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ARE YOU THE NEXT CEO? Why CHROs are perfect for the top job


TAKING ON THE WORLD How Singapore is turning managers into leaders BYE-BYE, HUMAN RESOURCES? Why HR is not done yet

MOVING WITH THE TIMES How McDonald's is serving up HR success SINGAPORE VOTES!


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Editor Iain Hopkins

Marketing & Communications Manager Lisa Narroway

Journalists Ben Abbott Miklos Bolza Hannah Norton Production Editors Roslyn Meredith Carolin Wun Moira Daniels

ART & PRODUCTION Design Manager Daniel Williams Designer Marla Morelos

Business Development Manager James Francis

CORPORATE Chief Executive Officer Mike Shipley Chief Operating Officer George Walmsley Managing Director Justin Kennedy Chief Information Officer Colin Chan

Traffic Coordinator Lou Gonzales




Key Media Regional head office, Level 10, 1–9 Chandos St, St Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia tel: +61 2 8437 4700 • fax: +61 2 9439 4599 Offices in Sydney, Auckland, Denver, Toronto, Manila

Human Resources Director is part of an international family of B2B publications and websites for the human resources industry HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR AUSTRALIA T +61 2 8437 4703 HC AUSTRALIA ONLINE HRD MAGAZINE CANADA HRM NEW ZEALAND Copyright is reserved throughout. No part of this publication can be reproduced in whole or part without the express permission of the editor. Contributions are invited, but copies of work should be kept, as HRD Magazine can accept no responsibility for loss

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A BRIGHT NEW ERA WELCOME TO this launch issue of HR Director magazine, the first publication in Singapore targeting senior decision-makers in the HR profession. It’s a rare privilege to be able to launch a new print publication, especially one focused on such a dynamic sector – and in such a dynamic territory – as HR in Singapore. In building upon Key Media’s other successful HRD titles in Australia and Canada, it seems appropriate that Singapore, long a hub for multinational HR practices in Southeast Asia, should bear witness to such a launch. A quick glance at mainstream headlines reveals there has been a lot happening to spark the interest of HR professionals. While the SG50 celebrations provided an opportunity to look back and reflect on how far the island city-state has come over the past 50 years, and the passing of Lee Kuan Yew earlier this year marked the end of an era, it’s the challenges of the future that most Singaporeans will be mindful of.

One thing is clear: Singapore’s employers are doing a great many things right in their quest to attract and retain the best talent While the debate over foreign workers continues to rage, HR professionals will likely be looking to balance their own teams with local Singapore talent, and talent from overseas. Singapore remains a popular destination for expat workers, but it is also expensive (indeed, it is the fourth most expensive city in the world to live in). Regardless of where workers hail from, HR practitioners are looking for any way they can to stand out from the pack. Perhaps some tips might be gleaned from HRD’s own Employer of Choice awards (see p.12). We went directly to employees in 118 companies to assess what makes an Employer of Choice. The results are revealing. One thing is clear: Singapore’s employers are doing a great many things right in their quest to attract and retain the best talent. HRD Singapore will continue to bring you best practice HR tips from Singapore and around the world. We hope you enjoy the ride.

Iain Hopkins, editor


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CONNECT WITH US Got a story, suggestion or just want to find out some more information? HRDMagSG


+HrdmagSg HRDSingapore



UPFRONT 01 Editorial

Welcome to the launch issue of HR Director, Singapore’s first publication targeting senior HR professionals

04 The data



Singapore’s workforce has spoken. The votes are in. Who are the best employers?

In an era of global workers, where does Singapore rank and what do employees gain from international assignments?

06 News analysis

With so many job applicants inflating their CVs, employers are likely to put themselves at risk during recruitment unless they use the right investigative techniques to eliminate this problem

PEOPLE 56 Head to head COVER STORY


A job at McDonald’s used to be viewed as strictly transitory. Not any longer. McDonald’s Singapore HRD Lynn Hong talks to Hannah Norton



HRD chats to Iris Tee, Ubisoft’s HR director





How are Singapore’s high potentials being transformed from managers to leaders?


Do you believe it’s time to refresh performance reviews? HRD asks three HR professionals for their views

FEATURES 28 Bye-bye, human resources? Articles about banishing HR from the corporate hierarchy appear regularly. Ben Whitter takes a different but no less thought-provoking tack. Far from approaching an end, he finds that HR is only just beginning to reach its full potential

46 Why the next CEO could be you

The research is in and it might surprise some: CHROs are perfect candidates for the role of CEO. Iain Hopkins talks to research lead Dave Ulrich about what this breakthrough means for HR



Neglecting expat families can be a fatal error, writes Ben Abbott



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Just how mobile is the global workforce, and how enticing is Singapore as a destination? ACCORDING TO 2014 Singapore government statistics, out of a population of 5.6 million, 1.32 million are foreign workers. Recent estimates by the website and others put the number of expats – referring to professional and managerial workers who are more skilled and often employed on Employment Pass visas – at around 600,000. Despite being an increasingly expensive location to live (see map at right), Singapore remains a magnet for foreign talent, especially in marketing, finance and IT.


of companies require a clear statement of assignment objectives before funding an international assignment


of companies with a short-term assignment policy cover daily living expenses

TOP 5 REASONS FOR TAKING AN INTERNATIONAL ASSIGNMENT International assignments can present great career opportunities for employees, and can fill skills and competency gaps for employers. Here are the top five reasons for taking such an assignment.

Housing, international schools, medical treatment and perks like fine wine are all expensive by global standards, but according to the 2014 HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, 45% of expats are paid more than S$250,000 (US$183,295) annually. In the same survey, 62% said their disposable income was higher than it would have been back home. Here’s a snapshot of trends for the global workforce, based on surveys by Brookfield Global Relocation Services, Ernst & Young and PwC.


Building international management expertise/career development Launching new endeavours Technology transfer


the average expat assignment costs up to four times more than what a local employee would cost

Just as foreign exchange costs create headwinds for many multinational organisations, currency fluctuations – driven by economic and political unrest – are contributing to the cost of expatriate packages for those on the front line of globalisation in their organisations. Mercer’s 2015 Cost of Living Survey finds that factors including instability of housing markets and inflation for goods and services impacts significantly the overall cost of doing business in a global environment.

While each employer has its own criteria for selecting international assignees, the vast majority view this as a way to reward – and hopefully retain – high potential employees. Top criteria for selecting international assignees high potential employees previously expressed a willingness to go on international assignments had rare skills had a previous international assignment had a cultural ability or skills


Filling a managerial skills gap Filling a technical skills gap

1.5-4.0 x

the number of host locations per organisation predicted by 2020 (a 50% increase from 1998)











Key candidate competencies assessed during selection flexibility/adaptability technical skills leadership skills cross-cultural communication family suitability



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TOP 10 1 Luanda, Angola 2 Hong Kong 3 Zurich 4 Singapore 5 . Geneva, Switzerland 6 Shanghai 7 Beijing 8 Seoul 9 Bern, Switzerland 10 N’Djamena, Chad


3 59




7 8 6






Sydney New York City 12 London 31



206 31

The least expensive global cities – bottom 5 203 Skopje, Macedonia 204 Tunis, Tunisia 205 Karachi, Pakistan 206 Windhoek, Namibia 207 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan



Just as important as the assignment is the return home. KPMG reports there has been an increase in the number of organisations implementing re-entry strategies for returning employees, with internal career planning/job placement strategies towards the end of the assignment being the most popular options.

Just 14% of companies formally measure ROI. The main reasons for not conducting ROI analysis include not knowing how to achieve it (48%) and ‘no time’ (15%). Sixty-seven per cent of companies defined ROI as “accomplishing assignment objectives at the expected cost”.

50 40 30 20 10 0

6 months to 1 year

1 to 2 years

2 to 3 years

3 to 4 years

4 to 5 years

More than 5 years Sources: Brookfield Global Relocation Trends, 2013; KPMG, Global Assignment Policies & Practices Survey, 2013; Talent Mobility 2020, PricewaterhouseCoopers

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AN EXCELLENT CANDIDATE FOR CV FRAUD With so many job applicants inflating their CVs and embellishing their details, employers are likely to put themselves at risk during recruitment unless they employ the right investigative techniques. Miklos Bolza reports ARE YOU HIRING who you think you’re hiring? With CV fraud prevalent in Singapore, businesses of all types can be affected. One of the highest profile media examples was the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) which, in April 2015, investigated claims that one of its consultants had listed a Master’s degree from Southern Pacific University, an alleged ‘degree mill’, on her CV. After an internal investigation, the IDA

released a statement standing by their recruitment decision saying that they “did not take [the individual’s] MBA into account when hiring her, as the job only required a Bachelor degree holder”. With today’s global workforce, CV fraud is the bane of HR teams around the world. In 2014, Australian retailer Myer was forced to dismiss their group general manager for strategy and business development for lying about his qualifications and work experience.


Applying for deceit

Criminal 0.30% Education 14.50% Employment: 29.58% Database*: 49.12% Financial-related: 6.50%

Out of all employment discrepancies found in Singapore in 2014, 30% came from employment history. Within this category, discrepancies related to designation/job title top the list at 10.81%, followed by tenure at an organisation at 8.59% (with variance not exceeding six months) and 7.43% (with variance exceeding six months).

Discrepancy by country

26.94% 18.82% 16.38% 13.50% 12.80%

Australia/New Zealand

In the ensuing investigation, it transpired this wasn’t the first time he had used an inflated CV to gain a top position. In the US, an ex-professor of the National University of Singapore (NUS) was investigated for CV fraud after it was revealed he had lied about his qualifications in order to obtain a position at West Virginia University. If accepted for the role, he would have been in charge of millions of dollars’ worth of federal funding and research grants. It was only through a pre-appointment review that the misrepresentation of his CV was discovered.


Hong Kong



11.29% Japan & Korea

91.7% China

*This refers to search based on name matching from a collection of databases including media, address, online, passport/ID, company registry, address checks and more.

It is obvious that the risks of dishonest candidates slipping through the cracks are great and it is up to local businesses to implement the proper techniques so as to root out CV fraud before anyone unsuitable is hired. This is especially important because of the sheer number of people with discrepancies on their resumes. In fact, the First Advantage Background Screening Trends Report 2015: Asia Pacific found that 18% of all APAC candidates screened are found to have inconsistencies within their CV or have a prior criminal record. Out of the total number of discrepancies unveiled by First Advantage, 54% of them

Source: First Advantage Background Screening Trends APAC


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related to employment. One in nine of these had inconsistencies in their previous place of employment or job title while one in 13 showed periods of employment which were artificially inflated by more than six months. First Advantage also found that 21% of these inconsistencies were related to education. In this field, one in 16 said they had discrepancies of more than six months between their actual graduation day and the day they listed on their CV. More disturbingly, one in every 29 candidates screened had an unconfirmed degree – a potential scenario that led to two of the three case studies examined above.

Exposing the fraudsters There are a number of tools and services employers can use to minimise the risk of CV fraud. Keeping a look out for any red flags which may hint that an individual is hiding something on their resume can be a good start.



Employment verification


Criminal history


Education verification


Financial-related searches

“Unexplained gaps in employment are a good indicator that there’s something funny going on,” says Matthew Glasner, managing director of South APAC for First Advantage. “Big changes in employment levels, for instance going from a telephone operator to a general manager, are another definite red flag. I would also be investigating education from establishments that are online or that aren’t from where the individual lives.” Background checks are also an important

DISCREPANCY BREAKDOWN BY INDUSTRY SEGMENT (ASIA-PACIFIC) Across Asia, the energy sector led the pack with 26.67% and the finance services sector at 19.88% – the two sectors that had the highest discrepancy rates in countries like China, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. 26.67%

Energy 19.88%

Financial services 15.40%

Others 12.80%

Consumer products


Professional services Manufacturing



12.27% 11.10%

Information technology 0







Source: First Advantage Background Screening Trends APAC

way of eliminating the risk of a dishonest or fraudulent candidate. There are a number of different screening options available depending on the needs of the company and the industry it’s in. “Basic checks will consist of verification of employment and educational qualifications. More comprehensive checks include credit, criminal record, identity and professional reference checks,” Edward Hickey, managing director of Asia Pacific for HireRight, says. “The level of screening conducted will also depend on the seniority of the role. The more senior the role is, the more detrimental the effects a bad hire can have to an organisation, especially since the fallout associated with it can go public.”

Big trials of a little red dot Singapore businesses have their own unique challenges when it comes to combating CV fraud. Since it is an international hub, one of the biggest difficulties local companies face is the need to screen job candidates from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities. “The single biggest challenge you have in Singapore is that there are a lot of migrant workers, both short-term and long-term, at every level of employment. If organisations aren’t abreast of the regulatory and legal compliance requirements for every country in the world then it’s very difficult to know what they can screen as well as where, when

and how,” Glasner explains. Privacy concerns also come into play – especially when dealing with candidates from many countries. “Another challenge a lot of employers have is what you’re able to do from a privacy perspective. If you’re going to conduct checks that involve the UK, Hong Kong, China or India, what are you allowed to keep? How long are you allowed to keep it for?” Glasner says. One final difficulty is the fact that background screening is still a relatively new area in Singapore. This can lead to a number of risks including ineffective investigative techniques and potential legal cases due to compliance issues. “The biggest challenge in Singapore would be a lack of awareness and knowledge of background screening. The industry is still new in Asia, compared to the US where most companies conduct screening. Hence, there are plenty of myths surrounding background screening and what it constitutes, both among recruiters and candidates,” says Hickey. In its Employment Screening Benchmark Report, HireRight also found that employers conducting their own background checks experienced a number of difficulties including improving the efficiency of the screening process, minimising the overall recruitment time, verifying the information given, ensuring the researched data was of good quality, and managing the total cost of screening.

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TRANSFORMING A GIANT A job at McDonald’s used to be viewed as strictly transitory. Not any more. With high engagement and award-winning HR practices, the fast food giant is transforming itself. McDonald’s Singapore HRD Lynn Hong talks to Hannah Norton IT’S NO secret that no two humans are the same – and neither are their emotions or expectations. For McDonald’s Singapore’s director of HR, Lynn Hong, a key component of her field is working with those two variables. “A HR role is a delicate one that looks at emotions, professionalism and expectations,” she says. “My favourite aspect would be the opportunities to help people build their careers.” At McDonald’s, this includes helping staff understand the company’s “unique culture and values and how we can play a part to fulfil their career aspirations and goals”, she says. But being a people-orientated role, it also comes with the challenge of managing emotions and expectations. “A big part of HR is about reaching out to people, especially in their times of distress. Compassion and sincerity should be the core of our thoughts and actions when advising and providing solutions.”

FAST FACTS »»The acceptance rate for management trainees at Hamburger University in Shanghai is just 1%, making it one of the most elite colleges in the world (Harvard’s acceptance rate is around 7%) »»The company employs 1.7 million people (including 9,000 in Singapore) in 118 countries worldwide »»Over 80% of global McDonald’s restaurants are independently owned and operated by local entrepreneurs


The best advice she’s ever received, which she applies in the world of HR, is relatively straightforward: “Be compassionate and sincere.”

Rising up the ranks Hong has been involved in the HR industry for 15 years, starting her career as an HR executive in the logistics and engineering industry. Prior to joining McDonald’s Singapore, she led the HR team at an engineering manufacturing firm. In March 2013, she took on the role as HR senior manager at the Singapore branch of the world’s largest multi-national fast food corporation, before stepping into the top role in August this year. And being at the helm of McDonald’s Singapore’s HR department is no mean feat, with the company boasting over 9,000 employees and over 130 McDonald’s restaurants island-wide, 15 Drive-Thrus, over 30 dessert kiosks and over 50 McCafé outlets, serving 1.2 million customers each week. Hong is a firm believer that the company’s employees are the core drivers of its success. “Our goal is to be the best employer for our diverse McFamily of more than 9,000 employees and to focus on retaining them and attracting new talent.” And so far, so good. Earlier this year, the company clinched the ‘Best of the Best’ award in Aon Hewitt Best Employers Singapore 2015 citations. “Our people are our most important assets, hence we have always

been committed to giving them the best training, opportunities and environment during their careers with us,” McDonald’s Singapore managing director Robert Hunghanfoo said at the time. “This award belongs to the entire McFamily that has remained inspired and passionate for our business throughout all these years.”

Employer branding The McDonald’s employee value proposition focuses on the four Fs, Hong says. “Talent acquisition and retention remain an ongoing, industry-wide challenge. To navigate this challenge successfully at McDonald’s, we focus on employer branding to communicate our employee value propositions of Future, Flexibility and Family/ Friends to our potential employees.” The first F – future – is all about staff development. “As a ‘University of Life’, McDonald’s invests heavily in continuous training and development and provides career growth opportunities to more than 9,000 employees in Singapore. “Our employees undergo structured and continuous training and development at different stages of their career. This in turn helps them to fulfil their potential to the fullest.” And the figures speak for themselves: 50% of McDonald’s restaurant general managers in Singapore began their careers as members of the restaurant crew.

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“A HR role is a delicate one that looks at emotions, professionalism and expectations”

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LYNN HONG In 2004, the company was one of the first industry players to offer continuous learning programs aligned to the nationallyrecognised Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) framework. Since then, more than 180 McDonald’s employees have graduated from the program with either diplomas or certificates. But what about those stand-out employees who are simply a step above the rest? “High potential employees who are groomed for future leadership positions receive mentorships within the organisation and opportunities to take up even more challenging projects such as managing a high volume restaurant with multiple business assets, opening up new restaurants in

restaurants to juggle family with work commitments conveniently.” McDonald’s has been a pioneer in hiring mature workers since the 1980s and has since provided an operations-friendly environment for them, she says. “Today, more than 30% of our workforce consists of mature workers.” And with people at the core of the company’s success, it’s important that their needs are taken care of – whether mature or otherwise, Hong says. There are a number of steps the company takes to ensure this. “We ensure that they are properly oriented and trained for their work during their first 30 days at work. We also train our managers to

Fifty per cent of McDonald’s restaurant general managers began their careers as members of the restaurant crew Singapore and overseas markets and leadership training at our Leadership and Training Academy.” The company also aims to work with youth and contribute to education in Singapore, she says. In 2013, McDonald’s signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ITE College West. Under the MOU, the region’s first McDonald’s Training Café was opened in 2014 to provide a realistic training environment for students. Opportunities for internships are also provided.

Flexible workplaces The second F – flexibility – is a familiar HR buzzword of late. “Flexibility in the workplace is a key part of McDonald’s success in creating a diverse and inclusive work environment. It harnesses the strengths of our employees, including mature workers as well as women who are looking to return to the workforce or are entering the workforce for the first time,” Hong says. “Family-friendly policies such as flexible hours help women working in the


take care of their mature workers and manage them as part of the team.” Staff are provided with adequate breaks during their shifts so that they can work well and productively, she says. “Our flexibility in accommodating work schedules also allows mature workers to pace themselves at work and meet their own needs.” HR also has a strict focus on workplace safety, she says. To create an operations-friendly work environment for McDonald’s employees, the company also offers simplified training aids. These include greater use of visuals and graphics in instructional guides – allowing for “easy understanding of and adherence to McDonald’s stringent food preparation standards” – and touchscreen cash registers and hand-held order takers, “designed with visual representations of menu items for easy order-taking and speedy service”.

One big McFamily The final two Fs are family and friends, which echo the sentiments of Hong’s comments around compassion.

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT One advantage of being a global company is the ability to borrow best practice from around the world. McDonald’s Canada, for example, can boast an unrivalled 91% staff satisfaction rate. How has this been achieved? One primary reason is the leadership development opportunities that exist within the company. A unique ‘three-legged stool’ approach is taken – comprised of operators, suppliers, and corporate employees. Each leg is valued equally, and must work independently to sustain the business. In addition, to ensure that each component aligns with the brand’s overall cultural fit, HR has instituted a rigorous assessment process to prepare franchisees for their supervisory role overseeing workers. This includes: • Panel interviews – individuals are brought into the boardroom for an open dialogue with various members of McDonalds’ senior leadership. • On-the-job evaluations – monitoring potential franchisees in a restaurant setting to examine whether they can operate as a fair and patient leader. • A registered applicant program – two-year coursework that teaches panel-approved applicants about operations, finances, and business management. • A day of transition where McDonald’s reps travel with applicants to their new restaurant and explain locationspecific requirements. “McDonald’s has an inclusive and engaging culture which has helped drive employee retention and has instilled a sense of pride and belonging.” To make staff members feel included, the firm holds a range of activities to encourage team bonding and for employees’ families to learn more about their career and development opportunities at McDonald’s, Hong says. “Every employee is part of the McFamily and plays a crucial role in the organisation.”

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Singapore’s workforce has spoken. The votes are in. Who did employees name as the best employers in HRD’s inaugural Employer of Choice survey? WHAT MAKES an Employer of Choice? Firstly, that depends on what employees want. Whether it’s a competitive remuneration package, strong company leadership, training and development opportunities, or work-life balance, every employee has an opinion. But it also depends on if management is listening. Employees have many ideas on things that would make their working lives better, but do they actually think their employers are using these ideas to improve their employment value proposition? That’s why we asked them. In our inaugural 2015 Employer of Choice


Survey, HRD Singapore went out to Singapore’s workforce to give them the chance to highlight the things they both loved and loathed at their places of employment. The result? A list of Singapore’s best employers, the companies that employees want to work for and are proud to call Employers of Choice. The results show many things, but one most of all: Singapore’s employers are doing a lot right in their quest to attract and retain the best talent. Aspiring companies could do much worse than follow the example of the best in the market, as they push the boundaries of HR best practice.

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LEADING FROM THE CENTER HRD partnered with the Center for Creative Leadership to bring you the 2015 Employer of Choice Awards. Speaking to HRD, the Center’s Roland B Smith explains why being an Employer of Choice matters more than ever HRD: Why has the Center for Creative Leadership decided to be involved in the Employer of Choice awards? ROLAND B SMITH: For more than four decades, we at the Center for Creative Leadership [CCL] have been committed to shaping and accelerating the leadership journeys of individuals, teams, organisations and entire communities in Asia and the world. As a top-ranked global provider of executive education, we recognise that

of Choice is very critical for employers, and cannot be understated. It is especially important for organisations seeking driven and talented individuals looking to grow in their careers and unlock their leadership potential. Such awards also boost the reputation of employers and can potentially attract more talent. HRD: How do you believe such accolades impact on candidates and existing employees?

“We think being recognised as an Employer of Choice is very critical for employers, and cannot be understated” Roland B Smith employers play an integral role in identifying and maximising talent, so it was easy to decide to be involved with the Employer of Choice awards – especially one that celebrates and recognises the best employers in Singapore. HRD: Do you think Employer of Choice status is increasingly important in Singapore, and why? RS: We think being recognised as an Employer

RS: Because Singapore employees are increasingly savvy, and acutely aware of the value of these accolades, they do recognise employers that can help realise their potential to grow in their career. This becomes even more important in light of the high turnover rates we see from today’s workforce in many industries. No longer are employees satisfied simply with stability; they are constantly on the lookout for greener pastures, and strongly

value recognition, welfare and employee engagement. HRD: The overall Gold, Silver and Bronze winners on the list had to perform consistently well across a number of different categories. What would your advice be to companies that aspire to be seen as ‘best employers’? RS: As Asia continues on this trajectory of tremendous growth, organisations need to be more keenly tuned to the global scene. This global complexity and change has greatly increased the demand for wiser managers and leaders who are more learning-agile, to overcome the challenges ahead. Employees are also in search of a complete and holistic experience, transcending mere ‘needs’, such as salary and a good working environment, to ‘wants’ – being constantly engaged beyond the basic tasks of work, and having a sense of belonging and autonomy as well. HRD: How do you think organisations can maintain and even constantly improve upon their Employer of Choice status? RS: Innovation among employees is highly underrated, and organisations should create a system to encourage employee innovation, complemented with a culture that supports that mindset moving forward. Additionally, the organisation needs to recognise the importance of listening to employees. It is the only way that they can customise solutions that meet the needs of their employees – there is no one-sizefits-all approach, and what may work currently may not work as well in the future. Constant tweaks need to be made in engagement strategies to maximise employee potential. HRD: Do you believe the Center for Creative Leadership is important to creating the future Employers of Choice? RS: Very true. We endeavour to epitomise leadership development, transforming the way leaders, their organisations and their societies confront the most difficult challenges of the 21st century. This includes developing innovative solutions and programs to empower employers and employees alike to recognise the power of their ideas and aspirations to create the most ideal working environment, and transform leaders and organisations that move worlds.

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METHODOLOGY Date of survey: June–July 2015 Method: Online survey Number of respondents: 1,332 employees from 118 companies Employer of Choice status was determined by averaging employee scores given to a range of questions/statements. Scores ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) for the following questions/statements: • My employer provides satisfactory remuneration • My work provides sufficient opportunities for training and professional development • My work offers a clear career progression path for all employees • My employer has a strong commitment to achieving gender equality in the workplace • My employer provides me with sufficient opportunities to do interesting and challenging work • My employer gives me access to the technology I need to do my work effectively • My workplace has a strong work culture and a high level of engagement • My employer fosters an environment of trust and empowerment • My employer demonstrates effective leadership • My employer helps me achieve a work-life balance • My employer supports my health and wellbeing

Shell Eastern Petroleum Marina Bay Sands Singtel “It is our strong belief that people are our key differentiator at Shell. Our reputation for a collaborative culture, and a high level of authenticity, trust and respect for others, is well known and well regarded by our partners, our industry and our stakeholders. Likewise, Shell has a strong culture for work-life balance and being pro-family, and this is attested to by leaders who are supportive and walk the talk.” Leslie Hayward, vice president of HR for Singapore & Asia Oceania Operations, Shell Eastern Petroleum




56% Female



How many hours do you work each week?



10–27 hours

28–47 hours



48–58 hours

58+ hours

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Jardine One Solution


Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore

Cegos Asia Pacific


Aluzinc Asia

“At Jardine One Solution, staff have witnessed the constant efforts we are putting in to improve areas like productivity efficiency, staff communications, staff welfare and benefits, and initiatives that create a fun workplace for employees. We take feedback seriously, by not only working on the action plans but also keeping employees posted on progress.”

“Power2Motivate’s success is influenced by a strong belief that everyone in the business plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy culture at work. Having a senior leadership team that genuinely believe our people and culture is our strongest competitive advantage and demonstrate a willingness to invest in employee engagement activities is vitally important.”

Lynn Pua, Southeast Asia head of HR & administration, Jardine One Solution

Mark Robinson, executive general manager EMEA & APAC, Power2Motivate

How many days of annual leave have you taken in the last 12 months?

Are you likely to change employers in the next 12 months?



less than 3 days

4–10 days



11–20 days

21+ days

17% Yes

83% No

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Shell Eastern Petroleum Marina Bay Sands Aluzinc Asia

EMPLOYEES RATE remuneration as one of the areas that satisfy them the least. When compared with all other categories, remuneration satisfaction was second lowest, with employers scoring an average of 3.66 out of 5. However, that doesn’t mean employees are actually dissatisfied. The Employer of Choice survey results show the majority of employees agreed (39.7%) or strongly agreed (21.2%) that their remuneration level was satisfactory, with a total of only 12% saying openly that they disagreed or strongly disagreed. But employers would be wise to remain competitive within their industry and be transparent about pay levels, as employees are watching this closely. “There is still room to improve compared to the market standard,” one respondent

said. “It’s below industry average pay, there are no salary grades, and there is a wide disparity of salary for the same position,” said another. Leaders in remuneration recognise these factors. Aluzinc and Shell both benchmark against their industries, in order to satisfy their talent. “Ensuring our pay is competitive is but one part of our whole value proposition to employees, and we do this through a rigorous process of benchmarking pay against our competitors,” said Shell’s regional vice president of HR, Leslie Hayward. “We pay our employees more in comparison to similar fi rms in the industry as we do value our employees and wish to attract and retain the best people,” said Aluzinc assistant vice president of HR Rachel Chew.


Power2Motivate Shell Eastern Petroleum Singtel


EMPLOYERS SHOULD be comforted by one thing: employees want to get better at their jobs and are enthusiastic about undergoing training to do it. Most agree their employers are providing them with opportunities to develop their professional skills. “We have two training institutes and our company strongly encourages training by using KPIs annually. We never fear that there is no training,” one said. But employees are calling for consistency across an organisation, which is not dependent on their position or department. “Training is very dependent on what kind of leader you are reporting to. My department does not have any. However, to be fair, at company level, they do encourage this,” one respondent explained. Top-performing companies embrace innovative approaches. Singtel has regional leadership programs that provide its future

leaders with the capabilities to shape the industry. “One of the most popular programs is our annual Learning Fiesta. Last year we had over 20,000 learning places for 179 topics during the four-day event,” group chief HR officer Aileen Tan said. Shell has sophisticated competency management frameworks, and a genuine approach to performance reviews. “Fundamentally, it is really about our leaders taking a personal interest at developing our people,” says regional HR head Leslie Hayward. “While one can have structured learning programs – and we have programs for colleagues at different levels – their learnings are really embedded while on-the-job with followups and coaching with their supervisors and line leaders. It is this culture that helps drive our people development and continuous improvement.”

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3.67% 8.39%

Strongly disagree Disagree






Strongly agree


5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

“Our HR total rewards team has designed a robust rewards compensation system to recognise strong contributors and motivate employees.” Yit Foon Chan, senior vice president HR, Marina Bay Sands


4.90% 7.52% 21.85%

Strongly disagree Disagree Neutral

37.24% 28.50%

Agree Strongly agree


5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

“Singtel works hard to develop our people to help them reach their full potential. We have a full range of training programs to build both technical skills as well as management capability.” Aileen Tan, group chief HR officer, Singtel

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Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore

JP Morgan NTUC Income Insurance

IF THERE is one area in which employees say their employers can improve, it is career progression. Out of all categories surveyed, a clear progression path was ranked lowest by employees, with an overall score of just 3.55 out of 5. A relatively large slice of Employer of Choice participants (15.6%) were moved to declare that they disagreed or strongly disagreed they had a clear progression path. A further nonplussed group (27.1%) were neutral. Employee feedback shows it is a lack of clarity that dissatisfies employees the most. Many are confused about opportunities, or if they will be considered. “Frequent change of management focus makes career progression a blur and confusing for staff to keep up, affecting morale. Such a trial and error approach

jeopardizes employees’ career progression, making it very hard for them to see their career path,” said one survey participant. On the other hand, employees who had transparency about their future were enthusiastic about their roles. “I have very open discussions with my board looking at the next 3-5 years,” one participant said. Employers should take comfort that over half (57.3%) of employees still rated themselves satisfied or very satisfied, despite the low overall score. Hotel Jen Orchardgateway HR manager Derick Ooi said in the end employees wanted to see a future. “Indeed they can see their own progress and glimpse the very clear career path stretching out in front of them. I believe this is what they seek, as they strive to achieve personal goals and objectives,” he said.


Shell Eastern Petroleum Jardine One Solution Central Provident Fund


EMPLOYEES HAVE spoken: when it comes to gender equality, employers in Singapore are doing everything right, and employees appreciate it greatly. “We have a high proportion of both sexes in the office,” said one participant. “We are an equal opportunity employer and this works well in all respects,” said another. And this: “Really appreciate this in our workplace!” Employees rated their feelings on gender equality in the workplace higher than any other criteria tested within the Employer of Choice survey. A huge majority (76.6%) of participants said they either agreed or strongly agreed their employers had a ‘strong commitment’ to achieving gender equality. Only 7.2% disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement. Employers are achieving gender

equality in a variety of ways. Topperforming company Jardine One Solution, for example, has a commitment to rewarding employees based on merit, rather than gender, and offers equal opportunities for promotion and training to male and female employees alike. Shell has made gender equality a ‘pillar’ within its workplace, and has an aspiration to fill at least 20% of senior positions with females globally. “This starts with the authenticity of our culture that empowers both genders,” regional HR head Leslie Hayward says. “It takes a holistic approach that encompasses gender specific recruitment targets, gender friendly policies, management support at all levels and an inclusive work environment with women networks, mentoring circles and appropriate leadership programs.”

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5.07% 10.49%

Strongly disagree Disagree






Strongly agree


5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

“If employees know their own targets and are pointed in the right direction, they take ownership and do their best to ensure these targets are met.” Derick Ooi, HR manager, Hotel Jen Orchardgateway


2.80% 4.37% 16.26%

Strongly disagree Disagree Neutral

34.27% 42.31%

Agree Strongly agree







“We have pledged to be a fair employer through recruiting employees based on merit – skills, experience and ability – regardless of age, gender, religion, and nationality. We reward staff based on their performance and contribution.” Lynn Pua, Southeast Asia head of HR & administration, Jardine One Solution

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Cegos Asia Pacific JP Morgan NTUC Income Insurance “We respect our staff to the extent that we will challenge them and not just give them menial tasks to complete. We want value-add from everyone and we feel we have employees at all levels who can add value beyond their job description. We actively encourage and provide these opportunities to get stuck in and demonstrate what they can do.” Jeremy Blain, regional managing director, Cegos Asia Pacific

EMPLOYEES WANT a challenge and generally agree that employers are giving them the quality work they seek, with an overall category score of 3.97 out of 5. “I am constantly asked to take on new challenges,” said one participant. “With new clients and challenges daily, it means that we can be engaged all the time,” said another. Others said they were creating their own work: “There is a lot of autonomy and trust given to employees to create such opportunities.” The responses of employees not being challenged showed just how important this aspect of HR actually is. “There is a lack of brain stimulation during work, it’s very stagnant, and challenges become repetitive so it is less interesting and not challenging,” said one participant. “My job scope does not have any power for decision making, and I always need to seek advice from superiors before committing to the client whenever any demand arises,” said another. Top-performing company Cegos Asia Pacific said giving employees

opportunities actually created “great coachable moments” that could even turn into “excellent hot-beds for new ideas and different ways of working”. “As leaders in this business we have defined process and systems to help us work – in many cases our employees have challenged this and evolved the approach, suggested and championed new ways of working,” explained regional managing director Jeremy Blain. “Where this works there is a greater sense of empowerment and ownership across the team.” Companies like Cegos recognise that constant change means employees can actually help organisations be more agile. “We need more help in this than perhaps some leaders are willing to admit to. Our philosophy at Cegos is that we have talent at all levels and we should mine this and be prepared to learn from our people as much as us supporting them.”


2.45% 6.99%

Strongly disagree Disagree






Strongly agree

0 20






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Cegos Asia Pacific Cargill Aluzinc Asia “We believe in working hard and smart, so technology is a tool that we strongly embrace to enhance our workflow and processes. This in turn minimises unnecessary work processes and shortens turnaround times, helping us to increase our employee satisfaction levels.” Rachel Chew, assistant vice president, HR & administration, Aluzinc Asia

LEADING EMPLOYERS are wholeheartedly embracing technology as they seek to make workplaces more efficient and effective, and more collaborative. And employees are noticing. “My employer encourages me to flexibly use social technologies that suit the region, culture and networking in the Asia-Pacific region,” said one participant. “We spend more than some tech firms in terms of investment in technology, which shows our firm’s dedication to creating the best possible work environment for its people,” said another. However, lack of access to efficient technology can be very frustrating for employees, and they are not afraid to voice their displeasure. “Most of the sites are blocked, which makes it difficult to do sourcing,” said one. “Always no budget or the machines and devices given are not brand new,” said another. Many complained that not enough was being invested in overall IT infrastructure, causing things like ‘laggy’ computers to slow down employees, or tasks like data entry to be unnecessarily time-consuming. It is interesting to note that, although employees generally agree they are being given access to the technology they need to do their work, there were fewer employees that strongly agreed in this Employer of Choice category. Cegos Asia Pacific is one company leading the way, saying increasing demand for a “personalised human capital strategy” will require appropriate technology and tools to enable greater levels of cross-organisational collaboration and communication. Aluzinc’s Rachel Chew agreed: “We ensure accessibility of technology is readily available to enhance constant engagement in and out of the workplace among employees.” Cegos plans to forge ahead: it already uses e-learning and mobile learning, and has attempted to stave off “death-by-email” by introducing WhatsApp Messenger groups, which has already resulted in a “massive productivity boost”. “We employ the best technologies for the jobs in hand, without bamboozling our employees or customers,” regional managing director Jeremy Blain said.


2.45% 6.47%

Strongly disagree Disagree






Strongly agree

0 22






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WORK CULTURE AND ENGAGEMENT WITH THE second-highest overall score of 3.97 out of 5, work culture and engagement is something Singapore’s employers are doing right. Almost three-quarters (74.5%) of employees either agreed or strongly agreed they had a strong work culture, and a further 16.1% were neutral. “Unparalleled,” said one ecstatic employee. “Our leadership walks the talk.” And another said: “We have a very strong and fun work culture. This allows us to work efficiently and still enjoy ourselves along the way.” Top-performer Power2Motivate said the company strives to be open and direct while promoting a challenging work environment that develops its people. “We work as a team with respect and trust for each other, have fun, recognise, celebrate and reward our accomplishments,” said executive general manager Mark Robinson. “Power2Motivate has created a culture that is enthusiastic, dynamic, high on trust, low on politics, great at sharing resources and is full of meaning

and significance. We all understand our purpose and vision. We also possess a strong work ethic with big ideas.” However, employees were not all complimentary. Some complained that the culture had changed over time with the departure of key employees, and others that they worked in silos, which did not foster companywide engagement. Marina Bay Sands offers a range of social activities, including recreational clubs for badminton, basketball, bowling, soccer, dragon boat and athletics, while Jardine One Solution credits some of its culture success to a range of team-building activities designed to foster collaboration and team spirit.


Power2Motivate Central Provident Fund Board PropertyGuru “Our culture is high energy, passionate, fun and collaborative. Respect also plays an important part in our values where we respect not only our ‘Gurus’ and customers, but also pride ourselves on giving back to the community. We think it resonates well as the team is young and want a sense of purpose.” Christine Loo, chief people and culture officer, PropertyGuru


3.67% 5.77% 16.08%





Strongly agree










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Jardine One Solution JP Morgan Central Provident Fund Board “The trust in our staff makes them take personal pride in their work and own a piece of the company’s success. It is not easy to seek our managers’ buy-in for engaged employees and to earn trust and empowerment, but our top management’s support has played a part in pushing this credence further.” Lynn Pua, Southeast Asia head of HR & administration, Jardine One Solution

EMPLOYEES VALUE being trusted highly, and Singapore’s employers are striving to invest more responsibility in their staff to give them a competitive edge. The Employer of Choice survey results show that employees largely agree they are being trusted by their employers. Only a small proportion of respondents (10.3%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with their current empowerment. When asked if their employer fostered an environment of trust and empowerment, one employee said: “My board will empower me and supports my decisions for the long term.” And another said: “Most definitely, even down to intern level.” The competitive advantage this brings was very clear: “All employees are empowered to ‘make it right’ with the customer.” Jardine One Solution’s Lynn Pua said the company’s policies described levels of authority, and this provided managers at different levels within the organisation with clear guidelines on approval. “In addition, staff are engaged in important meetings and projects and offered the chance to bring new ideas to the table for making improvements to processes and job tasks.” Cegos Asia Pacific, meanwhile, employs a fairly flat structure without layers of management, meaning there is an open-door policy running both ways. “We should all be able to talk freely and openly to one another, share input, provide feedback and be prepared to receive it in the right spirit,” said regional managing director Jeremy Blain. “This helps us operate better as a team and allows for more flexible working, lighter moments and a balance between work and outside of it. This is appreciated by our valued employees and in return the company gets high degrees of loyalty, low staff turnover and professional customer-focused working practices. A win-win.” Blain said Cegos employees appreciated being able to take ownership of their part in the company, without being ‘micro-managed’. “We allow for mistakes and encourage a certain amount of calculated risk taking – sometimes this works and sometimes not – but every time we as a company and our employees learn from it, improve and get better the next time,” he said.


4.02% 6.29%

Strongly disagree Disagree






Strongly agree

0 24






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LEADERSHIP OVER 70% of Singaporean employees who participated in the Employer of Choice survey agreed or strongly agreed they had effective leadership. The resultant commendations from loyal employees were strong. “They deliver on their promises and lead by example,” said one participating employee. “They don’t rely on their titles or seniority, rather, it’s the trust and rapport they build with employees that gives them their credibility.” Top-performing company Cegos’s leaders try to understand the oppor­ tunities, pain points and pressures for employees at all levels of the organisation to ensure they are attuned to the realities of the workplace. “We have pride in our leaders’ ability to work operationally as well as strategically and this is good for us, for customers and for the perception of our leaders within our employee community,” regional managing director Jeremy Blain said. Being a part of the team – rather than too far removed – is also a strategy

that works. “We do not set ourselves up on pedestals, we do not have special privileges,” he said. “We are part of a high performing team where everyone is valued, where we listen and where we can support and grow.” Singtel’s group chief HR officer, Aileen Tan, said the company benefits from a strong leadership team, and is “working hard to develop the next generation of leaders and technical specialists”. This is being achieved through its cadet program, SHINE internships, Singtel Scholarships, a management associate program, and talent development programs.


Cegos Asia Pacific Teleflex Medical Asia Singtel

“To have a sustainable business, we need to have strong leaders who can not only develop the strategies to lead in a very competitive industry, they also need to attract, develop and engage talent.” Aileen Tan, group chief HR officer, Singtel


3.15% 7.52%

Strongly disagree Disagree






Strongly agree







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Power2Motivate Marina Bay Sands PropertyGuru “Work-life balance means different things to different people – there are no ‘one-size-fitsall’ approaches. Power2Motivate has a shared ‘Flexibility Charter’ which is intended to facilitate discussions between managers and employees around broader flexibility options as we recognise that flexibility, when managed well, is effective in improving productivity and engagement.”

EMPLOYER APPROACHES to work-life balance vary dramatically, something that is reflected in the mixed survey feedback received from employees. Some employees think their employers’ demands are an imposition on their daily lives. “I need to report to work by 07:00 in order to send daily reports to our headquarters; that means I need to rush to send my kids to a child care centre,” said one. Another said: “My manager specifically requests staff to stay contactable until 7pm, despite starting work at 8am.” Others are revelling in flexibility. “We are allowed to work from home even as interns and we are free to work out a schedule that best fits employee and employer,” said one. Another said: “I am able to (within reason) dictate my hours as long as my work gets done. I can start early and leave early to spend more time with my kids and also work from home as required.” However, Employer of Choice results show the bulk (over 70%) of employees are satisfied or very satisfied with their work-life balance. It appears that topperforming employers are wowing employees by pushing the boundaries of what it means to provide flexibility, a flexibility that “in itself is innovative and fosters innovation and can come about in different ways”, according to Power2Motivate’s executive general manager Mark Robinson. For PropertyGuru, this means providing flexible work hours, as well as balancing work with sports and recreation activities, such as badminton, soccer and Zumba, and workplace computer games and table football in the office. “We also respect official country and religious holidays and when appropriate allow people to leave the office early ahead of a major event, such as Hari Raya or Chinese New Year,” said PropertyGuru’s Christine Loo. Aluzinc employs relatively flexible daily working hours, with additional bonus annual leave each year entitling employees to at least 21 days off.

Mark Robinson, executive general manager EMEA & APAC, Power2Motivate


3.15% 5.24% 20.45%





Strongly agree

0 26






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HEALTH AND WELLBEING ZUMBA CLASSES, StepUp challenges, stress and healthy eating workshops, fruit days and health checks are just some of the benefits being offered to employees in Singapore, and the verdict is in: they like what they see. “A lot of wellness initiatives are being initiated and have attained good feedback,” said one Employer of Choice survey participant. “We are able to attend yoga and gym with subsidies from work,” said another. Employees agree with the overall employer approach to their health and wellbeing, with a low proportion (7.2%) disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. Health checks appear to be a widespread initiative among employers – both appreciated and requested by employees – while health-related talks and workshops and subsidies for gym memberships are also in demand. The only criticisms were from those employees who felt they were missing out on more progressive health and wellbeing initiatives at other companies, or who thought their employers could be more creative or proactive in this area. Marina Bay Sands has embraced the chance to keep its employees in good health, with a range of progressive measures. For instance, it has a dedicated Member Healthcare Centre, serves 8,000 complimentary restaurant-quality hot meals a day to its employees, and gives team members access to wellness workshops, exercise classes and an exclusive staff reward program. Jardine One Solution organises health-related activities such as lunch talks, fitness classes, health screenings, sports activities, as well as targeted intervention programs for weight and chronic disease management. “The programs have been well received by staff and strongly supported by management,” Jardine One Solution’s Lynn Pua said. Hotel Jen Orchardgateway’s HR manager Derick Ooi said “nothing is more important than employee health and wellbeing” to the success of the hotel. “When you take care of them, they take care of our guests; so it is an obvious decision to stay healthy at all times and promote this way of living,” Ooi said.


Jardine One Solution Marina Bay Sands Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore “Providing a healthy workplace is the key setting for promoting the health of our workforce, and through it we enhance the work environment and culture. The aim of our workplace health plan is to create a healthy workforce and a healthy organisation that contributes to higher productivity and a better quality of life.” Lynn Pua, Southeast Asia head of HR & administration, Jardine One Solution


2.10% 5.07% 19.93%





Strongly agree







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BYE-BYE, HUMAN RESOURCES? Articles about banishing HR from the corporate hierarchy appear regularly – the most famous was 2005’s ‘Why I hate HR’ in Fast Company. Ben Whitter takes a different but no less thought-provoking tack. Far from approaching an end, he finds that HR is only just beginning to reach its full potential THE NEVER-ENDING DEBATE about the future of HR took another major twist as Airbnb, a company that has revolutionised the ‘shared accommodation’ travel space and is valued at $25.5bn, recently announced that they are redefining their HR function in terms of what it is and what it does. The company appointed Mark Levy as their new global head of employee experience to oversee and connect everything to do with their ‘workplace as an experience’ vision, which is central to their culture and customer-centric approach. You know better than I that this debate is not new within HR. It seems like one epic battle between those on one side and those on another, while the observers in the middle are simply waiting for a seminal moment or announcement on who won so they can quickly go about implementing the next model once they have attended the relevant conference or workshop. Others, though, don’t wait. They get on with creating a brand of HR suited to and built within their business and context. It then makes a huge difference to business performance. This split is also reflected across the business world. In some organisations HR has been elevated to the top table – to the


CEO’s number two in some cases. In other instances, companies are busy downgrading HR to an administrative function, with organisational development in its own right taking the strategic spot or being fused with HR in some fashion. The range of titles, services and functions vary, but it is all chipping away at the same challenge. The desire then, presented by Ram Charan in his proposal on splitting HR, and the subsequent response by Josh Bersin (see box, p.54), indicate what’s been playing out in the profession for way too long – although they both present good and valid points within their respective articles. In People Before Strategy: A New Role for the CHRO, Ram Charan returned with Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Co., and Dennis Carey of Korn/Ferry International, to present a view that sets out to re-evaluate the chief HR officer role. There continues to be fierce resistance to established models of HR, which does add some weight to the argument that HR needs a rebrand and a renewed focus.

Dissent from within Quite frankly, the debate has tended to be a


Airbnb’s San Francisco office

The essence of the ‘workplace as an experience’ is where all the elements of work – the physical, the emotional, the intellectual, the virtual, and the aspirational – are carefully orchestrated to inspire employees. Levy’s scope of responsibilities reflects this expanded vision. He is responsible for not only typical HR functions such as recruiting, talent management and development, HR operations and total rewards, but also a range of new areas which create the ‘workplace as an experience’ vision. This expanded scope of responsibilities includes such functions as facilities, food, global citizenship, and the talents of a group of individuals called ‘ground control’, who focus on bringing the Airbnb culture to life through workplace environments, internal communications, as well as employee events, celebration, and recognition.

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from the top to create the best employee experience possible, which is a big advantage – as people like Laszlo Bock (VP, people operations, Google), Libby Sartain (former VP, people, Yahoo/Southwest Airlines) and others like Airbnb’s Mark Levy can vouch for.

The new era starts now I’m an optimist, but I’m certainly not alone in thinking HR and organisations are on the verge of a major moment in their history together. In fact, it’s happening already. As a timely example, Mark Levy’s new role of chief employee experience officer at Airbnb combines traditional HR functions of recruiting and talent development with marketing, real estate, facilities, social responsibility, and communications. That’s quite a platform, but that’s not the HR success story here. What is clear is that this move quite visibly positions the employee experience as critical to the business, not HR (see chart below). This is absolutely right, in my view, and gives practitioners the confidence and belief to know that HR is no longer a support function within the business, because the employee experience, to a large extent, is the business. I can see the repercussions now in how we

The range of titles, services and functions vary, but it is all chipping away at the same challenge circular argument going round and around. What’s more interesting is the extent to which it has and continues to be driven from within the profession, which has only made the very real gripes about HR stronger. Does this suggest an identity crisis within HR? Perhaps. But perhaps the field is also getting restless as our many practitioners and colleagues know they are ready to play more instrumental roles within organisations.

The best HR leaders I know have been labelled maverick at one time or another because they’ve built something that went against the norm, they’ve challenged the status quo, and they’ve seen beyond the perceived limitations of their function and therefore extended well beyond it. They bring meaning to the workplace, and it runs through everything that affects people. The other thing they do is obtain a clear mandate

THE WORKPLACE AS AN EXPERIENCE Physical Food/workspace environments Aspirational Transparency

Virtual Collaborative technologies

Creating optimal employee experiences

Emotional Global citizenship & purposeful work

Intellectual Recruiting/talent development Source: 2015 Future Workspace, LLC

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THE ONGOING DEBATE: CHARAN VS BERSIN Ram Charan’s proposal Eliminate the position of CHRO and split HR into two strands. The first would be called HR-A (for administration) and would primarily manage compensation and benefits. It would report to the CFO. The other, HR-LO (for leadership and organisation), would focus on improving the people capabilities of the business and would report to the CEO. HR-LO would be led by high potentials from operations or finance whose business expertise and people skills give them a strong chance of attaining the top two layers of the organisation. Charan wrote: “It’s time to say good-bye to the Department of Human Resources. Well, not the useful tasks it performs. But the department per se must go. “I talk with CEOs across the globe who are disappointed in their HR people. They would like to be able to use their chief human resource officers (CHROs) the way they use their CFOs – as sounding boards and trusted partners – and rely on their skills in linking people and numbers to diagnose weaknesses and strengths in the organisation, find the right fit between employees and jobs, and advise on the talent implications of the company’s strategy.” Josh Bersin’s response Bersin conceded it was time to redesign HR and the role HR plays. He suggested that not only was the name out of date, but the traditional model as well. As a starting point, he proposed more ‘High-Impact’ HR professionals and fewer Generalists. Bersin wrote: “First, we have to define ‘HR’ as a ‘talent’ function. While HR departments have to worry about regulations, labour relations, global payroll, and many other administrative areas, the real business value lies in HR’s talent management role. Our research found that only 7% of HR’s real value comes from its role as an internal people operations team: more than five times its value comes from its role in supporting, developing, and identifying leaders. “This means that we need far fewer ‘HR Generalists’ and far more ‘HR Specialists’. The world of High-Impact HR is filled with deep specialists, people who understand assessment, coaching, recruiting, data analysis, I/O psychology, training, and technology. High-impact HR professionals today are consultants first, HR professionals second. Yes they know a lot about HR practices and disciplines, but they operate as business consultants. They can sit down with a line manager and listen to his or her challenges, recommend thoughtful solutions, and then roll up their sleeves and make things happen. And they can do it in innovative ways.”

develop, grow, and accredit HR people within our profession. It is the employee experience that is the clear winner, and as an HR guy I like what this says about the future workplace once other sectors start catching up – and they will catch up. There is no question that the transition from ‘HR thinking’ to ‘employee experience thinking’ will be a challenge for companies to


get to grips with as many other organisations are joining the race to refocus their HR efforts on the employee experience. Instead of asking why this is happening, I think the bigger question is why it is taking so long for employers to act on the basic truth that it is employees who deliver the value to customers and keep them coming back for more. But not every company sees it that way,

and not every company has a CEO like Brian Chesky (Airbnb), Larry Page (Google), Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn), or Mark Parker (Nike) – all of whom are currently enjoying throughthe-roof 2015 approval ratings alongside top employer rankings on the likes of Glassdoor, largely delivered by their people-centric approaches and wholehearted support of creating leading, forward-thinking and progressive workplaces. That ‘people thing’, they take it very seriously, because in this economy they both want and have to. It is critical to their success. How easy would it be for you to follow Airbnb and co in creating a function dedicated to the employee experience that brings together multiple functions (or silos if they are starting to hinder collective progress), which all play a major organisational role, and gets them all aligned and driving your business forward? If you’re at the top of the pile, easy, right? If you’re lower in the HR pecking order or a middle manager, it’s potentially not so easy as you’ll need to work your ideas up and across the chain, a process that could take a short or long period of time, depending on your particular circumstances. Focusing on the employee experience appears to be common sense, but as many out there will tell you, it isn’t commonly applied, and if it is, there are always inevitable challenges within the status quo. Is it easy to refocus HR on the whole employee experience? Maybe; maybe not. But for the HR profession and organisations in general, the journey is going to be well worth it. Ben Whitter leads the organisation and people development function at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), which was the first Sino-foreign university to open its doors in China. In the top 1% of universities worldwide, UNNC is an award-winning university with a truly global perspective. This article first appeared on Ben’s LinkedIn page.

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FIVE MINUTES WITH… ILLYA GUTLIN HRD Singapore talks to SITA APAC president Ilya Gutlin about the attributes of strong HR directors and the key to a strong president/CHRO partnership ILYA GUTLIN is a true citizen of the world. Born in St Petersburg, Russia, Gutlin graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University in Montreal. Fluent in Russian and English, Singapore-based Gutlin was appointed airport solution line company SITA’s president for APAC in March 2012, after being VP for over two years. He first joined the company in 1998 as a financial controller and from 2003 to 2009 successfully led the regional sales team in East and Central Europe. SITA’s growing portfolio of airport solutions is used by airports and airlines at more than 400 locations worldwide and covers the entire airport ecosystem. However, there is one binding ingredient to the company’s success: its people. HRD: What do you think the key aspects are in addressing talent retention? Ilya Gutlin: The millennial generation is going to be nearly 40 years old soon and we know that the package and the benefits are not going to be the only reason they stay with the company. It is the first level of the relationship pyramid between the company and the employee. In addition, development is extremely important – be it on the job or a classroom global perspective. Work-life balance is also key. This may be difficult to achieve consistently over a period of time but as long as the employees realise that you do care about their wellbeing, I think


you are part of the way there. All of this must be tied together with a constant twoway communication between the leadership team, the managers and the employees. HRD: How important is it for leaders to be authentic? IG: I do feel that it is important. At the same time, we do have different upbringings and different experiences. What could be considered the norm in one culture can be

HRD: How important is it for business leaders to have a global perspective? IG: Business has become global and it’s absolutely vital right now for leaders to have that experience because economic migration is just so vast right now – people are moving pretty much in every direction. There are some cities that are a lot more international in terms of the business environment than others, but it is more and more common for people to live outside of their country of birth. At SITA, we

“Warren Buffet is quoted as saying that you should look for intelligence, integrity and energy when hiring. That’s great, if the search is for a robot… for a good leader, add empathy” something that is quite offensive in another culture, so although you may feel that you are being authentic in your own culture, you may be offending a lot of people in the culture that you are working in. Empathy is fundamental to connect with your teams in the new economy. Warren Buffett is quoted as saying that you should look for intelligence, integrity and energy when hiring. That’s great, if the search is for a robot. If you are looking for a good leader, empathy has to be added to the equation.

are a relatively small company of 4,700 people, but we have people in over 120 locations. That part of globalisation is happening more and more – more people are looking at the job market, not only in the vicinity of their own country or their own region, but they are looking globally. One needs to know how to balance all these nationalities working together and how to get the best out of them, how to engage them and how to make sure you are getting the right level of teamwork and

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business and the way employees are engaged. In addition to keeping close to the business, the CHRO is also someone who can keep abreast of the current approaches to talent management. We already have generational diversity in the workplace and there is another generation on the way. One really needs to be current on how to engage and continue to be engaged with generations that may have different values. What is the HR industry focusing on, and does that make sense for us? And of course, one of the top things that I would look for in an HR director is confidentiality, as a lot of information comes through. HRD: How important is it for HR directors to have sound general business acumen and knowledge? IG: I think it’s super important. We are in the IT business and our company is quite specialised – we deal with telecommunications for the airline industry. Change happens quickly and it impacts our teams. We have to be on top of that change. The senior management team has to be in the right position when they are engaging teams and getting the best part of the knowledge and the creativity of the teams that are on the ground. We are as dependent on the technology piece of our offering as we are on the people that make it happen. Engagement, collaboration and creativity fuel our business.

collaboration. It is definitely not easy but diversity makes it a very rich environment. HRD: What are some tips for HR leaders in managing both different nationalities and different generations? IG: As people work longer in life the generational diversity will only increase. There are certain commonalities in terms of what the different generations expect – they do expect to work for a person that knows what is going on in the world, someone who resolves roadblocks for them at work. They want someone who treats them with respect and offers them guidance. I think focusing on these things – in addition to having competitive packages and benefits – makes the workplace attractive to employees.

Embracing and encouraging diversity can only benefit the business as the experiences and approaches of the team will find solutions to challenges from many vantage points. HRD: What have been the key aspects to your successful CEO and CHRO partnership? IG: That partnership is based on a few things. First of all, there is obviously a level of trust in the common goals and values, the information that we share and decisions that we make. At the same time, the CHRO needs to stay close to the business and stay close to the people. The management team needs to be aligned on the decisions that are made between the business and the HR directors, as these will ultimately impact the

HRD: Are there any attributes that you think a good HR director has to have? IG: The ability to listen and to challenge the business, to learn and adapt are some of the attributes that a good HR director must have. In addition to that, HR professionals need to understand the business strategically and tactically understand people, and be a solid support to the management team in engaging their teams. They must also be someone who knows the talent market and that has a good grip on industry developments. If you are looking for resources, where would you look to make sure that you are getting quality people? Having said that, we seem to be the company that our competitors often turn to get quality resources. So we make sure that working at SITA remains attractive.

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TAKING ON THE WORLD The maturity of Singapore’s talent management is now producing leaders rivalling the best in the world, but how are they being transitioned from managers to leaders?

IT WAS THE Singaporean government that first propelled Singapore’s talent management and leadership development culture into the modern era. Shedding the legacy of a more paternalistic past – like many developed economies before it – the government’s vision saw the germination of a talent and leadership focus that resonates throughout the jurisdiction today. “The government under LKY probably had – next to IBM – the best talent management program in the world at the time,” says NBO Group founder and chairman, Gary Nelson, who formerly headed IBM’s operations in Asia. A long-time leadership observer in Asia, Nelson says the government’s early example encouraged private sector innovation, leading to a culture today where rising leaders can benefit from a cornucopia of leadership programs from the best global business schools, helping them to take on the world. “There is now a much richer pool of talent,” Nelson says. “What you used to see in the multinationals like Google, IBM, and Apple on the technology side or in consumer goods companies like Nestlé and Proctor & Gamble, or in the energy companies,


is they all have talent management infrastructure but their contributions from the emerging markets are usually thin,” he says. “Now you are seeing a more robust cadre of people being identified

says. “The challenges that managers are facing are becoming more complex these days. The organisation’s support in growing their leaders to manage these challenges has become more vital, and

“Companies are recognising the importance of talent sustainability and management and continually looking for ways to improve these talent management systems” Roland B Smith, Center for Creative Leadership and thus given opportunities to move into corporate headquarters for an experience, or a different location for an experience, and that is all very, very healthy.” The Center for Creative Leadership’s Asia-Pacific vice president and managing director, Roland B Smith, agrees that talent and leadership development is becoming more sophisticated in Singapore. “Companies are recognising the importance of talent sustainability and management and continually looking for ways to improve these talent management systems,” he

we do see organisations investing in such developments, which is heartening.”

Leaders and values Singapore has never been the driver for talent management within MNCs – it’s always been more of a regional hub. Singapore’s regional role has been to augment and implement what a company was doing globally. Amid global competition, there is a recognition of the need to go further. “Leaders in Singapore are recognising they

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have to do things to be more productive; they are saying that improving productivity, employee engagement and leadership development are high up on the priority list,” Nelson says. One of Singapore’s weaknesses in developing leaders has always been a lack of employee engagement. Though talent has been good at getting a better deal individually, there was no real ‘fire in the belly’ when it came to their organisation. This was amplified by discriminatory talent management programs, which would often sideline those left out of a select talent pool. This is now changing. “Singapore is starting to do something we think is quite forward-thinking; you have now got a lot of values-based initiatives going on,” Nelson

says. Putting the focus for employees at all levels on the values of an organisation, companies are switching the environment and culture into one where leaders are more likely to remain loyal and grow. “When the younger generation is in tune with the Baby Boomers and older folk, when they are in tune with the value system and learn to communicate with each other in a positive way, you start to see the turnover stabilise,” Nelson says. Stemming turnover is a panacea for leadership development. Always a problem in emerging markets, Nelson says the prevailing employee attitude used to result in them changing jobs every two years for a 10% pay increase. However, thanks to values-based engagement initiatives,

potential leaders are more likely to identify with their organisation, and see staying with one employer as both an exciting place to work, and a viable career option.

Beyond the silo Singapore – like Asia – has traditionally been very good at producing extremely hard-working line managers with strong knowledge and technical expertise, heading departmental silos filled with people very much like themselves. “These ‘doers’ or ‘super-doers’ would become the managers of the accounting department, or the IT department, where they end up managing like-personalities. So when they get their first step up the ladder they are not really managing – they are not doing the

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MEETING MILLENNIAL DEMANDS Millennials are fast moving into the front lines of Singapore businesses, thanks to their intelligence and savvy grasp of technology and social media. But grooming millennials requires a whole new twist on HR best practice. Development Dimensions International’s (DDI) Desmond Tan says millenials are “polarising” in their tendency to move towards and commit to strong ideals – be it social, political or environmental – and those needs will need to be understood and tapped by HR. He gives the example of a company that sent a strong CSR message to its growing millennial (and trash intolerant) workforce by removing rubbish bins and installing prominently placed recycling bins to engage staff. The result was a more motivated group of potential millennial leaders, which could get behind the company’s wider goals beyond the pure financial motivation. NBO Group’s Gary Nelson says millennials are showing clearly that, while they have grown up under the influence of cutting-edge technology, they still want and value one thing above all else: face-to-face interaction and feedback. “They have learned that smarts don’t trump the ability to have face-to-face conversations and have human interactions,” Nelson says. “They are looking for sincerity, integrity and leadership that is inclusive – not patronising – and a willingness to give them consistent feedback.” This may mean HR and management need to go beyond annual appraisals towards ongoing feedback, coaching and mentoring when it is deserved. It also means injecting more clarity into interactions with millennials. “You need to get clarity into first-hand communications; clarity when you delegate, clarity when you empower, clarity in goal setting and appraisals, clarity in who they are and who the company is and what the expectations are, and that can’t be done through email or other forms of communication. Too many people are hiding behind their screens – whether it’s an iPhone or Samsung – when they actually need to come out and engage,” he says. Millennials will also need a lot more ‘soft’ skill attention, Nelson says. “They are all smart, so whatever their discipline is, they know it, whether it’s finance, or marketing or manufacturing; so really you need to be unlocking that opportunity to grow and develop by interacting with other people.” The Center for Creative Leadership’s Roland B Smith agrees that millennials thrive on feedback and rewards, as well as value autonomy. But he says HR needs to realise they will not be satisfied with talent development programs and rewards in the form of wages or wellbeing factors. “High potential employees need to be challenged and engaged continuously, with constant mentorship and guidance in order to hone their skills,” he says. classic Peter Drucker managing activities – they are just a team leader. Not that that’s a bad thing,” says Nelson. However, the critical factor in grooming Singapore’s best leadership talent has been when these line managers “stick their heads above their own silo”. “We see an evolution from ‘doer’, to ‘facilitator’, to leader; once they start to evolve to a facilitator, they start to show courage, to show their emotional sensitivity to others, particularly as they start to interact across


silos with people of different behavioural characteristics and educational backgrounds,” Nelson says. “They start to see the need to work in teams and start to develop the self-awareness – that quality of knowing themselves – that every leadership book you’ll ever read says is the first step in developing a leader.” This facilitation step involves developing active listening skills, the ability to question and clarify, and the ability to diagnose and assess risk. “You see them mature in this facilitation process and they get more

responsibility, and that is how they become identified as cross-silo talent and evolve in ways that usually occur through mentoring and coaching of the talent pool.”

The soft skill edge Though ‘hard’ skills may have elevated leaders to the top in Singapore in the past, the recognition of the importance of ‘soft’ skills is now widespread. “The hard skills are the easy part; they can be picked up more naturally and quickly,” says Smith. “Talent management systems tend to succeed better at imparting these skills, or even through modelling. It’s the soft skills that take a bit more time to ‘impart’. For example, the managing of people in a way that is both effective yet welcoming – this emotional quotient part requires a lot more guidance, training and development,” he says. Singapore is becoming sophisticated in the soft skills area, beyond what Nelson calls the ‘psychometric’ stage. “It has gone from the soft skills of DISC or MBTI – what I would call boxing people in – to realising leaders are people that have all of these facilitation skills. So, yes I know myself and I know my tendencies, but now that I know my strengths and weaknesses, how do I operate with integrity without trying to be something that I‘m not? And, knowing I have the hard skills, how do I engage others across the silo?” Smith says listening with wisdom is one critical trait of an authentic leader. “John Ryan, our president, often says that being a CEO is to be the Chief Listening Officer. Great leaders take the time to understand peers’ and subordinates’ points of view, getting the multiple perspectives while thinking of the bigger picture in order to determine the optimal decision,” he says. “Listening closely to employees is one of the easiest and best solutions a leader can offer – before going on to tackle the issue strategically.” There are other ways organisations are succeeding in bringing people through from

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managers to leaders, where their remit is more about getting people to buy into their ideas and being an influencer and encourager. At the cutting edge, people are being thrown into areas of entrepreneurial excellence, where they are facing something Singapore has not traditionally embraced: risk.

development through an international lens. The verdict? Smith says Singapore is one of the key markets in Asia that has made a “significant leap” in its efforts to develop corporate leaders. “However, talent management efforts need to be aligned more closely throughout the organisation.”

“You have gone from what I would call a very strict process-oriented HR leader, focused on rules, regulation and policies towards a much more aggressive and international HR leader” Gary Nelson, NBO Group “The Singaporean environment is one where you didn’t want to take too much risk because you might lose, and that is a very Asian cultural trait where if you lose, you could embarrass yourself and it could be generational,” Nelson says. “Today, people see risk and opportunity, and in international organisations you see people being put in uncomfortable new and chancy activities.” The result? Singapore’s leaders – including those in HR – are stepping up to take their place on the global stage, moving beyond the perception that used to dominate that Asian leaders were too timid at the international table. “You have gone from what I would call a very strict process-oriented HR leader, focused on rules, regulation and policies towards a much more aggressive and international HR leader,” Nelson says. “They are getting more room at the table at the C-level and they are participating with much more veracity and acceptance because they are bringing new ideas to the table.”

Evolution, not revolution The Center for Creative Leadership’s (CCL) global reach means it can view the region’s

The Center has identified five key roles that affect talent sustainability: the board, CEO, line managers, HR and talent themselves all play a key role in ensuring sustainable success. “In recent CCL research, it was identified that the talent influencers – or line managers – are the weakest link in the talent ecosystem. However, this is likely to be an international trend,” he says. In the end, the next generation of leader will not emerge from the ranks of the talent influencers and ‘doers’ to become leaders all in one day. It is an evolution, which is why Nelson believes 360-degree feedback should be viewed by companies and talent as an opportunity, not as an appraisal. “It’s an evolution from doing a job, becoming a team leader, and then honing facilitation skills to develop that soft side,” Nelson says. “As they develop facilitation skills they evolve – they see something works, they make mistakes – and they learn and become identified as potential leaders. But you can’t get there based on hard skills competence; you can be an individual contributor, but if you want to be a leader of people, soft skills are very important.”

A SOFTER SKILL Development Dimensions International (DDI) research shows most leaders in business fail not because of a lack of business knowledge or technical skill, but because of inter-personal and communication shortcomings. DDI has identified five ‘interaction essentials’ that can boost leadership effectiveness. PRINCIPLES TO HELP A PERSON MEET OTHERS’ PERSONAL NEEDS Maintain or enhance self-esteem Results include higher levels of career and job satisfaction, improved motivation and engagement, high quality work, and better personal and professional relationships. Listen and respond with empathy Can lead to teams that are more engaged, less fatigued, depressed, and anxious, while making a leader into a better coach. Ask for help and encourage involvement Participation translates into perceptions of variety, autonomy and impact along with greater levels of influence on work, increased selfconfidence and trust in management. Share thoughts, feelings, and rationale (to build trust) Opening up encourages direct reports and colleagues to do the same, fostering a positive team dynamic and productivity. Provide support without removing responsibility (to build ownership) Providing help is a necessary part of an interconnected workplace, but not removing ownership of tasks helps teams to learn, grow and develop in their roles.

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WEB OF OBLIGATION Singapore’s employment law evolution is increasing company risk, but it could help HR gain more strategic power within Asian operations. Ben Abbott reports

SINGAPORE’S EMPLOYMENT LAW landscape used to be much simpler. As a jurisdiction that has always supported the growth and prosperity of businesses in an effort to become a regional centre of trade, employment obligations were never onerous. While this is still the case compared to other jurisdictions, a wave of newly minted regulation has seen the environment slowly change into what Rajah & Tann Asia’s head of competition and trade, Kala Anandarajah, has called a “web of obligation”. “Singapore continues to have a proemployer environment, with only some policies tweaked or tightened to provide for better protection to employees,” Anandarajah says. “Yet, with seemingly more prescriptive measures being introduced, compliance is appearing more difficult and could potentially trip up HR directors,” she says. In the ensuing legal web, lawyers are being kept busy with a range of challenging legal issues being brought to them by both employer and employee clients. “I’m involved in quite a few cases at the moment where tough issues are being reviewed,” Anandarajah says. “These range from Central Provident Fund [CPF] concerns and interpretations as to who truly is an employee and what benefits are ‘CPF-able’, to


discrimination allegations, to union issues.” While many of the legal issues and disputes she is seeing are ‘fortunate’ enough to be resolved quickly through discussion, Anandarajah says that other clients are not so lucky. “Others are getting into long tangled discussions,” she says. Colin Ng & Partners partner Pradeep K Singh agrees that Singapore is getting increasingly complex for companies in terms of navigating their employment law obligations. “Based on the kind of matters I am seeing, I think in terms of compliance there is a general trend towards more regulation in the industry,” Singh says.

A foreign impost For many businesses, Singapore’s stricter policies and procedures when hiring foreign workers have been some of the more topical – and potentially problematic. Clients who have tested – or been simply unaware of – the new laws, are finding little leeway for error, and that the government does mean business. Singh says one of his clients is a case in point. In IT services, the company – operating in Singapore for quite some time – had existing contracts in play with government-linked statutory boards and departments, all of which had certain strict

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project timelines. However, that didn’t give them any leverage. “They needed to get some software engineers from India to work on this project, and what happened was that one of the engineers – who was quite critical for the project – was not granted the Employment Pass to work in Singapore. This affected their plans quite materially. It did affect their ability to deliver on the project.” In this case, an advertisement placed by the company on the Jobs Bank – as per Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) requirements – contained a small typographical error. “The error looked minor, but it turned out to be a big problem. They were subsequently investigated by the taskforce that looks into discriminatory practices under the FCF, and got into a situation

are required to advertise on the newly created Jobs Bank for at least 14 days. Though there are exclusions – like if the job pays $12,000 a month and above, or the company has under 25 employees – the MOM would still like to see compliance. “All companies are strongly encouraged to advertise their job vacancies on the Jobs Bank for access to a larger pool of Singaporean candidates, even if those jobs are eligible for advertising exemption,” MOM guidance reads. “All companies are expected to have fair employment practices that are open, merit-based and nondiscriminatory, even if the job vacancies are exempted from advertising.” The MOM has already caught out over 100 companies for having discriminatory job advertisements, and has suspended work pass privileges for one company.

“My belief is that HR teams need to be alert to changes and relook at traditional practices” Kala Anandarajah, Rajah & Tann Asia where they couldn’t get that individual to Singapore and had to scramble other resources to meet deadlines.” Managing partner at HJM Asia Law & Co, Caroline Berube, had another American client in the IT industry that had Employment Passes rejected. In this case, the client – who represented Microsoft worldwide, but did not have a distinct Microsoft agreement to cover Singapore work – did not have a local bank account yet, so was unable to show financial statements for the previous three months to prove financial viability. “These are hurdles that we didn’t have before,” Berube says. The FCF aims to strengthen Singapore’s core workforce by requiring companies to consider Singaporeans for job opportunities before sourcing talent from overseas. Before applying for Employment Passes, companies

The government has openly stated Singapore is moving towards an ideal scenario where it will have two-thirds of all roles filled locally, with a further third serviced by foreign talent. The policies being put in place are designed to achieve this, and Singh predicts more policies are likely to flow to further restrict foreign entrants. So how should HR approach these new obligations? “What clients need to do is make a genuine effort to widen their net, instead of just relying on head office or someone familiar with the operation. They need to make a genuine effort to look for talent in the country,” Singh says. “Now when you submit an application for Employment Passes, a lot more questions are being asked. A lot more evidence is being asked for, and companies need to show what efforts have been taken to interview people here and look at the potential candidates around.”

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EMPLOYMENT LAW Singh says a lot of foreign companies are not doing enough of that, or do not go much beyond strict compliance. Companies that make the effort may find the authorities are more amenable to approving an Employment Pass. Singh gives the example of a French client in the specialised oil and gas services industry, that advertised on the Jobs Bank, compiled a shortlist of 10 applicants and interviewed several, but was still unable to find the right candidate. They were granted permission to source talent from France. “It’s not a case of not being able to employ foreign talent, but of some effort being made to cast the net wider and give an opportunity to those candidates here.” As for Singh’s IT client, the company has chosen to get on top of its obligations to entrench the right processes within the organisation to ensure the same doesn’t happen again. “It’s important for HR managers to get the correct advice and stay up to date with the requirements and put an emphasis on them in terms of policy.”

Subject to interpretation Anandarajah says there are many relatively simple issues that could impact HR. “Simple issues relating to issuance of pay slips and key employment terms in writing may be overlooked by those having a large rank and file employment base or a migrant workforce for example,” she says. Under the Employment Act, the MOM will require employers from 1 April 2016 to provide itemised payslips to all employees covered by the Act in tandem with their salary

payments, while key employment terms must be provided to all employees who have had continuous employment of at least 14 days. “Taken together, itemised payslips and KETs provide greater clarity and assurance to employees about their regular salary components as well as their main

Singapore’s stricter policies and procedures when hiring foreign workers have been some of the more topical – and potentially problematic – issues facing employers employment terms and benefits,” the MOM states as justification. “They also help employers prevent misunderstandings and minimise disputes at the workplace.” In addition, there are other questions being raised. “What many have thought to be established principles in regard to who is an independent contractor and who is an employee has been thrown into disarray, with regulatory issues having surfaced,” says Anandarajah, who advises clients to get advice. “There is also lack of clarity as to the scope of benefits that are paid to employees which are CPF-able or otherwise.” Anandarajah adds that, following Singapore’s entrenched tripartite approach in addressing employment issues, it remains a priority to have as many employees as possible unionised, and this is now extended to professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). “Whilst being


Dec 2009

Dec 2010

Dec 2011

Dec 2012

Dec 2013

Dec 2014

Employment Pass (EP)







Total foreign workforce







Total foreign workforce (excluding foreign domestic workers & construction)






764,500 Source: Ministry of Manpower


unionised in Singapore does not create unruly difficulties for employers, there nevertheless remains trepidation and one would therefore recommend caution as steps are taken to respond to unions.” Berube argues there continues to be a number of grey areas when it comes to

employee contract law, in relation to restraint of trade and notice of termination.

Employing the law HR practitioners are being urged to ensure they pay attention to employment law details as new laws come into force and face enforcement action. “My belief is that HR teams need to be alert to changes and relook at traditional practices,” says Anandarajah. “HR will need to take positive steps in relation to issues such as issuing payslips and ensuring that all employment contracts are reduced into writing with key terms spelt out. These are basic and procedural matters, yet these are what could easily trip up companies. Ensuring fair employment practices and, alongside that, preventing discrimination will remain key as well,” she says. The importance of employment law means the HR function is “undoubtedly” becoming a critical component of the companies looking to succeed in Asia, Anandarajah says. “With continued cross-border movement of employees and the presence of businesses across Asia, it is important to understand the varied legal landscape as well as cultural nuances. The HR function is no longer a backroom role to be performed by personnel double-hatting. It has come of age in Asia and its importance can only grow.”

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FAMILY MATTERS Singapore may be one of the easier jurisdictions in Asia to relocate an expat, but neglecting assignee families could result in failure, finds Ben Abbott AS FAR AS Asia goes, Singapore is an expat jurisdiction that offers the closest thing to being right at home. With its choice of international schools, strong expat support networks and English-speaking populace, HR should expect the families and spouses of expats to feel right at home. That means the assignee will immediately be as productive in Singapore as they were at home. Right? Wrong. Yes, Singapore does offer an attractive ‘Asia lite’ experience for expats when compared with China, Malaysia or other Asian countries, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier on expat families. In fact, companies that neglect the trailing spouse and family risk losing assignees to outright failure or seeing a ‘brown out’ (an unproductive and costly appointment), impacting their ROI.

The importance of family Before a Singapore HR mobility team even receives an instruction to move an assignee, spouses and families play a central role in assignment refusal. A recent report from Brookfield Global Relocation Services shows 35% of companies acknowledge assignee spouse or partner careers or employment have an impact on their ability to attract employees for assignment. Looking ahead, 69% of companies report this will become more important for their company’s ability to attract employees for assignments in the future.


Santa Fe Relocation Services Asia director Janine Barnes says that, although an assignment could be a great opportunity for one of the couple, it might not be seen that way at all by the assignee’s trailing spouse or partner. “The traditional family is much rarer than it used to be; there are a lot more couples where both parties have career goals, and want to continue working. Asking one to give up their career to follow a spouse gets harder and harder.” When an assignee does convince their spouse and family to uproot for Singapore, making sure they are supported is becoming more critical. Asian Tigers Mobility managing director of relocation services, Kay Kutt, says the family and spouse can be the “forgotten stakeholders”, with many companies also assuming that an assignee will immediately get up and run and be productive. Though it’s still difficult to accurately measure – like an “iceberg below the waterline” – Kutt says problems with a spouse or family regularly result in assignee ‘brown out’, or simply a failed assignment. “Surveys have indicated the high importance of the family; if they are not happy, it impacts on the transferee, who will also be unhappy,” Kutt says. Divorce statistics are frightening. Recent research shows marriage failure rates topping 55% among relocated couples in Asia, with contributing variables including the number of relocations and if a couple has children. This all adds up to a significant potential cost

to a business – and one that could potentially be better alleviated by HR. The question is – how?

Putting family first From a mobility point of view, Singapore should be a trailing spouse’s dream. With a well-established, friendly and opportunityrich expat community, which often lives in similar areas, it can be easy to make new social connections and start a new thriving local life. The small size of the country and the ubiquity of English also makes it easy to explore and navigate for newcomers. But HR shouldn’t be complacent. The reality is, families can have just as hard a time settling in to Singapore as any other Asian country, something to which HR teams are often blind.

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think it’s not needed in Singapore. But yes, it’s very important.” This isn’t always the fault of HR. Even when companies do offer it, relocating couples are regularly passing up their chance to attend the training. “When it does get initiated for a transferee and family, do they take it up and do they know the value of it?” Kutt asks. “If you have never taken part in it, you really have no idea what the value for a relocation can be.” Barnes says couples sometimes feel too busy. “The take-up rate can be quite low, as it is often not perceived as being valuable enough to give up that time for.” However, entrenching cultural training in the process for both the assignee and the spouse could save companies money in the long run. “Quite seriously – for organisations that don’t have it as part of their policy – I’ve seen assignments fail because assignees just don’t settle in, or there is staff turnover because existing staff don’t want to work with the new expat,” Barnes says. “It’s a nightmare for HR, and it might not happen in the first place if these programs were given and the acceptance rate wasn’t so low.”

„„Children and schooling

“The traditional family is much rarer than it used to be; there are a lot more couples where both parties have career goals, and want to continue working” Janine Barnes, Santa Fe Relocation Services „„Training and support Cultural training and spousal support programs are seen as “nice fluffy things to have”, Santa Fe’s Barnes says, but are more critical than many HR teams realise. Though many spouses are given advice on settling in – like how to open a bank account, get their driver licence converted – Barnes says not enough companies are offering

families cultural training and spousal support. Barnes says it can be critical to assignment success. “A place like Singapore isn’t perceived as that culturally different, but of course it absolutely is.” Kutt agrees. “A number of companies say this is important; they say ‘yes, a spousal support or cross-cultural training or language program would help’, but they

The number one consideration for families during a relocation has always been the children’s school and education, says Barnes. This immediately puts Singapore ahead. With a selection of good quality international schools reserved for expats and no waiting lists like Hong Kong has, moving to a school in Singapore can be a “fairly smooth” transition. However, schools still create problems for mobility teams. Firstly, an assignee may want to keep their children in school in their home country until the end of a school term or year, with the “last thing they want” being for their

DID YOU KNOW? Family concerns are the single most cited reason for expatriate assignment refusal. They are also the top reason for early assignment return, and the third most commonly cited reason for assignment failure.

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Spousal work status

Marital status


Male Female 15% 0






Dependents With children


Without children

31% 0





Works prior to assignment only

Single men

Works neither prior to or during

Single women

Works both prior to and during

Married/partnered women (total)

Works during assignment only

Married/partnered men (total)

100 Source: Brookfield Global Relocation Services 2015 Global Mobility Trends Survey

children to repeat a year. This has flow-on effects for accommodation and relocation timing. The assignee may relocate earlier than their spouse and children, requiring a longer period of temporary accommodation to be found. It would also likely delay the selection of permanent accommodation and furniture relocation until the spouse arrives. “Most assignees would be reluctant to choose a family home without their spouse being there,” Barnes says. Permanent accommodation choice will often also revolve around the location of the school. “We find most expats are willing to do the commute and have the kids close to school rather than the other way around,” Barnes says. The important thing for mobility is to remember the importance of supporting families through the transition process to a new school. “For people relocating with a family, very rarely would you have a parent saying their number one priority was not where their kids are going to school,” Barnes says.

 Mobility and timing Mobility experts say there is often a huge disconnect between business decision-makers and HR mobility. Mobility is still seen as an operational and reactive function, rather than a strategic contributor to assignee success.


“HR mobility are the last people to find out someone is being relocated,” says Barnes. “While a business might be talking to someone for months, there is often a disconnect between the talent department and business and HR mobility.” Barnes says involving HR mobility at a late stage can make it “a little bit challenging” for relocation firms. “We just don’t find out quick enough.” That needs to change, says Kutt. “A company might find they have an immediate need to send someone to Singapore, but they really need to build in as much time as possible

housing search and negotiation, as well as sourcing a school placement. “Most homes are partially furnished, so they will also need to wait for their shipment or to organise furniture rental, so the importance of timing is crucial here. If companies don’t recognise that and just expect assignees to work efficiently when they touch down, that will impact the family,” Ng says. Kutt adds it may be up to HR mobility to push back against the business to ensure smooth assignee and family transition. “They need to manage expectations, though it’s

“Surveys have indicated the high importance of the family; if they are not happy, it impacts on the transferee, who will also be unhappy” Kay Kutt, Asian Tigers Mobility to have the preparation and lead time needed to fulfill all the immigration requirements and set up the transferee for success.” Asian Tigers Mobility’s Rae Ng says two months is the standard length of time recommended for arranging a relocation, which builds in a timeline for things like

often hard to go back to a business manager and say we don’t have enough time if they are saying the business needs to make it happen.”

 Policy and procedure All companies need to put in place the appropriate policies, guidelines and

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frameworks, according to Kutt, that will help them systematise the process of relocation for executives of different levels within an organisation. This also helps to manage the expectations of both assignees and families, and to prevent any breakdown in communication or the overall assignment. “Assignees need to know the rules of the game,” Kutt says. “Relocations are made easier if there is a policy and written documentation showing what will be approved and authorised; there should be an individual assignment letter detailing what is appointed for that individual based on their level and role.” The economics of relocation have changed in the last decade, particularly after the global financial crisis. Mobility experts say the luxurious packages of the past are long gone, and international executives are often earning the same – or even less – during an international location than at home. “In the past, there was the connotation that for an expatriate there would be a financially rich program that had a lot of benefits and added compensation, but that has changed as the economics have changed,” Kutt says. For example, temporary accommodation terms have shrunk from 60–90 days to somewhere between 15 and 45 days, depending on the company. “But when you are thinking about the human element of this, what’s the impact on the family and transferee, and how are you able to manage that with ease and grace and make sure there is no adverse impact?” Kutt says. Providing the right tailored framework for individuals provides the foundational elements necessary for success, Kutt says. She also recommends that companies think twice before cutting back on critical relocation services.

The human element Kutt has relocated herself 24 times – so far. “My next move will be my 25th,” she says.

“From the time I turned two, I’ve never lived in one house for more than four years.” That makes her uniquely qualified to talk about the things that can make an executive relocation a success for an assignee’s family – and the company. In the end, she says this comes down to the human element, as well

as communication and support throughout the process. “Always be mindful that you are relocating a human being, with their family, and the impact the move may have on them,” Kutt says. “Employees need to be looked at as unique individuals,” she says.

THE NEW SPOUSES Societal changes around the world mean a growing number of trailing spouses in Singapore will be either male, or part of a same-sex couple. Santa Fe Relocation Services Asia director Janine Barnes knows this from personal experience. “There’s often an assumption the person on assignment will be the husband, but when I was sent to Hong Kong by my employer, it was my husband that came as the accompanying spouse,” she says. The question is, are Singapore’s HR teams ready? Well, sort of. In a situation that’s increasingly common, trailing male spouses staying home with their children can find it more challenging than women to build new friendships and connections, given that the majority of other trailing spouses are women. OSullivanField managing partner Padraig O’Sullivan says company-sponsored or other networking events for spouses can be challenging for men, who could find they are the “only male in a group of 10 women”. Companies may have to do more in future to assist these spouses. “Over the years, this will start to change; there is a bit of a switch happening, with more female executives, and males willing to give up their career to be the partner that stays at home from the time the children are born,” Barnes says. O’Sullivan says men are accustomed to socialising and building networks through work. However, he says male trailing spouses fall quite easily into virtual work, in areas like IT, digital marketing, and call centre support. Same-sex couples have an even harder time than trailing spouses who are male – and in this case, it’s not necessarily the fault of their employers. “I don’t know any company that does not support same-sex relationships; if that person is your partner or spouse, it is being supported irrespective of the type of relationship,” Barnes says. “However, a lot of the problem is with the applicable immigration laws; a lot of countries still don’t recognise same-sex relationships, and trying to work around that can be difficult.” Asian Tigers’ Kay Kutt agrees: “From an immigration perspective, same-sex partnerships are not recognised in Singapore. It is a topic in many Asian countries, but while it is there, it isn’t one which people necessarily want to talk about or fully address because it’s a topic that can be uncomfortable for many.” For mobility teams dealing with a same-sex relationship, there are a number of options. If the spouse wants to work, the number one option is helping them find a job and get sponsored in their own right, giving them a permit to work. Other less palatable options include spouses coming in and out of a particular jurisdiction on tourist visas, which can be risky if they are caught out by immigration. There are also more companies supporting separate living arrangements with fly-in, fly-out or rotation assignments, where assignees are given support to fly home and see their spouse regularly, and support is given to the spouse left at home who can’t accompany the assignee abroad. “They [same-sex partners] are very supported by companies as a rule: diversity and inclusiveness is huge. But they can only support them to the extent that immigration laws will allow,” says Barnes.

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WHY THE NEXT CEO COULD BE YOU The research is in and it might surprise some: CHROs are perfect candidates for the role of CEO. Iain Hopkins talks to research lead Dave Ulrich about what this breakthrough means for HR

THE TRADITIONAL NOTIONS of HR being a cost centre bogged down in back-office tasks and unable to contribute at a senior level – let alone make a move to the CEO role – have just been shot to ribbons. New research conducted by Ellie Filler, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry, and Dave Ulrich, University of Michigan professor and global advocate of HR, demonstrates that CHROs make ideal CEOs. In looking at several data sets, Ulrich and Filler discovered surprising evidence of the growing responsibility and potential of CHROs. They found that, increasingly, CHROs report directly to the CEO, serve as their key adviser, and make regular presentations to the board. Most


importantly, they have become business strategy enablers. Research was conducted in two key areas: • To gain perspective on the importance of the CHRO to other executives (CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CMOs, CIOs), Ulrich and Filler looked at salaries. They averaged the annual base compensation of each group, concentrating on ‘best performers’ (the top decile of earners in each role). Their finding: CEOs and COOs are the highest earners, but CHROs are next, with a base pay of US$574,000 – 33% more than CMOs, the lowest earners on the list. “Great CHROs are very highly paid because they’re very hard to find,” Ulrich says.

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• Proprietary assessments were conducted on C-suite executives over more than a decade. These concentrated on 14 aspects of leadership, grouped into three categories: leadership style, or how executives behave and want to be perceived in group settings; thinking style, or how they approach situations in private; and emotional competency, or how they deal with ambiguity, pressure and risk-taking, among other pressures. Their finding: Except for the COO (whose role and responsibilities often overlap with the CEO’s), it was CHROs who had the most overlap with CEOs. Ulrich outlines this research approach to HRD: “We created a ‘distance’ measure between the CEO and each of these four staff groups. Across the 14 dimensions, CHROs had a closer profile [lower distance] than the other three staff groups. CHROs were a bit higher than CEOs on social skills, flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity, empathy and energy. Conversely, CHROs were a bit lower on perceived task orientation, intellectual ability and confidence. But the overall distance across these 14 dimensions was lowest for CHROs.”


0.820 CFO

1.031 CIO

1.039 CMO

Korn Ferry assessed the 14 personal qualities of leaders. It compared these 14 dimensions for the highest-paid CEOs with the highest-paid staff functions (CHRO, CIO, CFO, CMO). It created a ‘‘distance” measure between the CEO and each of these four staff groups. Across the 14 dimensions, CHROs had a closer profile (lower distance) than the other three staff groups. There were other findings that indicate CHROs are worthwhile candidates for the top job. In research conducted on leadership derailment, Ulrich explains, scholars often find that as leaders move up the

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organisation, they fail most often because of an inability to manage individual talent and organisation culture. CEOs need insights on talent and organisation issues to succeed over time; most CHROs already have this. Increasingly, Ulrich adds, technical skills are being viewed merely as the starting point for CEO succession; ideal candidates have a balance of technical and people skills. “CHROs should be architects on talent and organisation issues,” Ulrich says. “If and when CHROs also master strategy, customer and finance, they could be candidates for a CEO role.”

Good news, but... However, there are two main caveats. First, Filler and Ulrich studied only the best performers, so it’s only a small percentage of overall CHROs who may have this CEO potential.

FEMALE CHROS LEAD THE PACK 42% of high-performing CHROs are female – more than double the number in the CMO position, the next highest at 16%. This means that if more CHROs got the top job, the number of female CEOs would likely dramatically increase. Secondly, there is limited opportunity for advancement to CEO level for HR professionals who have spent their entire careers in HR. While the best CHRO performers may have run HR departments at some point in their careers, they have broad managerial experience. Ideally, these business leader roles would include P&L responsibilities. “Obviously, without these business literacy skills, CHROs would not be qualified as CEO. Gaining these skills may come from assignments as business leaders,” Ulrich says.


Getting it right Companies such as Zurich Insurance and Nestlé focus on job rotations at the executive level, and this is Ulrich’s recommendation for upcoming HR professionals. CEOs such as Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, served as the carmaker’s VP of HR for 18 months early in her career, and Anne Mulcahy, Xerox’s CEO from 2001 to 2008, ran that company’s HR operations for several years in the early 1990s. “Career rotations can help leaders learn

increasingly ‘external’ view HR professionals are taking towards their business. “When I do workshops with HR professionals, I often ask two telling questions: First, what is the biggest challenge in your job today? And two, who are your customers? Traditionally, the answers were inside the company (challenge of hiring, training, paying people or HR customers as employees). Today about half or more than half of HR professionals say that their biggest

“CHROs should be architects on talent and organisation issues. If and when CHROs also master strategy, customer and finance, they could be candidates for a CEO role” Dave Ulrich different skill sets before they move up the organisation,” Ulrich says. He cites research conducted several years ago in which he surveyed different companies: “In one company, officers had worked in an average of 1–3 functions. In the other, it was 4–3. In the first company, leaders identified with their function [‘I am from marketing, finance, manufacturing’]. In the second company, leaders identified with the company [‘I work for XYZ company’]. This broader perspective helps leaders offer integrated solutions to business problems.”

job challenge is helping the business win in the marketplace and their HR customers are the customers of their organisation. This is a major perspective and mindset shift for HR.” For now, in 2015, CHROs should not underestimate what they bring to business discussions. Ulrich suggests there are three key content areas they can add value to: • Talent (competence and commitment of the workforce) • Leadership (leadership brand throughout the organisation) • Organisation (creating the right capabilities and culture)

‘The C-suite consigliere’ In Ulrich and Filler’s research, the changing nature of the CHRO’s role was also highlighted. Several CEOs now view their CHRO as ‘the C-suite consigliere’ and a key sparring partner on topics like talent development, team composition and managing culture. For Ulrich, the key to this shift is the

“Too often HR focuses only on talent, without the value they can create from shaping culture,” he says. “We also propose process skills such as coaching individual leaders, facilitating change processes, and delivering integrated solutions to talent, leadership, and organisation.”

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17/09/2015 11:25:40 AM

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15/09/2015 3:47:45 PM



INNOVATION BY STEALTH Having worked with GE, Samsung, Philips and Pfizer, Paddy Miller knows a thing or two about innovation. He chats to Iain Hopkins about innovation blockers and why stealth innovation may be the answer KODAK’S STORY could act as the ultimate cautionary tale for any multinational corporation. In 2015, the company has unfortunately become something of a byword for failing to move with the times, failing to innovate, and failing to listen to employees. This need not have been the case. Prior to the digital revolution which rendered anything non-digital almost redundant, Kodak invented the digital camera. It even had it patented. Yet it failed to get off the ground due to a significant chasm between senior management and the people on the ground, and all this occurred even when those same senior leaders knew something was seriously wrong with the company. “It’s the ultimate in flawed thinking: we know something is wrong but we can’t or won’t do anything about it. We can’t turn the Titanic around,” says Professor Paddy Miller (IESE Business School, Barcelona), published co-author of Innovation as Usual (with Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg). Fortunately, the story is not over. Kodak has been turned around – but only just. Antonio Perez took over as chairman and CEO in 2005. He pushed the company into Chapter 11 and ended up laying off 50,000 people. The global employee base shrank


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dramatically as the company struggled to rightsize. The company has since reinvented itself and today it has transformed into a profitable high-end imaging business. Kodak showed its first profit in many years in the first quarter of 2014. A burning question remains: why did senior leaders not listen to their workers? “People at the top hadn’t done their job, and that includes the HR people. Kodak had the potential to be a great business but they didn’t do what they had to do, which was close that disconnect between the people who invented the digital camera and had a view of where the world was going, and the people at the top,” says Miller. For Miller, this disconnect is central to why innovation is stifled in so many organisations, but it’s not the sole reason. There are some fundamentals that quash innovation.


INNOVATION LEADERS Boston Consulting Group produces an annual list of the world’s most innovative companies. Here’s who made the grade in 2014 (2005 rank in brackets):

Apple (1)

Google (8)

Samsung (11)

Microsoft (4)

The wrong approach

First and foremost, organisations take the wrong action in relation to innovation: they are top-down instead of bottom-up. The statements from CEOs in their annual reports will invariably say: “We’re into innovation”. Then it’s left to the HR department to facilitate that process. “My philosophy is quite different. HR people need to be thinking about driving this from the bottom up. How do you build nodules, groups and teams of excellence in innovation? This runs counter to the culture of many organisations where it’s top-down,” says Miller.

IBM (7)

Tesla Motors (n.a.)

Facebook (n.a.)

Amazon (17)

Toyota (14)

Sony (5)

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Entrepreneurship is not innovation

Another key problem is the obsession many HR teams have with competency lists: in order to make it within an organisation, the people need to demonstrate at least a few key competencies. Innovation might exist on that list, but it’s usually a subset of entrepreneurship. It’s the wrong connection, says Miller. “I know a lot of people who are amazingly innovative but who are not entrepreneurs. They think wildly, they come up with wild ideas but they don’t know how to package it up – it’s not a subset of entrepreneurial behaviour.” This confusion can also be seen in the ‘threshold for failure’. The cliché ‘we learn from our mistakes’ is simply not true in large organisations, Miller says. Instead, mistakes are punished.


Sheer size

Samsung employs 425,000 people. IBM employs 400,000. These monster organisations used to only exist in government or the military. These organisations, by their sheer size and complex organisational structures, are not conducive to innovative thinking. “What these organisations are searching for is stability. What they want to do is stabilise, control behaviour, and not have any outliers,” says Miller.

Turning ideas into action For too long, discussions around innovation have focused on ideas generation. Ideation and brain­storming is easy; turning those ideas into viable business solutions is more challenging. Here are Miller’s tips: 1. Teach people political skills. You need to understand the politics of your organisation. Who are the stakeholders in your project? Who are the people who can block you? What buttons do you need to press to get it through? These political skills can and should be taught.


2. Don’t overregulate. You’ve run the innovation course; you’ve provided the case studies; you’ve educated employees on how to be politically astute. Now it’s time to ‘scaffold innovation’. Let people come up with their own terminology, their own solutions. Don’t even mention ‘innovation’. Reframe it by first presenting the problem that needs to be resolved. (See below.)

REFRAMING A PROBLEM Problem: In the pharmaceutical industry it’s critical for sales reps to get ‘face time’ with physicians. Being time-poor and exposed to countless sales reps, all with similar products, means that getting cut-through with these physicians is a constant battle. Solution: Rethink what you are offering to the physician. Instead of concentrating solely on the physician, become patient-focused. Talk about how your product can help the patient and how we (the pharmaceutical company) and the sales rep (via your products) can help to do that. HR can help outline the problem, but the sales team themselves have come up with a solution. HR then helps create a whole new sales behaviour through appropriate support and training, if required. 3. D o n’ t dismiss incremental innovation. Big organisations do not want their boat to be rocked. Remember, Kodak had a solution, but it was so disruptive it was dismissed as being untenable. At the same time, organisations like Apple and Google got to where they are by being hugely disruptive. Is there a middle ground? Yes, and it may lie in permeating the organisation with the concept of innovation; the continuous improvement program might in fact masquerade as an innovation program. “We’ve got the wrong message: it

should be disruptive and it should be incremental,” says Miller. 4. Don’t reinvent the wheel every time. “We’ve passed over and haven’t fully developed all the existing technologies, systems and know-how that already exists in organisations,” says Miller. “So we keep moving to the next best thing instead of looking around and saying ‘here’s something we can easily build on’.” (See example below.)

UTILISE WHAT ALREADY EXISTS Globally, the issuing of passports is fairly standardised. One government department handles it, the citizen fills out forms and submits a photo, and the citizen then waits for anywhere up to three weeks for that passport to be delivered to them. The Spanish passport-issuing agency asked itself a series of simple questions: Why do we do it this way? What do we do with all these forms? Where are the photographs? Has anyone ever looked at the form after it’s filled out? With people taking selfies all the time, why do we require them to have a professional photograph taken? “The Spaniards quickly realised they could do it all much faster,” says Miller. “By making simple changes they realised they could cut waiting times back from two weeks to one week. Then from one week to two days. And then two days to one day. Now in Spain you get your passport in 15 minutes. By taking a look at their operations with fresh eyes they came up with a better solution.” Stealth innovation Given the above challenges, it’s not surprising that ‘stealth storming’ has blossomed. Miller points to 3M’s ‘Post-it’ note creation and Pfizer’s Viagra creation as classic examples of stealth storming. “What you see is people stealthily moving to get their innovation into an organisation,” he says. “The best thing to do in many

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organisations is to fly below the radar, see if you have traction, and when you have traction, reveal your innovation. Then you say, ‘I need $1m to help this fly’. Nobody says to you, ‘Where did you get the $20,000 to get the trial up and running?’ People manage to hide it in the budget. They’ve done it by stealth. You get a lot of counterintuitive behaviour. You also get a fair amount of corporate obedience – but it’s usually with good intentions.” The size of an organisation can also be bypassed, but this requires re-examining and potentially restructuring the systems in place. “Global organisations which have very strong decentralised country management, perhaps along product lines, with local CEOs and GMs, are often better at innovation. These local leaders are able to convey the values and the principles of the business, and if those values include innovation, you will start to see innovation occurring. So it’s country-level, bottom-up innovation.”

leaders such as Samsung, it’s not the whole organisation, all 28 divisions, being

“How do you build nodules, groups and teams of excellence in innovation? This runs counter to the culture of many organisations where it’s top-down” Paddy Miller However, the more systems and structures that are in place, and the more matrix models that are entrenched, the harder this becomes. “Matrix structures take away my personal responsibility, my team’s responsibility, for innovative thinking. You feel less of a commitment to making something happen.” That’s not to say a large organisation cannot innovate – far from it. But there tend to be pockets of innovation rather than widespread innovation. Even at innovation

innovative. Rather it’s smaller pockets, such as the Galaxy phone division. “All research shows that when you’re small you tend to be agile. You improvise and you’re able to say, ‘I made a mistake but let’s build on that’. The disconnect isn’t there, because the CEO and management team are much closer to the people at the bottom. Global businesses that have managed to create small organisations in countries are far more successful at eliminating the matrix and are so much better at innovation.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS Trying to get your own innovative idea off the ground, or attempting to kick-start a culture of innovation? Here are four tips from Paddy Miller: Stealth sponsors – Appeal to managers one or two levels below the C-suite. They have enough power to get you started, and they’re easier to connect with. Stealth testing – Create proof of concept to gather incontestable evidence of the value of your idea before presenting it to a jury of executives. Stealth resourcing – Securing cash or man hours for a stealth project is tricky but can be done. In large companies, many projects have more resources than they need. Operational budgets also often have spare capacity. It can sometimes be easier to attract investment from partners outside the organisation. And don’t forget to barter: you might not have cash, but you probably have resources or capacity you don’t need that others do. Stealth branding – A credible cover story allows you to spend time on a project without having to field awkward questions from higher-ups. Source: First published in Harvard Business Review’s March 2013 issue: “The Case for Stealth Innovation” by Paddy Miller and Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg

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IRIS TEE Opened in 2008, Ubisoft Singapore grew quickly. It is now SE Asia’s largest video game studio, employing 300 staff. With ‘best employer’ accolades under her belt and exciting plans for the future, Iris Tee, Ubisoft’s HR director, talks to Miklos Bolza about what goes into creating an award-winning firm HRD: Ubisoft Singapore was recently crowned the Best Tech Company to Work For by the Singapore Computer Society. How did you develop your corporate culture to create this type of workplace? Iris Tee: It starts with recruiting individuals who are skilful and fit in with Ubisoft’s values to ensure the culture is aligned with our goals and vision. Secondly, it’s about aligning our own actions to these shared core values which we as a group agree are important. From the way we organise ourselves to the way we operate, we make sure everything is in line with these values. HRD: What talent development strategies does Ubisoft have in place? IT: It is only with new knowledge that we can reinvent ourselves and survive in the industry. We make a variety of learning


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options available that cater to differing learning styles and project constraints. For example, we have coaching, on-the-job training, online study groups, and of course traditional learning programs. There are also group learning activities where the group will share and learn best practices from each other.

HRD: How do your HR policies create diversity within Ubisoft? IT: One of the advantages of Singapore is it gives us access to a vast pool of talent and the multicultural nature of the country itself. We believe diversity is helpful to our operating process, so the first task when setting up the Singapore studio was to tap into this. In

“Our industry rejuvenates itself year after year, so it’s very dynamic. As an HR practitioner, it presents a good challenge” We also have a partnership with DigiPen in Singapore as part of our strategy in developing local talent. It is a 10-month program targeting university graduates. For five months they go through academic study about game development, game design, etc. For the other five months they form into small groups and develop a real game under Ubisoft mentorship. They learn from different experts in our studio and present an end product in order to graduate. There have been five batches of graduates and we have hired about half of them. HRD: A company like Ubisoft must innovate to stay ahead of the pack. How do you accomplish this? IT: Innovation is everyone’s job. It’s not only restricted to people developing games. This helps to ensure that innovation is a priority for everyone in the company. In terms of development, we have an iterative creative process that allows us to continuously improve. As a company, we are also early adopters of technology. That open­ness to new tools and methods gives us the stimulus to innovate throughout these technological breakthroughs. Our industry rejuvenates itself year after year, so it’s very dynamic. As an HR practitioner, it presents a good challenge. The way we operate is slightly different from other companies. At Ubisoft, the developers have creative ownership so they decide what the game’s vision is and what sort of features they want to include. A lot of the innovation happens within the game.

IRIS TEE’S CAREER TIMELINE Qualifications 1991–1994 Bachelor’s degree in business, Nanyang Technological University

recruitment, we ensure that we bring in a diverse group of people. That’s always been our philosophy. We recruit to ensure we have a good mix of nationalities in our teams. HRD: What is Ubisoft doing about gender equality? IT: In terms of gender, we’re working on it. We are working with schools such as DigiPen, Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Nanyang Polytechnic to encourage more girls to go into fields like computer science that traditionally have fewer females. Currently, 13% of employees in our Singapore studio are women. In terms of grooming our own talent, whenever we see high-potential females or males we try to give them the best opportunities to progress in their career. HRD: What programs has Ubisoft put into action to balance local and foreign recruitment? IT: Our policy has always been the same. The industry is young in Singapore so we already invest a lot of effort into grooming local talent. We also spend a lot of energy helping staff to make sure they have good career progression, with quite a number of them already assuming lead roles within the company. In terms of foreign workers, we have always recruited foreigners when we couldn’t find that particular skill in Singapore. In that sense, government policies are targeting a sector of foreign workers quite different from those we are recruiting. The expertise we are trying to bring in is in line with the government’s vision for the industry.

2001–2008 Manager, Singapore Airlines

2011–2013 Executive master’s degree in clinical approaches to management, INSEAD Singapore

Qualifications 1999–2000 Master’s degree in communication management, University of Technology Sydney

2008–2011 Senior manager, talent and resource management, Deloitte

2011–present HR director, Ubisoft Singapore

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Is HR too focused on data and analytics? HR finally has tools available to provide deep insights into its business, but is this focus on data starting to eclipse other endeavours?

Alec Bashinsky

Yasu Sato

National leader, people and performance Deloitte At long last, companies are starting to use data and analytics to better understand their greatest asset: their people. Talent analytics, in my view, are the foundation of high-impact HR that many organisations struggle to deliver. The increasing availability of data is magnifying the expectations executives have of their HR leaders. Executives are asking questions such as, ‘How can we better mobilise our contingent workers where they are needed?’ or ‘What is the likely impact on retirements if we change our benefits structure?’ or ‘Is the new online safety program reducing work-related injuries and illnesses involving time away from work?’ These and other questions require solid answers from the HR function. If business leaders are data-driven and HR’s data has some credibility, these efforts are made easier.

Director & regional head of HR LinkedIn There is a much stronger conscious focus on data analytics in HR, but that can only be a good thing. LinkedIn now has an HR analytics team at a global level, so there is ongoing interaction with that team, looking at what type of data levers we can pull to make the right decisions. When you look at the paradigm of decision-making, everything begins with data. Then data becomes information. Why do we need to turn that data into information? Because we need to identify the implications of our decisions. Once you do that, you’re able to help the decision-making process. We’re not quite there at that scale, but I’d like every member of my HR team to be able to see through that paradigm: knowing how data leads to better decisionmaking. If we really operate with a data mindset – the way that marketing would – then I think HR can frame business cases more effectively.

Amanda Towe

Director of human resources Johnson & Johnson No, I think this is a gap in HR and is a capability area needing real investment. Of course, I’m not a fan of ‘analysis paralysis’, and this is a trap to avoid. But too many of us have grown up in HR teams where data-driven decision-making has been absent, and I think we lost credibility as a result. Being able to speak the language of business leaders and measure our people strategies with real and meaningful data is critical. Setting tangible targets and then going after them with passion drives accountability, excitement and a real ‘performance edge’ to our function. With our more contemporary HRIS platforms, the ‘stitching together’ of different data will hopefully become easier. In my own HR team, we’ve recently committed a dedicated resource to HR analytics with a mission to uncover the big-impact insights to inform our HR strategies.

HR BIG DATA AND ANALYTICS In the attempt to fulfil executives’ thirst for metrics, have senior HR practitioners lost sight of what made them HR in the first place? Research indicates they haven’t – there is still a long journey ahead for most HR professionals in their quest to become valued business partners. Indeed, research by DDI indicates that only 18% of the HR function surveyed saw themselves as ‘anticipators’ – using data to predict talent gaps in advance and to provide insight about how talent relates to business goals.


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Human Resources Director Singapore 1.01  

The magazine for people who manage people.

Human Resources Director Singapore 1.01  

The magazine for people who manage people.