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Elevating the Value of HR – Being Innovative in a Changing Era

Hosted by: Nielsen Johnson & Johnson

Springtime is a season of renewal, transformation, hope and prosperity. Steve Brown, Managing Director, and Katherine Qu, Senior Director at ChapmanCG, were thrilled to spend the week with HR leaders in Shanghai discussing the compelling topic of workforce transformation.

A principal characteristic of the new era is not merely change, but change at an accelerating rate, which creates new rules for business and for HR. Organisations face a radically shifting context for the workforce, the workplace, and the world of work. These shifts have changed the rules for nearly every organisational people practice, from learning to management to the definition of work itself.

In the face of transformation, HR is developing to become a truly future-focused partner, and there is certainly a lot we can learn from our HR colleagues here in China.

Here are some informative insights from our recent round-table sessions with Johnson & Johnson and Nielsen:

HR at the forefront of digital transformation
As Bill Gates put it, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is widely reported to be one of the biggest disruptors for organisations in the future. Instead of reactively waiting for the impact to hit us, HR leaders have taken a proactive role in driving digitalisation and the use of AI within the HR function. That use includes everything from automated processes and chatbots for employee services, digital learning platforms, volume hiring, predictive analytics to facilitate retention, effective workforce planning, and identification of leaders of the future. Data and analytics are being used to inform evidence-based HR/business decisions, which is giving HR much more clout at an executive level.

China spearheading technology innovation
Being one of the key emerging markets for most multinational businesses, China has really stood out for embracing and adopting technology innovation. Local start-ups have broken the competitive boundaries in many industries, proving that AI and big data are disrupting the way businesses and organisations are run traditionally. As Iris Zhou, Head of Talent Acquisition, Asia/JPAC, at Sanofi pointed out, “using AI in attracting talents and transforming HR services is no longer just a nice-to-have initiative, but rather a critical move that determines the success or failure of the business in the age of change”.

Iris shared their journey of using AI in recruitment at Sanofi and how they were able to leverage on the technology advancement in China to initiate this with low cost and high return. The success in China is now being studied and brought over to other markets and regions. Similarly at Bayer, the China team has leveraged on the creative and can-do attitude of the younger generation, as well as the capability of local technology partners to prove what AI can do in enhancing their employee services. This approach has provided evidence to global headquarters to consider AI for a broader rollout.

Prepare the workforce for the revolution
Besides taking a leadership role in driving digital transformation, HR leaders are also playing a crucial part in preparing the workforce for the technology revolution. ‘Is your organisation transformation ready from a structure, skills, technology, and culture perspective?’ This is one of the key questions that HR leaders are helping organisations to address.

Another question is, ‘What are you trying to achieve with digital transformation?’ In a recent interview with Johnson & Johnson, CIO Stuart McGuigan rightly pointed out, “There’s the old belief that people don’t like change. That’s too simplistic. People don’t like difficult change. They don’t like uncertainty. But everyone likes change that makes it easier to be successful, that makes their jobs easier, that creates a compelling experience.”

Therefore, using design thinking to obtain a real understanding of what organisations/people are trying to achieve has become critical. The talent acquisition function is also transforming from focusing on filling vacancies to a shift in ‘values’ rather than ‘culture’ when hiring. This shift changes the focus from who is employed currently to what the organisation wants to look like in the future and who will help to get them there.

Summary of ‘Elevating the Value of HR’ roundtable event
Ultimately, technologies are advancing so fast that our knowledge today will soon be obsolete tomorrow. The true value of the HR function is to help prepare the workforce by supporting employees to develop and broaden their skillsets and adopt a continuous, life-long approach to learning.

Roundtable participants hosted at Johnson and Johnson’s Shanghai office
Roundtable participants hosted at Nielsen’s Shanghai office
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Key Contributors:

Steve Brown
Steve Brown

Managing Director - APAC & EMEA

Global Management
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Steve Brown
Global Management

Steve Brown

Managing Director - APAC & EMEA

Steve has worked for over two decades in the executive search and talent industry across multiple international markets, including the UK/Europe, Australia, Singapore, the Chinese mainland, and Hong Kong. Throughout his career, he has successfully executed numerous high-profile HR searches at the Chief, EXCO, and regional levels, spanning diverse industry sectors. His true passion lies in fostering lifelong relationships with CHROs, HR Leaders, and CEOs, advocating for a skills-based approach to enable inclusive and connected workplaces.

Steve is responsible for leading our world-class consulting team across APAC and EMEA, helping companies transform and accelerate growth by identifying and placing the best commercially astute CHROs and HR leadership teams who will elevate, drive, and sometimes challenge, the people agenda. By promoting the recognition and utilisation of diverse skill sets, we can drive creativity and exceptional performance.

Steve is a member of the Executive Committee at ChapmanCG.

Expertise: Delivering searches at group, international, regional, and market level for CHROs and their direct reports across HR business partnering; HR COO; talent management; people capability; organisation development; talent acquisition; total rewards; people analytics; diversity and inclusion; well-being; and ESG.

EA Registration Number: R1216206 Licence Number: 08S3543 (SG) EA License 69316 (HK)