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Blurring the Lines of the Traditional Employer/Employee Relationship in Hong Kong

Hosted by: Morgan Stanley Moody's

In March, the Chapman Consulting Group facilitated two APAC Talent Leaders’ groups with Moody’s and Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong. Both networking meetings were cross-industrial, and featured a great diversity of TA and TM Leaders from companies such as AXA, Barclays, BASF, Credit Suisse, Dell, Deutsche Bank, Estee Lauder, Nomura, Schneider Electric, Schroders, Standard Chartered Bank, Telstra, UBS, Verizon and Zurich Insurance.


The Growth of the Internal Headhunter Function in Asia

At the TA Leaders’ meeting at Moody’s, the group discussed a broad array of topics spanning from diversity to application tracking systems to social media and employee branding. One of the key themes throughout the meeting was the increasing maturity of the internal recruitment function within multinational organisations in Asia. Some companies shared experiences of setting up an internal headhunting function, which charged the business for its services, and this discouraged line managers from engaging the TA function in ‘window shopping’ exercises. However, the model is tough to manage, since the headhunter mentality could lead to a lack of collaboration and sharing of information between individual team members; therefore, it was imperative to set up a culture – or indeed a formal service agreement based on measurement of team KPIs – to instil a ‘business first’ mentality. In one TA Leader’s experience, it took two quarters before the model worked, and the company found the right mix of people for the roles.

All TA Leaders agreed that upgrading the internal headhunting function is in itself not a panacea, it requires an ongoing improvement in stakeholder management of all interested parties. For instance, with the business itself, the relationship works best where the line manager takes accountability for the hire and TA acts as a facilitator. In one case study, hiring managers themselves have KPIs to own the recruitment function and even handle market mapping, rather than sitting there and asking TA for their best people each time. This has led to a system whereby an internal headhunter is tasked with taking new joiners out for a coffee soon after they start in the company to validate organisational charts, assess the reputation of external headhunters, and to encourage further direct referrals. In a similar example of stakeholder management, another TA Leader has adopted a policy of longer-term relationship-building between internal and external headhunters, referring to externals as ‘recruitment partners’ rather than ‘vendors’, and breaking down the somewhat imperious ‘us and them’ mentality that something acts as a barrier to successful outcomes.

The most interesting new development in the realm of the internal recruiting function is in headhunting employees from your own company, to move them into another team internally. One regional TA Leader gave a fascinating case study about this process, whereby an employee can be headhunted, so long as they ticked a box labelled ‘open to internal options’ as part of their last talent review process. The company has instigated a rule that an employee can be approached for a first-round interview without that employee’s manager being told. The manager is only told about it if the interview moves forward to the second stage, at which point the headhunter can also have a structured discussion with the manager about how to back-fill that employee’s position if they do end up leaving his or her team. This creative approach has both supporters and detractors within the business, so it’s not clear whether the system will be allowed to continue, but it has allowed TA to play a much more important part in Talent Management and Mobility than ever before. Before the policy was in place, these conversations only took place in counter-offer situations where employees had already threatened to resign. It will be interesting to see if other companies adopt this somewhat controversial approach.


Talent Management in Reverse: Reverse Mentoring and Culture Engineering

As with the TA Leaders group, the Regional Heads of Talent Management who met at Morgan Stanley were also interested in discussing new and creative ideas that were breaking the mould, this time in the realms of Executive Development and culture building. In terms of Executive Development, the name of the game is Reverse Mentoring. In one case study, a Group TM Leader flipped their company’s Executive Development programme by sending senior leaders to a group of young digital entrepreneurs, rather than to the usual expensive university business schools. Business leaders were astounded when these young leaders made presentations about future innovations that would make the company’s existing business models obsolete. This led to a high-level process of rethinking business models, inviting collaboration from the company’s customers and end users, resulting in a huge shift in the business culture, processes and direction. The icing on the cake to this ‘priceless’ experience was in fact its price: it was very economical when compared with the huge expense of the conventional business school approach.

Other TM Leaders in the meeting used this case study as a springboard to discuss other examples of ‘reverse mentoring’, where younger and less experienced employees mentor more senior leaders. In some cases it was simply teaching leaders about the ‘Gen X’ and ‘Gen Y’ mind-sets, and about ways these groups want to be managed. In other examples it has led to wide-reaching changes in culture, where companies have placed more emphasis on technology, more continuous feedback between Manager and Executive, and in planning the work space differently to encourage people to interact more frequently and transparently. For some markets in Asia Pacific there is an emphasis on hierarchy, which makes reverse mentoring from juniors to seniors very challenging, but all TM Leaders in the room felt that ‘challenging’ did not mean ‘impossible.’

Finally, a Regional TM Leader discussed the need for overall culture change that came from placing greater emphasis on risk management. The group discussed the challenges in managing this kind of project, particularly when dealing with the variety of different markets across Asia Pacific. The case study revealed the details of a behavioural survey, which asked senior respondents twenty questions about how they would react in a variety of scenarios. The answers were then used to distil the behaviours that define what it means to work in the company. With buy-in from top management, those behaviours are now being trained across the region, so it was a classic ‘top down’ approach. This case study was in stark contrast to another organisation, where the Group TM Leader ‘crowdsourced’ ideas from within the company by means of setting up an open ‘chatter’ session which could be joined by anyone in the organisation. The results of one such session helped to redefine the company’s Mobility policy, which has now been rolled out globally.

Linking Innovation in the TA and TM Functions

The overall theme of both meetings was that companies could truly start to create innovative strategies in both the Talent Acquisition and Talent Management functions that can begin to re-shape the nature of the employee/employer relationship in Asia Pacific. With the continued professionalisation of the function, the ongoing development of new technologies, and the rise of new skillsets in Talent mapping and analytics, we look forward to holding many more interesting and creative sessions on this topic in the months and years to come.

Here’s What People are Saying:

“I always find these sessions interesting and interactive. The cross section of industri
es present is of huge value to ensure we don’t just look at how banking approaches Talent Acquisition.” James Harley, Credit Suisse

“An excellent information sharing session which provided the opportunity to benchmark certain recruitment activities against companies across different industries.” Jonathan Stewart, BASF

It was great to meet TA Leaders from diverse industry sectors, and be able to share how TA functions are dynamically evolving in Asia.” Preema Kabir, Commonwealth Bank

It was a terrific opportunity to connect with HR colleagues and share relevant ideas and practices. With a great mix of industries and backgrounds, the scope of the discussion was representative of experience in emerging and developed markets of Asia (with an undeniable global perspective).” Andrew McGregor, Dairy Farm

I enjoyed the interactive roundtable thoroughly — good forum for great minds to get together and share best practices/innovative ideas.” Ivy Ip, Dell

I always look forward to ChapmanCG group discussions, as these meetings allow us an avenue to meet our peers, compare notes, learn from best practices and most importantly, stay connected!” Arpan Khurana, DFS

I found the meeting very insightful, as it provided a window on the best APAC recruitment practices across different industries.” Giorgio Benassi, Infiniti

It was a fruitful discussion among talent leaders, which focused on many of the hot topics we are grappling with. I found the session, networking and sharing of best practices highly valuable and insightful.” Ronald Tay, Nomura

It was a great networking meeting with HR professionals from across industries to share best practices.” Candy Leung, Standard Chartered Bank

It was a great morning with very generous intent from all participants in exchanging ideas. Having a vehicle such as this forum to connect with other professionals gives us the opportunity to explore topics in more depth.” Mary Ann Vale, Telstra


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Key Contributors:

Ringo Lau
Ringo Lau

Senior Director

Consulting Team
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Ringo Lau
Consulting Team

Ringo Lau

Senior Director

Ringo is a Senior Director with ChapmanCG based in Hong Kong. His role involves in-depth research and analysis to seek out high-calibre HR talent across the Asia Pacific region, with a particular focus on Hong Kong and North Asia. He also assists the group in the design and delivery of strategic internal projects involving process and operation development.

Before joining ChapmanCG, Ringo did several internships as a business analyst and photographer. He holds a Master’s Degree in Management and Organisational Analysis from the Warwick Business School, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing.

Outside of work, Ringo enjoys travelling, outdoor activities and photography. Prior to his move to study abroad, he was one of Hong Kong’s top competitors in athletics.

Licence Number: EA License 69316 (HK)