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Regional HR Leaders Share Experiences on Recent HR Realignment Strategies: No Easy Fix for Medium-Sized Companies

The Chapman Consulting Group today hosted an HR roundtable discussion for 18 select HR Heads. Regional HR Leaders from the likes of Procter & Gamble, BP, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, DHL, PepsiCo, UBS and a number of other high profile multinationals met over lunch at the Singapore Cricket Club to discuss the topic of “HR Leadership Strategies to Effectively Structure Regional HR Team Responsibilities and Maximise Productivity in the Current Economic Climate”.

Leaders discussed the impact of current unpredictable economic conditions on HR strategy and decision-making. There was a general consensus among attendees that now more than ever the HR team is being put under pressure to achieve immediate results in alignment with business imperatives. These imperatives varied widely between participants across industry sector and company. For some it meant that HR must be extremely ‘high touch’, flexible and customised in its approach; for others it meant the adoption of HR Shared Service strategies that help to streamline regional HR decision-making; and for others still it meant the continued adoption of technologies to further automate processes and ensure high user accessibility.

With current market forces putting pressure on HR budgets, expatriate terms, travel budgets and employee bonuses, the pressure to optimise productivity is affecting everyone. A significant amount of today’s discussion centred around the different ways in which HR teams are structured, and it became apparent that there is no ‘one size fits all’ HR model when it comes to regional HR teams in Asia. Some leaders represented companies where the business was implementing a new ‘Centre of Excellence’ model, while others had found more return on investment by collapsing their regional model to return to a more traditional approach. The scale of the company was the main factor playing a part in the decision to go one way or another, leaving particularly medium-sized companies with a hard decision to make.

The question of whether to retain critical processes in-house versus moving to outsourced arrangements in efforts to enhance productivity was also addressed. Some leaders talked about success with outsourcing agreements, but cautioned that it was difficult to see short-term positive results and that a long-term approach was needed. Experiences ranged from those who had seen numerous failed reorganisation implementations to those who had penned successful 10-year long-term arrangements. The group agreed that the argument for outsourcing is less clear-cut in pure Asia Pacific Japan structures that aren’t linked to global alignments, as the cost savings in this region are not as great as in Europe or North America, and the potential complications due to regional variations can make the resulting ‘solution’ seem like a misnomer. Companies looking for a ‘quick fix’ to their systemic organisational problems should not assume that a consultant or an outsourced partner can take on something which the organisation themselves couldn’t get to grips with. So the key question before outsourcing was whether an in-sourced Shared Services model could first be put into effect. Again, our participants experienced varying degrees of success with this experiment, and some had purposefully shunned it altogether in favour of keeping greater control of HR services.

As a final thought, some HR Leaders talked about the need to reduce the number of HR roles, especially across different business units. Some discussed the collapsing of duplicated HR roles operating within different business verticals. Others discussed the emergence of smaller sub-regional centres of excellence that reduce in-country HR team sizes. There also appeared to be more instances of double-hat or triple-hat HR positions emerging, which has the added advantage of keeping team sizes small and nimble, while at the same time increasing the flexibility of the talent base to take on new challenges and also enhance job variety. One participant had even begun to implement a campaign that gives employees the responsibility and ‘ownership’ of their own skills development, meaning that it is left up to the individual to ensure that their skills remain relevant even as the company’s business strategies change.

In summarising leadership strategies to extract maximum value from the regional HR team, the lunch concluded with The Chapman Consulting Group’s own recommendations :

  • Understand the strengths and workload capability of your HR team members. This allows them the chance to add extra role responsibilities and to be redeployed into more productive areas.
  • Communicate openly with your regional HR team and foster a tighter in-company HR community. In times of uncertainty and with reduced face-to-face time because of travel restrictions, it’s important to keep tight ranks.
  • Continually demonstrate to the business the value of HR. And don’t be complacent — be ready to redefine this in accordance with changing business expectations.
  • Be creative with HR initiatives especially in times of reduced budgets. Don’t spend unnecessarily and be creative with what you have.
  • Don’t lose sight of the longer term picture. Now more than ever, its important to focus on retaining high performers and to harness the larger supply of HR talent building on the external market.

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Key Contributors:

Matthew Chapman

Founder

Global Management
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Global Management

Matthew Chapman

Founder

Matthew (Matt) Chapman is the Founder of ChapmanCG.

He has also created the Thrive HR Exchange, a global community platform for people leaders and HR professionals to find and exchange inspiration, ideas and insights. Discover some of his interviews with HR leaders here.

Matt has a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Business Law from the University of New South Wales, Australia. He is a Singapore Citizen and divides his time between Asia Pacific, the Americas and EMEA.

Matt is a wellness, self-improvement and fitness addict. He has completed six desert, 250km ultra-marathons in Chile, China, Egypt, Antarctica, Namibia and Madagascar.

EA Registration Number: R1111550 Licence Number: 08S3543

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