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THE ULTIMATE INSIDER R “Ray” Wang looks ahead to HR Tech Festival 2020

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elcome to HRM Asia’s November-December issue. This edition’s theme is all about building partnerships between HR and the CEO. HR has been fighting for a seat at the proverbial table for a long time, and this issue highlights three real-life examples of how HR heads are taking a more strategic role in their organisations. Looking at such partnerships in Facebook, SATS Limited, and Circles.Life, we reveal just how fruitful such collaborations can be when companies are this forward-thinking.

Gracing our front cover is R “Ray” Wang, Silicon Valley business analyst and technology commentator, who will be joining the lineup for HR Tech Festival Asia. Wang has enjoyed a 30-year career across software, consulting, and business research, and his analysis of workforce trends and technology advances is sought after from business leaders across that board. We at HRM Asia are very excited about HR Tech Festival Asia, which is already starting to take shape. And we are equally excited about this edition of the magazine which we hope will provide you with lots of advice, tips and news to help you in your role.

We also have coverage from our successful CHRO Series 2019, which has taken place in Singapore and Indonesia, with Malaysia scheduled for December. We are now in the fourth year of HRM Asia’s CHRO Series, which just gets bigger and better every year. So far, we have seen around 200 Chief HR Officers and senior workforce leaders take part in the events.

The world of HR is changing, thanks to technology, and we will be with you every step of the way.

And in this bumper edition we also give you a preview to HR Tech Festival Asia – taking place in Singapore over May 12 and 13 in 2020. The event is set to be the biggest ever conference for the professional HR and workplace technology communities across AsiaPacific.

CONTACT US: 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: info@hrmasia.com.sg

JUSTIN HARPER, Senior Journalist, HRM Asia



Editorial Director paul.howell@hrmasia.com.sg



Senior Journalist justin@hrmasia.com.sg








Silicon Valley business analyst, best-selling author, and technology commentator R “Ray” Wang is set to join the lineup for HR Tech Festival Asia in 2020. Here, he discusses what audiences can expect from his keynote presentation.

“Artificial intelligence is creating opportunities for organisations, but we must also apply design principles for digital ethics” – R “RAY” WANG,





HRM Magazine Asia previews what is set to be the biggest HR and Technology conference in the region next year: HR Tech Festival Asia, in Singapore from May 12 to 13 in 2020.


O.C. Tanner’s second annual Global Culture Report reveals the opportunities for employers with thriving cultures, and the costs for those workplaces that breed distrust and burnout.




WANT TO GET CONNECTED? Get in touch with us here







The CEO and Head of HR at aviation services business SATS Limited reveal the strategies keeping its 17,000-strong workforce united and engaged.


Facebook’s products are already huge in Asia-Pacific, but the local Vice President and HR Director say there’s more growth to come.


From million dollar mistakes to big financial rewards, the founder and head of HR at Circles.Life are proud to do things a little differently.


The Human Capital Partnership Programme in Singapore brings together a community of exemplary employers who are committed to developing their human capital.



US-based technology commentator Steve Boese shares his thoughts on how the fast-moving HR technology industry will ring in the new year in 2020.


The fourth year of HRM Asia’s CHRO Series has seen senior HR audiences tackling the biggest workforce issues of their markets in both Indonesia and Singapore (with Malaysia to come on December 3).



REGULARS 04 06 42





MOVING STAFF INTO COWORKING SPACES More companies are now trading big offices for new and trendy co-working spaces. In fact, it’s predicted that there will be almost four million of these spaces globally by the end of 2020. For companies, they offer greater flexibility and lower rental costs. For employees, they provide the potential to work closer with colleagues, and also network with other companies, all under one roof. But the gains from coworking aren’t guaranteed, so employers need to carefully manage the transition to make it as smooth as possible. Here are five tips to help get the most out of a co-working space:

Build the team Your employees will be spending more time with each other than they would in a normal office situation. Some people will love this opportunity, while others may get irritated being in such close proximity. One way of easing tensions is to arrange fun team-building activities on a regular basis.

Share projects Another way of bringing staff together is to creatively share data among them. Blogs are a good way to encourage employees to engage in discussions or share their thoughts on specific topics. Collaboration is key here, so encourage the sharing of projects and deadlines.

Brand awareness With no building with your company’s own logo and signage anymore, it is possible to lose some of your brand’s identity. So promote that brand in the workplace instead. A strong brand can generate excitement and workers perform better when they feel part of a group. If the budget stretches, consider branded freebies like stationary, caps and t-shirts, along with internal signage and displays.



Avoid distractions One of the concerns with co-working spaces is that they can be noisy and chaotic, with lots of distractions due to many people coming and going from a range of different corporate tenants and hot-deskers. You can encourage your employees to wear headphones but keep an eye (or rather an ear) on the music levels coming from earphones, as these can also be distracting. It’s all about showing mutual respect for your co-workers and neighbours.

Consider counselling If your employees are used to working in a private space, such as their own booth or office, co-working will be a culture shock at first. It sounds extreme but offering specific counselling can be highly beneficial. The mental wellbeing of staff is equally as important as their physical health. Counselling can also work as mediation. If you have two workers who are in conflict (perhaps due to now sitting much closer to each other), then counselling can help them deal with tensions and work together harmoniously. justin@hrmasia.com.sg

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Singapore • Mainland China • Hong Kong • Taiwan • Japan India • Indonesia • Thailand • Vietnam • Malaysia • Philippines • Australia


Hong Kong hangover Anti-government protests in Hong Kong have dominated the news headlines this year, and look set to have potential repercussions for all companies based there, or doing business in the city. One of the biggest news stories this year has involved violent protests in Hong Kong, by citizens unhappy with an extradition bill the government wanted to pass, handed down by Mainland Chinese officials. While the legislation was eventually scrapped it stirred up a hornet’s nest of unrest against Chinese rule, and its growing influence in Hong Kong. While the world watched the escalating troubles and severity of the protests, boardrooms across Hong Kong, China and Asia-Pacific have been awash with panic over what it all means for the long-term prospects of the international city. Hong Kong is a major financial hub and the world’s 32nd biggest economy. What also caused a stir was the way some employers in Hong Kong had been implicitly forced to choose a side. Cathay Pacific was one employer caught in the firing line, losing its CEO, chairman and a number of employees who protested or spoke out in their defence or favour. Cathay Pacific’s CEO Rupert Hogg resigned in opposition of Beijing’s censure over his airline staff’s participation in the Hong Kong protests. In an official statement released by Cathay Pacific it said Hogg had resigned in order to take responsibility as the CEO of the company in view of recent events. The far-reaching impact of the protests is still not clear as the troubles are continuing into November. The relationship



between Hong Kong and Mainland China has been damaged and may not be easy to repair. Understandably, companies are unsure what lies ahead.

Should we stay or should we go? While China’s economic powers and influence grows, many companies openly fear its wrath and are falling into line. But is it an employer’s job to police and silence their staff who don’t hold the same political views as the powers-that-be? Rupert Hogg didn’t think so. Some companies are not waiting for the dust to settle and have already decided that their futures don’t lie in Hong Kong. They are seeking out alternatives in Asia-Pacific. The economic viability of the former British colony was already under pressure from “parent company” China’s ongoing trade spat with the US. America is still the world’s biggest economy and falling foul of its trade


tariffs could be just as damaging. As a result, manufacturing firms have been flocking to the neighbouring countries of Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines to set up factories and plants and avoid being caught in the middle of the trade dispute. Others are sure to follow. But for companies already wellestablished in Hong Kong or with strong ties to mainland China, it is a tough decision to make – given the unrest is not necessarily permanent. Companies won’t consider full relocation lightly, says PwC Singapore Tax Partner Allison Cheung. She says companies will have to see a sustained impact on their workforce, their location of operation and their equipment before they would make the decision to move. But others still see risk in taking that sort of a wait-and-see approach. Economic data continues to highlight the damage being caused by the unrest. Tourist numbers have dropped significantly, affecting the hotel and retail sectors, along with luxury goods. The number of visitors to Hong Kong plunged nearly 40% over the 12 months to August, as its image as a safe city and a hub for trade, aviation and finance took a battering. The city’s economy has already been plunged into a technical recession and fullyear growth is very likely to be negative. A survey carried out by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore

(AmCham) in August confirmed the ongoing protests in Hong Kong had tarnished the city’s business reputation. The unrest had also affected decisions for future investments there, it found. Interestingly, 67% of businesses surveyed said the protests had specifically tarnished Hong Kong’s reputation overseas as a regional base of operations. AmCham said

the findings suggest that the city is unlikely to attract new companies to set up a base there. Hong Kong has always competed with Singapore to attract foreign firms and multinationals looking for a regional headquarters in Asia. An overwhelming 91% of businesses surveyed said Singapore would be their primary destination if they

were to consider moving out of Hong Kong. One city’s loss is another one’s gain. Nobody likes uncertainty, particularly in the business world. With no obvious end in sight for the Hong Kong unrest, more businesses will be looking at alternatives. Whatever the outcome of the protests, the blow to Hong Kong’s reputation is likely to be lasting.

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CONTRACT LABOUR BILL VETOED THE ISSUE OF CONTRACTORS’ rights continues to stir in the Philippines, with President Rodrigo Duterte blocking a bill that he once supported. The proposed Security Tenure Bill would have forced businesses to give contract workers permanent jobs, with full benefits, after working six months in an otherwise temporary role. This was a key platform in Duterte’s 2016 election campaign; the unorthodox politician had painted himself as an

advocate for labour rights. But the about-turn on the bill has been welcomed by factions of the business community, who have said this will protect the Philippine economy and attract investment that produces more jobs. Business chambers had called on him to block the bill, saying that in the current age of flexible working conditions, it would have returned the Philippines labour markets to the “dark ages”.




WAGE DEFAULTS IN THE SPOTLIGHT CHINESE AUTHORITIES are ramping up their war against employers who don’t pay their staff, particularly migrant workers transitioning between rural and urban areas. The country will carry out a winter campaign over wage defaults, from November until the Spring Festival, spokesman Wang Cheng has told local media. Malicious wage default has been a crime since 2011, and employers who intentionally withhold wages can face sentences of up to seven years imprisonment. Adding to this, since 2017, China has been blacklisting employers involved in wage defaults, downgrading their credit ratings and disqualifying them from some tender processes. In the first half of 2019, a total of CNY 4.2 billion (US$612 million) of wage arrears was recovered and paid to around 443,000 workers, official data has revealed.




THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT is working to establish a national skills registry to match trained job seekers and apprentices with hiring employers. The initiative, from the Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Ministry comes amid increasing debate about a lack of advanced-level jobs in the country. The registry will hold the data of nearly 20 million trained people, with developers from technology firm IBM working to create a system that best matches them with around 20,000 companies and organisations. “The way we have a national database for passports, we shall have a national registry for skills,” ministry spokesman Rajesh Agrawalsaid. “Jobs are a big debate (issue) in India, and if we can match trained manpower with what employers are looking for, it will help in employment generation and sustainable livelihood.”


EXPAT SUES JAPANESE BROKER OVER PARENTAL LEAVE A CANADIAN FATHER has alleged he was bullied, and then fired by his Japanese employer, after attempting to claim paternity leave. Glen Wood, aged 49, was working with brokerage Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities when his son was born prematurely in October, 2015. The birth took place in Nepal where Wood’s partner had been working at the time. Wood says he applied for leave before his son

was born, and even submitted a DNA test to prove paternity. He was only able to take leave in December that year, and alleges he was harassed upon his return. He took six months of medical leave to deal with the subsequent stress, and was fired later that year. Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities says it supports the rights of employees to take their legally mandated parental leave.



MINING INDUSTRY LOOKS TO BYPASS UNIONS THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT is looking to reform project-based hiring in the resources industry, but there is little common ground between employers and unions on the proposed changes. These would see mining companies able to establish contracts and workplace rules for the entire length of a single project. Presently, separate deals are required for each phase of what could be an endto-end project that lasts several years. The industry says the proposed “project-life” agreements should go beyond the construction phase, and at least into production. Another employer group has called for “non-union” pathways to building a project-ready workforce for each phase. Present greenfield agreements have a maximum life of four years. But the industry has noted that several of these expired before construction was completed, giving unions significant leverage and power to halt activities before revenue generating phases can begin.

THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT has launched its Malaysians@Work initiative to reduce the number of foreign workers by more than 130,000. The programme aims to create around 350,000 jobs for locals by focusing on graduates, apprentices, women, and low-skilled workers. Qualifying employees will be paid RM500 (US$120) a month for two years, on top of their normal salaries. And employers taking part in the two-year scheme will get up to RM300 (US$72) a month reimbursement for every new local employee. Malaysia is heavily dependent on foreign workers, who are concentrated in manual roles. There are some 1.76 million foreign workers legally employed across, with more than 4 million believed to be working illegally.






40-DAY STRIKE HITS GENERAL MOTORS HARD AFTER MORE THAN a month off the job, the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union has ratified a wage and conditions deal with General Motors across the US. The new contract brings workers hired after 2007 up to the same wages as older workers within four years of service. It maintains existing worker health benefits with low premiums, and allows temporary workers an avenue to apply for fulltime roles after three years’ service. The strike involved 48,000 General Motors employees from more than 50 assembly plants across the US. Terry Dittes, Vice President of the UAW, said the union was proud of the workers’ extended stand. “Their sacrifice and courageous stand addressed the two-tier wages structure and permanent temporary worker classification that has plagued working class Americans,” he told media.


WALMART TRIALS NEW HEALTHCARE PLANS THE LARGEST EMPLOYER in the US is aiming to test new pilot healthcare programmes, to help give employees easier access to healthcare providers and improve worker health and wellness. Beginning next year, Walmart will offer employees a list of “featured providers” in an effort to help “take the guesswork out of finding highly-rated doctors”, it said. For this pilot, Walmart will be working with a data analytics company to identify quality local providers in each of eight specialties: primary care, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, obstetrics, oncology, orthopedics, and pulmonology. In addition, employees located in North and South Carolina states will gain access to virtualised personal healthcare assistants as a go-to source for all their medical needs, from billing questions to understanding diagnoses. The concierge-like benefit will work via a website, phone number, and app.





EY FACES SCRUTINY OVER PAST TRAINING CONSULTANCY EY is in damage control after news of a questionable training session for female executives emerged in The Huffington Post in October. The session, run by an external vendor, aimed to give approximately 30 female executives of the firm training in theories and practices of “PowerPresence-Purpose”. But at least part of the content centred on advice for personal presentation that some commentators argue focused too much on some outdated ideas. In the session in question, attendees were told to be “polished,” have “a good haircut, manicured nails, (and) well-cut attire that complements your body type,” it states on Page 36 of the 55-page handout. But that’s followed by a warning: “Don’t flaunt your body– sexuality scrambles the mind (for men and women).”


PUBLIC WORKERS STRIKE IN ROME TRADE UNIONS IN Rome staged a general strike on October 25, denouncing what they said was the dire management of the City. Workers from more than a dozen firms controlled by the capital’s administration, including the public transport system and garbage collectors, walked off the job for the full day. The strike was quickly denounced by Mayor Virginia Raggi. “A minority of unionists are trying to hold hostage a city of 3 million inhabitants,” she said on Twitter. “The majority of citizens are tired of unjustified strikes.” A national air transport strike affecting air traffic control, ground handling services and some airline staff coincided with the Rome stoppage, creating a “Black Friday” level of disruption in the city.


ALLEGATIONS OF UNION-BUSTING ON MINING PROJECT ONE OF CANADA’S largest unions is investigating claims that a group of remote mining workers were fired for attempting to organise a union to be affiliated with it. According to private sector union Unifor, six men employed at a Canadian Natural Resources Limited’s site in Alberta province had their contracts terminated on October 23 without cause. The men were working on an oilsands production project. “We do have some suspicions that this (union activity) was likely part of their terminations,” said Kellie Scanlan, director of organising for Unifor Canada. The company has declined to comment on employment matters, but says it respects and adheres to the relevant Labour Relations Code of Alberta province, which gives all employees the right to collective bargaining with their employers. 


SPY AGENCY LAUDED FOR SOCIAL MOBILITY BRITAIN’S INTERNATIONAL INTELLIGENCE service has won praise from an unexpected source, with the Secret Intelligence Service (known as MI6) named as a key employer driving social mobility across the UK. The Social Mobility Foundation – which aims to improve opportunities for young people from lowincome backgrounds – included the agency in its list of 75 such egalitarian employers for the first time in 2019. David Johnson, CEO of the SMF, said MI6 had dedicated resources and energy to recruit a much more diverse workforce in the last few years. “They are very aware of the stereotype; that you go to Eton, Oxford, (and other ‘red brick’ educational institutions) and then you become James Bond,” he said. “They also realise that there’s an awful lot of talent in the country that would not even consider working for them or think that they would be suitable candidates.” The rankings come as MI6 continues a recruitment drive to attract increasing numbers of women and ethnic minority entrants. The agency is looking to recruit 800 new staff by 2021.




Navigating the workforce evolution. TogetheR

Millennials. Digitalisation. Engagement. The workforce evolution demands organisations to rethink, reimagine and transform their HR strategy. Be part of the biggest gathering of C-suite and HR practitioners in the region at HR Tech Festival Asia where technology serves as the guiding light to navigate the evolution. HR Tech Festival Asia is your trusted platform of choice to learn from luminaries, experience latest technologies and solutions and network with the 5000+ strong HR community.

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R “ R AY ” WA N G

THE ULTIMATE INSIDER Silicon Valley business analyst, best-selling author, and technology commentator R “RAY” WANG is set to join the lineup for HR Tech Festival Asia, in Singapore next May. Here’s a little of what HR leaders and other delegates can expect from his keynote presentation.

“Ray” Wang (pronounced WAH-NG) is well-known across the technology and startup hub of Silicon Valley in the US. With a 30-year career across software, consulting, and business research, his analysis of workforce trends and technology advances is sought after from business leaders across that broad spectrum, and he has some unique, data-backed ideas on workforce management in the digital age. That’s covered in great part across his Software Industry Insider blog, that is a must-read across Silicon Valley. From the sprawling campuses of giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, to the startup businesses still based in the garages of hopeful founders (and their parents), Wang’s observations, advice, and insight are part of the unseen infrastructure keeping the US technology industry constantly evolving and growing. Wang is also a prominent, and dynamic, keynote speaker, delivering keynote addresses at the biggest tech conferences around the world, as well as more intimate executive settings such as the annual World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland. Also on his calendar for 2020 is the HR Tech Festival Asia. Held over two days in May at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, Wang will be delivering a keynote address on the current state of the technology industry, and the ways it is



helping HR teams to get the most out of their staff, and themselves.

The key question on tech Wang says much of the application of workforce technology comes down to one question. “Can a work process be augmented with technology, or should it be automated because humans are actually not very good at it,” he asks. “All those kinds of things come into play.” Wang considers his five years with Forrester Research as vital in coming to the realisation that there is a wide range of stakeholders in every HR technology decision. “While I was there, I started to understand how clients view the world, how vendors view the world, and most importantly, how partners view the world,” he said. “Looking at it like a three-legged stool is really how we try to help everybody. “You typically have these technology


scenarios where the customer is trying to solve a problem, partners are there to help him out, or a technology vendor is trying to help. And somewhere in between all that, you get to the answer.”

On the horizon With such a rich history of experience and continuing analysis, a common question that Wang gets at every interview focuses on the future of HR technology, and what is getting him excited at the moment. Wang says that right now, it is the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence that he is watching most closely around the world.


“Artificial intelligence is playing a huge role in terms of creating these opportunities for organisations, but we must also apply design principles for digital ethics for the sake of humanity.” Wang says these applications have most recently been used to great effect in regulatory and compliance efforts for complex organisations with large numbers of employees and projects. “Oops! It turns out we hired people under the age of 18 and didn’t pay them appropriately, or we were supposed to calculate benefits a certain way,” Wang lists as common scenarios that a wellconsidered examination of data can help an organisation get ahead of. “Also, if you’ve got CSR initiatives that you’re trying to go after, algorithms can help you know where you stand in terms of your organisation and compliance.”

Singapore-bound for 2020

“it’s really transforming how work’s going to be done; and how insights are being delivered to democratise decision making across the organisation,” he tells HRM Magazine Asia. But as in everything in technology, it’s possible for Wang to take things a step further. The exciting thing about artificial intelligence is how it creates digital feedback loops – these digital networks that allow organisations to think about what’s next,” he says. “This could be used to improve anything from figuring out which employees should be given more training, or more opportunities to be promoted, or which employees actually need more motivation or more incentive so they’re more aligned with a particular organisation and what’s actually happening.

Wang is set to be one of the headline acts at HR Tech Festival Asia in 2020, and says he is looking forward to sharing some Asiaspecific insights to the Singapore event. “I’ll be talking about the changing dynamic that’s happening in Asia, right now,” he says. “People like to talk about the war for talent, but I like to look at it a little bit differently. I think all across Asia, the skillsets for the future are being built, right? “Every company, and every university’s playing its role, and along the way employees are learning from each other.” There are also the social aspects of being back in Singapore, which Wang finds himself in just once or twice in a year with typically over 500,000 air miles of travel. He says he can’t wait for a refresher course in local cuisine, from both sides of the opulence scale. “I’m looking forward to getting my $4 Hainan chicken rice, and $400 Chilli Crabs – all on the same day,” he says. “You can’t beat that!”





H R T E C H F E S T I VA L A S I A 2020

NAVIGATING THE WORKFORCE EVOLUTION. TOGETHER. HR Tech Festival Asia – taking place in Singapore over May 12 and 13 in 2020 – is set to be the biggest ever conference for the professional HR and workplace technology communities across Asia-Pacific.


illennials in the workforce. Digital Transformation. Innovation Mindsets. Organisational Culture. These are much more than just buzzwords and catch-phrases for the modern HR professional navigating the workforce evolution in Asia-Pacific in 2020. Rather, they are specific challenges and opportunities; industry-wide ambitions and business risks – all at the same time. It’s a complex business environment, and HR professionals need to guide their organisations through the storms of continuous change. They need to be at the top of their game, constantly adding value and building the long-term capabilities of their workforces. The carefully curated content behind the HR Tech Festival Asia conference programme is designed to help the workforce leaders of today achieve exactly these goals and more. With some of the world’s foremost minds on management, digital disruption, and HR technology, alongside the best of the AsiaPacific region’s local case studies and practical advice, the stage is set for the biggest HR Tech Festival ever hosted in 2020.

Manpower policies unpacked The event is also supported by a wide range of public sector organisations from markets throughout the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.



In particular, the ASEAN Future of Work stream, in partnership with the Singapore Ministry of Manpower, will see senior leaders from all sides of the employment equation (Governments, Employer Groups, and Labour Unions) from throughout the ASEAN region, as well as Australia, New Zealand, India, China, South Korea, and Japan, discussing skills studies, employment facilitation, and HR capability building across the region. Other streams at HR Tech Festival Asia 2020 will highlight specialisations and content focused on each of: HR and Digital Transformation, the Smart Workforce and Innovation, Recruitment and Employee Engagement, Talent Management and


Development, and HR Tech. And the extremely popular (sold out in 2019) CXO Symposium will feature high-level strategy and workforce planning content for all those at the top levels of business.

Region’s biggest HR and Tech expo The seven stages set across the entire fourth floor of Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre (20,000 square metres) are complemented by what is set to be the region’s biggest HR and Tech exposition. With more than 200 booth spaces, and interactive elements across the floor, delegates will be able to share in some of the latest products, services, and technologies that are taking HR

KEYNOTES TO REMEMBER THE HR TECH FESTIVAL ASIA PROGRAMME centres around some of the biggest thought leaders from each of the fast-colliding worlds of both HR and Technology. The ultimate insider from Silicon Valley, R “Ray” Wang (see article on previous page); famed researcher and analyst Josh Bersin, and technology industry commentator John Sumser. R “Ray” Wang R “Ray” Wang is the Principal Analyst, Founder, and Chairman of Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research, Inc. He’s also the author of the popular business strategy and technology blog A Software Industry Insider’s Point of View. Josh Bersin Josh Bersin is a global industry analyst, and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, leading provider of research-based membership programmes in HR, talent, and learning. John Sumser John Sumser is the founder, principal author, and editor-in-chief of the USbased HR Examiner Online magazine.

to the next level in 2020. The Expo floor will also host a special zone exclusively for the vibrant startup community in Southeast Asia, dealing in HR products and services across the region.

HR Tech Fest Awards HR Tech Festival Asia 2020 also takes time out to celebrate the outstanding achievements and efforts of the region’s top HR leaders, companies and teams. With nominations

now open, the winners across each of five HR Tech Fest Awards categories will be announced on the HR Tech stage at the close of presentations on Day One. That will help transition the entire expo floor into a twilight fiesta celebration, with cocktails, networking, live entertainment, and all of the winner presentations. The categories for this year’s awards are: •B  est HR Transformation •B  est Innovation in HR •B  est Use of HR Technology •B  est HR Leader (individual) •B  est C-Suite Leader (individual) For more information, and to nominate, head to www.hrtechfestivalasia.com/awards.

Launch rates now available Registrations are now open for HR Tech Festival Asia 2020 – via the website at www. hrtechfestivalasia.com. Book your place early to take advantage of exclusive launch rates – available only until the end of 2019. We at HRM Asia look forward to meeting you on May 12 and 13 next year.


Don’t miss out

Registrations are now open for HR Tech Festival Asia 2020 – via the website at www.hrtechfestivalasia.com. HRM ASIA.COM



O. C . TA N N E R


Culture from every angle O.C. Tanner’s second annual Global Culture Report offers a holistic view of the modern workplace as it sits within the global economy and society at large.


he happiest and most engaged employees are those who work for companies that have a thriving workplace culture. Such culture enables employees with a sense of purpose and identity, which helps build a meaningful employee experience. However, most organisations are missing a crucial piece of the employee experience when it comes to interacting with them, says O.C. Tanner, an expert in employee recognition and workplace culture. What they overlook is the wide variety of everyday human interactions and events, trials and triumphs, adventures, and misadventures that define life at work. This is the true employee experience that employers often forget. If you want to build a thriving workplace culture, create great micro-experiences, O.C. Tanner advises in its 2020 Global Culture Report. It says these micro-experiences should connect employees to purpose, opportunity, success, appreciation, wellbeing, and leadership. An organisation filled with peak and positive micro-experiences in each of those areas is one that employees will seek to work for, engage with, remain at, and give their heart-and-soul to help succeed.

Burnout fears Past research shows a lack of appreciation, conflicts in cooperation, role ambiguity, and role stress are all strong predictors of burnout. While millennials are more likely than workers of older generations to experience it, burnout is similar in white collar and blue-collar workers, leading O.C. Tanner to believe it’s not the type or amount



RECOMMENDATIONS 1. Diagnose if burnout is a problem and then find the cultural issues causing it. 2. H  elp leaders encourage a model of shared leadership with their teams. 3. B  uild connections with one-to-one meetings between leaders and their team members. 4. E nable teams so employees feel included, supported, and psychologically safe. 5. A  ctively listen to understand your people don’t ask for feedback just to check the box. of work that causes employees to burn out, but the culture they work in. Employee burnout is the result of chronic culture deficiencies. Poor everyday experiences, like a lack of purpose at work, contributes to increased risk of burnout. Employees need to know how what they do impacts the organisation, its customers, and the rest of society. If leaders fail to help employees see the larger picture, or the “why” behind the work they do, there is a 22% increased chance of employee burnout, the report warns.

Thriving teams One way of improving employee engagement and reducing the chances of burnout is to build thriving teams. O.C. Tanner’s research uncovered two essential building blocks of high performing teams. One is a strong sense of autonomy – being able to act independently as a team. Employees in the modern workplace thrive on autonomy. But that doesn’t mean each individual works independently from the others. Instead, the team is granted autonomy as a whole. As a collective, team members can set goals, make decisions, and decide what projects to do and how to do them with little or no leader involvement. The other characteristic of thriving teams is a strong sense of psychological safety. The basic definition of psychological safety is “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career.” When employees feel emotionally safe at work and with their teams, they can take risks, innovate, share new ideas, and be themselves without worrying about being criticised or ostracised by their peers.

The 2020 Global Culture Report from O.C. Tanner Institute is a comprehensive report, gathering data from more than 20,000 employees and leaders in 15 countries around the world, including Singapore, Japan, China and India. Serving up actionable data for businesses looking to instigate a change in the status-quo, it is also different in that it reflects both employees’ and leaders’ perspectives, providing a truly holistic view of workplace culture. After last year’s inaugural report, the 180-page 2020 report continues this work, with an emphasis on how everyday employee experiences influence, and are influenced by, thriving workplace cultures. To view the full report, visit www.octanner.com/sea/gcr.




Employees who say they “very often” or “always” experience burn out in their jobs are:

Employee experience has evolved from employee engagement and how to make employees happy (annual survey, mission statements, perks), to what makes employees want to come to work. Culture, workspace, and daily interactions all encompass an intentionally designed employee experience. Employees see the “employee experience” as their personal experiences - a collection of thousands of interactions they have in an organisation, both positive and negative, every day. Every conversation they’ve had, email read, poster seen, and appreciation received or not received make up their employee experience.

63% more likely to take medical leave 23% more likely to visit the emergency room 2.6 times as likely to leave their current employer 13% less confident in their performance.


Thriving cultures with great employee experiences are:

2x more likely to have increase in revenue over the last year 3x less likely to have employees experiencing moderate-to-severe burnout

3x more likely to have promoters on the Net Promoter Scale 7x more likely to have employees pursuing innovation

8x more likely to have a high

incidence rate of Great WorkTM

13x more likely to have a large number of highly engaged employees


ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF A THRIVING TEAM A strong sense of autonomy This doesn’t mean each individual works independently from the others. Rather, the team is granted autonomy as a whole. They set goals, make decisions, and decide what projects to do and how to do them without being micromanaged by their leader. A strong sense of psychological safety When employees feel emotionally safe at work and with their teams, they can take risks, innovate, share new ideas, and be themselves without worrying about being criticised or ostrasised by their peers. NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019









In the first of three exclusive case studies showcasing highly effective partnerships between the Heads of HR leaders and executive business leadership, HRM Magazine Asia speaks with Alex Hungate (CEO) and Lilian Tan (Head of HR) about strategies for SATS Limited’s 17,000-strong workforce.



LILIAN TAN Head of HR, SATS Limited






here is no doubting Alex Hungate’s key focus at the helm of one of the world’s largest air services businesses, with operations across more than 60 airports around the globe. “As a CEO I need to spend a lot of time with our people and make sure they are super engaged about what they do. That means I want them to be excited about coming to work every day,” he tells HRM Magazine Asia. “If they are excited, then it’s much more likely they will be passionate about serving customers. “It’s much more about delivering the brand promise and passion to delight.” The Singapore-based, UK national has been at the helm of SATS for six years, although he also held a position on its executive board before that. During his time, the headcount has grown significantly (mainly through acquisitions), while the organisation has also been undergoing a comprehensive digital transformation. Head of HR Lilian Tan says this latest phase in SATS’ evolution provides a good example of the company’s workplace engagement philosophies.

Staff in the drivers’ seat Many companies are going through digital transformations as they prepare themselves for the fourth industrial revolution and respond to the many examples of digital disruption. SATS is very much on that same flight path. But it is taking a different approach to its digital transformation. Rather than introduce new technology from the top down, Hungate and Tan have asked their employees to introduce the technology they wanted to see themselves. “We deliberately said we are bringing in new technology, but it’s not us bringing it in, you are. You are going to tell us where we can bring in technology to good effect,” Hungate said. A $25 million kitchen expansion and upgrade, which was rolled out earlier this year, is a prime example of this strategy. With state-of-the-art pasteurisation and sterilisation technology, it has enabled SATS’ catering business – which produces over 170 million meals per year – to produce



“Getting high engagement levels is about uniting people about what SATS stands for as a company”


tastier and more nutritious meals without the use of preservatives. So why let employees play such a big role in an ongoing digital transformation? “As the technology part increases, that can ironically dampen engagement levels rather than increase them,” Hungate says. “We have seen that quite a lot in different transformations. Our approach to our own transformation has been to be technologydriven, but also people-led.” Handing over the technology decisions to employees was only possible because of SATS’ already high levels of engagement. “You can achieve a much higher level of innovation by decentralising those decisions,” Hungate continues. “There is an exponentially higher level of innovation than if you got a bunch of smart people together in the head office and came up with ideas there.” Tan says the reasoning is that, however smart a person is, they won’t know how the operations work as well as those in the front line. “When technology is introduced directly from head office, it runs the danger of being rejected as it is not suitable across the business as a whole.”

Employee engagement Both Hungate and Tan say employee engagement is front of mind in every initiative launched by SATS. In fact, it has been focusing heavily on improving engagement levels during the last four to five years, particularly as it has integrated a


number of new acquisitions based around the world. “Getting high engagement levels is also about uniting people about what SATS stands for as a company,” added Hungate. So why does SATS demand such a strong emphasis on making sure its people are happy? “We are service company, and that means we are delivering primarily through our people,” Tan says. “Now there are a lot more digital touch points for our customers, but we believe the moment of truth, and the touchpoints that have the biggest impact and are the most memorable, are still the people touchpoints.” Technology is being introduced rapidly across the airline industry, and passengers can now check-in baggage without any humans involved, and also order meals online. While there may be less human interaction nowadays, its crucial to make sure they are special moments. For Hungate, the reason why people take on such a strong focus across his growing portfolio of work is simple. “We talk about our passion to delight our customers as a key differentiator. And there is definitely something special about the SATS service in relation to how our people stand out,” he says. “People are the beginning and ending of our success.”

Connecting with staff There are few companies quite like SATS when it comes to having so many people working remotely, the majority of which

“We are a service company, and that means we are delivering primarily through our people,”



are blue collar workers. They aren’t sitting in front of computers with easy access to emails and the company’s intranet site. Instead, they are busy operating machinery or doing hands-on work for most of the day. With such a spread-out workforce, SATS looks to technology to connect and engage with employees. One incredibly successful tool has been the My SATS app, built with only a $5,000 budget and the help of a junior IT staff member and a former employee’s startup. “This native app has a social element and people can post up pictures,” Tan says. “Staff have to log onto the system to view their payslips, so that quickly increased users. We have put in gamification, so employees can earn points and do quizzes and get discounts on gifts in the (Singapore Airlines) Kris Shop.”

Core to learning and development across the company is the SATS Academy, which acts a centralised vault of the SATS’ operational know-how. The SATS Academy’s 160 in-house training programmes are closely mapped to the Singapore government’s SkillsFuture framework, and the company is a national leader for five of those skill areas. “We are in the art of what is possible,” Hungate says. “You create capability gaps when you move very fast. You can hire people from outside but then you have a culture risk. “If you have a learning environment, like SATS Academy, that helps to mitigate those risks and keep your culture constant.” SATS remains committed to training and career development for all employees.

PARTNERSHIP AT THE TOP HAVING SUCH A strong advocate for HR as CEO Alex Hungate makes Lilian Tan’s job as Head of HR for SATS Limited much smoother. Not only do they work closely, but they also sit closely together at SATS headquarters at Changi Airport in Singapore. You’d expect her to

have a huge team to help look after more than 17,000 employees. But Tan’s team is surprisingly lean at fewer than 15 people (although that rises to around 80 when she adds in those HR leaders that sit within SATS’ many joint ventures and partnerships). Tan admits that this calls

for a “tremendous amount of productivity,” but having an executive leader who is a champion of the people management function makes it all possible. “It helps us easily articulate the business strategy of our CEO,” she says. “When you have that, you will really make the HR team super-engaged and excited.”

All new staff go through six months of training as part of their onboarding – that includes safety and security procedures. “This is in order for everyone to be able to deliver success. In a way, our training has become one of our key pieces of intellectual property,” Hungate says.

Double transformation It’s not just a digital transformation occupying the thoughts of Hungate, Tan, and the wider SATS leadership team. The company is also going through a cultural transformation at the same time. Tan says the two are very much connected. “In order to embrace change, we need people to think differently about their roles as leaders in the organisation. We talk about being courageous but combining that with open-mindedness”. Part of this new way of thinking is for staff to become “outcome-orientated,” and think more about the end objective with every challenge. “When you are talking about tens of thousands of people across many countries, you obviously need some universal way of getting people to march in the same direction and not pull against each other,” Hungate says. To achieve this new mindset across the workforce, SATS is creating an environment where all the innovation happens “bottomup”. It is focusing on enabling people to make those key decisions in the right environment. Hungate says this is part of a long-term strategy to apply start-up style thinking to the much larger and more established air services business. “I used to work in smaller companies and the strength of them was that, while they have limited resources, the one thing they have is they can turn on a dime, and reverse course,” he says. “That kind of agility is necessary to be successful today because of the pace of change. At SATS, we knew we couldn’t lumber along and be a big dinosaur.” But bringing Silicon Valley-style agility to SATS won’t happen overnight, and mistakes will be learned along the way as processes are sped up. “It’s a journey. The challenges we have now is how fast we can move without breaking. Every time you move fast, you are taking risk, and the trade-off is about finding what’s possible while still operating safely and with the highest service standards.”







BENJAMIN JOE Vice President of Southeast Asia and Emerging Markets, Facebook




Social media giant Facebook has plans to grow even bigger in Asia-Pacific. Vice President for Southeast Asia and Emerging Markets Benjamin Joe, and Lizzie Runham, HR Director for Asia-Pacific, say it is the collaborative workplace culture that will drive that expansion.

LIZZIE RUNHAM HR Director, Asia-Pacific, Facebook






acebook has ambitious plans to grow its presence in Asia-Pacific. The social media giant now has 2.41 billion monthly active users across its four core products: Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger. Out of that mammoth user base, 1 billion are here in Asia-Pacific. Last year, Facebook moved into swanky new office space in the heart of Singapore’s central business district, across four floors at the new Marina One building. This serves as Facebook’s regional headquarters. The headcount is currently just over 1,000 people, with the capacity to accommodate up to 3,000 workstations as it ramps up operations in Asia. Facebook has already invested US$1 billion in the region, including through data centres and hired talent. Benjamin Joe is the Vice President of Facebook for Southeast Asia and Emerging Markets. He started off working for Facebook in its Palo Alto headquarters in California, before relocating to Korea and then Singapore. He has clocked up more than eight years at the company. Joe normally gets into work at about 7.15 am and enjoys breakfast in the Facebook office. The social media platform has a global reputation, along with Google, for having cool office spaces, funky breakout areas, and generous supplies of food and drinks. The Singapore office fits perfectly in line with this image. For Joe’s interview with HRM Asia, we sat in one of the many relaxed, lounge areas complete with comfy chairs and bookcases brimming with novels. In fact, Joe donated many of the books on the shelves.

“My top three lessons from more than eight years at Facebook? Always put people first; find greatness in people; and feedback is an expensive gift’’



HR Director for Asia-Pacific at Facebook. Their missions are closely aligned – to create a great workplace for their staff and build a strong culture. “We have worked hard to create an open work environment where everyone is treated equally, and people wake up and feel happy about coming to work,” she says. “We know it is an important part of attracting and retaining talent. We even equip each space with technology to allow us to connect across markets and feel like we’re in the same room.” Diversity is also high up on the people agenda. Runham says the ultimate aim is to have a culturally and cognitively diverse talent pool. “The goal is to have a gender, age and race-agnostic environment

where everyone has a voice and equal opportunity,’’ she explains. But this doesn’t happen by chance. Such an ambition needs a commitment of time and effort. Back in 2017, Facebook rolled out comprehensive Managing Bias training. And to date, more than 90% of its senior leadership team have taken the course. Some of the other ways Facebook is working to promote and increase diversity include giving four months of parental leave for both new mothers and fathers. The company is also proud of its Women’s Leadership Day, which is open to every woman at Facebook, and is focused on strengthening the community of women within the company. Joe explains the depths Facebook goes to promote diversity: “We make a very strong effort to find female talent. So we won’t begin the hiring process until we have enough women apply for the role. We are happy to wait, and often do,’’ he says.


Finding talent

The open-plan office space, chill-out areas, pool tables and multiple, well-stocked pantries aren’t just there to look good in photo shoots. They also serve another, more important purpose. “Workspaces, micro-kitchens and the cafeteria are designed as open areas to encourage employees to connect and collaborate, while they refuel and reenergise throughout the day,’’ says Joe. Joe works closely with Lizzie Runham,

What types of talent is Facebook looking for to meet the changing business landscape in this region? “Teams of the future must be rich in cognitive diversity,” Runham says as a start. “Managers must look beyond core competencies to ensure there is a combination of highlyskilled personnel from both majority and underrepresented groups. Bringing together this broad range of experiences and perspectives will help us to recognise




“We need to continue to make sure we have the right level of support for employees, even as the organisation expands”



gaps and offer products and services that are truly designed for all.” Talent management, human capital strategy, call it what you like. But looking after their people takes up a lot of Joe’s and Runham’s daily agenda. “At Facebook, people are at the core of all we do, and I am excited to be in this role at a company that aims to ensure every single aspect of employee experience needs to be

exceptional to match our ambitions. Basically, I think I have the best job in the company,’’ says Runham. Chatting with her while wandering around the Facebook offices and observing employees networking and interacting, it’s clear to see HR is approached differently. ‘’Our culture defines all that we do; it drives every decision, big or small. It is so refreshing to me to work for a company

CONNECTING PEOPLE AT FACEBOOK, employees share in a strong belief that the work that they do connects and improves the lives of others. Southeast Asia is a highly diverse region, and to connect it, Facebook aims to deliver on the following five core values: BE BOLD Building great things means taking risks. It follows the saying: “The riskiest thing is to take no risks”. In a world that’s changing so quickly you’re guaranteed to fail if you don’t take any risks. FOCUS ON IMPACT To make the most impact, Facebook says it needs to solve the most important problems. ‘’We encourage Facebook employees to focus on truly big challenges’’ says Vice

President for Southeast Asia and Emerging Markets Benjamin Joe. MOVE FAST Facebook believes that it’s better to move fast and make mistakes, than to move slowly and miss opportunities. Doing so enables it to build more things and learn faster. BE OPEN Informed people make better decisions and make a greater impact - so

Facebook works hard to ensure that everyone in the organisation can access as much information about the company as possible. BUILD SOCIAL VALUE Ultimately Facebook’s mission is to bring the world closer together, not just grow its business. “Our people focus on creating real value for the world — every day and in everything they do,” Lizzie Runham, HR Director for Asia-Pacific, says.

where everyone is expected to live our values and contribute to the mission and where it is completely understood that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’,’’ she says. Despite its huge size, the Singapore Facebook culture mirrors that of a startup, with a strong philosophy that hierarchy doesn’t matter – and its way of innovating and communicating reflects that. ‘’Ideas can come from anywhere, people can freely connect with each other rather than go through formal channels,’’ explains Runham. It comes as no surprise that Workplace by Facebook is the cornerstone of creating this internal connectivity. The enterprise technology tool makes conversations and connections between co-workers more personal, using the familiar Facebook setup.

Finding the right people As you’d expect Facebook gets lots of interest for every role it advertises, plus a steady stream of speculative applications. So what does the social media giant look for when hiring? “Whether we’re hiring an engineer or a finance analyst, we look for people who like building things – they love creating new things and figuring out how to continuously improve the way we work and the products we’re building for the betterment of the community,” says Joe. Facebook also looks for bright people, but doesn’t select based on academic or high school test scores. Instead it looks “for people who are mission-driven and have proven, by rolling up their sleeves and making a direct impact, that they’re the best at what they do,” explains Joe. In fact, “impact” is one of Facebook’s core values. When interviewing people, it looks to understand how they’ve made an impact in their previous roles. From onboarding to managing performance, to providing community education programmes, Facebook offers consistent support and resources to help people grow - professionally and personally. “We help people who work here expand their skill sets—including their capabilities to build inclusive team environments where everyone is seen, heard, and valued. Facebook, and the tech industry, must be a space where everyone is welcome and has the opportunity to succeed,’’ Joe says.





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From million-dollar mistakes, to space explorers earning big rewards, telecommunications startup Circles.Life has spent a lot of time and effort building a strong culture which will help guide its ambitious growth. BY JUSTIN HARPER



Leader of the HR and Talent Team, Circles.Life

Co-Founder, Circles.Life






learly written on the wall of Circles.Life’s Singapore headquarters are its three mission statements. One covers customers, one deals with innovation and one is about its people – ‘’Building a great place to work & grow’’. Rameez Ansar, Circles.Life co-founder, says he has always aimed to put people at the centre of the fast-growing startup, and the clear statement on the wall puts that in front of staff and visitors for all to see. ‘’I don’t believe in saying things without walking the talk. If you are going to build a high-performance place that’s growing, you don’t want to compromise. So we put it up there on the wall. We want people to join and feel like founders’,’ he says. Alex Nicolaus, who leads the HR team, concurs, saying the highly-visible mission statements help make him accountable on a daily basis. “On the days when it’s gone a bit harder and things haven’t gone according to plan, it’s really important to have something to remind you how to engage employees, and make sure they are happy and valued,” he says.

Learning by failing More companies are trying to break the stigma of failure, to encourage employees to try new things. This change in mindset is very evident within Circles.Life where mistakes are unashamedly commonplace, as staff push the boundaries and experiment with new ways of doing things. “You can’t innovate and learn unless you fail many times” could perhaps be added as a fourth mission statement. “We are giving young people the opportunity to make multi-million dollar decisions, and then lose a lot of money,” Rameez says. “They are then learning from it, and being okay with it, while of course recognising the lessons.’’ That’s a bold statement, but one Rameez stands by as he gives his staff the freedom to be creative and experiment. He explains: ‘’People have made some big, big mistakes. We are talking about million-dollar mistakes, but we never talk about the actual mistake. Instead, we focus



Doing things differently

“People have made some big, big mistakes. But we focus on what is the learning”



on what is the learning, to understand what happened’’. When it comes to making mistakes, 5% is spent looking in the past at what happened, and 95% on what Circles.Life can learn from it. ‘’This sort of learning environment only happens when you do it 100 times, not just once. We have tried a lot of things that didn’t work, and our journey will be figured out as we go along.’’


This is not the only way Circles.Life is deliberately doing things differently when it comes to people management. The flat organisational structure is deliberate and highlighted on every business card across the workforce – there are no job titles on any of them. If you ask Nicolaus for his official designation, he might say: “Chief Problem Officer, or People and Culture Leader’’. But he’s crystal clear on one thing: “It would not have ‘Head’ or ‘Vice President’ in the title,” he says. “A title should not put people off speaking to you, or build a layer of power. That goes against our flat organisation.’’ Not even Rameez gets to boast of his founder status. “That (policy) is a big statement that say no-one is bigger than anyone else,” he says – adding that it also helps to encourage lateral movements among staff. “We have people who have moved from network to product side to management. There’s a lot of mobility across the company.” This, thirdly, also helps to bring the

ambitious,” he says of Rameez and his fellow co-founders. “But it’s not a race to be the biggest by next year.” Not next year – but perhaps soon after! The roadmap is to launch in 50 countries over the next few years, which sounds ambitious but Nicolaus says the structures are now in place to facilitate that expansion. Still, he admits the first six months of the year did put a strain on the company, as it took on a lot of people in a short space of time. “There will always be roadblocks. But with every launch we get better, and the brand is getting stronger.”

Rewards with impact

best out of entry-level recruits and even interns, who are given the confidence to act like proper full timers from their first days. “You’d be shocked here when you see someone really junior telling people what to do, and everyone is doing it,” Rameez says. “If you are stepping up to the plate and want to create a memorable experience we will make sure we create an environment for you to do so.” While it could be easily read as a recruitment mantra, the message from Rameez is loud and clear: “Just raise your hand and our job is to make sure there’s no structure in the way, no politics, no title, no department. We have that opportunity for you.”

On the express track He is not understating the number of opportunities at Circles.Life as it continues its surging growth path. The company currently has more than 400 employees in its global offices across Singapore, India, Indonesia, Philippines,

“A title should not put people off speaking to you, or build a layer of power. That goes against our flat organisation”



Taiwan, and Australia. But its headcount is expected to double over the next 12 months. Office space will be the next challenge – and Nicolaus says the Henderson Business Park building in the west of Singapore is already starting to get cramped, even as different floors and sections of the complex are bolted on. “These guys are moving fast and

Unique to Circles.Life is its highperformance development programme, Space Explorers. Nicolaus and Rameez are both strong advocates of this scheme, that recognises high achievers and innovators with significant financial rewards. Along with the typical “employee of the month” treatment of their name in posters on the wall, successful “explorers” could be given cash bonuses, or up to six months’ worth of stock for that year. Again, the message is clear – if you perform at Circles.Life, you will be handsomely rewarded, with both financial and career development incentives. “The beauty of Space Explorer is that recipients will spread consistency about high performance and the company’s culture to others,” Rameez says. “To scale fast, the only way to do it is to get the culture right first. I did not understand this a year ago. I’m still learning. “This is a problem every company and organisation faces, but we all need to find our own solution’’. Rameez says there has been little, if any, pushback on Circle.Life’s peoplefirst culture from investors or other stakeholders. “Once you are sure about it and you tell stakeholders that this is one of the reasons why you built the company, they can’t ever challenge that.” The next challenge for the Circles. Life leadership will therefore be in its organisational design, and mapping what a much larger company will look like in the next 12 months and beyond. “We are doing a lot of work on what is the right size, the right shape, the right cost, and with the right level of agility,’’ says Nicolaus.






PARTNERSFOR THELONG-TERM The Human Capital Partnership (HCP) Programme is a tripartite initiative in Singapore, bringing together a community of exemplary employers who have progressive employment practices and are committed to developing their human capital. HRM Magazine Asia highlights two of their stories.


eveloping human capital is essential for businesses to attract and retain talent, and also for Singaporeans to continue to have better jobs, better salaries and better careers. These are key areas that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) looks for when it comes to participating employers in the Human Capital Partnership (HCP) Programme – which celebrates these employers of choice leading the way. In operation since 2017, and now with more than 570 employers on board, the HCP Programme has been at the forefront of an ongoing cultural change across the Singapore workforce. Those employers that are committed to investing and developing their employees across all levels, (and the local workforce in particular) are welcome to join, as is highlighted by the two case studies featured here. Theresa Phua, Singapore Head of HR for DBS Bank, and Anna Lim, Founder and “Souper Chef” of The Soup Spoon, explain what the HCP Programme means to their businesses and workforces, and how it has helped their unique transformation journeys.




Tell us a little about your organisation, and its operations at the moment. DBS is a leading financial services group in Asia and provides a full range of services in consumer, SME, and corporate banking. As a bank born and bred in Asia, DBS understands the intricacies of doing business in the region’s most dynamic markets. DBS is committed to building lasting relationships with customers, and positively impacting communities through supporting social enterprises, as it banks the Asian way.

How has your company’s strategy around human capital, talent management, and fair and progressive employment changed since becoming a HCPartner? We believe that banks tomorrow will look fundamentally different from banks today. This is what drove our human capital strategy, a key pillar in DBS’ digital transformation, and to achieve the bank’s overall vision to “reimagine banking”. DBS became a human capital partner in 2017 and this reinforces


our commitment to investing in progressive human capital practices. Notable initiatives include: • Upskilling and reskilling our workforce: DBS invested S$20 million in 2017 in a broad-based programme to skill our people across all levels, and help them stay relevant in today’s fast-changing business environment. • Building a stronger Singaporean core: As an organisation born and bred in Singapore, we are committed to grooming the next generation of local talents. Since 2018, DBS in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University Singapore and its Wealth Management Institute (WMI) launched the first of its kind Applied Wealth Management track to groom jobready talent and cater to growing industry demand. • Creating a great place to work: In addition to the bank’s comprehensive range of employee benefits, the Flexible Work Arrangement programme allows for flexible working hours, telecommuting, and even part-time work.

What challenges were involved in that journey of workforce transformation? To build a 28,000-person startup that will enable our digital transformation, we needed to change the culture to be more open to embracing technology, and willing to experiment and try new things. This behavioural change takes time and we have put in place many programmes to bring employees along the journey. Learning is a key element in this endeavour. To create a culture of continuous learning, DBS invested deeply into having the right platform, tools, and programmes that encourage constant experimenting, learning, sharing and teaching together.

What assistance has the HCP Programme offered as part of that journey? Being a HCPartner in the programme reinforces our commitment to investing in progressive human capital practices. Through the community of partners, we share best practices and together we elevate the development of human capital in Singapore.

How does the future now look? Is there anything new that your organisation can aim for now? Absolutely. The future looks exciting, and we will include two new priorities for the bank: •S  mart job creation: Our journey to reskill our people will continue to be a challenge as we identify more complex roles and profiles. We have more than 30 job families (including. Analytics, Customer Service, Sales and Trading, Technology, and Compliance) in DBS. This year, we have launched the new Technology in Finance Immersion Programme, which is designed to provide mid-career professionals the opportunity to take up tech jobs that are opening up in the financial sectors.  acilitating career growth: We are •F also looking at the job structure and skills inventory to help employees and managers understand their skillsets available across the organisation. This will be integrated with the online learning platform to enable employees to easily search for and pursue training programmes or courses to learn new skills, which will also give employees transparency and clarity to skills needed to move into new roles.


Tell us a little about your organisation, and its operations at the moment. The Soup Spoon is a quick-casual soup concept that serves an array of fresh, flavourful and nutritious soups, along with delicious sandwiches, wraps, salads and interesting sides. It aims to create a soup culture – where soups take the center stage in a meal. As of September, 2019, The Soup Spoon now has 26 outlets in Singapore and includes six The Soup Spoon Union outlets, which also house some of its other brands under one roof.

How has your company’s strategy around human capital, talent management, and fair and progressive employment changed since becoming a HCPartner? We have been more inclusive to hire more mature workers, and workers with special needs. We have also arranged for better induction and training for these groups of people. We have further added in tangible elements when we deliver engagement for our staff, and encourage all to be more open to share their ideas with us. We are actively using Human Capital tools to assess our potential candidates’ strength, and “place our aces in places”. We also use that same tech as a tool to decide on the next progression internally and prepare our staff for success.

What challenges were involved in that journey of workforce transformation? To have progressive human capital policies and processes is never an easy journey. As an SME, we are more flexible and there are times we may have overlooked certain aspect of practice which are considered as norm. To get buy in and change the perspective of Human Capital will be an on-going journey. Between running a business and being a preferred employer, we will always have to find the best possible balance.

What assistance has the HCP Programme offered as part of that journey? TAFEP and the HCP Programme offer a great deal of assistance as we continue to transform toward that perfect balance. They include access to informative seminars, email updates on employment and employment issues, and networking opportunities to HR practitioners across industries and the challenges they are facing.

How does the future now look? Is there anything new that your organisation can aim for now? Our goals at the moment are around promoting and grooming internal staff for leadership positions. This is happening in the midst of a changing culture (to be more nurturing) and the development of more open-door HR policies.

To find out more about the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, and the Human Capital Partnership Programme, visit http://www.tafep.sg. NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019








HR technology trends for 2020 Artificial intelligence, employee experience, and virtual reality: USbased HR technology commentator Steve Boese shares his thoughts on the fast-moving industry as it enters a new year, and a new decade.


ver the last several months, I’ve been focusing on the planning, execution and post-event activities for the recently concluded HR Technology Conference, which, by all accounts, was the largest and most successful ever. It’s only in the last week or two that I’ve had a chance to reflect on the conference — and on the year overall - thinking about the technologies and trends that have mattered the most in 2019, and speculating on what might dominate the conversations in 2020.

Here’s my semi-scientific look at what was important to the HR-tech community this year, and what we will probably spend more time on in 2020.






AI tools maturing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in HR tech was probably the Number One tech topic and trend in 2019. There were about 500 exhibitors at HR Tech, and I bet easily over 100 of them are developing, deploying, or at least discussing, how AI is driving their technology offerings. The good thing for HR leaders about all this investment in AI is that more powerful technologies for things like information discovery, job opportunity to candidate/employee matching and employee-sentiment analysis are all maturing, getting more capable and being used by more companies in the “real” world. Also, consultancy and analyst research is shining more light on the technologies, approaches and results being driven by the application of AI in the workplace. Bottom line, in 2019 and beyond, AI tools are moving more toward the mainstream of HR tech, and will increasingly be evaluated, deployed, and measured like more traditional HR technologies have been — with a focus on fit, capability and return on investment.

Employee experience for the win If there was one phrase heard more at HR Tech in 2019 than “employee experience” I can’t think of it. Originally, it seemed like the “experience” conversations were an offshoot of the decades-long discussion about employee engagement. “Experience” allows us to think more specifically about the individual moments in an employee’s relationship with work and the organisation, and to develop processes and



as user needs change and different supporting features become available. For 2020 and beyond, I expect to see this individually oriented technology paradigm become more common in HR and workplace technologies. HR-technology solutions will develop even more flexibility, adaptability and modularity (like your phone’s app store) in order to give users almost unfettered ability to tailor their workplace technologies to their own preferences, giving them more control over their data, their workflows and their experiences. technologies that are meant to elevate these moments to make them easier, more valuable and designed with the employee in mind. In HR tech, the influence of employee experience has manifested in much more user-centric designs, cleaner and simpler interfaces, and technology much more focused on users, as opposed to back-office or IT administrators. This is not just “how it looks” but much more about “how it works,” or perhaps better said, “how it helps me at work” — and that last viewpoint should be what HR leaders ask when evaluating all HR tech moving forward. This last trend may be one that still feels a little under the radar for most HR leaders and organisations, but to me, 2019 was the year that virtual reality (VR) really began to mature and emerge as a viable technology for HR, and most specifically, training and development professionals. One of the sessions at this year’s HR Tech that I was most impressed by was a mega session on how many leading employers (Walmart being the largest) are leveraging


VR technology for employee training and development objectives. While VR, not unlike the famous experimental technology Google Glass, might never become a mainstream consumer technology, it seems very likely that the workplace applications are going to be increasingly significant.

HR technology for me Above, I mentioned the familiar consumerisation of HR tech, an extension of which, I think, is individual personalisation of HR and workplace technology. My favourite consumer comparison is the smartphone: Every new iPhone and the like ships to consumers exactly the same — loaded with the same software, layout/interface and installed applications. Within mere minutes of being activated, each of these millions of smartphones becomes unique — as users add, modify, adapt and configure their phones to support their own needs. And, by the way, this unique user-defined configuration is not static — it can and usually is updated almost constantly,

A return to wellbeing Employee wellbeing is not a new idea, but rather one that will see an increased emphasis in 2020, and thus a corresponding uptick in HRtech investments. We seem to be working more than ever; we are always tethered to work via our smartphones and the “worklife balance” people have long advocated for never quite arrived. Rather, the fuzzy concept of a work/life “blend” is now the goal. Add to this the normal workplace pressures of competitive global markets for most goods and services, persistent labour shortages in many industries, and increases in the incidence of mental-health conditions in the population and, to me, this adds up to a potential crisis in many organisations. In 2020, I expect more HR leaders to look again at wellbeing technologies to play a more significant role in their organisations and for the HR-tech companies that provide wellbeing solutions to innovate even more quickly to meet these challenges and opportunities.

HR tech everywhere Anyone who has followed my writing, speaking or the HR Happy Hour Show over the last few years would not be surprised to hear how much I am enamored with my Amazon Alexa device. When I am on the road, I find myself in hotel rooms asking Alexa for information, only then to remember Alexa is sitting on my counter at home. And it stinks! I then have to find some other way to get the information that I expect is only a question away. Once Alexa is available, with an incredibly simple user interface, life gets harder without it. That frustration is why I think access to HR information, interaction and execution of transactions is going to become more widely available on smart technologies like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. For years, most HR-tech experts have made statements about how employees expect the ease of use and familiarity of their favourite consumer technologies be ported to their workplace technologies. I believe that statement is accurate, and the natural extension of is the voice interface used by Alexa and the like. We will see more HR tech on these “everywhere” interfaces in 2020; soon, asking Alexa for a shortlist of candidates for that important open role you are looking to fill will seem just as normal as asking her for the weather forecast. As I mentioned at the top of this piece, 2019 was a great year for the HR Technology Conference and the HRtechnology market overall. There’s probably never been more interest, innovation,

investment, or importance placed on HR tech than at any time before. The market is growing and moving so fast it can be hard, even for me, to see past the transactions, developments and announcements to get a feel for the bigger picture and think about what really will matter for HR and organisations. Of course, any “predictions” articles or “trends” pieces are only one person’s view of things, so my best advice for HR leaders who need to make important technology decisions is to read as many of these articles as possible and follow the great HR-tech coverage at HRM Asia and Human Resource Executive. Of course, make your plans to attend the HR Tech Festival Asia in 2020, where all of us can see whose predictions for the year were closest to the bullseye. Here’s to 2020 and another great year in HR tech!

About the Author STEVE BOESE is the Inside HR Tech columnist for HR Executive magazine in the US, and also Chair of the HR and Digital Transformation stream at HR Technology Festival Asia. He writes an HR blog, and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio programme and podcast in the US.







The fourth year of HRM Asia’s CHRO Series has seen senior-level HR audiences in both Jakarta and Singapore, with Kuala Lumpur to get the experience on December 3. 38



lose to 200 Chief HR Officers and senior workforce leaders have taken part, so far, in HRM Asia’s annual CHRO Series in 2019. They participated in thought leadership, strategic-level learning, and exclusive case studies in each of two comprehensive single-day programmes focused on different markets in the region. CHRO Series, with events in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia in 2019, is an invitation-only concept, providing highlevel networking, best-practice advice, and local case studies on strategic workforce management in the era of Industry 4.0. Each event has had a broad focus on culture and digital transformation, while focusing on local and regional experiences and case studies.

CHRO Series Indonesia Some 85 HR leaders took part in the Indonesia leg of the CHRO Series tour. It was the second time the Series had looked NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019





specifically at the fast-changing Indonesia market, and delegates returned in large numbers for the follow-up event, held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta on October 25. They heard from a wide array of locallybased speakers and presenters, including from businesses such as the Blue Bird Group, PT Garuda Daya Pratama Sejahtera, and the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. The biggest name, and the one who had just handed over the biggest job in Indonesian HR right now, was the country’s former Minister for Manpower. M Hanif Dhakiri shared an exclusive insight into Indonesia’s 2020 Plan on the Future of HR Development. With a workforce of close to 70 million people, spread across a rapidly emerging nation of 12,000 islands, that is set to be a gargantuan task. But the outgoing Minister, who handed the reins over to new Manpower Minister Ida Fauziyah only two days earlier, said he was confident the new focus on skills development would bear fruit. The event also involved a high-level panel discussion featuring Heriyanto Agung Putra, Chairman of national HR body PMSM, Putri Pamela, Regional Country Manager of Talent Plus, and Swasono Satyo, Group Chief HR Officer of the Sinarmas Group. Moderated by Juliana Laura Tompodung, from Core Laboratories Indonesia, the panel looked at the global and regional trends now redefining the CHRO role in Indonesia. And delegates were particularly keen to hear from Pambudi Sunarsihanto,



HR Director for the Blue Bird Group. The charismatic HR leader delivered a presentation on building high-performing teams in an environment and culture of hyper-growth.

CHRO Series Singapore The CHRO programme in Singapore kicked off with an exclusive breakfast briefing by Microsoft, where its team talked about the company’s ongoing digital transformation. The US tech giant started its transformation five years ago. But Microsoft explained to attendees this wasn’t just a corporate transformation but a digital transformation and a cultural one too. And rather than being a one-off


seasonal exercise, it’s an on-going process that has no deadline. “The world we are in is changing fast, we needed to change with it – but we needed a compelling reason. As our CEO, Satya Nadella, puts it – we needed to find out who we were, why we were and to consider what the world would look like without us. In short – we needed to rediscover our soul,” said Vivek Ravindran, Senior Director, Modern Workplace AsiaPacific at Microsoft. One of the most sought-out presentations at the CHRO Series 2019 in Singapore, with delegates actively participating right up until his closing remarks in the last session, was by

SUPPORTING PARTNERS CHRO SERIES has been made possible with the support and participation of a large number of organisations in each of the markets represented. HRM Asia sends its heartfelt thanks to all.





DDI International





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Varun Bhatia, Chief People and Culture Officer of AirAsia. He shared some of the key insights behind the company’s transformation from a low-cost airline into what it now calls AirAsia 3.0 (“a technology company that happens to fly planes”). AirAsia is also going through a major digital transformation and is continuing to reshape the organisation and business model across four pillars – the airline, digital and commercial ventures, its corporate VC and its shared services. The Malaysian airline is on a huge hiring spree and has taken on about 3,500 people so far this year. As part of its digital transformation, it has been recruiting cybersecurity, software and big data talent. It’s currently looking for digital marketing experts. Another highly engaging speaker was Saakshi Wadhawan, Director in Organisation Design, HR at Standard Chartered Bank. She gave a presentation on how to develop world-class leaders within an organisation. Wadhawan explained the bank has a focus on defining ‘’what good looks like’’ by highlighting success stories and learning throughout the organisation.







Talent Plus



PMSM Indonesia

GSA Tech


Future HR


Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management


ASEAN Human Development Organisation

TechBridge Market

Coming soon: CHRO Series Malaysia The third destination for CHRO Series 2019 is the Sheraton Imperial Hotel Kuala Lumpur, where a further 100 delegates are expected on December 3. Don’t miss out on this last chance to be part of the exclusive, invitation-only NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019





Urban living in extreme comfort Whether it’s for a short or long-stay, Ariva Trillion Residences offers the perfect accommodation choice in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

Serviced apartments bridge the gap between hotels, and private apartments; for either short-term or extended stays,” says Susie Chin, Residence Manager of Ariva Trillion Residences. Customers view luxury differently nowadays, and are seeing more value in selecting serviced residences with the luxury of living space and a full host of home comfort amenities from the living and bedrooms, to the kitchen – all at lower cost compared to hotels and yet not necessarily compromising in service standards. Unlike apartments where service arrangements can be cumbersome in some countries, Serviced Residences customers also like the luxury convenience



of fuss-free services instantly available when they check-in, ranging from WiFi and cable TV, to a hospitality-trained team taking care of cleaning, security, and maintenance. While these product and services may again seem as expected, the success of a service residence also boils down to a team of dedicated staff who are able to anticipate customers’ different requirements over their extended stays, and are willing to go the extra mile to manage. For instance, we have realised that it is not necessary to furnish every corner and room. At Ariva Trillion Residences, we have intentionally left a study room partially furnished as it gives the customer the flexibility and


choice to turn it into a study, playroom, exercise room, guest room or also more storage room. With business trends, greater competition, and market

conditions changing rapidly nowadays, we really need to listen to the customers’ needs and be nimble to make changes quickly to be abreast of the competition.

For more information, or to book your stay, visit Ariva Hospitality online


HR can’t ignore blockchain and cryptocurrencies


For employers, this new form of digital payments offers lots of opportunities to make transactions faster, cheaper, and safer. It takes a lot of effort to change the status quo, the way things have always been. But that’s what technology is forcing us to do: change the way we do everything, from shopping to interacting, from banking to parking, and from dating to paying for things. Sometimes new technology improves our working and social lives, other times it becomes cumbersome and annoying. Disruption can be good and bad. So where do you stand on blockchain and cryptocurrency? (cryptocurrency has its roots in blockchain). There is a temptation to ignore these new two new technological advances in the hope they are just fads. But it looks like they are here to stay as their presence grows. Earlier this year, the New Zealand government became the first country in the world to allow employers to pay staff via cryptocurrency. That was quite an endorsement for the likes of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin. And following the Singapore Fintech Festival 2019 in November, it was revealed the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is working with Singapore’s financial services industry to develop a new blockchain-based crossborder digital payment system. Sounds impressive, but what does it mean for employers? Quite a lot actually, but perhaps the biggest impact could be for paying staff. This is particular relevant if you regularly pay salaries to staff based overseas. While the New Zealand government gave its seal of approval to compensate staff with cryptocurrencies, others are sure to follow. Not only will employers save money (by bypassing traditional banks and financial institutions), but blockchain can also speed up transactions while making them safer, given the multiple layers of encryption. Having blockchain at its core, any payments system will also be more transparent as you can see where the money is throughout the entire chain, thanks to the public ledger. And the growth of a blockchain-based cross-border payment

system couldn’t come at a better time as companies become increasingly global (or regional in some case). More Asian employers are now using remote employees and contractors, building their own virtual worker networks. Then there are the freelancer platforms such as Upwork and Workana, aiding cross-border projects and collaborations while supporting the global gig economy. Having a cheaper, faster and more secure way to pay contractors and freelancers is good news. Cryptocurrency had a bad press in its infancy, and is still viewed by some as being incredibly volatile. In many cases that’s still true. But even that is being addressed with the emergence of a new type

Cryptocurrency had a bad press in its infancy, and is still viewed by some as being incredibly volatile



of cryptocurrency known as stablecoin. Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies designed to minimize price volatility as they are backed by real assets such as fiat currency or commodities. Such hybrid cryptocurrencies could win over more people. So as blockchain becomes more widely used (and understood), and cryptocurrencies more stable, they are making a strong case for themselves as a viable alternative to the traditional banking system. And after more than 200 years of banks sitting at the centre of the transactional universe, maybe it’s about time for a change. All hail digital disruption.

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Profile for HRM Asia

HRM Magazine Asia - November-December 2019 issue  

HRM Asia looks introduces R "Ray" Wang, who will be a keynote speaker at the 2020 HR Tech Festival Asia in Singapore. We also meet three hig...

HRM Magazine Asia - November-December 2019 issue  

HRM Asia looks introduces R "Ray" Wang, who will be a keynote speaker at the 2020 HR Tech Festival Asia in Singapore. We also meet three hig...

Profile for hrmasia