The HR industry is not immune to disruptors, and now more than ever they need to focus and join forces to share insights in order to build business-driven teams at a time of business disruption and transformation.
With many thanks to our co-host Shu Fen Koh, Head of Human Resources, APAC SWIFT, HR leaders from multi-national corporations (MNCs) and local conglomerates across industries such as financial services, FMCG, IT, electronics, retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and education, came together at the SWIFT offices in Kuala Lumpur to actively to discuss their own experiences and thoughts on a make-or-break subject.
For MNCs with presence in Malaysia, the senior HR leaders based there are rarely the regional decision-makers. However their contributions and the insights they offer are crucial to the success of the region as a whole. We were proud and inspired to watch old and new acquaintances alike engaged in passionate and transparent discussion, whether to share their own ideas and experiences or gain knowledge from others.
Rapid Tech Advancements
The two areas needing the most immediate attention, and putting the most pressure on companies are the rapid tech advancements and the rise of “the Millennial”.
An eloquent and fascinating introduction from SWIFT’s HR leader, Shu Fen Koh, served as a launchpad for some strong debate. With a clear breakdown of SWIFT’s diverse workforce, including the melting pot of different generations in different managerial roles, she spoke openly of the agile transformation currently underway locally and worldwide.
Big Data and a New Breed of Consumer
Shahzad Umar, Head of Human Resources, Malaysia & Singapore at Nestlé gave another industry point of view from his organisation, a decades-established company in the FMCG space. Focusing less on the internal workforce, and looking instead to the external consumer, it was apparent through Big Data that their consumers required food and beverages that not only promoted better health, but that also minimised their impact on the environment – as obvious as this may sound, consumer sentiment is not always accurately reflected in sales. Relying instead on Big Data Nestlé was able to meet market demand at right point in time.
Start-ups as External Advisors
Large-scale MNCs can access big data at an increasingly rapid pace, and so we are now seeing these international giants collaborating with local start-ups. In doing so they are able to leverage the fast moving trends and technologies these small agile teams can keep up with. In effect these start-ups act as external advisors to a company which has had to find new ways to keeping track of their consumer. It’s a relationship that HR leaders need to manage with agility and sensitivity.
Rewarding and Recognising High-Performers
Showing appreciation for high-performing individuals is another HR concern, and the pursuit of financial gain is not always the main motivator to excel and/or remain. Whereas extra bonuses are a sure-fire way of retaining certain demographics, for a new initiative to be effective it often involves such an overhaul. That overhaul might become labour and financially ineffective. Several examples discussed at the session, argued that a company needs to seriously consider the false-economy and financial risk of losing its top talent should they not invest in a performance review overhaul.
Although finding solutions is an on-going journey, the current 20-something workforce has brought to the forefront a new culture of values and ideals that the senior leadership needs to quickly understand and accommodate for. Concluding our networking session, some final comments forewarned that this new era of Millennials cannot be treated as a ‘problem’ requiring suppression. Rather, this is the next stage of a company’s lifecycle and active measures must be made in order to adapt with speed and agility, in order to survive the journey. And this can herald a major disruption to previous ways of thinking and of structuring the function of HR.
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