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ISSUE 16.10

Shining lights Price inc. GST $9.95

Singapore’s C-Level champions of HR in conversation

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Tristan Torres on Deliveroo's unique culture

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Dear HRM Asia readers,

EDITOR Sham Majid



Proudly owned by Diversified Group of Companies

HRM Asia Pte Ltd 60 Albert Street, Albert Complex #16-08 Singapore 189969 Tel: +65 6423 4631 Fax: +65 6423-4632 Email: ©HRM Asia Pte Ltd, 2016. All rights reserved. Republication permitted only with the approval of the Editorial Director.


hat do high-profile and senior leaders from the National Kidney Foundation, Public Service Division, Singtel, InterContinental Hotels Group as well as the former head honcho of SingHealth Group have in common? Besides the obvious answer of being the ultimate leaders of their respective organisations, these five senior executives have also been celebrated for their championing of HR issues and policies within their roles. They represent five of the last six winners of the Champion of HR and Best C-Suite Leader prizes at the annual HRM Awards. This accolade was awarded to them not just because they were inspirational leaders; rather, it was because they each specifically made HR a key tenet of their leadership philosophy. That means actually getting their hands dirty with the nuts and bolts of HR, whether it be in recruitment, employee engagement, or career development. Our special cover story is all about celebrating their HR involvement and revealing how and why HR is at the forefront of their thoughts. Just as how these leaders champion for excellence in HR, life-changing customer service is the creed of Jetstar Asia. Assisting doctors deliver babies on board an aircraft, for example, is all in a day’s work for the airline’s flight crew. In this edition’s HR Insider, the company’s Head of People Corinna Cheang shares how the budget carrier’s comprehensive social engagement strategies and vibrant culture enables employees to focus on delivering first-class service. This month’s HRM Asia is also accompanied by our special HRM Asia Reader’s Choice Awards Commemorative Guide. Held on September 2 at Capella Hotel in Singapore, the awards were presented over a fantastic night of good food, entertainment and celebration. Service providers and vendors were voted by HRM Asia readers themselves and were recognised in 29 categories ranging from recruitment to HR technology, and from corporate wellness and benefits to learning and development. Congratulations once again to all the winners.

Best Regards,

Sham Majid Editor, HRM Asia CONTACT US:

MICA (P) 110/07/2016 ISSN 0219-6883

Read something you like? Or something you don’t? Perhaps there’s some insight we haven’t considered? Have your say on HRM Asia’s news, features, and contributions by emailing:


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Shining lights

Every year, the HRM Awards recognises a C-Suite Leader for their work to champion the value of HR across their businesses and the wider economy. In this special feature, HRM Asia catches up with five of the most recent winners, who share how and why HR continues to be the lifeblood of their organisations.




Thinking of tomorrow


Elevated by enjoyment


Small gestures; Big impacts


Tokyo Drift: From Shinjuku to Singapore

Speak to Dan Marjanovic, Partner of Simmons & Simmons law firm in Singapore, and words like “strategy”, “planning” and “prioritising” stand out. He tells HRM Asia how these concepts have become the bedrock of his career, as well as the way he charts the organisation’s course.

Low-fare carrier Jetstar Asia goes full throttle in ensuring that its crew are propelled to put their best foot forward by always representing the company’s value of being “passionate about enjoyment”.

Monetary rewards are always nice to receive, but they can also feel impersonal. HRM Asia discovers why sincerity, and not cash, is becoming the highest form of flattery to employees.

As Japanese companies stream into Singapore, elements of their distinctive business culture and HR systems 2

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44 remain in one form or another, even in the Southeast Asian republic’s multicultural setting. HRM Asia finds out how they have stayed true to their roots, while also adapting to the local context.


Getting into the act


Best for business


Labour on command

As demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills continues to rise, organisations are pushing through with new strategies to cultivate a dynamic and work-ready community.


Despite what the cynics may say, all hotels are definitely not the same as each other. HRM Asia looks at the facilities, services, and advantages that matter most to leaders and executives traveling in Singapore and beyond.

Real-time web platforms have enabled businesses to tap directly into a diverse pool of independent, short-term “gig” contractors on an as-needed basis. HRM Asia speaks to Asian app makers about the advantages of “on-demand” labour outsourcing.



4 News

Fiery Leaders

With a tagline as “the bank for a changing world”, BNP Paribas has introduced a leadership training programme aimed at developing the ever-burgeoning Asian market into a stronghold. HRM Asia finds out more.


HR Young Gun

10 Leaders on Leadership 48 Resources 48 In Person

Every month, HRM Asia speaks to a young university talent hoping to carve out a career in HR upon graduation.

52 Talent Ladder


53 Twenty-four Seven

A taste for the unorthodox

Technology firm Philip Tang & Sons brims with creative energy, from its inquisitive employees eager to try on different hats, right down to its inventive HR policies.

53 HR Clinic 58 An HRD Speaks ISSUE 16.10

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The long-held notion that women are less likely to push for pay rises has been disproven, by a new analysis of Australian workplace data by the University of Warwick. However, while women are just as likely as men to ask their employers for higher salaries, men are still far more likely to be granted the request. The study claims to be the first ever statistical test on the “Reticent Female” theory used to explain the significant wage gap between men and women in the workforce. Researchers behind the “Do Women Ask?” study say they found no evidence to support the theory. The research utilised data collated in the Australian Workplace Relations Survey, as a representative of Australian employees and workplaces during the 2013-14 financial year. When like-for-like men and women were evaluated, male employees were a quarter more likely to be successful in asking for a pay rise, garnering an increased salary 20% of the time. Only 16% of females were successful. “We didn’t know how the numbers would come out,” co-author Andrew Oswald said. “Having seen these findings, I think we have to accept that there is some element of pure discrimination against women.” Oswald said Australia provided a “natural test bed” for the theory, because it was the only country in the world to collect systematic information on whether employees have asked for a raise. While the workforce-wide figures were discouraging for equal pay campaigners, the authors highlighted one positive sign in the data. They found young Australian female workers received pay increments just as often as young Australian men. “This study potentially has an upside,” coauthor Amanda Goodall said. “Young women today are negotiating their pay and conditions more successfully than older females, and perhaps that will continue as they become more senior.” The research was a collaboration between the University of Warwick, the University of London – both in the UK, and the University of Wisconsin in the US. It involved a sample of 4,600 workers across more than 800 employers.

Millennials in India care deeply about the quality of the work they produce. In fact, over 80% deemed this to be the chief motivator for their work, a new survey by talent assessment and analytics firm Jombay has revealed. When it came to perks, flexibility was cited as the most important for 77% of respondents. When assessed against more handsome rewards and benefits (not cash), over 60% of workers preferred to cite flexibility as a chief perk. The survey findings also shed light on the potentially thorny issue of millennial retention. Sixty percent of respondents cited “job-ownership” as a considerable retention factor, with one of the more valuable methods of leading millennials being allowing them to lead and take charge. In terms of the factors that would cause millennials to throw in the towel, a whopping 88% listed a lack of processes or structure as a key source of disappointment. Another issue was micromanagement, with 74% having identified this as a cause of frustration with their current managers and teams. The standards of the business, or the lack of them, were listed as another key criterion. Seventy one percent of respondents said they closely scrutinised the standards the business wanted to create.

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STAFFING LEVELS SET TO RISE Jobseekers in Hong Kong can now send their résumés with greater confidence, with robust hiring activity anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2016. The latest compilation of the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey (MEOS) has revealed that 16% of the 740 employers surveyed predicted an increase in staffing levels the last three months of the year. Only three percent forecast a decrease in headcount, while 81% of the businesses polled anticipated no employment changes for the remainder of 2016. “Architectural and engineering firms are gearing for a hiring spike as an expected infrastructure boom of construction projects. This exerts pressure on talent demand in the building construction field,” said Lancy Chui, Senior Vice President of Manpower Group in the Greater China region.

“A number of infrastructure projects will commence in the next few years, along with the estimated average of 23,000 new flats to be supplied per year. (This) will stimulate the hiring intentions of employers to look for surveyors, engineers, and construction supervisors to complete projects.” Jobseekers can also anticipate steady hiring to persist in the finance, insurance, and real estate sectors over the coming quarter. The MEOS found a Net Employment Outlook of +14 percentage points for the quarter, a drop of six percentage points when compared with the same window in 2015. “Global financial headwinds continue to prompt many financial institutions to freeze their hiring or implement restructuring plans,” said Chui.


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The healthcare industry has been listed as the most favoured place to work by students in Singapore. According to the latest BrightSparks Scholarship and Education Survey, by CareerBuilder Singapore, the healthcare sector rose from its third-place ranking last year to become the number one choice among top A-Level and International Baccalaureate diploma students, as well as graduates and polytechnic students. “There is a pressing need to meet manpower demands in the healthcare sector as the government continues to ramp up healthcare infrastructure in preparation for the nations’ rapidly ageing population,” said Jessica Ang, Marketing Director, CareerBuilder Singapore. “This recurring interest in the sector is a positive sign for the healthcare industry and it is important for the sector to continue implementing effective HR measures.

“It will help them reach out to a wider pool of talent, which will benefit Singapore’s healthcare scene.” The survey also found that public sector scholarships are increasing in favour among students, with six out of the top 10 preferred scholarship providers hailing from the public sector. The top provider was the national Public Service Commission, followed by the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. “The renewed interest in the public sector is not surprising given the slow growth in today’s economy,” Ang said. “Students are cautious about their job choices – seeking one that offers income stability and most importantly, job security. “Ultimately, a job in the public sector is still seen as an iron rice bowl.”


TWITTER RETRENCHES ENGINEERS Technology giant Twitter is stopping global engineering work at its development centre in Bangalore. The company will be laying off staff as part of the move, a spokesperson confirmed to The Economic Times. “As part of our normal business review, we have decided to stop the global engineering work at the Bangalore development centre,” the spokesperson said. “We thank the impacted individuals for their valuable contributions and are doing as much as we can to provide them a respectful exit from our company.” The spokesperson said the realignment would only affect Twitter’s global engineering team in Bangalore. They did not divulge

information any specific details on the number of positions being shed, or how the company was assisting affected staff. In June last year, Twitter announced plans to double down on its India operations, and create localised products suitable for markets with prevalent internet connectivity concerns. The spokesperson said the company remained committed to building India as a strategic market for users, partners, and advertisers. “Today, India is one of our fastest-growing markets worldwide and we continue to invest in key initiatives to further expand our audience, increase user engagement, and drive revenue,” he said.

Firms in Hong Kong are at odds with their millennial employees over recruitment, development expectations, and career progression. Research by professional services recruiter Morgan McKinley has revealed that a lack of feedback from hiring managers topped the list of compaints from candidates looking to break into professional jobs. Other candidates noted that the positions they had applied for did not correlate with the actual job description of the roles concerned. This created one part of a general disconnect between staff expectations and the reality of life in the workforce. The survey highlighted that hiring managers believed the new generation desired more feedback and could not yet comprehend the importance of “experience” in the office. Millennials however, begged to differ with this statement. Only 23% of them said they had learned all they could from their current employer and were prepared for more learning prospects, compared with 32% of non-millennials. A further 10% of millennials said they were not learning anything new in their current jobs, as opposed to 15% of non-millennials. Disconnects were prevalent in other aspects of working life. For instance, hiring managers believed personal development and career advancement were the steepest challenges in keeping millennial talent retained. Wage growth was another factor, with younger workers seemingly ever-impatient for the next increment. “Millennials will leave if they can’t make an impact, which may be one of the biggest challenges that many organisations will face,” said Reina Cheng, Managing Director, Hong Kong, Morgan McKinley. “However, the generation’s desire for greater company transparency and the eagerness to learn and broaden experience are positives which, if handled correctly, could be leveraged for competitive advantage.”

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As back-to-work season sets in, ‘The Uninspired’, ‘The Casual Daters’, and ‘The Dissed’ in Canada’s workplaces are looking for greener pastures. Almost two-thirds of Canadian employees are prepared to leave their current employer, according to the latest ADP Canada Sentiment Survey. Among them is a sizeable, uninspired cohort making up 33% of the workforce. They feel no great loyalty to their organisation, and are easy prey for competitors looking to poach staff. This group includes a wide range of problem staff, from the bored high-calibre employees to the under-achieving clock-punchers. The next type of worker comprises some 16% of the country’s working population. They are casually interested in new opportunities, keeping tabs on job boards and LinkedIn, although they have yet to kick their job search into high gear. Lastly, another 16% of Canadian workers are part of the dissatisfied, disengaged, and disaffected group that is actively looking for a new role. The study revealed that while compensation is the leading motivation for employees to make a move, the desire for a higher-level position is also a key reason. About 36% of Canadian men who would leave their jobs said they would do so for a better position, although only 23% of women in the same category said the same. The findings are a wake-up call for companies at risk of losing key talent, said Jo Ann Miele, Senior Director of Talent and Organisational Development at business outsourcing firm ADP Canada. “Employers can use a number of levers to improve employee retention, but knowing which ones to pull requires meaningful, ongoing dialogue with their employees,” she said.

British employers are becoming increasingly pessimistic about their ability to add jobs in the wake of the Brexit vote, a new survey has found. Recruitment agency Manpower, which interviewed 2,100 company heads and hiring managers across nine major economic sectors, says the broad UK job market is “skating on thin ice”. Employers in six of the surveyed sectors, including the bellwether trades of construction and financial services, reported they were unlikely to increase headcount in the near future. Managing director of ManpowerGroup UK Mark Cahill said employers were concerned about the likely change to freedom of movement if and when the Brexit comes into effect. “After the initial shock of Brexit, we’re entering a new phase of prolonged economic uncertainty,” he said. “As UK businesses are reliant on European talent to help fill the skills gap, we urge the government to prioritise maintaining the free movement of people during its negotiations.” This is particularly important for London’s banking and finance sector, he adds. “Many finance operations in the City of London depend on the European Union banking passport (agreement that lets banks based in one part of the common market undertake business throughout the Union) and the fall in hiring intentions could reflect pessimism over the future of this agreement.”





Is he an ethical whistle-blower, or an unrepentant data thief? Authorities in Switzerland say a former employee of the country’s largest bank, UBS, is definitely the latter. They have charged him with selling the private information of banking clients to tax officials in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, in neighbouring Germany. The 2012 data would have allowed the buyers to identify the otherwise secret accounts of 772 foundations and 550 private individuals. Governments are increasingly investigating and sanctioning UBS and other Swiss banks in their attempts to track down tax evaders who rely on the country’s famous banking secrecy to hide income and wealth. North Rhine-Westphalia has bought stolen information several times over the past few years, and reportedly recovered €2.1 billion (US$2.4 billion) in due taxation.

The US states are anything but united when it comes to the latest workplace reform from the federal government. Some 21 state governments, including those of Texas, Nevada, and Michigan, have filed a suit over the Obama administration’s plan to double the threshold at which workers are required to be paid overtime. The threshold will then also be indexed to the minimum wage. The reforms – scheduled to take effect from December – will mean anyone earning less than $47,476 will get overtime payments of 50% for every hour after the basic 40-hour working week. Previously the threshold for this benefit was $23,360, which means the reforms will give several million more people new access to overtime payments. The lawsuit alleges that the new regulations were finalised without adhering to an agreed rule-making process between the federal and state governments. “President Obama is trying to unilaterally rewrite the law,” Texas Attorney- General Ken Paxton said. “It may lead to disastrous consequences for our economy.”

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Electric-car manufacturer Tesla Motors is accusing an oil pipeline service executive of impersonating Tesla CEO Elon Musk to obtain secret financial information. The company has filed a lawsuit in a California court, claiming that Todd Katz, Chief Financial Officer of Quest Integrity Group, sent an email to Tesla’s finance chief Jason Wheeler from ElonTesla@yahoo. com, an email address similar to one Musk has used in the past. When Tesla disclosed its secondquarter financial results in August, Katz emailed Wheeler requesting more detailed data than had been released, Tesla said in the lawsuit. The email received by Wheeler was signed, “em”. It asked for an “honest best guess” of how well placed Tesla was to deliver on its 3rd

Women in the UK workforce are still finding themselves the subject of uncalled comments from their bosses and colleagues. According to a study of 2,000 UK employees, commissioned by law firm Slater and Gordon, over a quarter (28%) of working women have been told that altering their appearance would be “better for business”. Close to eight percent of female respondents to the survey claimed they’d been asked to apply more makeup to ‘look prettier’, with a further eight percent saying their appearance had been openly examined in front of co-workers. Over a third (34%) said comments about their dress and appearance had been made in public, and an additional 12% said they had felt demeaned as a result. “The findings of this survey are very disappointing, but not surprising,” Josephine Van Lierop, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said. “There are still far too many employers that think it is acceptable to make disparaging remarks or comments about a woman’s appearance. “This sort of sexism is all too prevalent in the workplace – particularly in certain sectors such as financial services and hospitality. “The current position on dress codes under UK employment law is relatively clear: an employer is allowed to impose a dress code on its employees – but usually this will be put in place for health and safety reasons.”

and 4th quarter promises. A spokesperson for Quest’s parent company Team Industrial Services called the allegations “unsubstantiated” and “absurd”. But Tesla says the email was part of an oil industry effort to undermine Tesla’s push for energy-efficient transport alternatives. “In recent years, oil companies have spent billions of dollars on legislative efforts and campaigns aimed at blocking progress toward electric cars and other sustainable energy solutions in the US and abroad,” Tesla said. The Team Industrial Services’ spokesperson said the company had initiated an internal investigation.


52 MINUTES OF NOT MUCH It’s part and parcel of many jobs to slack off at work, and to go through the motions in certain periods. Now, new research has uncovered precisely how many minutes employees in the UK procrastinate for. Viking, a supplier of office stationary products, surveyed more than 1,500 office workers across the UK to probe deeper about their procrastination habits. It found that the average employees spends a grand total of 52 minutes a day procrastinating, most frequently by surfing websites including Facebook (which 57% of respondents said they utilised), BBC News (36%), and Twitter (30%). Social media was a key outlet for procrastination, with staff confessing to checking their accounts an average of four times a day. When quizzed about their organisation’s social media guidelines and how they would feel

if social media was banned, 44% of them said their day would become worse, and 29% even cited that barring access to social media would result in lower productivity levels. But why are workers actually procrastinating? Forty eight percent of the survey respondents claimed they slacked off while they were waiting on other colleague’s work to be done. Forty percent of those polled also said they procrastinated so they could take a break and reduce the stress they were feeling at the office. “If an employee is struggling with their work, a quick break can help them take a step back and think about their situation in a new light,” said Gemma Terrar, European HR Business Partner at Viking. “Rather than trying to press on through a challenging task, doing something that relaxes them or lightens their mood can help a worker stay productive in the long-run.”


FAKE INSPECTORS TARGET FARM EMPLOYERS South Africa’s Department of Labour has warned businesses of a growing number of incidents in which fraudsters impersonate workplace inspectors. The criminals have conducted fake inspections at three commercial-scale farms in Free State province. Each inspection resulted in a contravention notice and demands for cash fines. The department says the criminals are technologically savvy, and come prepared with seemingly genuine identification cards and papers. Employers are coerced and intimidated to pay cash on the spot, rather than face higher penalties in court. “All employers are therefore warned of this disturbing trend of these bogus labour inspectors mushrooming and therefore, in one way or the other, end up souring the working relationship between the Department of Labour, employers and employees in various sectors of our economy,” the department said in an official statement.

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How effective is your organisational culture? In the face of volatility in today’s business environment, having a strong culture and a clear set of values helps employees adapt to changes. HRM Asia presents findings from the Working In Asia study on how Asian employees perceive their corporate culture

Do the senior managers actually practise your organisation’s stated values? 14%



Don’t Know

Don’t Know

Don’t Know


39% YES








How would you describe your organisation’s culture in Singapore? High levels of ambiguity:


49% 40%

Globally driven:


Senior managers not role models for the values

Large extent

Some extent

A little

Not at all




51% 24% 14%


Lack of ownership

Cannot see the link between my work and the values




What prevents you from practising your organisation’s values in Singapore?

Fast-paced and dynamic:

To what extent do you feel supported enough to take business risks in Singapore?


Conflict with existing culture


Values not communicated meaningfully to staff




of Mainland China’s employees do not feel safe to innovate

1 IN 25 workers in Hong Kong say their corporate culture is values-driven


of Singapore staff see office politics as a barrier to greater productivity

Source: Working In Asia 2016 by Roffey Park Institute 8

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Some say, “It’s lonely at the top”. What are friendships like when you are a leader? Y es, it can be quite lonely at the top. While I do not feel overwhelmingly so, I take it in my stride as something that is inevitable. At the end of the day, a leader has to take the initiative to reach out, engage, and decide how to build friendships. I am fortunate to be in a company with a family-oriented culture. Among my peers in Singapore and the region, there is room for a robust exchange of ideas, and we agree to disagree. There is friendly competition, but no politicking. We may not be able to do lunch together as often as we’d like, but we certainly try to catch up when we are in the same country or at the same event. For example, a peer of mine was facing pressure at work because he had encountered obstacles while trying to implement change. When he approached me, I shared my experience in sensing the company’s

culture, and he drew insights on how to apply them to solve the issues at hand. As for friendships with staff, I try to make myself available to them to discuss and bounce ideas around. I adopt an open-door policy and also try to create opportunities to interact with staff outside of work so that I can learn more about their family lives and personal issues. This makes for more interesting conversations, too. On a more pragmatic front, when the need arises, I try my best to help them out. In the end, no man is an island. Effort must be made by a leader to reach out and engage, but employees also need to be gently encouraged to reciprocate. I strive to strike a balance between friendships fostered at as well as outside of work. Beyond the workplace, I cherish my close friends who offer me a different perspective on life and keep me sane.



Partner and Managing Director for Singapore, Falcon Agency

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o me, there are two levels of friendships: professional and personal. I do not believe that personal friendships need to be sacrificed just because one is a leader. If that is the case, it may be an excuse for laziness or an unhealthy obsession with work. People do not care if you are a CEO of a billion-dollar company. A leader who is well-balanced in both professional and personal realms, is an effective leader. In professional friendships, the conventional wisdom is that leaders are lonely because nobody understands their struggles or people may try to take advantage of their power. I believe that is less relevant in today’s landscape, where social media like LinkedIn interest groups, Facebook, or have made it much easier to find like-minded professionals and leaders. I have forged professional friendships through these platforms, where you can connect with fellow leaders


General Manager (Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service Division), Epson Singapore

across industries, many of whom will understand the “struggle at the top”. If anything, the bigger challenge for leaders today is to maintain a professional distance without looking aloof, especially if you are in a start-up or working with millennials. The lines are getting blurred and leaders need to strike the fine balance. For example, do you accept Facebook friend requests from your team? I have since shed my initial reservations about that and embraced Facebook as just another arena for me to better understand their motivations and struggles. However, I am always mindful never to use it against them. In the same vein, my employees get insights into my personal life, albeit curated through privacy settings. This has worked well, even for some clients who have become my friends; it actually helps the professional relationship, so long as the trust is not abused.


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Employee-led HR technology

The Lumesse ETWeb Empower platform, which was launched in Asia-Pacific markets last month, has been designed with the employee experience as the key focus. While other platforms may focus on different drivers of demand, our team at Lumesse understands how much more powerful these tools become when staff are active participants in their use.

tailored bundles centred on Recruitment, Onboarding, Performance, Rewards, Learning and Development, and building creativity and ideas within the workforce, it is a complete end-to-end Talent Management suite. All of these functions require input from employees. What sets ETWeb Empower apart from other platforms is the ease of use for staff, and the valued outputs that employees can receive when they actively participate. For example, the system integrates the talent management data with learning and development opportunities across the client organisation. This means that as appropriate training programmes come up, staff can be directly advised via an auto-generated email. The same is true for internal career opportunities, with both lateral and higher roles being sent to internal staff that have expressed interest in those fields. There are also gamification elements across the suite of applications, giving staff the chance to earn popular “kudos” and badges through their active input into the system, and also provide skill endorsements and recognition to their colleagues. It is easy – in fact many of our clients say ETWeb Empower is actually fun to use. The platform is now about the tangible benefit for the employee – nobody has to force them to use the features or enter more than the bare minimum amount of data.

Employee-centric technology

Highly configurable

ETWeb Empower offers software solutions across the full gamut of HR functions and needs. With

ETWeb Empower is available across both Android and Apple operating systems, and staff are able to interact

For too long, HR technology has let user experience take a back seat to other drivers of demand. But, as Carsten Busch and Mehul Rajparia of Lumesse Asia-Pacific say, the more staff are encouraged to adopt the technology, the more valuable the output of any HR management system


umesse is a HR software provider that understands what it’s like to sit on HR’s side of the table. We are consistently working with both HR professionals and technologists to automate some of the key functions of payroll, leave management, succession planning, and a whole host of others. That has not been to take work away from HR professionals – far from it. Rather, Lumesse’ suite of technology is designed to free up the time, space, and resources of our HR customers, leaving them better placed to concentrate on higher-level activities. By letting intelligent software handle the administrative and transactional tasks, HR professionals are better placed to conduct the strategic and long-term thinking on workplace issues that only they have the training and experience to fully consider. But in recent years, it has become apparent that there is a third vital ingredient to successful HR: big data. As the world and workplaces have become more connected, and

social media-savvy employees now outnumber those still living more analogue lives, there has never been more opportunity to obtain high quality information on the entire workforce and to use it to make more informed HR decisions. The greater the engaged participation rate in any technological solution, the greater the value of the resultant data, and the more informed any future HR strategy will be.

Next generation platform

it with it through any device they prefer. Clients can choose to have the service hosted on the cloud – via a Software-as-a-Service payment model – or on a closed network (“private cloud”) for added security. The system has been available in Europe since earlier this year, and we have been able to fine-tune it through six foundation customers, including the 20,000-employee metal and defence industries business Rheinmetall. The Lumesse team works with each client organisation to install and configure the software to exact specifications. It also provides training, updates, and continual service throughout the contract and beyond. For fluent performance at every level, and a greater amount of higher-quality employee data, it needs to be staff in the driving seat. Only then can HR professionals have both the time, and the information, to really plan their workforce strategies.

Carsten Busch General Manager, ETWeb

Mehul Rajparia Vice President of Lumesse, Asia-Pacific

Lumesse Singapore 51 Goldhill Plaza #10-06/08, 308900 Singapore Tel: +65 6720 0680 Web: ISSUE 16.10

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Tell me about yourself. How would you describe your talent journey?

Speak to Dan Marjanovic, Partner of Simmons & Simmons law firm in Singapore, and words like “strategy”, “planning” and “prioritising” stand out. He tells HRM Asia how these concepts have become the bedrock of his career, as well as the way he charts the organisation’s course

I see leadership largely as situational. So, flexibility is necessary to deal with matters as they emerge, and it’s important for leaders to be seen to have integrity and conviction. You need to gain the trust of your teams. Personally, I don’t think I have got a single style. Others will probably beg to differ, but if pushed, I’d suggest it’s predominantly an open and collegial style with a hint of an authoritative streak.

I’ll start by borrowing a quote from Bill Clinton in a recent speech, where he said that at this stage of his career, “there are more yesterdays than tomorrows”. That’s the way I feel about my time in the law. But I’ve enjoyed most of those yesterdays and Sham Majid I’m still looking forward to a few more tomorrows. I studied economics and law in Sydney, and as part of my economics degree, I did a paper on the economic development of Singapore, which piqued my interest in Singapore and in Southeast Asia generally. Fortunately for me, shortly after starting my legal career in one of the major law firms in Sydney, I was offered a secondment to Singapore. I was here for a couple of years for that secondment, and found Southeast Asia’s dynamism and diversity of work and culture to be an incredible draw for me. It drew me back, most recently, to Simmons & Simmons and the opportunity to set up the Singapore office with my colleagues.

We have a 360-degree feedback process for partners and managers, all the way through to the chief executive partner and our senior partner. That process is very helpful for us to raise awareness of what we’re doing right, and where we can improve. We get a look through the window from the feedback we are getting both from colleagues and employees. I believe our team, particularly in Singapore, would describe me as driven, and demanding perhaps to a fault, as well as strategic, decisive, and collegial. I hope the word “fair” would also be thrown into the mix.



What is your leadership style?

Private practice has become a business over the years and as a result, partners of law firms are all business leaders. They are both managers and leaders. The emphasis on one or the other, or a combination of the two, will vary depending on the role.

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How would your employees describe you?

It’s been well-documented that Singapore has a surplus of lawyers. How has this affected staffing levels since the branch’s opening in 2013?

Whether there’s a surplus or otherwise, is a market phenomenon, and markets will always ebb and flow. Because of our strategy on developing the business here, we tend


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Dan Marjanovic is a banking and project partner in Simmons & Simmons’ Asia Financial Markets practice, and heads the firm’s Singapore office. He is qualified in both England & Wales and New South Wales and has lived and worked in Singapore for over 16 years. His experience is considerable and included acting for banks, corporate borrowers and international project parties on major Energy and Natural Resources based corporate and financing transactions in the Asia Pacific region and extends to transactions across Asia countries, Australia, the UK, Europe and the Americas.

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LEADERS TALK HR to focus our attention on particular types of lawyers with particular skillsets. Since opening the office three years ago, we’ve seen a period of growth and we now have 30 lawyers. That growth has been focused on areas in which our firm has a leading reputation internationally, and by and large in the sectors which Simmons & Simmons has been traditionally strong: Financial Institutions, Asset Management and Investment Funds. Our recruitment policy concentrates on identifying lawyers with the right skills, attitude, and personality for our business to ensure that they are as good a cultural fit as possible. It’s not just about having the number of lawyers, but it’s about having the right types of lawyers.

The market for lawyers doesn’t necessarily influence our decisions. We don’t mind if the process to find those lawyers in a particular market takes a litter longer than it might otherwise take. We may not get it right all the time, but we’d like to think we get it right most of the time.


Law is regarded as one of the most stressful professions. What is the turnover rate like?

There are different ways of answering that. Markets differ but what is consistent, whether it be in the US, the UK, Australia, or Singapore, is that the profession is a demanding one and requires a lot of time. As a result, it can be stressful. However, that is the case in many aspects of life. Demands in the working environment and in life have increased over the years. I don’t know whether it’s more stressful in law than it is in medicine, investment banking, nursing, or education. With technological advancements, globalisation of competition, and relative increases in wealth, there have been increases in stress levels. We have been fortunate in Singapore because we’ve been in developmental mode for the first three years and we’ve had very little turnover in our office. It’s largely been negligible and we’re pleased with that. The bigger legal markets have seen a significant change in the way lawyers perceive their roles, and the way expectations have evolved to a point where young lawyers are now more open to a less direct career path. They are also open about their desires to achieve work-life balance and seeing the time they spend in private practice as a learning experience or a stepping stone to something slightly different. For example, they could be looking to move into an in-house position in corporates, banks or other industries that may offer them that balance they’re aspiring to. It’s not uncommon to see them jump at the three-to-five-year level. And, that’s a market segment that sees higher turnover and that’s not a purely Singapore phenomenon.

ME MYSELF I I love: Enjoying life’s little pleasures with close family and friends I dislike: Duplicity My inspiration is: Art – it replenishes my soul My biggest weakness is: Being a little too direct at times In five years’ time, I’d like to be: Still brave enough to be open to change Favourite quote: “If we only had our second thoughts first”

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How do you balance your regular day-to-day work and management duties alongside your personal life?

On a typical day, I spend 12 to 14 hours at the office. “Planning” and “prioritising” are two words that come to mind. Doing this for daily and weekly commitments helps with allocating time across the clients’ and managerial functions and needs, and helps also find time for personal commitments. We spend a huge amount of our working hours focusing on clients and the business. It’s important to also find time for one’s self. However, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There’s always the need for a degree of flexibility in your day and week, and that’s where being able to rely on colleagues helps quite a lot. However, for family and for certain personal events in my life, I’ll move heaven and earth in order to make sure I have time for them. Our business is a global one so it doesn’t necessarily stop. Fortunately or unfortunately, technology allows one to be a little bit more flexible about where you execute your work. It might be later in the evening at home after spending time with family, or perhaps over the weekend rather than in the office.


Can you describe the culture at Simmons & Simmons?

As a substantial international business, our ability to collaborate and focus on our strengths will ultimately drive our success. I believe that behaviours are the connective tissue that help shape an organisation’s culture – and an organisation’s culture is its soul. It’s that soul that helps to attract and retain talent. Values are part of that process. Having values is important as guiding principles to behaviour. We have evolved a set of values that we aspire to as partners, and would like our staff to aspire to similarly. They are “ambition”, “(to) challenge”, “commitment”, “innovation”, “responsibility”, and “collegiality”. We undertook a long and consultative process to identify the values that would create the connective tissue that we felt was necessary for us to achieve the behaviours that we’d like. It is a living, breathing process.


How do you keep your staff energised and motivated?

It’s not going to come as a surprise that generally, lawyers are high-achieving individuals, and naturally driven. So, motivation tends to be less of a concern. But, it is important to maintain that motivation, and individuals’ particular needs and motivations are necessarily subjective. It’s really important to have a clearly-directed and consistent objective that is articulated to the team. So, we’re working towards the same goals and celebrating those successes, whether they’re large or small. Keeping teams fresh and energised is really the key. We’ve created an environment that is more relaxed and holistic. As part of that approach, we hopefully refresh and motivate our staff by providing them with interesting and quality work. We also champion a culture of collaboration; we very much focus

Playing by the rules Dan Marjanovic’s passion for law has also seen him venture into the Singapore sports scene. The Partner of Simmons & Simmons in Singapore was previously a member of the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) disciplinary subcommittee member and also part of the Singapore Cricket Club’s Rules and Membership Subcommittee The disciplinary committee considers player-related incidents arising from S-League matches. “It’s not often that one gets the opportunity to contribute to institutions such as the FAS or Singapore Cricket Club,” he says. “It was a privilege to be asked to be part of a committee of highly-capable individuals.” Having been a member of the Singapore Cricket Club for over 25 years now, Marjanovic was asked to join the committee about 15 years ago, spending seven “enjoyable” years in it. Marjanovic, who is also a huge football fan, says the chance to contribute to local sports as a lawyer is particularly rare. “Those two committees were avenues where I could contribute to institutions that were important to me,” he says. on working as teams, not only in Singapore but across the Asia-Pacific region and other offices. We have a serious commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility through diversity and environmental initiatives, as well as pro-bono work. These allow our staff, and not just the lawyers, to be involved in other aspects of our society.


What’s the most challenging aspect of your role?

There are many challenges, and on a daily basis. But if I had to choose one, it would be striking a workable balance between short-term objectives and longer-term ones. The reason why that’s a challenge is because they’re not always compatible. In fact, in some cases, they’re completely incompatible. Like many businesses, we have shorter-term targets. But, as an office that is still relatively new in the market, we are always looking out for the longer-term strategic objectives.


What is your top tip for aspiring leaders?

One of my law tutors once said, and it still resonates with me even today, that “thinking is hard work”. I didn’t fully understand or appreciate what he meant until I started in private practice and saw all the demands that come with it. Those demands make it a challenge to find the necessary time to think; and thinking is the bedrock of what we do as lawyers. It’s the value that we add to the business and to clients. We consider difficult issues, devise complex structures to fulfil our clients’ objectives, and we solve increasingly intricate problems on a daily basis. All that requires thinking, and thinking requires time.

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Shining lights Singapore’s C-Level champions of HR in conversation

Every year, the HRM Awards recognises a C-Suite Leader for their work to champion the value of HR across their businesses and the wider economy. In this special feature, HRM Asia catches up with five of the most recent winners, who share how and why HR continues to be the lifeblood of their organisations


ne led the initiation of a Patient Employment Programme to enable kidney patients to secure employment. Another dedicates a significant proportion of his time to coaching young talents as an executive sponsor of his organisation’s Management Associate programme. Meanwhile, another played an instrumental role in accelerating the career pathway of high-potential and talented employees. While these achievements could all be part of a senior HR practitioner’s résumé, these powerful people managers did not execute them from that department. Rather, the leaders featured in our cover story in this issue

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are the head honchos of their respective organisations; CEOs and directors leading multi-billion dollar global corporations, government entities, and also, a non-profit organisation. Their efforts saw them bestowed with one the highest honours presented at the annual HRM Awards: the annual Champion of HR prize as well as the more recently-rebranded Best C-Suite Leader award. They are: • National Kidney Foundation CEO Edmund Kwok; • Public Service Division Permanent Secretary Yong Ying-I; • Singtel Consumer Singapore CEO Kuan Moon Yuen;


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• InterContinental Hotels Group CEO for Asia, Middle East, and Africa Jan Smits; and • Former SingHealth Group CEO Professor Tan Ser Kiat In this special Q&A feature, HRM Asia pays tribute to the dedication and passion personified by these five individuals in leading from the front and honing their organisations’ HR craft. The interviews don’t only celebrate the fact that they are keen proponents of HR within their respective organisations, they also take them back to the journey that first inspired their HRM Awards win.

There are differences across each of their stories; but there are also some similarities. A belief in the strength that people and culture can bring to an organisation, and the responsibility that organisations have to continually develop their staff are two common traits across the five HR champions. Of course, they are not alone. There are many such C-Suite leaders actively championing for HR excellence in Singapore and across Asia-Pacific. Indeed, the finalists for the 2017 HRM Awards – including several of these hard-working leaders in the Best C-Suite Leader category – will be announced in November.

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COVER STORY EDMUND KWOK CEO, National Kidney Foundation Best C-Suite Leader, 2016 What do you think contributed to your win? I believe that good leadership can be encapsulated through the three “As”Accessible, Approachable and Available, and the three “Es” of creating Empowerment, Engagement and Excitement. I personally meet new hires to share our vision, mission and core values at the employee orientation programme. This is followed by a chit-chat session after three months to ensure that they have settled in well. All employees have my personal handphone number so they can reach me easily.

You’re very much a hands-on CEO. Why is that important you? A key factor to our success is commitment and support from management, by “walking the talk”. I schedule myself for meetings with employees on a regular basis. With the increased number of dialysis centres, I have increased my rotational visits so that all locations are adequately covered. Communication programmes such as “Brunch with Me”, a bi-monthly session for staff with Department Heads and I, allow updates of the organisational plans to be shared. Employees can also highlight challenges at work and discuss solutions. The most recent initiative that we have started is to have dialogue and sharing sessions at the individual dialysis centres. These sessions allow staff to clarify any queries they have regarding organisational goals and objectives.

As leader of NKF, how do you engage with patients? When I took office in 2013, my priority was to make management visible and accessible to staff and patients alike. Hence, visits to the dialysis centres became a regular and important feature. I would sometimes be at a centre at 6.00am as the first shift of patients started arriving for their treatment and stay until around midnight when the last shift ends to encourage and reassure them in their journey towards rehabilitation. I believe that one must genuinely care for the patients, not just for their illness, but as a person. Being on the ground gives me the opportunity to interact with them. These patients struggle with dialysis and poverty. They worry about their next meal and what tomorrow might bring. Yet, they are positive and optimistic, and this has humbled me. I also attend the regular patient gatherings which we organise as a platform for them to bond, share their experiences with one another, and enjoy various performances. The get-togethers are an important part of our efforts to provide psychological, emotional, and social support in their journey towards rehabilitation. We also initiated the Patient Employment Programme in July last year, to help patients find jobs and be self-reliant. We now have over 60 patients working with us and many more outside the National Kidney Foundation.

How has your leadership style evolved over the years? I moved from the private sector to a charity organisation. I feel a greater sense of responsibility here because while we have similar goals to minimise waste, improve productivity, and become more effective and professional, we are doing it with donor resources – other people’s money. Voluntary Welfare Organisations therefore need to be highly efficient to stretch the charity dollar, and ensure that the donor intent to help others is well guarded.

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Permanent Secretary, Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office Champion of HR, 2015 What do you think contributed to your win? The Public Service is Singapore’s largest employer. Our officers account for four percent of the total workforce. Those who choose to join are motivated by the call to serve, as they get the unique opportunity to help make Singapore a better home for their families and fellow Singaporeans. Many officers have told me that they choose to remain in the service because they believe they can continue to make a difference. Their motivation to want to better serve the public motivates us at the Public Service Division (PSD), as the central people agency, to also want to better serve our 143,000 public officers. This award was a good reminder that it is the team that made it work. So I would really like to thank my team from the PSD and the Civil Service College, for their passion and dedication in championing these HR practices in the Public Service.

How have things changed professionally and personally for you since the victory? In the last five years, the Public Service has put in a big effort to improve our integrated service delivery to citizens. This is not just about using new high-tech equipment. It is also about how our officers can be more empathetic to the citizens’ individual concerns and considerations. This has changed the way we have trained many officers, and how teams of officers interact with each other closely when designing policies, all the way to their subsequent implementation. So while in a way, nothing much has changed for me since the award, there have been many changes in other ways for some time now. The Public Service operates much of its day-to-day personnel functions in a decentralised way. This is efficient and responsive to localised ground needs. But we are one team that must pull in the same direction.

Do you have a fixed or fluid leadership style? I believe that leadership styles depend partly on the individual, and two people with different styles can be equally effective in the same job. On the other hand, I do think that most leaders have recognised that their own leadership styles have changed as the environment and people in their organisations have changed. Rather than always tell people what I think, I have tried to engage more and encourage officers at all levels to join in to offer their ideas and co-create better solutions. And, I usually find that officers have thought about possible solutions and have many useful insights and perspectives to contribute.

What are some key current HR challenges for the PSD currently? Just as the Singapore Public Service is moving to a model of partnering citizens to cocreate solutions and enhance the quality of services, PSD has likewise moved from being an HR policy regulator to a partner to HR leaders in public agencies. I am happy to say that over the years, many agencies have realised that HR is not just a support function. Over time, PSD has also worked with agencies to develop competency roadmaps for different categories of officers, especially to meet new and emerging needs. Beyond skills upgrading for individual officers, we are also working with agencies to develop their strategic workforce plans. In addition to HR competencies, we have also been working with Organisational Development teams to address capability needs. As champions of culture and organisational change, they play a major role in enabling our public sector agencies to move forward in a healthy and sustainable way.

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COVER STORY KUAN MOON YUEN CEO, Consumer, Singapore, Singtel Champion of HR, 2014 What do you think contributed to your win? It was the team that I have. They are fully-engaged across all levels of the organisation, and all 5,000 of my staff truly are ambassadors of Singtel. We have made this possible through the “Let’s Create Amazing Together (LCAT)” initiative by engaging and changing the mindsets of our people to create a customer-centric culture of service excellence. Through LCAT, we are able to get a feel of what our customers experience daily, lift our service levels, and empower all employees to be ambassadors of Singtel. I also make it a point to communicate regularly with them through various channels so I can give clear guidance and direction for the business and also get feedback in return. In addition, I spend a lot of time coaching young talent as an executive sponsor of our Management Associate programme.

How has your leadership style evolved over your career? Over the years, my leadership style has evolved from being prescriptive in decision making to empowering and coaching my people to make decisions that are aligned to our business goals. I believe in shared leadership, where all employees understand the strategic direction of Singtel and how their actions impact our customers and business as a whole. It is important for me to communicate my business objectives clearly to the team, and to get their belief and commitment in what we are doing. I therefore make it a point to communicate regularly with my team through meetings and communication sessions.

What role did you play when Singtel overhauled its brand in January last year? As a company which has over 130 years of history, we have seen the industry transform and communications evolve – from monopoly to liberalisation, and from our core telecommunications services into the digital business. We wanted to communicate this new phase in our transformation journey to consumers to let them know that we recognise their changing needs as well as our commitment to product and service innovations, better content, and service to enrich their experiences. Our refreshed brand identity is a reflection of this. To prepare ourselves for the 2015 brand relaunch, we knew we had to start with our employees. Hence, there was an internal rebranding in 2012. I was involved in bringing the vision of the new brand to life and driving the culture change. By taking the lead and embracing the change myself, my team recognised this was a top priority and that inspired them to constantly look at ways to deliver great customer experiences.

You started the change process by getting highly engaged leaders to be ‘change champions’. Who or what inspired this? Change champions are important because they take on the role of communicating and working with their peers and team members to communicate the vision, direction and rationale behind certain actions or policies of the company. They also facilitate action planning and the implementation of changes. As CEO of our consumer business, I appreciate and support the work done by change champions by endorsing and working alongside them to help implement the resulting initiatives. I believe that my actions here set an example for my team to follow suit in supporting HR change initiatives. In this highly competitive industry, leaders cannot afford not to take a hands-on approach on people matters.

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CEO, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Asia, Middle East, and Africa Champion of HR, 2013 What do you think contributed to your win? Creating and embedding our “Winning Culture” in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa was a key milestone for IHG. With our teams operating across a large and diverse region, with 24-7 operational complexity, we needed to find a common language and a consistent measurement of success. It worked across the whole operation, from teams in our hotels across all our brands to those colleagues based in our corporate offices. The culture embedding project was so successful in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa that it was rolled out globally the following year.

How have things changed professionally and personally for you since that win? I was, and still continue to be, immensely proud of the work we’ve done to grow our people and develop a strong, unique culture with values and behaviours embedded across the business. I have driven the embedding of a continuous learning culture so we continue to build the skills and capability of our colleagues, whether they have been with us for three months or 30 years. I spend half of my time on people. Whether that’s working with members of my management team and supporting them in their planning, or strategising on talent needs (including development, succession planning and ensuring we have the pipeline of talent to run our growing business into the future). Professionally, I’m leading an even stronger award-winning team than it was prior to the HRM Awards win in 2013.

You played a big role in the transformation of IHG. How have you continued to drive change in the organisation? As CEO, I lead change from the front and encourage my leaders to do the same. We are working in a dynamic and highly competitive industry, and we need to embrace change rather than be worried or anxious about it. When we embarked on the transformation process in late 2015, my role started with identifying the need for change in how we worked and envisioning the business needs both today and into the future. I was the thought-leader throughout the process which included providing a lens on both diversity and employee engagement. I also know that while my years of operating hotels meant that I was used to managing people through good and difficult times, there are leaders in the business who may not be used to running big teams or managing through change. I spent quite a bit of time coaching the senior leaders I knew were having more difficulties in leading the transformation, and continue to do so as we embed our new ways of working.

You led the development of the General Managers Express programme. How helpful are these development initiatives in identifying new leaders, and do they remain relevant today? In the past, it could take up to two decades before you’d reach a General Manager (GM) role, which - to a university graduate or a young job seeker - could be considered just too long these days. Both our GM Express and our Future Leaders programmes help those team members identified as high-potential, ambitious talent to “fast-track” their career progression, whether that be making a department head position within a two-year period or a firsttime GM role in a fraction of the time it would have taken in the past.

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SingHealth Board Member and Emeritus Consultant, Singapore General Hospital, Former SingHealth Group CEO Champion of HR, 2011 What do you think contributed to your win in 2011? I was completely taken by surprise at being given the award. I’ve always been supportive of and have been keen to see staff be given ample opportunities to develop and hone their skills, and to realise their potential to the fullest. This benefits not only the staff concerned, but the organisation as well.

What lessons have you learnt through your career? One important leadership lesson I always carry with me is in building a leadership pipeline. I’ve always described myself as

an “accidental” leader, as I moved from my clinical practice into a management role not by choice some 30 years ago. Back then, I was asked to stand in for my Chief of Department when he was ill, and my leadership journey developed from there. Leadership succession and continuity thus became a priority for me and I recognised the importance of grooming the next generation of leaders and equipping them with the right management skills. Since my win in 2011 and after stepping down as SingHealth’s Group CEO in 2012, I saw my efforts in building a leadership pipeline come to fruition, with the current leadership successfully taking over and leading the organisation to new heights.

Of the HR initiatives you were involved in at SingHealth, which was the most impactful? During my time as SingHealth Group CEO, we designed and rolled out talent retention programmes to nurture, engage, and empower staff in meaningful healthcare careers. Some initiatives included a critical talent retention scheme for doctors, redesigning of job scopes, and expanding of roles for nurses, as well as developing career track options for allied health professionals. People are the most important part of any organisation and they make a vital difference to healthcare and patients. I believe these initiatives played a crucial role in keeping our employees engaged and fulfilled in their careers.

What do you miss the most from your time as Group CEO of SingHealth? I don’t miss anything since stepping down in 2012. In fact, I’m very happy now that I can devote more time to my professional and clinical work as an orthopaedic surgeon at Singapore General Hospital, as well as to teach (undergraduates and postgraduates) and train the next generation. I also serve on some statutory boards and organisations, as part of my contribution to our nation.

What succession plan did you have in place before you stepped down from SingHealth? My succession planning started the day I was appointed as Group CEO – identifying the right people and putting them in leadership positions of decision-making to take over from me. It was also important to ensure that they were adequately prepared, by sending them for training, such as for MBAs, early in their careers. I’m glad that these leaders have taken over successfully and are now leading SingHealth to the next lap.

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Celebrating Singapore’s Finest HR Professionals and Best Practices Watch this Space for the Announcement of Our Finalists Soon!

Title Sponsor

Award Partners

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AT A GLANCE Total number of employees at Jetstar Asia Airways: More than 750 Size of the HR Team: 10 Key HR Focus Areas: - People Management - People Development - People Retention

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ELEVATED BY ENJOYMENT Low-fare carrier Jetstar Asia goes full throttle in ensuring that its crew are propelled to put their best foot forward by always representing the company’s value of being “passionate about enjoyment” Kelvin Ong


n expectant mother was travelling on a Jetstar Asia flight from Singapore to Yangon, Myanmar, when she began experiencing contractions. The Jetstar crew, who spoke in her native Burmese language, were quick to spring into action. They stayed by her side and made sure she was kept as calm and comfortable as possible. They also did not waste a minute to call for medical assistance, which was waiting as soon as the aircraft touched ground. But it was too late to move her to a hospital or even just off the plane. The passenger went into labour as soon as the aircraft landed and again, Jetstar’s flight attendants were ready to answer the call. With the help of doctors, the woman gave birth to healthy baby boy, the unusual surroundings calling for an unusual compliment – the mother later named her son “Saw Jet Star” because she was so impressed by the care she received from the airline.

This is the type of precision, readiness and efficiency that Jetstar Asia Airways prides itself on, says the company’s Head of People Corinna Cheang. In that light, it was probably nothing out of the ordinary to find her ready and waiting for HRM Asia’s interview five minutes ahead of schedule. The HR division, or “People” team, as Cheang is quick to point out, is also an embodiment of the Jetstar efficiency. It was fully set-up and raring to get the intervew started, armed with a comprehensive and thoroughly-prepared set of presentation slides and notes. “By calling HR the ‘people’ team, we give greater focus to people and teams within the organisation,” says Cheang, as she introduces her department of people managers, who oversee cabin crew, technical crew, and corporate employees respectively. Life-changing customer service – such as the case of assisting with a premature

birth – is a vital part of Jetstar’s promise to its customers. Cheang says the people team takes on a lot of that responsibility through its dedication to the employee cause. Cheang, who joined Jetstar in 2012, says her focus has been on ramping up that team’s abilities, so as to address the varied needs of the carrier’s dynamic and multigenerational workforce.

Strategy pillars The self-described “low-fare” carrier (as opposed to a “low-cost” business) has 444 cabin crew staff, the majority of whom are under 30 years old. Another 20% of staff are aged between 31 and 40, while more than 25% of the workforce are aged 41 and over. “Today we have at least four generations of people working alongside each other, even going into five generations,” says Cheang. With this diversity of age, and almost 60% of Jetstar’s workforce being cabin

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HR INSIDER crew or in other frontline roles, the people team has to make sure top-level customer service is represented and reinforced throughout the company’s operations. Cheang says Jetstar’s multi-layered people management strategy is pivotal to this objective. It is rooted in the organisation’s six “key pillars” which provide the all-important framework for the sometimes dizzying range of policies and initiatives. As an aviation business, one of these pillars is, unsurprisingly, about safety and responsibility. “This is where we work on protecting our people, since they are the greatest assets within the organisation,” Cheang explains. The broad range of employee programmes certainly proves the company’s commitment to its people asset. The other key pillars that employee initiatives are based around are: building outstanding employee experience so that people are proud to work for the company; developing great leaders and people managers; building talent and growthcapabilities; building a high-performance

organisation; and being constantly ready to embrace organisational changes. With these guidelines in place, Cheang says that in 2016, the HR team’s focus has been on “building capabilities and strength” in the areas of people engagement, people development and people retention – a three-pronged approach to a well-rounded workforce.

Social engagement Jetstar’s stance on employee engagement is all about building an inclusive culture to ensure that the multigenerational workforce is able to interact with each other harmoniously and fruitfully, says Cheang. Because of the prevalence of younger staff who spend most of their time online in some capacity, the use of web technology as an engagement strategy has became of “utmost importance”. And one technology that has been adopted by all of Jetstar’s internal stakeholders is Microsoft’s Yammer, an internal social media platform that allows management to update employees on company happenings,

Lateral progression for all crew Captain Edmund Tan joined Jetstar Asia as a Senior First Officer in 2010 after completing a 27-year-long career with the Republic of Singapore Air Force. In just two years, he became a Jetstar Captain, and continues to contribute by doubling up as one of the airline’s fuel savings managers and line instructor pilots. Such is the premise of Jetstar’s Career Progression framework, which aims to give all cabin crew, technology crew, and even corporate employees the opportunity to take on other roles and responsibilities. This is good news for employees who are older in particular, as well as those whose circumstances have changed and are no longer able to fly, says Corrina Cheang, Head of People, Jetstar Asia Airways. Under this framework, pilots are given clear guidelines on what it takes for them to progress not only in their primary career within Jetstar, but also potential specialistion choices. Pilots who seek new challenges, can choose to transfer to other carriers within Jetstar’s group of branded airlines. Cheang explains that there is a shortage of pilots across the world today, in part because of new competition from Chinese operators. This career progression initiative is its solution to combating pilot, and even, cabin crew attrition. Cabin crew also have clearly stipulated roadmaps on how they can move on to lateral, ground-based roles, should they wish to. “We do have very experienced cabin crew today that offer mentorship to younger crew members,” says Cheang. “We identify cabin crew with flying experience to be able to take on mentoring and coaching roles, so they can progress to become trainers and customer experience managers.”

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while giving staff the space to also share whatever they like with their colleagues. Cheang shares examples of how flight attendants participating in corporate social responsibility activities have posted and shared their experiences with the rest of the company. When passengers compliment the cabin crew, the people management team will also share the positive feedback on the Yammer platform, so the entire company can revel in the good news. “It’s a very informal channel for the millennials, and it’s a good way for us to know where they are,” she says. Yammer has only been in use for two years, but according to Cheang, is already well-entrenched within Jetstar’s company culture. “All employees can post anything they want to. Jetstar Group has five Jetstarbranded airlines, so Yammer also allows each airline and cross-functional groups to speak to each other. We do a lot of social networking within the platform, with lots of news updates, group updates, and also crossfunctional taskforce activities,” she says.

Playing hard Beyond technology, the company also believes that working hard, and playing hard together as a team, helps to keep employees engaged and the airline united. Cheang, who refers to employees as “team members” throughout the interview, lights up when she talks about the many activities that take place. “We believe that happy crew, happy team members, and happy people will lead to great business,” she says. For one, employees always look forward to the annual staff party in November. While this is similar to the usual “Dinner and Dance” event that most companies hold, at Jetstar it is the employees themselves who drive and plan the evening, right down to the very last detail. “Our team members put on the show,” says Cheang. “It’s basically planned for employees, by employees. “It says a lot about our organisational culture and that’s how we want it.”


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Head of People


Senior HR Executive

Another event that is always a hit is the annual “Bring Your Kids to Work Day”. Staff members can bring their children into the Jetstar offices for a day, where they can learn about what their parents do and what the aviation industry is about, all while singing, dancing and having fun. At last year’s event, Chief Pilot Richard Doran gave a presentation on aviation to the participating children (and their parents). “A lot of thought, planning and logistics go into a full-day event like this,” Cheang says. “Bring Your Kids To Work Day” has been taking place in Singapore for the last two years, Cheang says there is always a rush to sign children up because there are only 35 slots available. “It’s not something that we say you must do, but it’s something that comes out of the fact that the culture of the company is really one of empowerment and fun.” Jetstar also celebrates special occasions like Halloween and Singapore’s National Day in different ways each year, keeping things fun and fresh for both staff and passengers. For this year’s National Day for example, flight attendants used Singlish (Singaporean slang) to make inflight announcements on selected flights. Cabin crew will also don Halloween costumes later this month as they spook passengers on board a specific Halloween-themed flight.

Consistent values Fun and games aside, Jetstar’s workplace


People Manager


People Manager


People Manager

culture and policies are also deeply shaped by the company’s six values, which include being “energetically efficient”, “passionate about enjoyment”, “genuinely caring”, and “one team”. Cheang says the airline expects all employees to exhibit the traits consistently. “It’s not only something we put on paper, but it’s something that we live,” she says. “If you walk through our offices, we have the values put up on walls everywhere.” In fact, employees are evaluated against how well they have adhered to the values during performance reviews. Under the carrier’s current performance management framework, which was launched in 2012, this rating against the values makes up 40% of an individual’s annual review, a significant weighting. To give team members recognition for embodying the six ideals, Jetstar has also introduced Bravo, a real-time platform that enables staff to compliment each other online. The positive feedback is then formalised through a quarterly Bravo award ceremony, followed by an annual one. One previous award recipient was cabin crew manager Mayu Fukada. She earned her Bravo Award for how she embraced the value of “consistently can do”. Cheang recounts how Fukada deftly made arrangements for a Hong Kong traveller’s wallet to be returned after discovering that he had left it in his hotel, an hour away from the airport. “(All these measures) say a lot


HR Officer

about how we believe in building the company’s future based on the values,” says Cheang, adding that it also helps create a high-performance culture.

Support from leaders These initiatives have certainly paid off on the employee engagement front. “We have done very well in staff engagement results this year,” Cheang says. The (survey) participation rate is higher than last year and the results are on par with the national norms.” That’s because, Cheang adds, the top ranks within the organisation – including CEO Bharathan Pasupathi – “truly listen” to employees, and treat talent management as an important part of their day-to-day work. HR organises a “talent conversation” twice a year, which Pasupathi participates in. During these sessions, an open dialogue takes place so that employees know “what’s in it for them” and how they can grow within the organisation. “We’re very well-supported by Pasupathi, who was recently accorded the “Leading CEO” award by the Singapore HR Institute,” Cheang shares proudly. “We really do listen to our people. When we launch an engagement initiative, we call it ‘One Team, Many Voices’. “When we enact the action plan, we have a poster that says ‘you spoke, we listened, and we worked on the feedback that you gave us’.”

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Small gestures;

BIG IMPACTS Monetary rewards are always nice to receive, but they can also feel impersonal. HRM Asia discovers why sincerity, and not cash, is becoming the highest form of flattery to employees Kelvin Ong


oney talks, but a simple “thank you” or “good job” will often convey more sincerity. “Remember how you felt the last time someone told you what a great job you were doing?” asks Jyanthi Elanggo, Head of HR at international hospitality group CÉ LA VI. “Really think about it, and relive that moment of glory,” she stresses. “That’s why it’s so important to make time to praise employees for a job well done. Recognition makes people feel really good about themselves.”

Simple measures At CÉ LA VI, which has restaurants and clubs in Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and St Tropez in France, managers have one-on-one catch-up sessions with each team member at least once a month. “The focus is never to demean them but to always promote their strengths and to evaluate how we can develop their skills and emotional intelligence further,” Elanggo says. “For us, little things such as outings, team bonding meals, and ‘how are you’ sessions have proven to be most effective over the years.” Citing organisational behaviour author Marcus Buckingham’s broad work on employee recognition, Elanggo says that employees like to have their efforts 28 ISSUE 16.10

acknowledged every week. “That doesn’t mean that employees expect something big or lavish every seven days,” she says. “Often just a simple clear acknowledgement and the two words, ‘thank you’, are enough to show that their work is valued and that they are on the right track,” she explains. Jim O’Neill, Chief People Officer for HubSpot, agrees that something as simple and genuine as praise and positive feedback can help keep employees motivated and engaged. It is a concept that his company strongly advocates. “We evaluate and reward people not just on what they do in terms of business results, but also based on how they do it. Our recognition system is built on that,” O’Neill says. The recognition system that O’Neill is referring to is an anonymous peerto-peer review and feedback platform called “TinyPulse”. HubSpot employees are able to log onto it to formally compliment their colleagues. The comments are visible to managers in real time, allowing them to keep track of who the most appreciated performers are. Respective teams also hold regular meetings where top performers are called out and their efforts acknowledged. Managers have the autonomy to reward these employees as appropriate.

Such employee recognition measures are also common practice at e-commerce startup ShopBack, although they are less regimented. The Singaporean company, founded in 2014, has used a wide range of incentive schemes in its short history. At one end, the company has given out zoo tickets to the team that drove the most number of organic downloads for a newly-launched mobile app. Other occasions call for simply opening a bottle of champagne, such as when the customer service team cleared all its outstanding cases. Rachel Lee, HR Manager, ShopBack, says not relying on cash gifts demands employers make a greater effort to truly that connect with their staff.


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“Cash rewards connote a transactional relationship, while non-cash rewards are powerful in building team relationships,” says Lee. Managers and team members alike at ShopBack also practise expressing appreciation for each other publicly. “We celebrate together and congratulate each other on company communication channels whenever someone achieves something. We’re also really big on affirming colleagues openly on social media,” she adds.

More than words While praise and words of acknowledgement are nice to receive, Robert Subbing, General Manager, PizzaExpress Singapore,

says it is all just talk if there is no corresponding or subsequent action. “More often than not, an actual gift means more than words,” says Subbing. The UK restaurant group, which opened its first outlet in Singapore earlier this year, pays more than mere lip service when it comes to rewarding employees for a job well done. Indeed, the pizzeria has a well-oiled practice of validating employees with specific non-monetary incentives. Subbing says the company has introduced a “golden ticket” reward system across more than 500 outlets globally. “We have senior managers within the business that carry these golden tickets with them on visits. Any exceptional

service or act by an employee can result in the golden ticket being received,” says Subbing, adding that employees do not know when a visit will take place. These “golden tickets” are shopping or travel vouchers worth between S$30 and S$50. “(We) implemented this because we recognise the hard work and dedication of our employees, and we want to further motivate them to keep up the good work,” Subbing says. “Our employees are what make the brand so successful, and we want to give back in more personal ways.” HubSpot gives back to its long-term employees by granting them a paid one-month sabbatical after five years of ISSUE 16.10

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EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION service. O’Neill says employees have taken the opportunity to do things they would otherwise be unable to in their regular professional lives, such as spending the time surfing in Costa Rica or taking up Portuguese language classes in Brazil. “These sabbaticals enable employees to take time away from work to rejuvenate and explore personal interests, while still receiving pay and benefits,” he says. “Fulfilled and happy employees keep our HubSpot office vibrant and positive.”

Elite group Giving out awards and other honours is another tangible form of employee appreciation. Quoting a 2014 Boston Consulting Group report, Dr Wu Pei Chuan, Senior Lecturer, NUS Business School, says employees ranked “appreciation for work” as the most important element affecting their level of job happiness. Wu says one way many companies show this appreciation is by giving out “employee of the month” trophies or “best manager” awards to good performers.

With this in mind, HubSpot organises a monthly “Champions” dinner, which brings together the top contributors from every team to meet with a seniorlevel executive. It also gives these top performers an opportunity to get to know and learn from one another. “This tradition is a long-standing HubSpot mode of recognition and has scaled globally as an opportunity to get one-onone time with a key leader,” says O’Neill. HubSpot also initiated the “Jedi” award, which is given out roughly three times per year (complete with a customengraved Star Wars-style lightsaber) to an employee who has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Similarly, PizzaExpress launched its “Waiter of the Year” award in 2011. This sees the top performing-waiter from each respective region being invited to the company’s annual conference in London. There, they compete for the grand prize – last year’s winner earned an all-expenses paid trip to Italy. Although there is only one winner, Subbing says all employees who are chosen

Money still matters “This is not an ‘either or’ situation,” says Gaurav Hirey, former Chief HR Officer — Africa , Middle East, and Asia-Pacific at Kantar Millward Brown about the balance between cash and non-cash recognition programmes. “Both are needed and one cannot be sacrificed for another.” He says this is because monetary rewards help provide employees with extra income that can help meet immediate needs, whereas non-monetary rewards help create an emotional bond with the organisation. They further make the employee feel more valued at work, thus leading to stronger engagement, Hirey says. “Just having non-cash appreciation is great but it also needs to be backed up by some monetary recognition programmes so employees don’t feel that they are being short changed.” Salitha Nair Subramaniam, a lecturer with the School of Business and Management at PSB Academy, also feels that no single reward system is consistently better than the other. “Different people will have different motivation levels,” she says. “No one can deny the fact that money is the main motivator but the question is; will money alone able to boost productivity and commitment?” For example, money will often be the prime motivator of someone who is just entering the workforce; but for a middle-aged employee with family commitments, the main motivator might be flexible working arrangements. “It is important for the organisation to study and understand their employees before coming up with the necessary incentives plans,” she adds. Dr Wu Pei Chuan, Senior Lecturer, NUS Business School, agrees. She says having a combination of both reward systems is ideal because this approach will factor in a company’s capacity and capabilities, as well as employees’ preferences. “Cash rewards can mean many things, from cash bonuses, performance bonuses, and salary increments, to scholarships and study trip or holiday subsidies,” says Dr Wu. 30 ISSUE 16.10

to attend the conference expressed that they felt some form of recognition just by being placed in the elite category alongside other top performers. “This has proven to be effective as it sets clear goals amongst the employees, and gives them a further push to continue to flourish,” he says.

Understanding employees Of course, not all non-cash recognition programmes are a guaranteed hit, CÉ LA VI’s Elanggo warns. She says rewards, whether they are financial or otherwise, have to be designed according to what staff value. HR first needs to decide which behaviours it wants and needs to have strategies in place to encourage them and consistently recognise them. “If the plan and its rewards are not meaningful to or valued by employees, it is likely to fade out due to lack of interest,” says Elanggo. “The programme and its rewards should have top-down support, clear criteria, and eligibility for nominations. The rewards should be both innovative and relevant to employees.” O’Neill agrees that a baseline of consistency will allow individuals to know what they can work towards, as well as how well they are doing compared to their peers. That said, the means to achieving a goal can be different for each employee, he adds. “What is most important is to map out specific performance indicators that individual employees can identify with and map their performance towards, such as different training goals. This helps the employee feel involved and in control of their own career progression,” says O’Neill. ShopBack also takes an open approach to employee rewards. “Different employees have different motivations, and we trust that the team leaders who work with them day-in and day-out will know best,” Lee says. “They’re in the best position to tailor programmes that will truly appeal to their team members.”


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Tokyo Drift:

From Shinjuku to Singapore As Japanese companies stream into Singapore, elements of their distinctive business culture and HR systems remain in one form or another, even in the Southeast Asian republic’s multicultural setting. HRM Asia finds out how they have stayed true to their roots, while also adapting to the local context Fiona Lam


fter speaking with colleagues and clients, employees at recruitment firm RGF bow politely and thank them profusely. Japanese honorifics, like -san and –chan, are used at the end of names, to express respect and affection, especially when addressing Japanese colleagues. Courteous messages, such as a morning greeting or thanking colleagues for their good work, have also become second nature to all staff. However, despite the elements of Japanese etiquette and culture, these employees are not based in the Land of the Rising Sun. They are in fact working in RGF’s Singapore office on Robinson Road in the Central Business District, and comprise a mix of more than 10 different nationalities. Headquartered in Tokyo, RGF is one example of a large number of Japanese companies that have set up

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in Singapore, and adapted elements of their strong corporate culture to the local multicultural context. In contrast to the overwhelming homogeneity in Japan, these overseas offshoot firms often boast an increasingly diverse workforce.

Guiding principles Although Japanese nationals comprise just 17% of RGF Singapore’s staff, Japanese values like the corporate philosophy of kaizen still underpin the company culture in Southeast Asia. Translating to “change for the better”, kaizen is a long-term strategy that calls for constant efforts from all employees to improve efficiency and quality through small, incremental changes in processes. Kaizen is listed as one of RGF’s core values, and practised in the way the company “continuously looks


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WORKPLACE CULTURES at ways to improve systems, processes, internal training and development, and client service”, says Jonathan Guilfoile, Managing Director of RGF Singapore. For example, employees may choose to attend weekly training on a variety of topics. RGF holds breakfast sessions on Fridays for its assistant directors and principal consultants to share their experiences, and any staff member can drop by. Each session sees an average of 30 attendees. Another of RGF’s core values is respect, which Guilfoile says is vital in Japanese working culture. “We consistently preach the importance of respect, and we take it seriously enough that employees can be placed on probation if they don’t practice it,” he says. Also characteristic of Japanese society is a strong environmental consciousness. Corporate Japan has been taking the lead in sustainable development for more than a decade, and even in Singapore, Japanese companies strive to be eco-friendly. Electronics powerhouse Fujitsu, for one, supports green activities “fervently”, Rita Chan, Head of HR at Fujitsu Singapore, says. The company, where two-thirds of employees are Singaporean, participates in Earth Hour, Plant Appreciation Day, and Environment Day, among other environmental celebrations. “Environmental protection is one of our top management priorities,” Chan says.

Common practices Traditional Japanese HR systems pervade some of the Singapore offices as well. Yamato Capital Partners (YCP) Holdings, which offers investment and management services, requires staff to submit daily reports detailing the tasks they have completed for the day, along with – more importantly – personal reflections on what they have learnt. Known as nippo, the daily report system is common among firms in Japan, says Shingo Kasumoto, YCP’s Southeast Asia Regional Manager. The reports are shared with everyone and thus allow team leaders to easily understand their team members. They also force the employees to review key learning points, and help the

organisation grow with continuous shared learning, Kasumoto says. However, despite half of the staff at YCP Singapore being from Japan, the Japanese culture is not as pronounced in the Singapore office. This is because, Kasumoto says, most of the founding members previously worked in American firms. That has made transparency highlyvalued across the local organisation, even if that might be seen as a “non-Japanese” concept. Junior staff get to voice their thoughts, even in important conferences. “Our internal systems carry many elements that are seen as ‘nonJapanese’, most of which centre around transparency,” Kasumoto says. For instance, performance reviews are done via 360-degree feedback, and evaluation results are revealed to all team members. “However, when it comes to the external environment, we respect Japanese culture more, because YCP has many Japanese clients,” Kasumoto says. For example, employees follow Japanese manners and practices when having business dinners with clients. Although the clients are not too particular about etiquette, such behaviour shows a deep understanding of Japanese culture even among local staff, and has always been appreciated, Kasumoto says.

Work hard, play hard Typical of Japanese companies, it is also not unusual to put in long hours, work late, and go “above and beyond” job scopes at RGF, says James Miles, Senior Director of RGF Singapore. At the same time, the company’s staff also let their hair down during activities and team outings, ranging from laser tag sessions to indoor golf. In particular, the company holds “Beer Hour” every Friday, when computers are switched off at 5:00pm for an hour of drinks and mingling in the office. This is an adaptation of the Japanese business tradition of nomikai, an after-work drinking party when co-workers socialise in a relaxed setting at pubs or restaurants. “Regardless of how late employees finish work, having drinks after work

hours is a common team cohesion activity in Japanese culture,” says Guilfoile. In Singapore, Beer Hour takes place before the workday ends, so as to not take up the employees’ family and personal time. This work-hard-play-hard Japanese ethos also manifests itself at the upper management level in RGF. “No matter how senior they are or how stiff they sometimes seem, once out of the office, they’re the first ones on the dancefloor,” Miles says. “Some are even in their 70s and 80s!” Another Japanese work practice adopted by RGF Singapore is the openconcept office, where company leaders sit with rank-and-file employees, albeit in the corners or sides to still maintain a slight degree of hierarchy. A slight variation, however, sees the RGF Singapore leaders sitting right among their teams, in the middle of the workplace. “This encourages transparency, communication and integration,” says Guilfoile. Likewise, at Fujitsu’s Singapore office, senior executives are seated with the staff. Employees also practise hot-desking, creating an “agile” work environment where everyone is free to work from any desk, says Chan.

Native tongues Japanese language proficiency usually gives local employees in Singapore a distinct advantage, allowing them to communicate effectively with the headquarters in Japan and with Japanese clients. “But RGF is becoming a global business, and more Japanese businesses are also moving in that direction, to places like Singapore,” Miles says. “So they are realising they have to hire people stronger in English and localise their offices more, instead of just sending expatriates from headquarters.” Bilingual talents are increasingly in hot demand. At Mitsubishi, while some foreign employees pick up Japanese language skills of their own accord, the company also values Japanese workers who can learn the native tongues while working in overseas offices. “Compared to our Tokyo headquarters, our overseas offices have a deeper knowledge of their geographies and business sectors,” ISSUE 16.10

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WORKPLACE CULTURES says Toyohiro Matsuda, Global Training and Recruiting Officer at Mitsubishi Corporation. “Hence, Japanese management must listen to the global talents in these offices – in their local language.” Understanding bilingualism will be critical to the globalisation of Mitsubishi, Matsuda also formed a bilingual team by recruiting a Singaporean, Canadian and American, who were all fluent in both English and Japanese. “They translated every strategy paper in our department, and organised all our seminars in both English and Japanese,” Matsuda says. Mitsubishi has also expanded and improved its provision of English-language information for its overseas offices, so that foreign employees are kept in the loop and feel a greater sense of belonging to the company. More company-wide strategic data, such as management plans, changes in the board of directors, and company financial results, are now available in English to all staff worldwide.

Appealing to locals However, non-Japanese job applicants still tend to shun Japanese companies, deterred by the perceived undesirable characteristics common to many Japanese employers, says Matsuda. These include seniority-based HR systems, poor communication due to language barriers, less-than-thorough performance management, unclear or insufficient career development, and the presence of glass ceilings, he says. In some cases, Japanese expatriates assigned to overseas offices also underestimate the local staff’s capabilities and may be biased towards business originating from Japan, Matsuda says. High-calibre local professionals may not get to do meaningful work and end up playing only supporting roles, resigning after relatively short stints. Matsuda terms the resulting aversion towards Japanese companies as “Japanpassing”. Miles from RGF is familiar with the phenomenon. RGF Singapore used to encounter 34 ISSUE 16.10

difficulties when reaching out to candidates, as well as during first-round job interviews, he says. “Some candidates say they’re not interested in a Japanese company because of the perceived strong, traditional culture,” Miles says. “Initially, it was tough, but over the years, RGF has been understood as more of a multinational corporation, so it has

One life, one company The storied concept of lifetime employment has been cemented in Japan’s work culture for decades, although companies have been chipping away at it in recent years. Under the fading principle, once hired, employees commit themselves to the company until retirement. In Singapore, where job-hopping is becoming more common, employee loyalty can still be observed in many Japanese firms. Consider Fujitsu, where the average length of service for Singapore staff is seven years. Some employees have even stayed with the electronics company for close to four decades, says Rita Chan, Head of HR at Fujitsu Singapore. One of its managers, Matsumoto Nobuyuki, who has been with the company for 13 years, says, “Once employees enter Fujitsu, we seldom change companies and we want to develop our careers here until we retire.” He says the company’s Japanese culture and HR practices, including its sundry professional development opportunities, are a key reason he is staying with the firm for the long run.

become easier to attract talent.” To appeal to non-Japanese candidates and existing staff, Mitsubishi overhauled its HR practices in the early 2000s. A key change was the introduction of performance-based rewards and bonuses, to give more weight to meritocracy over seniority. Individual career development paths and tailor-made performance management systems were also established. Promotions now come with increased duties, responsibilities, and authority. Because high-potential non-Japanese professionals – especially those fluent in English – were likely to leave for global companies in Europe and the US, Mitsubishi also adjusted its salary bands to be competitive with the market rates in those countries. The company’s HR globalisation and localisation efforts are paying off. Out of the 10,000 Mitsubishi Corporation employees in its Asia-Oceania region (excluding Japan), only about 500 today are Japanese expatriates. This proportion is set to decrease further in the next five years as the company hires more local managers and “regional professionals”, says Matsuda.

Blended solutions Moving forward, other Japanese businesses expanding to Singapore would do well to keep an open mind and be willing to learn, Guilfoile suggests. “Our advice is to research the culture and work practices in advance, and respect the different nationalities, to help the company ease into the local culture,” he adds. YCP’s Kasumoto believes it is important for all employees in overseas offices to fully understand how Japanese culture can be connected to business results and help with growth. “Once you achieve the results, any Japanese practices will be accepted by your local employees,” Kasumoto says. “In other words, it’s best not to bring any Japanese practices which you think will not lead to business or organisational growth.”


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GETTING ACT into the

As demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills continues to rise, organisations are pushing through with new strategies to cultivate a dynamic and work-ready community Sham Majid

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he big technology players appear to be heeding the Singapore government’s call to boost the republic’s skills across the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Google, for example, has invested heavily in engineering talent, having bought local business messaging business Pie earlier this year. The startup’s nine engineers all immediately started work in Google’s office. Just three months later, Twitter got into the act. It announced plans to assemble a data science engineering team in Singapore, its first such unit based outside the US. The company has said it will be sourcing local candidates with diverse skillsets, including those with educational backgrounds in STEM fields and skills in coding and statistics. It conducted its first “tech talk” event with more than 240 potential recruits in May. STEM skills, according to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, are making a resurgent comeback of sorts. While officiating the opening of Singapore University of Technology and Design’s new East Coast campus last year, he said STEM skills were instrumental in elevating Singapore’s economy from “Third-World” to “FirstWorld” status. He said there was a heavy emphasis on STEM education during the early era of industrialisation, to generate individuals with the hard skills to be engineers and technicians. However, Lee says a generational shift has occurred since then, whereby students who have grown up in a more developed economy begin to show interest in other fields. “I’m glad that the trend is showing some signs of reversing, and that STEM courses and jobs are getting attractive again,” he said.

Where are the STEM talents? While efforts are well underway to make STEM roles a more attractive career proposition for young talent, HR practitioners and business owners tell

“It would be unrealistic to expect all facets of STEM to be encompassed in a single talent. A mathematician may not make a good engineer; an engineer may not make a good scientist” Lynette Tan, Director, Singapore Space and Technology Association (SSTA) HRM Asia there is a current shortage of these skills in the Singapore market. Sureash Kumar, Global Director - Talent Management of semiconductor firm UTAC, says local Singaporeans have tended to shy away from the manufacturing and semiconductor industry. However, he notes that elsewhere in Asia-Pacific, supply of engineering talent is meeting the also-high demand. The local talent scarcity in Singapore is also very much apparent to Terence Teo, Managing Director of Anewtech, an integrated platform solutions provider in Southeast Asia. “There is a shortage of local STEM talent in Singapore as engineering courses have not been taking in a lot of local candidates,” he says. “The reason is that the engineering and technical field has a lower return (in terms of salaries) compared to the financial and banking field, or even the property and insurance field.” This problem is all the more exacerbated by the reduction in foreign talent available for Singapore. What was once a steady and sufficient stream of STEM skills has now been curtailed by the Singapore government’s tightening of foreign labour quotas. Another bugbear for Teo is the limited pool of local STEM graduates, especially in the software developing scene. He says many SMEs encounter

difficulties when venturing into core product developments, due to the limited resources and manpower. “It is very difficult to develop a robust effort,” he says. “The only way is to source directly from the universities or tertiary institutions during the students’ internship programmes or project presentations.”

One acronym, different fields Although STEM comprises of sciences, technology, engineering and mathematical fields, Lynette Tan, Director, Singapore Space and Technology Association (SSTA), cautions that organisations cannot expect talents to be masters of each niche craft. “It would be unrealistic to expect all facets of STEM to be encompassed in a single talent,” she says. “A mathematician may not make a good engineer; an engineer may not make a good scientist; and vice versa. A technologist may not also be the best mathematician.” While STEM fields have many linkages between them, Tan says they are still distinctly different. Teo warns that it can be difficult to scope out STEM candidates and try to fit their academic qualifications to the job designation. He says this is because the majority of studies in different fields only touch the surface when compared to, for example, ISSUE 16.10

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STEM SKILLS delivering solutions or creating real world working products. “Most of the engineering courses tend to encompass the foundation of all STEM skillsets, especially in their first two years,” says Teo. “I feel that engineering and maths are two really distinct areas.” Due to the vast and complex nature of roles in these fields, as well as the sheer number of industries that require them, Kumar says it is virtually impossible to cater to all industry needs. Rather, he stresses that at the foundational level, educational institutions should focus on producing holistic graduates who are adeptly skilled in both technical and behavioural competencies. “Those with transferable skills at the workplace would also add value, as the required on-the-job training and certifications can address the technical aspects for these roles,” says Kumar.

Grooming STEM talents To compensate for the lack of skilled and highly-niched STEM talents, organisations are pushing ahead with their own initiatives to foster an ecosystem laden with vibrant and future-ready workers. SSTA aims to instil a “deep STEM” culture even outside of its own industry. It is driving several public initiatives, including one aimed at nine-year-olds. “We leverage on the inspiring theme of space and space exploration to bring STEM to our members,” says Tan. SSTA is also developing a professional curriculum to bring STEM topics and learning to adults and professionals of all ages. As part of her job scope, Tan regularly meets leaders from similar organisations in Europe, Australia and China, with whom SSTA is developing its professional development programme. She says SSTA also receives numerous résumés from STEM talents, which are then passed on to the organisation’s corporate members. “The résumés come from Europe, US, Asia and locally, of course,” she says. 38 ISSUE 16.10

Stuck in STEM? Are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talents only masters in the respective fields? According to Lynette Tan, Director, Singapore Space and Technology Association, STEM talents often get “stuck” in their engineering or scientific work only. However, she argues that businesses will find that many STEM talents, with enough exposure, will do extremely well in far broader roles, such as project management, business development, and even sales and marketing. “These are people with probably very good product knowledge, and they are able to understand the technical requirements, project timelines and operational challenges,” says Tan. “So actually, we should take advantage of their strong knowledge to groom them into other positions.” “Of course, there are individuals who prefer to stick to their STEM work, and there is nothing wrong with that.”

“Individuals get to know SSTA through our programmes, and the motivated ones will take a step further to send us their résumés, indicating clearly their technical background and what they want to do next. “These are usually very serious engineers who want to be part of something evolving and growing.” Anewtech employees enjoy specialist and structured STEM-related training throughout their careers with the business. For example, the company’s technical teams are scheduled to soon attend training at its supplier’s factory. They will be inculcated with the core debugging skills required for the IT platforms and products that Anewtech develops in Singapore. The company is also a big proponent of participating in technology conferences and trade exhibitions. “For more than 12 years, we have been exhibiting in telecommunications, broadcast and information communication

technology events and it is through these shows that we continue to acquire and engage with STEM graduates within the community,” says Teo. Anewtech is further working to develop future STEM talents. On top of its regular internship programmes with polytechnics, the organisation sends its HR Director to university open house events where students showcase their STEM-related projects. “By talking to some of these graduates and looking at their project prototypes, it allows the HR Director to have a better understanding of the skillsets that these graduates have, and to see if those skills are relevant to our context,” he says. With engineering being a critical function of UTAC, the organisation has constructed a specific key performance indicator when it comes to the retention of this group of talents. The company’s engagement and pulse survey has a specific sub-report that focuses on its engineering group. It is also in the midst of developing a specific technical career path for its staff in this field. The organisation is an Approved Training Organisation, and accredited to deliver Workforce Skills Qualifications courses for the continuous development of its engineering personnel. Selected UTAC employees are also regularly dispatched for external training, conferences and industryrelated symposiums to keep abreast of the latest trends and advancements in their respective fields. UTAC is also heavily investing resources in developing the next generation of STEM talent. For instance, the company collaborates with universities, polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education to connect with young talents through job fairs, internships programmes, and industrial visits. In particular, UTAC has recently partnered with Nanyang Technological University to offer internship places for its engineering students in specific disciplines. “This will be a long term partnership,” says Kumar.


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Are all hotels the same? Almost never, and certainly not when it comes to business travel. HRM Asia looks at the facilities, services, and advantages that matter most to leaders and executives traveling in Singapore and beyond


hen you’re scouring through vital aspect of hotel choice for anyone the hotel listings, it can traveling for work. While that will sometimes seem that all properties look usually be the Central Business District pretty much the same. They have the of the destination city, it could also be same types of rooms, the same sets of a technology business park or a local facilities, and even come in at around the exhibition and convention centre. same per-night price points. Particularly in the mega-cities of While each hotel will inevitably look Asia, there is simply nothing worse to appeal to a broad range of guest than having to run the traffic gauntlet demographics, including business while lugging laptops and presentation travellers, family groups, and solo holidaynotes from one side of town to the makers, they will also tend to have a other. If the hotel requires more than a natural specialisation of one or another. 20-minute taxi ride to the key place of When it comes to business travellers business, many business travellers will in that light, there are several key automatically look elsewhere. criteria that can help sort the best (Of course, some hotels – including accommodation options from the rest of those on Sentosa Island in Singapore, are Asia-Pacific’s crowded market. able to counter a seemingly inconvenient Whether it is a location location with efficient close to key business transportation services, Business guests should have centres, the size and layout including shuttle buses or of the rooms, or the range access to taxis on demand.) of dining options on site – In Singapore, the Central business travellers heading Business District is still without having to step over to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, the most important centre their luggage or squeeze in and Hong Kong in particular for business hotels, but between the bed and wall appreciate a hotel that can demand for accommodation cater specifically to their in areas on the other side requirements. While they may not of Marina Bay, around Bras Basah and use every facility or service on every the Suntec Exhibition Centre, has also stay, knowing they are available when grown significantly in recent years. East required can be the difference between a of the city, the fast-growing Mapletree relaxed stay and successful meeting and Business Park and Changi region are also continued stress throughout the business important destinations. traveller’s time away. In Hong Kong, business is concentrated In this special feature, HRM Asia in the aptly-named Central district, looks at some of these key criteria that although more and more businesses are business travellers specifically look for setting themselves up in Kowloon on the when selecting a hotel. other side of the bay. A number of major creative industry businesses are also Location counts located to the west of Hong Kong Island, It can’t be said too simply – location in Quarry Bay. close to the key place of business is a And in Kuala Lumpur, it is the Sentral

space to relax,

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BUSINESS TRAVEL district that attracts the greatest number of business travellers. Locations close to the iconic Petronas Towers and KLCC shopping mall form both the tourism and business hub for Malaysia’s capital city.

The facilities that matter Pore through the brochures and the web listings and you’ll see that every hotel – of almost every class – offers a wide variety of facilities and opportunities to both make guests feel at home, but also allow them to splash out on something special while they are away. But which of these are most important to business travellers, and which can be safely left out of the equation? The answer is not nearly as simple as the question might imply. Take the humble swimming pool, for example. Almost every hotel of at least four stars has one, but is it really needed for business travellers? How often do business travellers really head for a swim after a meeting or presentation? The answer, particularly in the tropical regions of Asia, is “yes, the pool is absolutely important”.

It is true that in other key business centres of the world, particularly New York and London, high real estate prices are focusing accommodation developers’ attention on different drivers of demand. But in Asia, the hotel swimming pool still provides an important part of the postwork relaxation offer. It is not used every day by every guest; but it is important that it is there on those days when only a refreshing splash will help business travellers feel at home in an unfamiliar and hot city. Likewise, a well-equipped gymnasium can be a vital service for a wide range of business travellers; including infrequent exercisers. There is a similar “there when you need it” philosophy behind the presence of business centres in leading hotels. While business travellers typically carry all the technology they need with them, and a sufficient wi-fi service is all that is required to keep them connected to their colleagues and loved ones, there are times when a backup is required, or when older-school office equipment –

photocopying, fixed line phones, or even a fax machine – is preferred. Alvin Lim, Director of Marketing for Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, says access to a dedicated executive lounge is also a key criterion for business travellers. “It provides a serene, conducive environment for business travellers to host discussions or take a break over a cup of tea while overlooking a great view,” he says.

Tip your concierge There is a cliché about hotel concierges, made famous by the world of Hollywood, that suggests their work is full of glamour and intrigue. At the very least, they seem to have extraordinary access to things like otherwise soldout theatre tickets and restaurant reservations. The truth when it comes to business travellers is much more mundane, but still vitally important. The best concierges provide a central information point and a wealth of knowledge about their city and the local

BUSINESS HOTEL DEAL BREAKERS Business travellers and the staff booking their accommodation have some very specific needs that any hotel catering to this key demographic should look out for. Alvin Lim, Director of Marketing for Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, says there are also some clear “deal breakers” that will likely turn business travellers off the property for all future bookings. They are: • A lack of wi-fi or otherwise unreliable internet access • Inaccessible hotel locations or hard-to-access transport. This would mean the guest has to spend too much time on traveling • A lack of business-friendly facilities, such as an executive lounge and dedicated business centre • Limited dining options within the hotel, and a lack of breakfast facilities in particular • Poor service, and bad reviews on crowd-sourced portals such as Tripadvisor.

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BUSINESS TRAVEL surroundings in particular. Whether it is an urgent taxi to the airport, directions to the nearest train station, or advice on the local dining and nightlife, they provide an authentic, and ready-to-assist service for any question a traveller may have. Business travellers are working outside their usual base of operations, and so need access to local information for a whole host of potential reasons. While some suggest hotel concierges are becoming obsolete – with a variety of internet-based applications able to do most of what they offer on a taskby-task basis, Virginia Casale, president of the international hotel concierge network The Golden Keys International Association, says only human concierges offer a one-stop shop of everything. She says online sources do offer reasonable information, but it can be difficult to know which apps or advice to trust. More often, business travellers

suffer from an “information overdose” when trying to find a single answer to a simple query, she notes.

The little things On top of all these facilities and services are the smaller, less-boasted-about things that the best business hotels will aim to consistently achieve. These are the factors that turn a “good” stay into a “great” one, and leave business travellers feeling that at least part of their trip was like a vacation during work. Things like being made to feel welcome, for example, go a long way toward making guests enjoy their stay in a stress-free environment. This could just be staff handling the check-in in a friendly, and efficient manner, or it could be about accommodating an unexpected request to the best of their ability. The size and make-up of rooms is another key point. Space is always at a

premium, but business guests should be able to relax, without having to step over their luggage or squeeze in between the bed and wall. Options are also very much appreciated. That means having a good selection of television channels available, including both news and entertainment channels. “The audio-visual equipment should also be easily connected to guests’ own devices,” Lim says. A variety of dining choices is also a definite plus for business travellers, particularly if they include the option (and space) for in-room service. Business travellers will also appreciate anything that can help them function in their temporary home away from home. Access to closet and hanger space, inroom safes, several electrical outlets, and even a steam iron will all help to make the stay, and the guest’s business, go smoothly.

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Labour on


Real-time web platforms have enabled businesses to tap directly into a diverse pool of independent, shortterm “gig” contractors on an as-needed basis. HRM Asia speaks to Asian app makers about the advantages of “on-demand” labour outsourcing Kelvin Ong


he upward trajectory of the “gig” economy is best understood by examining the closely-linked phenomenon that is the app-building sector. The rapid proliferation of real-time platforms, usually with mobile functionality included, has given rise to the so-called “gig” economy. This term has its roots in the music industry, referring to musicians who take on irregular performance jobs. Similarly, the “gig” worker is someone who takes on various short-term, irregular stints, rather than a single full-time job.

Non-employee workers Collectively known as contingent workers, these players now form a significant portion of the total US workforce. Contingent workers constituted only around 10% of the total workforce in 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But a study from software company Fieldglass last year found that an estimated 35% of the total workforce now comprises of 44 ISSUE 16.10

“non-employee workers” – independent contractors who are not recorded on the organisation’s official payroll. This number is set to grow further. Contingent workers are forecast to make up some 40% of the American workforce by the end of 2017, according to estimates from Intuit. Mirroring this growth is the burgeoning mobile app sector, primed to become a US$101 billion industry by 2020, doubling up from the US$50 billion value recorded in 2015, data analytics firm App Annie has revealed. Before today’s wide range of tools and platforms with realtime connectivity were available, outsourcing was generally confined to low-level transactions, creating mainly external call centres and business process shops offshore. Today however, companies are able to approach contingent employment very differently, as a much wider range of skills and services can now be outsourced and handled outside the organisation. As Havas Media’s Senior Vice President of Strategy and


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NON-TRADITIONAL OUTSOURCING Innovation Tom Goodwin wrote on TechCrunch last year, “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate”. These top businesses amassed significant value without having to spend millions on inventory or full-time employees.

No overheads Singaporean start-ups like honestbee, Fastfast and Ninja Van are three of the many entities who have adopted this approach of outsourcing key functions on an on-demand basis. “The gig economy will definitely make up a significant portion of the future workforce,” says Isaac Tay, Vice President of Talent and Special Projects at online grocery service honestbee. The e-grocer, present in Singapore, Hong Kong, Niseko, and Taipei, works with independent contractors who are paid on an hourly basis. As of February this year, honestbee employed more than 2,300 shoppers and delivery “bees” across its operations. Tay believes the model is both cost-effective and highly scalable. “With this type of workforce, we are able to hire more people to build up a larger labour pool than otherwise possible,” he explains. The company now plans to expand its services to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok and Tokyo during the last quarter of 2016. The app industry is also now the playground of seasoned entrepreneurs, including Elim Chew, founder of the iconic, but now-defunct Singapore fashion retailer 77th Street. In 2015, she co-created Fastfast, an app and website-based logistics support and delivery service that pairs freelance drivers with nearby customers that need to have articles delivered urgently. Customers can also book a delivery service via its website. The start-up engages independent contractors as delivery drivers. Fastfast works closely with corporate entities to provide delivery on demand at affordable, distance-based rates. At present, the company has a roster of some 1,300 trained drivers. Chew does not consider the “gig” economy to be “the future” of labour, but says it “definitely works for certain businesses”. That is “because demand and supply fluctuate, especially for start-ups”. And the main “killer” for start-ups, she adds, is high rental and manpower costs.

“This kind of contingent workforce helps to save on fixed overhead costs, so companies need not struggle to support a fleet of full-timers. Each worker is only paid for jobs that they successfully bid for,” she explains. “It is especially important during lull periods when demand is lower than supply.” Another logistics start-up with this labour model is Ninja Van, which positions itself as a delivery solution for regional e-commerce businesses, including Zalora and Lazada. Ninja Van also engages non-contract drivers to deliver orders directly to end-customers on behalf of its partner retailers. The company says there was previously no regional logistics hub that these retailers could partner with on any scalable basis. Founded in Singapore, Ninja Van is also present in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. As of April this year, it was making 15,000 deliveries a day across the region. Imran Bustaman, Assistant Vice President of HR, Ninja Van, says outsourcing labour gives the company much-needed flexibility. “In a company on a growth curve, diversifying your product is always on the cards, and sometimes having a full time workforce might not seem so viable,” he says. “Having a flexible workforce helps us to play around more with projects without worrying so much about the manpower costs.”

New income streams For individuals seeking flexible employment, the quantity of jobs is often key. Non-contractual job options can often “open up more streams of income”, Bustaman says. Freelancers also have more occupational mobility, he adds, noting that this is particularly true in the creative space. “The increase in companies hiring for project-based employment offers these gig workers much more freedom in deciding what they want to work on, and who they want to work with,” he explains. “This kind of mobility is not a luxury afforded to full-time employees.” Chew echoes the same sentiment. “Not only are there no fixed working hours, but there is also no restriction on the number of jobs they can take up,” she says. “This is really an additional avenue for them to earn extra income using resources they already have, such as their vehicles.” While Tay also agrees about the benefits of increased income and flexibility, he says the motivation to go independent often differs between higher and lower-skilled players. “Firstly, the highly-skilled workforce is using better tools to manage their time and projects more efficiently,” says Tay. “For these people, while going freelance seemingly sacrifices financial stability, it allows them to increase their per-hour income, and also satisfies their need to constantly do different and more interesting work. “At the same time, it allows more flexibility.” The opposite is however true for lower-skilled workers, facing lower demand for their services with the prevalence of technological substitutes and lower-cost labour in other parts of the world. ISSUE 16.10

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NON-TRADITIONAL OUTSOURCING programme for selected drivers; free Personal Accident insurance coverage; as well as a rebate and incentive programme. Earlier this year, the company also opened two new Driver Support Centres in Singapore.

Managing demand and supply

A Grab driver having a laugh with passengers “To them, going freelance is a means to secure as much employment as possible,” Tay says.

Transforming transportation There are no better archetypes of a company leveraging on the gig economy than Grab and Uber, two disruptive app-based transportation providers that match drivers to passengers through a range of service types, from private vehicles and taxis, to motorcycles, and even carpooling. Both ride-hailing platforms welcome just about anyone with a driver’s licence and a suitable vehicle to join them as a driver, and their first job can begin as soon as the first passenger request comes in. Uber is now present in more than 500 cities globally, and at the end of 2015 the company was valued at US$62.5 billion. “Uber offers people a new way to work – on their own terms,” a company spokesperson says. “People choose (to work for) Uber because it provides the kind of opportunity they want with the independence, flexibility and dignity that comes from being their own boss.” The spokesperson adds that business models like Uber’s allow drivers to set their own schedules. “In the US, for example, more than half of drivers drive fewer than ten hours a week. “Drivers can tend to childcare, invest in their education, or work another job, driving only when they need or want – even if that is just to pay an unexpected bill or the rent between jobs. Grab, which was founded in Malaysia in 2012, now operates across 30 cities throughout Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, with a network of more than 350,000 drivers. Grab’s most popular services are GrabCar and GrabTaxi. The latter service provides existing taxi drivers with an additional customer base to tap into. The head of Grab Singapore, Lim Kell Jay, says drivers have benefitted from the company’s many welfare initiatives. “While drivers are not our employees, they are a key part of the Grab family,” says Lim. “And for this reason, we place great emphasis on driver engagement. “For GrabCar drivers, our goal is to help lower their operating costs to increase their earnings, while ensuring their wellbeing is taken care of. For GrabTaxi drivers, we want to provide more ride bookings to them, while keeping them engaged,” he says. Among the many GrabCar driver initiatives are: a fuel discount 46 ISSUE 16.10

Fastfast’s Chew warns of the challenge in balancing consumer demand and an appropriate supply of staff and services. “When there is high demand but low supply, your clients might find it difficult to think of your business as a vendor that they can rely on,” she explains. On the other hand, when there are too many drivers, she says “they might get disheartened when they don’t get many jobs, which will result in them leaving the company for other opportunities”. Furthermore, Chew says contingent workers are not contractually bound to complete every pending job, and this unreliability can sometimes lead customers to lose trust in the service. Retention and loyalty are definitely “foreseeable issues” with such a model, since freelancers have more mobility, says Ninja Van’s Bustamam. “That makes it a lot more difficult in developing your own internal employee competencies.” He adds that the low barriers to entry can also be a cause for concern. “I think when you work in an industry where barriers to entry are low and building defensive moats around your business to ensure competitive advantage are difficult, there is always a fear that you’ll lose it,” Bustamam shares. “But this all boils down to your recruitment and selection process,” he adds. It is also vital for companies to constantly engage with their independent contractors, says honestbee’s Tay. “Because the sense of belonging might be lacking, people tend to come, and then go once they have found themselves a better gig,” he says. “Companies need to do all the things a company with good HR would do, albeit slightly differently.” He says it is important to celebrate wins together, reward the better performers, and communicate that there will be more jobs available if the company does well. Honestbee, for example, pays better-performing shoppers a higher per-hour rate. Chew agrees with the importance of incentives. She says companies have to “keep communication open” and continually provide independent contractors with updates about the company’s progress and business direction. Ninja Van’s Bustamam also lauds the value of building trust with gig workers by simply being frank about all possible outcomes. “Managing, meeting and aligning expectations, and being very clear and honest with each party creates a lot of mutual respect, so there’s trust from both sides to fulfil their contractual obligations,” says Bustamam. “Once there is stability, we look at how can we make them keep coming back – which is where incentives, come in to play.”


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Asia’s ONLY Employee Engagement and Experience Strategy Congress HRM Asia’s inaugural Employee Engagement and Experience congress will gather forward-thinking HR practitioners to discuss the trends, challenges, solutions and technologies being utilised for employee engagement and experience. This congress will also explore building engagement through workplace design, a culture of feedback + much more!

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• Understand the role of line managers in engagement and learn how to equip them with the right skills • Hear about new engagement technologies and methods in the industry • Learn how to measure and utilise your engagement data to improve your bottom-line • Engage your employees even in times of turbulent change • Creating and designing employee experiences to attract and retain the top talent for the future of work For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please contact: Kristine Chan Sales Director Phone: +65 6423 4631 Email:

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Director of Human Capital and Development, Pan Pacific Singapore

How many years of HR experience?

I started my HR career in 1995. I have 21 years of experience in total, with 16 years in the hospitality industry.

Why HR?

I started out wanting to try an administrative position, but got into HR and gradually enjoyed my first HR role in a hotel as I could help associates with their concerns and queries. As I progressed further, my role expanded into Learning and Development and Talent Development, both essential for strengthening associates’ skills and growing their capabilities.

Why Pan Pacific Singapore?

Pan Pacific Singapore is the flagship property of Pan Pacific Hotels Group, which is one of the biggest locally-owned hospitality organisations. The hotel has a wide diversity of associates and it is rewarding to see staff from different walks of life excelling in their respective positions and enjoying what they do.

Biggest achievement?

Professionally, I would say my biggest achievement has been staying in this industry for over 20 years, and still enjoying it. On a personal level, it would be having two lovely kids, and a well-trained “fur-kid”.

After hours?

Spending my free time with my family, cooking and baking for them during weekends. With the recent Pokemon Go craze, I accompany my two daughters to different places to catch as many creatures as possible.


My family consists of my husband, my lovely daughters, and a Golden Retriever.

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Surviving fear E

mployees today are increasingly fearful of losing their jobs. They are also worried about being bullied, shamed, or humiliated in the workplace. Board directors are under pressure from shareholders, while senior executives are fretting over maintaining sales in an already nervous market. As a result, there has been an increasing climate of fear that is spreading wide and seemingly contagious across organisations. Fear at work has also become normalised, warns psychologist Sheila Keegan in The Psychology of Fear in Organizations. Drawing attention to the oft-overlooked organisational phenomena of fear and control, Keegan takes a psychological approach to advise on how this anxiety can actually be transformed into more positive results, including improved employee wellbeing, higher productivity, and increased innovation. The book examines the nature of fear in the workplace and how it affects employees physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally. Keegan looks at how fear reduces the creative spark of staff and the willingness to take risks, hence inhibiting growth. But while fear can be a barrier to change, it can also drive it. In the right amount and kind, fear can propel individuals and groups to perform well, as long as a manager or leader knows when it is appropriate to use it, Keegan says. Keegan draws on lessons from healthy organisations, but mostly zooms in on those that have struggled to develop an engaged, happy, and productive workforce. Aside from describing the negative effects of fear at work, the book also offers a practical framework to help minimise, if not eradicate, these. The Psychology of Fear in Organizations is essential reading for anyone keen to tackle the longstanding problem of fear headon, and encourage creativity and innovation for organisational improvement. It is soundly based on history, research, and Keegan’s personal experiences.

Title: The Psychology of Fear in Organizations Author: Sheila Keegan Publisher: Kogan Page Limited Price: S$75.00


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The Partners In Leadership® Three Tracks To Creating Greater Accountability® from a comprehensive and proven approach to creating greater leadership and workplace accountability. The methodology refined and developed over two decades, help people at every level of organisation take greater personal accountability for overcoming the obstacles the face and ask “What else can I do?” to achieve Key Oranisation Results. Contact us or join us for our free webinars to learn about leadership and workplace accountability.

Glides Consulting Partners is partner of Door International and the Exclusive Authorised Representative for Singapore and Malaysia of Partners in Leadership®. 140 Paya Lebar Road 02-11 AZ@Paya Lebar Singapore 409015 ISSUE 16.10

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9/26/2016 11:09:47 AM



FIERY LEADERS With a tagline as “the bank for a changing world”, BNP Paribas has introduced a leadership training programme aimed at developing the ever-burgeoning Asian market into a stronghold. HRM Asia finds out more Kelvin Ong


rench multinational bank BNP Paribas has shown great commitment to growing its business in the Asia-Pacific region. Besides unveiling a S$24 million regional training and development campus in Singapore in 2014, the company also launched its distinctive and highly-targeted leadership training programme Asia-Pacific Dragons (APAC Dragons) in the same year. 50 ISSUE 16.10

The moves were in line with the bank’s Asian development plan, which was developed after the region was identified as one of BNP Paribas’ critical growth markets.

Asian Dragons “This meant that we needed to have the right kind of leadership capabilities for us in the region,” says Angelo Pinto, Regional Head of Learning and Development and Head of the bank’s Asia-Pacific campus.

Leadership training, both at the global level and in Asia specifically, is a key part of that process, says Pinto. “The main purpose is to essentially develop leaders for Asia from Asia. “Therefore, training our people here on leadership techniques was one of the key priorities for us in the learning and development area.” APAC Dragons, a comprehensive three-day learning and development programme conducted at the bank’s dedicated campus, was therefore created with the aim of equipping key senior managers from across the region with relevant know-how and competencies. “We wanted a name which was distinct, as well as something that was very Asian. So we chose ‘Dragons’ because the dragon is a symbol of strength and transformation, and we believe that is an important value for our leaders in Asia to have,” explains Pinto. Participants of the programme are typically individuals in senior executive positions, individuals who are due to take on senior roles in the near future, and senior-level high potentials. HR plays a key role in identifying each


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of these groups of participants. “We essentially look at managers who are already successful; people who already excel in what they do and are at a certain level of seniority. The programme helps them to further build their leadership capabilities,” says Pinto. “The idea is to develop people further, so they grow to take on more responsibilities. In some instances, (they are able to) move from one business to another, or move from a country role into a regional role,” he adds.

Blended learning APAC Dragons offers a “blended” approach to learning, Pinto emphasises. It is an interactive course that combines theory with application exercises. “So you have very strong theoretical concepts being taught. But participants are also asked to implement these theoretical concepts in different scenarios. “(In this way), participants are able to know exactly how to apply these techniques back at the workplace.” The programme also invites a diverse set of speakers, from both inside and outside the business and its functions. “You get people who are economists and people who are strongly on the business side, all the way through to specialists in strategies and execution. There are also people who come in to talk about people management and how you can adapt your leadership style,” says Pinto. The programme focuses on three key development areas: personal leadership style, Asian macroeconomics, and strategy and execution. The personal leadership portion first analyses each participant’s individual leadership style, and then considers what they need to modify in order to successfully navigate through their current role and working environment. The second part of the programme is where participants learn about the various economic trends taking place across Asia. This ensures they can appreciate and understand the unique business dynamics that are taking place. “Participants will explore which economies are growing, which economies are stagnant, what kinds of markets we are seeing, and what are some of the economic things that we

Top Asian business leaders sharing insights in a 200-seat auditorium need to keep in mind,” says Pinto. “Individuals will have a better understanding of how Asia as a whole looks like from a business perspective.”

Broad perspectives When it comes to strategy and execution, participants learn about different types of strategic planning, and how these can be adapted to their individual styles or business environments. They also learn to build effective strategies to run their business over medium and long-term periods. Pinto says participants will gain a broader market perspective beyond their own specialised roles. “All of them have a business role and responsibilities which are also countryspecific,” he says. “Sometimes they are very product-driven but this helps them to understand trends and make predictions.” The programme was developed alongside Singapore Management University (SMU), which created module content and course materials, and also brings in speakers to deliver the programme. Pinto says SMU was chosen because it was “able to create the right bridge between classroom insights and workplace application”. APAC Dragons takes place once a year, with 25 participants in each cohort. It was first launched in June 2014, with this year’s session kick-starting next month. “The programme has grown – we’ve kept tweaking it along the way to make it more and more relevant to our people,” Pinto says. “The feedback from participants has been very positive. They feel it is a very different kind of programme from what they have attended before.”

A training landmark The BNP Paribas Asia-Pacific Campus is the bank’s first training and talent development facility in Asia. Opened in March 2014, the centre takes close to 4,000 employees through its doors every year for a wide range of learning and development programmes. The school offers advanced programmes in eight areas: Talent Development, Leadership and Management, Individual Skills, Risk and Credit, Compliance and Regulatory, Product and Technical proficiencies, Diversity and Inclusion, and Business Culture and Social Responsibility. The campus is made available to all employees across Asia, says Angelo Pinto, Regional Head of Learning and Development for the bank. Located on a 14,000m² property, the facility consists of two restored historic buildings incorporating a modern infrastructure and the latest technologies. The training teams have access to a 200-seat auditorium, 14 training and conference rooms, nine fully-equipped meeting rooms, and outdoor verandas and gardens, as well as a restaurant. “Setting up this campus was a very strong signal to our employees and to Singapore that we are prepared to invest in the long-term,” says Pinto.

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Alex Ang

Lim Zhi Rong

Madan Nagaldinne

Park Hotel Group has appointed Alex Ang as Group HR Director. In this role, Ang will oversee the group’s strategic HR responsibilities, which include acquiring and retaining talent, leading change management, and building a strong corporate culture. With over 25 years of experience spanning six countries across Asia, Ang joins Park Hotel Group with a profound understanding of the nuances of multicultural environments and workforces. Having worked with leading regional and international hospitality groups, he possesses vast experience in pioneering culture change, developing policies, and also delivering training programmes to groom future hospitality leaders. Prior to joining the Park Hotel Group, Ang also handled the complexities of HR processes and cultural integration resulting from hotel acquisitions and mergers. “I am delighted to welcome Alex to the team,” said Allen Law, CEO of the Park Hotel Group. “Alex joins at a time when the group is growing quickly. His expertise in understanding diversity, developing synergies and transcending cultural differences is very valuable to us. “With Alex on board, we are excited to continue aligning mindsets and attitudes to the company’s vision and values, and building our talent platform to develop high-performing employees. “We are cognisant that these initiatives are important for us to become a desirable and well-loved employer of choice in the long-run,” Law added.

Lim Zhi Rong has taken on a new role as Regional HR Business Partner at Unilever, Southeast Asia. He was formerly the Regional HR Business Lead at Mondelez International, and brings with him more than ten years of experience in HR management. Lim will partner the Vice President of Unilever Food Solutions Southeast Asia on the multinational’s future talent agenda and reports to the Vice President of HR, Southeast Asia and Australasia. He will work closely with the business to ensure the alignment of business and HR priorities in talent pipeline, skills capability building, organisational effectiveness, and culture. Lim says he looks forward to making positive contributions as the Regional HR Business Partner, through working closely with business stakeholders, including the Unilever Food Solutions Leadership Team of Southeast Asia and the HR team around the region. At Mondelez International, AsiaPacific, he was part of the team that led one of the biggest business transformations of the company, redefining the organisation into a full category-led operating model. Lim began his career at Temasek Holdings as part of its HR Management Associates Programme. He later joined the Linde Group and was posted to the Philippines as the Country HR Head for its global shared services centre then. He led the HR team in Manila, reporting to the Philippines general manager.

Madan Nagaldinne, the former Head of HR for Facebook Asia-Pacific, has been appointed as Chief People Officer of ContextMedia:Health in the US. He will be leading ContextMedia:Health’s people strategy, talent acquisition, compensation and benefits, and learning and development functions, as well as people operations in the New York City and Chicago offices. Nagaldinne will be reporting directly to ContextMedia:Health co-founder and President, Shradha Agarwal. In his nearly six years at Facebook across Asia and North America, Nagaldinne held key HR leadership positions across multiple locations and teams. He was most recently, leading the HR function for all of the company’s global sales teams, and was also previously the HR Leader for Facebook’s New York City office. During his stint as the Director and Head of HR for Facebook’s AsiaPacific operation, Nagaldinne oversaw the company’s expansion in over 11 countries, where it quickly became one of the most desirable places to work in Asia. Prior to Facebook, Nagaldinne was the Head of HR for Amazon’s India and Singapore operations. “ContextMedia:Health is committed to building a strong community of thinkers, innovators and creators to realise our vision of transforming the healthcare industry globally,” Agarwal said. “We are thrilled to welcome a purposeful people leader, whose passion for attracting, developing and empowering the world’s best talent aligns with our core values.”

Group HR Director, Park Hotel Group

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Regional HR Business Partner, Southeast Asia, Unilever

Chief People Officer, ContextMedia:Health


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Reducing attrition through employee benefits


s a global polymer processing company, supplying products to the construction, automotive, and industry sectors, our experienced staff are vital to business. A few years ago, we were suffering high attrition of close to 25.8%, particularly among our sales professionals. As ours was a niche industry, it was not only costly to re-hire and re-train staff; our business performance was affected by the loss of productivity. HR carried out surveys within the company, asking general openended questions to understand what employees were passionate about. The deeper analysis made me realise that once a fair level of compensation was paid, money was less of a motivator.


We also noticed there was no common theme present across all employees, from those who were single, to those who were married with kids, and also those who were part of our mature workforce. Their needs were varied, from continuous learning, and to giving up smoking, or leading a healthier, more active lifestyle, to giving back to the community. I decided to see what would work, and targeted a country office with 30 employees for a new Flex programme. We looked at benefits as a whole, including the amount of money we spent on insurance, learning and development, corporate social responsibility initiatives, and also, career progression. We allocated S$2000 per employee

6:30 AM After a quick workout and then breakfast, my day begins with my family, who are based in the US, via FaceTime. Following this, I check personal emails and social media to see what is happening with my extended family and friends around the globe.

8:30 AM

Robert Chessen Vice President of HR, Asia-Pacific, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

I am in the office reviewing the day’s events and business emails. Meetings begin after 9.30 AM, where I address and clear off any issues that surfaced overnight. My meetings are often short and focused, resolving the key issues at hand.

11:30 AM It is lunchtime for me as I usually try to get ahead of the busy lunch crowd. I typically

per year, taking into account all these factors. This allowed employees to decide how much they wanted to allocate based on four key wellbeing initiatives of health, social impacts, educational opportunities, and professional development. All employees had to ensure that their basic health coverage was met, and once that was achieved, they could decide how they want to allocate their remaining flex-dollars. The outcome has been a really engaged and productive workforce that can literally decide the fate of their own lives, instead of complaining that the company did not do enough. More importantly it helped meet our objective of reducing our attrition down to 9.3%, thus helping the company save money in the long run.

seek out the takeaway version of local cuisine so that I can return to office to close out personal emails and activities as the US is heading to sleep.

2:00 PM In the afternoon, I have individual meetings with internal or regional HR staff and other colleagues. The support functions that both my team and I provide are varied. The fun part of the job is that many different topics are addressed and no two days are alike. During the course of the day, I will also work on the regional strategic plans for our staff and the various Asia-Pacific initiatives we are embarking on.

5:00 PM Wrapping up the active

Head of HR - Asia & Pacific, REHAU

interactions,planning the next day, and looking ahead. Checking progress on the day’s workload to see if the list has grown for tomorrow (often) and reviewing the day’s accomplishments (many!).

5:30 PM It’s my project time. This is when I can take time to handle the analysis and challenges of more detailed information that may require fewer interruptions occurring during the typical daily activities. I may also take time to run for dinner as I take a conference call or two with our global office in Minneapolis in the evening. I tend to vary my departure times from the office but I opt to leave work in the office when I end the day.

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Tarun Gulrajani


9/26/2016 11:22:13 AM


HR FROM THE CLASSROOM Every month, HRM Asia speaks to a young university talent hoping to carve out a career in HR upon graduation What attracted you to HR? Why are you studying it? In all honesty, I never intended to study business at university. I had my heart set on reading psychology, even before my A-Levels. I have always been intrigued with the human psyche and everything it entails. I am fascinated in understanding how our minds work and the decisions that drive our behaviour. However, when it came down to making my decision, I was at a juncture in my life where my personal obligations outweighed those of my personal interests. As such, I took up the practical option of studying business, for a shorter duration. Eventually, I realised that Nanyang Business School offered HR as a specialisation. This was ideal for me as I could marry my interests in psychology with the degree I was presently pursuing. Obviously, HR and psychology aren’t the same, but the former has its roots buried in the latter. It is an interesting challenge to be working in HR, especially given the paradigm shift that Singapore is heading towards. HR aims to build an engaged and motivated workforce with the right skillsets to drive performance. This in itself is definitely a challenge, but a beautiful one.

What aspects of HR do you hope to specialise in upon graduation? I hope to pursue an HR career in either Talent Acquisition or Compensation and Benefits. I’ve grown to enjoy the science behind recruitment and its underlying importance at the foremost of the HR process. Compensation and Benefits on the other hand, is an exciting area of HR. I realise it has so many interactions with other functions of HR and its strategic importance. Having said that, I did my internship in

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Talent Development and Management, and acknowledge the value of building a robust talent pipeline for the organisation’s sustainability. At the end of the day, although there are some areas I’m interested in, I would not want to short-change my learning by restricting my options. All functions of HR are invaluable to the organisation.

The top three things you want from your HR career? First of all, I hope that my career will give me an opportunity to learn and grow. Part of my life’s credo is that I lack competence, and this keeps me grounded. It drives me to continue my pursuit of knowledge. I want to be able to work in an environment that allows opportunities to learn, not only as a professional, but as an individual as well. Something that I’d hope for my career is to work in an environment that has a collaborative culture. There is gravitas in the “wisdom of the crowds” and I believe the best initiatives come from groups of individuals with different perspectives, as opposed to single experts. Lastly, I hope my career will offer me good work-life balance. I think an integral part of staying committed to the workplace is having an avenue elsewhere to express and realise one’s self.

What challenges do you anticipate? I think the most pressing challenge will be not being able to have all the answers for everything. As I’ve mentioned, this is part of the human condition and why I remind myself to never stop pursuing knowledge.

Your HR career five years from now? I hope to be in a managerial position

Farouq Abdullah Business (HR Consulting), Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University by that point. In the long-term, I hope to be a corporate trainer. Apart from acquiring knowledge, I think it is terribly honourable to share one’s wealth of knowledge.

Hobbies or inspiration? I try and live my life as holistically as possible and subscribe to multidisciplinary activities. I am in the midst of starting an acappella group within Nanyang Technological University and enjoy playing team sports with my friends when I have the time. My greatest inspiration is my mother. She has blessed me with life and teaches me every day to stand up and face adversity. She has raised me with compassion while allowing me the liberty to make my own intelligent decisions for which I am eternally grateful.


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MANAGING CHANGE Bringing out the need for change intrinsically Farouq Abdullah


hange is the only constant in life.” So said Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher. This phenomenon is perhaps relevant not only in one’s personal life, but could also be one of the unspoken rules of business. For businesses to stay relevant and sustainable, the ability to adapt and react to change is paramant. With change, however, there is a natural resistance towards it. This begs the question, “Why are we so resistant to change?” What I have come to understand is that resistance to change happens intrinsically. Change is viewed as exogenous and naturally, our cognition automatically assumes that it does not belong to our pre-existing mental models. As such, I would go so far as to say that we are biased against this new information and hence, react in a resistive manner. Add to that the fact that human beings are social creatures who build affiliations – you’ve got a whole workplace of people unwilling to accept change if the majority feels that way.

HR retreat I’d like to relate a personal professional experience of mine regarding change management. I had the privilege of working in a local organisation that was aiming to be a world leader in what they specialised in. I worked under the

corporate office, and this represented itself as the umbrella organisation for several other entities underneath it. The problem was that the corporate office only came to existence much later than all the organisations underneath it. As such, it was playing a game of catch-up to try and synchronise policies and procedures across all entities. This represented a unique challenge. The way this organisation handled the change was enlightening. Every so often, the HR Corporate Office would organise a retreat, where HR professionals across all entities come together to build cohesion and go through some personal development courses together. The stand-out for me was a very simple exercise, where groups of individuals (mixed across all entities) had to come up with problems that they encountered day-to-day at work. Everyone would then present their findings. Naturally, you could see that the problems faced could be aggregated into certain areas and that everyone generally faced the same issues. After which, solutions were presented to everyone and people would vote. They would not only vote for ideas they felt were most effective, but also for ideas that they would like to take up as projects. These mini-projects would then go on to tackle the problems

they faced. The winning project was to improve on the current HR information system (the existing software had crossentity compatibility issues and a lack of integration across HR functions). I think the lesson to be learnt here is that the powers-that-be within the organisation saw the need for change. However, if they had chosen to do an overhaul of the HR information system themselves, it would have been met with strong resistance. By getting the employees themselves to talk about the problems and solutions, it creates a climate where the employees themselves acknowledge the need for change and immediately buy-in to the idea.

Conclusion At the end of the day, change is most readily accepted if people see the intrinsic need for it and if they see benefits to be gained. It is challenging as there are psychological barriers that must be overcome. People must be participative in introducing change while understanding everything that the change brings. We as HR professionals act as change agents as our policies affect the working lives of employees across the organisation. We must be able to consider all implications that change brings, lest it be met with resistance.

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SME SPOTLIGHT Bubble soccer at a PTS teambuilding event

A taste for

THE UNORTHODOX Technology firm Philip Tang & Sons brims with creative energy, from its inquisitive employees eager to try on different hats, right down to its inventive HR policies Fiona Lam


nstead of the usual medical benefits, business software developer Philip Tang & Sons (PTS) gives out cold, hard cash to its employees. The innovative policy, introduced in 2010, encourages a healthy lifestyle through positive reinforcement, by allowing the staff to retrieve their “unused” medical benefits in cash, says CEO Franklin Tang. While companies traditionally buy health insurance policies to cover staff’s medical expenses, Tang’s initiative sees the technology company co-pay half of the employees’ medical bills, with any balance amount given to individual staff members as a cash incentive. “I told my staff they’re very young and healthy, so I’ll give them this money and they should use it wisely,” Tang says. “If they want to use it to buy insurance from a private provider, that’s their call. 56 ISSUE 16.10

Or, they may spend it on fitness classes, or on food.” In contrast, when health insurance is provided, employees may be more tempted to claim for expenses in an attempt to ensure the policy is not “wasted”, he adds. Leow Wei Wen, Art Director with the company, says the initiative is a “brilliant idea” which keeps staff from developing a habit of calling in sick for minor reasons. In his 18 years of work experience at other firms, the 40-year-old has seen many colleagues malingering in order to avoid work, or actually believing they are unwell. He admits he once went through that phase, too. “There’s nothing much the management can do,” Leow says. “You simply think these people are always sickly, and coworkers may think they’re unreliable, but the management tends to keep quiet even if they suspect

employees are abusing the system.” When Leow joined PTS in November last year, he saw the scheme as a transparent and creative way of rewarding those who work hard. However, he concedes that employees who are seriously ill and actually need to take medical leave often will miss out on the cash incentive. “But if they are a hardworking employee, I’m sure the company will duly reward them through performance bonuses or other means,” he says. To date, the number of medical certificates submitted by PTS staff since the policy was enacted has remained low, with more than half of the 20-odd employees having no claims and collecting the maximum amount of cash each year.

Flexible talent management Despite being more than three decades old,


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SME SPOTLIGHT the Singapore-based company nonetheless has a dynamic, vibrant startup culture. Yet, as a small firm that is not wellknown among consumers, PTS has found it a challenge to attract talent. To work around that, the company recruits all year round. PTS advertises on online job sites “very frequently”, even if there are no vacancies at the time, Tang says. “If there are good candidates, we’ll usually take them.” Afterwards, PTS essentially creates positions for these new hires, based on their areas of interest. The focus hence shifts from whether the person is a good fit for a specific role, to whether they are a good fit for the company as a whole, and for future roles they may take on. Vacancies may also arise for new recruits if and when existing employees request a transfer to another department in order to try new things. Allowing lateral movement within the company is another of its flexible talent management strategies.

Trying on new hats A case in point is Leow, who formally joined the creative team to oversee the art direction, in-house marketing, and design of the company’s products. That role made him a natural “bridge” between the PTS developers and the company’s clients. He has had to understand clients’ business needs and also work with developers to build products that will satisfy those requirements. Those frequent interactions have helped Leow ease into his additional role of being the first point of contact with clients, and gathering their requirements from them. He has also learnt about the mindset and skills of the developers, such as how to present the information and how to design the flow of data. “In the past year, I’ve definitely had an increase in knowledge, which lets me help with the systems’ back-end tasks and the programming,” Leow says. This saves on manpower and also results in a refined product that better suits the customer’s requirements, he adds. Besides this, Leow has also been given opportunities to run projects on his own. He has been discussing with Tang in recent weeks about trying out the role of a project manager and how he can further improve. “People are not machines,” Tang

says. “Everyone is different, and two people with the same technical skills and educational background may still need to be managed differently.” Leaders need to be able to groom and relate to each employee differently, Tang says. That is why during their first few months at the company, new hires at PTS are observed so that management can better understand where their inclinations and skillsets lie. “Joining PTS is just a starting point. You may begin in an engineering role, but end up as a marketing or account manager,” Tang says.

Innovating beyond the job This approach also helps spur more innovation and creativity, which is crucial for a technology company that develops its own proprietary products. Under PTS’s belt are products such as mobyVote, an e-polling platform, and Habitap, a smart home mobile application. PTS employees are urged to be multidisciplinary in their interests, pursuits and ideas. Innovations should not be restricted to their formal job scopes. No matter which department they are in, anyone can offer suggestions and create innovations in any of the company’s three core business areas of design, sales, and programming. During meetings, Tang also takes a step back to let staff run the show. They can talk freely without Tang overriding them.

PTS staff at a company lunch In helping staff to take full responsibility and ownership of their ideas, PTS gives them all the resources they need to develop a prototype. They are also allowed to work on the project during office hours – unlike in some companies where employers pile regular work on the staff, on top of asking them to innovate, Tang says. “Innovation comes at a cost, which the company must be prepared to shoulder,” he says. “If you want to drive innovation, you must put your money where your mouth is.” Before taking the helm at PTS in 2011, Tang used to believe innovation could be fostered by simply building a platform and gathering the staff occasionally to share their ideas. “But that’s wrong, because you need a daily culture for innovation,” he says. “It’s not just about holding an ‘Innovation Week’ and squeezing all the ideas out of the staff. “It has to be in your blood.”

Grooming entrepreneurs One unusual talent management strategy at Philip Tang & Sons hinges on CEO Franklin Tang’s willingness to help talented employees become their own bosses. For those with brimming with aspirations and aptitude, Tang is more than happy to support them, be it through finance or by offering experienced business advice. “I always encourage my staff to become entrepreneurs, and offer to be their business partner if they want to leave the company,” he says. While naysayers may believe this poses a threat to the company, Tang thinks otherwise. Sooner or later, these enterprising employees will leave to run their own businesses, he says, so it is worthwhile to make the best of the relationship and learn from their entrepreneurial spirit while they are still working at the company. “People have to leave eventually,” he says. “If you’ve stuck it out at a company for 10 years and have nothing much to do, you’d better leave, unless the company is growing substantially.” Clearly untaken by the idea of lifetime employment, Tang stresses the importance of bringing in new blood so as to get fresh ideas and perspectives. “These days, five years would be a good time for employees to go learn something else.” ISSUE 16.10

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How can a coaching culture benefit organisations that already encourage a learning mindset?


oaches possess an important set of skills, which are related to the way humans interact with one another. Among them is the ability to ask effective questions to draw answers from within another person, bringing out the best in them. Moreover, coaches are trained in active listening skills, which allow them to get a deeper level of comprehension. Coaching also calls for action, which helps to provide structures and ensure accountability from all levels within the organisation. As coaching is done on a personal level, it can be a very effective management tool. Bringing a coaching culture into an organisation is basically implementing the aforementioned skill sets into the corporate culture itself. Coaching also brings forth an entirely different layer of communication, which enables the formation of new partnerships, as well as responding

respectfully towards each other. Hence, there is a whole different mode of relationships when you introduce coaching as a culture in a company. A coaching culture is distinct from having only a learning culture, which in essence is a collection of organisational conventions, values, and practices that only encourage continuous learning and a belief that systems influence each other. Coaching adds many things that organisations try to achieve in the first place. It comes neatly in a package, is a discipline in itself, and, above all, also comes with a skillset that allows the people who understand coaching to bring out the best in their colleagues.

Kelvin Lim

Founder, Executive Coach International

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• Newly created and highly challenging role • Regional exposure Our client is a US Industrial MNC with plans to expand their business in Asia, and is currently looking for a strategic HR change agent to take on the role of a Talent Management & Organizational Development specialist. Partnering closely with the Regional HR team and the business heads, you will be responsible in identifying critical training needs, designing and implementing learning & development frameworks, and see through the end-to-end process in delivering these plans that will help its people to achieve overall business objectives. The successful candidate should be equipped with at least 6 years of TM & OD experience, be familiar with implementing organizational change, and takes an analytical and strategic approach towards problem solving and people development. This individual should also possess excellent interpersonal skills, stakeholder management with strong commercial sense. Reference number: CC/JD452440 Contact person: Celestine Chia (Registration Number R1442191)

HR Business Partner (1 year contract) • Well-established MNC in the media & digital industry • Dynamic and fast paced environment Our client is a well-established leading player in the media sector, who has built a strong presence across the globe and continues to expand in the APAC region. They are currently seeking a seasoned HR professional to partner the business in achieving its objectives and fuel long-term growth. In this role, you will report to the Country HR Director, while partnering closely with senior business leaders and HR CoEs to deliver best HR practices. You will ideally be hands-on and able to act as an advisor to provide counsel as well as drive and implement changes around people strategies. The successful candidate is an impact-driven HR professional of high calibre and strong operational exposure. You will have demonstrated excellent stakeholder management skills, able to take a proactive and analytical approach around resolving issues and enjoy the challenge of building processes from scratch. Reference number: JO/JD452014 Contact person: Jennifer ONG (Registration Number R1324297)

Training & Development Manager • Global F&B business • Regional role A leading food & retail business is currently hiring for an experienced Training Manager with a strong grasp of HR policies and processes. The successful candidate will support and be involved in the design of training and development framework for the APAC region. You will support the HR organisation in the effective delivery of the overall Learning & Development strategy for both operational leadership training Ideally possessing 8 years of relevant experience in a Training and Development capacity, you will have demonstrated ability in operational training for hospitality or F&B industry. The sound knowledge of organisation training development framework. You thrive in a fast paced, result-oriented environment and are able to operate with high degree of flexibility and possess excellent interpersonal and communication skills. This role requires traveling in APAC region. Reference number: NC/452387 Contact person: Niharika Chaturvedi (Registration Number R1104291)


Talent Management & Organizational Development Specialist

Your Human Resources recruitment specialists To apply, please go to and search for the respective reference number. For a confidential discussion, you can contact the relevant consultant for the specific position in our Singapore Office on +65 6511 8555. Aston Carter (formerly Talent2) is an operating company of Allegis Group, the global leader in talent solutions.

Allegis Group Singapore Pte Ltd Company No. 200909448N EA Licence No. 10C4544

Opportunities for Life

RGF HR Agent Singapore Pte Ltd EA Licence No. 10C2978

SEA HR Manager

Regional Compensation & Benefits Manager

• SEA Coverage • Company expanding

• Global consumer conglomerate • Strategic and hands-on role

Our client from a Pharma related sector are looking for a dynamic HR Manager to oversee the SEA region.

A global consumer player, our client is seeking a dynamic experienced Compensation & Benefits expert to join and perform an integral role within its Centre of Excellence team.

In this exciting and challenging role you will report to the HR Director based in Japan and partner with Divisional Heads in providing the full spectrum of HR services covering SEA region. You will be responsible for end-to-end HR duties for 40 to 100 employees. This would include talent acquisition, compensation & benefits, outsourced payroll, policies & procedures and personnel development. You will take a proactive approach to recommend the relevant local HR best practices which fits both long-term and short-term plans. You will also be responsible for HR related record keeping, compliance and administrative functions. To be successful, you should have a degree in a relevant discipline, has 8+ years of HR generalist experience in a corporate environment preferably within the healthcare/pharma/medical industry. You must be goal-oriented, have excellent communication skills, is familiar with local legislations and possess good HR practices. You must be willing to be hands-on as this is a single contributor role. To submit your application, please email your resume in word format to Li Li Kang at or Audrey Chong at audrey@ EA Personnel Registration No. R1108467 & R1105147

The successful candidate will lead in the development and review of Compensation & Benefits strategies, policies and programmes to ensure market competitiveness. You will recommend and enhance plans and initiatives to contribute to the overall success of the business through its people agenda. You will participate, may lead region wide program and projects, and ensure compliance with local laws and governance processes. Degree qualified with Compensation & Benefits professional certifications, you have minimum 8 years of relevant experience including 4 years Asia Pacific exposure with hands-on knowledge of China and India. Ideally, you bring experience in merger & acquisition related activities. You are a hands-on team player with high influencing ability, have strong analytical, project management and presentation skills, and have worked in a highly matrix and fast-paced environment. To submit your application, please email your resume in word format to Maureen Ho at or Audrey Chong at EA Personnel Registration No. R1105976 & R1105147

RGF is the global brand of Recruit Holdings, the world’s fourth largest HR and recruitment services company and the largest in Japan, generating over US$13 billion in annual revenue. For more than 50 years, RGB provides comprehensive HR and talent acquisition services which include retained and contingency executive recruitment and market mapping, senior to staff level specialist and contract recruitment as well as payroll services. RGF operates in more than 45 locations across 26 cities in 11 countries and markets in Asia with in-country specialist consultants. Winner, The Executive Search Company of the Year 2015 and for the second year running, The HR Recruitment Company of the Year 2015. SINGAPORE VIETNAM INDIA INDONESIA MALAYSIA PHILIPPINES THAILAND CHINA HONG KONG TAIWAN JAPAN

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Regional HR Business Partner

HR Director

Regional HR Business Partner

› Strong growth potential › Visibility to senior management

› Prestigious organisation › Regional portfolio

› Regional role › Business partnering

Our client, one of the world’s most valuable and globally recognised companies in the pharmaceutical industry, is growing its Asia Pacific business. Reporting to the regional HR director, you will play an advisory role to the commercial business leaders to drive business excellence across all human capital touch points. You will design long-term HR strategies and provide practical mediumterm solutions to meet business goals. As the business is aggressively driving growth and harmonisation in parts of their business, you will be key in translating global strategies into the region and ensuring their effectiveness. The ideal candidate should have prior experience driving HR initiatives across the region.

Our client is a renowned multinational in the media industry with a global footprint. Reporting to the vice president of HR, you will be leading a team of six HR practitioners across the full spectrum of HR needs. Your role as a key member of the senior leadership team encompasses an advisory role for all human capital matters. This responsibility extends to six different countries across Asia Pacific. The key towards your success within the organisation lies in your ability to act as a champion and change agent, and partner with senior leaders at a strategic level. You will be challenged to upkeep all of these duties while meeting operational objectives of the business.

Our client, a leader in the engineering industry with a strong footprint in Asia Pacific, is looking for an HR business partner based out of Singapore. Focusing on six countries in the Asia Pacific region, you will be leading a team of up to 10 HR practitioners across the full spectrum of HR needs and report directly to the CEO in charge of Asia Pacific. You will be a key member of the senior management team, and will play an advisory role on all human capital matters in this region. You will design longterm HR strategies and provide practical medium-term solutions to meet business goals. The key to your success lies in your ability to engage senior leaders at a strategic level while retaining oversight on HR operational matters.

Please contact Aprilyn Chan (Reg. no: 1216039) quoting ref: H3626010 or visit our website.

Please contact Dan Pang (Reg. no: 1545469) quoting ref: H3640250 or visit our website.

Please contact David Blasco (Reg. no: 1108371) quoting ref: H3624860 or visit our website.

To apply for any of the above positions, please go to and search for the reference number, or contact the relevant consultant at +65 6533 2777 for a confidential discussion.

Get Connected. Stay Ahead.

Human Resources

15867 | Michael Page International Pte Ltd (EA Licence No.98C5473) is part of the PageGroup. Registered Office: One Raffles Place, #09-61 Office Tower Two, Singapore 048616





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Headquartered in Singapore since 2003, Kerry Consulting is Singapore’s leading Search & Selection firm. Our consulting team is the most experienced, and amongst the largest, in the ASEAN region.

We offer positions in the following sectors: Banking & Financial Services Commerce Finance Energy & Commodities Engineering & Supply Chain Healthcare & Life Sciences Human Resources Legal Sales & Marketing Technology

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Regional C&B Manager

Regional HR Manager, SEA

HR Manager, European MNC

Regional Role Central Location Health & Life Science Industry

Regional Role Pharmaceutical Industry Dynamic Environment

HR Business Partner FMCG Industry Country Scope

This global organisation within the medical manufacturing industry is seeking a C&B Manager to support the APAC region.

This leading pharmaceutical MNC organisation is seeking a Regional HR Manager to support SEA and South Korea.

This leading European organisation within the FMCG industry is seeking a HR Manager.

Reporting to the Regional C&B Director, you will design, develop, and implement compensation policies and benefits schemes. This will include performing job evaluation, salary benchmarking, merit matrix design, as well as benefits review and administration, on top of taking the lead in annual compensation reviews.

Reporting directly to the Regional HR Director, you will deliver the responsibilities of a HR Business Partner supporting the commercial business unit by providing professional HR services. Strong HR operations experience will be required to support the markets in the region, which will also require regional travelling of up to 30% on your part. In your role, you will be part of a HR team with a COE structure with functional specialism.

Ideally, you will have at least 10 years of C&B experience with a good track record in reward design and implementation. With proven influencing and relationship management skills, you will have experience in project management and the execution of rewards policies and processes—prior experience in harmonisation will be an advantage.

You will be degree qualified in Human Resource or a relevant discipline and have at least 12 years of experience in operations or as a HR generalist. You will also possess leadership abilities, a partnering mentality, and strong interpersonal skills for building Ideally, you will have been in a HRBP position rapport across all levels. for at least 5 years—work experience in an MNC Ideally, you will have been in a HRBP or generalist organisation within the FMCG industry will be an advantage. position for at least 8 years—work experience in an MNC organisation within the FMCG or To apply, please submit your resume to Joy Seow pharmaceutical industry will be an advantage. at, quoting the job title and the reference number of JS10951. We regret To apply, please submit your resume to Joy Seow that only shortlisted applicants will be contacted. at, quoting the job title and the reference number of JS10326. We regret Reg No: R1107886 that only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

To apply, please submit your resume to Joy Seow at, quoting the job title and the reference number of JS10687. We regret that only shortlisted applicants will be contacted. Reg No: R1107886

Reg No: R1107886

Regional HRBP (Director-Level), IT Industry

Talent Management Manager, Financial Services Industry

Growing Organisation in IT & Telecommunications Sector Regional Exposure (APAC) Dynamic Work Environment

Prominent Financial Services Organisation (with HQ in Singapore) Newly Created Role Exciting Growth Potential

This growing IT & Telecommunications organisation with expansion plans in APAC is seeking a Regional HR Business Partner for Southeast Asia/South Asia to support its current growth.

This prominent and well-regarded MNC with rapid growth in the region is headquartered in Singapore. It is now seeking a top HR talent to support its ambitious growth plan.

In this role, you will report to the VP HR for APAC region—who’s based in Singapore— as you execute HR initiatives throughout the region. This will include acting as a Business Partner, from a strategic standpoint, and handling some operational responsibilities. You will be a strong Business Partner to a total of nine country business heads and play an important role in supporting the business growth from a HR perspective.

Reporting to the Global Head of HR, you will be responsible for designing the learning agenda and structure as well as managing its planning based on business needs. You will work towards achieving the key object of enhancing the learning capability of the organisation, which will require you to act as a Business Partner from a strategic standpoint as well as to handle operational responsibilities.

You will be an experienced and driven individual with strong stakeholder management skills, as well as work experience in fast-paced environments. You will also have the gravitas to influence the business in a commercial sense and a readiness to ‘roll up your sleeves’ when necessary. To apply, please submit your resume to Finian Toh at, quoting the job title and reference number FT9909. We regret that only shortlisted applicants will be contacted. Reg No: 16S8060

You will be an experienced HR professional who has at least 8 years of experience in Learning & Development and/or Talent Management, with strong end-to-end exposure. You will have work experience in fast-paced large multinational environments and the ability to resolve problems in the face of ambiguity. You will also have the gravitas to influence the business in a commercial sense and a readiness to ‘roll up your sleeves’ when necessary. To apply, please submit your resume to Finian Toh at, quoting the job title and reference number FT10852. We regret that only shortlisted applicants will be contacted. Reg No: 16S8060

Reporting directly to the Regional HR Director, you will deliver the responsibilities of a HR Business Partner supporting the commercial business unit by providing professional HR services. Business partnering will be a key function, which includes performance management, C&B, talent acquisition, and HR operations. You will be degree qualified in Human Resource or a relevant discipline and have at least 8 years’ experience in HR operations. You will also possess leadership abilities, a partnering mentality, and strong interpersonal skills for building rapport across all levels.

ASEAN HR Leader, Financial Services Industry Global Financial Services Organisation Southeast Asia Coverage Excellent Career Platform This leading global financial services organisation serves as a hub for the regional business in APAC. Due to expansion plans, it is now seeking a dynamic and high calibre HR Business Partner (Director-level) for the SEA region. In this role, you will work alongside the global leadership in your effort to direct regional talent priorities, manage succession plans, and generate ideas and actions to improve employee engagement in line with global strategies. You have to provide the regional business with relevant oversight with regard to the execution of all HR activities, including staffing activities, recruitment, performance management, promotions, employee relations, and compensation. Additionally, you will coach global senior business leaders on regional HR matters, leadership styles, and fostering a positive culture. Degree qualified, you will possess at least 10 to 15 years of HR experience within the financial services industry. You will also be a self-starter who can work well independently, communicate smoothly at all business levels, and build a strong rapport with internal clients. You will also possess strong communication and interpersonal skills, drive for excellence, and the ability to be flexible and driven in your approach. To apply, please submit your resume to Finian Toh at, quoting the job title and reference number FT10459. We regret that only shortlisted applicants will be contacted. Reg No: 16S8060

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Regional C&B Manager (US Medical Devices)

A global player in the manufacturing sector is seeking a talented HR Manager. This is an exciting opportunity if you are aspiring to step up into managerial and regional responsibilities. Reporting to the HR Director, you’ll be responsible for a full spectrum of HR work across the Asia sub-region and be the business partner to stakeholders on HR matters. You’ll need to have 6 to 8 years of experience in generalist HR work.

A newly created opportunity has arisen for a C&B professional to join this renowned global pharmaceutical organisation. Looking after the APAC region, you’ll provide support as a subject matter expert in C&B to senior management and country HRs through developing and implementing strategies including all compensation, benefits, and incentive programs aimed at attracting and retaining talent, and enhancing business performance through motivation and staff engagement.

Contact Kelly Shia (Reg ID. R1552203) at or call +65 6303 0721.

Benefits Manager APAC (Technology MNC) An exciting opportunity has emerged within a globally-renowned technology company for a Benefits Manager, Asia Pacific. You will report to global headquarters and work closely with the business partners in APAC. You’ll be responsible for designing, refining, and delivering a customised benefits programme across the Asia Pacific to contribute to the success of the people agenda. You’ll participate and lead regionwide programmes and projects, and ensure compliance with local laws and standards. Contact Ash Russell (Reg ID. R1109296) at or call +65 6303 0721.

Contact Ash Russell (Reg ID. R1109296) at or call +65 6303 0721.

Regional HR Business Partner (US Technology) Due to expansion, a new position has opened up in a fast-paced, global US technology organisation for an enthusiastic, career hungry HR Business Partner to join the rapidly growing team in Singapore. Working across a specific geographical area within APAC, and leveraging off the centre of excellence, you’ll be working closely with stakeholders supporting and advising on all HR related matters, in line with the strategic direction of the business. Contact Sophie Baker (Reg ID. R1658732) at or call +65 6303 0721.

EA License Number: 07C3924

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RECRUITER PROFILE With 10 years of Executive Recruitment experience, Audrey Neo holds a solid track record in partnering with CEOs and Senior Management to build their regional and global HR teams. For a confidential discussion, get in touch with her at or call +65 6435 5621.

ENJOY DEVELOPING ORGANIZATIONS? Director : Learning and Organizational Development A newly created Organization Development role, this senior appointment will steer the learning and competency development function in a large growing company, effecting changes across culture and performance at every level. This is a change agent role which will partner leaders and line managers to design and implement effective learning and development strategies, improving organizational effectiveness and ensuring that the workforce remains relevant and engaged The ideal candidate will be degree qualified with minimally 15 years of Organisation Development and Learning experiences from a large local organization, operating strategically at the corporate level. You have a mature people management approach and demonstrated credibility at senior management level with track record in successfully shaped policies.

HAVE AN EYE FOR TALENT? Senior HR Business Partner, Southeast Asia Focused We are looking for a true business partner who is able to represent the people agenda in strategic decision-making within a consumer based, matrix organization. As the trusted HR advisor, your role will be to champion and develop people policies, ensuring that the company remains competitive in attracting, developing and retaining best talent in a consumer business that’s dynamic and fast-moving. The ideal candidate will be armed with at least 10 years of regional HR business partner experience within MNCs environments. You are highly articulate and well-presented with gravitas to persuade and influence, gaining credibility with your mature point of view and pragmatic experiences.

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