – A One-Size Fits All Approach Just Doesn't Work

Hosted by: BNY Mellon Johnson Controls Nike

In May, ChapmanCG held three separate meetings for Korea HR Leaders in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do, hosted by Nike, BNY Mellon and Johnson Controls. The general theme of these three discussions was ‘Big Data’ and how it is affecting HR management and HR practices in Korea.

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Size Matters

The three meetings were all very lively, and the groups covered a number of interesting points. However, one general theme that we heard from all groups was the danger of collecting too much data and forcing excessive complexity on smaller and lower resourced HR Leaders.

For many multinational companies, Korea is often a smaller office with less employees, and this can cause particular problems with corporate processes and systems that are designed for larger scale operations. In some cases, HR Leaders were forced to be the HR Business Partner for many different business units (each with their own separate reporting structures), in addition to implementing many complex processes, which were designed for larger employee populations. In another case study, the Korea HR Head was being asked to collect a lot of information for a ‘big data’ project, but the smaller population size in Korea could not justify this level of detail. In another humorous example, one well-known multinational tried to roll out a new system of job coding, which included 15,000 different categories. This probably made sense at global HQ level, where the country population numbered into the tens of thousands; but it becomes impractical at best and unfeasible at worst, when implemented in smaller locations such as Korea.

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Silver Lining – Customisation

The ‘silver lining’ to the discussion was that some companies have managed to create a regional structure where the Korea HR Leader is shielded from this complexity. In these companies, there is a ‘two-speed’ set-up where larger markets (in one example these were China, Japan and Australia) can be involved in high-level projects, and can align HR by Business unit, while smaller markets (in the same example Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam) can be structured differently, and may only be involved in high-value projects. Where companies can develop a more tailor-made approach, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, there is a greater chance of achieving successful outcomes, based on the resources and scale of each individual country.

In Korea the key to ‘big data’ and other complex processes is, wherever possible, to keep it simple. Allow HR Leaders access to the key data that they need to make practical decisions, such as data on attrition, salary, performance metrics, and even age and diversity. When implementing new processes, it’s always better to start in the present, rather than to waste time inputting historical data. Other keys for success include limiting approval rules and streamlining decisions, so that time is not wasted. There’s always a balance between speed and compliance, but many organisations swing too close to delay and to far from agility in the market.

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Here’s What People are Saying:

“It was a very interactive two hours where almost everyone actively shared views, thoughts, and experiences. A great session where I could lift myself out of my routine and get my thoughts and views refreshed. As well as great fun and lots of laughs!” Jinny Son, Alcon

“The discussion was invaluable to discuss more about what HR actions are needed going forward to make the right decisions based on efficient data analysis and system integration. It was also good to hear about current obstacles and difficulties in maintaining accurate data in HR systems.” Alex Jeong, BNY Mellon

“I was happy to meet up with HR colleagues at the meeting, and the agenda we discussed refreshed my thinking into how HR information and data should be practically utilized.” DeokSoo Kim, BorgWarner

“As a westerner working for a Korean chaebol expanding globally through acquisitions, it was great meeting Korean HR Leaders working for multi-nationals to understand the cultural and change management challenges they experience when introducing global best practices in Korea.” Ken Cotrell, Doosan

“I love the diversity of participants’ industries, as well as the topics we shared in common. It was a great chance to learn how HR can transform itself to be aligned to business strategy” Robin Joo, Dow Corning

“It was a great opportunity to meet other HR Leaders and exchange views around an important topic for our industry.” Mark Polglaze, General Motors

“I enjoyed the meeting. If we have more imagination about how to combine and analyse ‘Big Data,’ we can make a better workplace for employees, which will also result in positive business impact.” Pilje Kim, Johnson Controls

“It was fun! Joyful to build my HR network and also valuable to learn the best practices from other HR Leaders in Korea.” Sua Jang, Nike

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