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Breathe in, breathe out… The quest for mindfulness – and the power of investing in wellbeing at work


All change

The science of making new ideas stick with staff


What HR needs to know about virtual vulnerability


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HR’s wellbeing challenge Mental wellbeing in the workplace is now near the top of the HR agenda in many businesses, and indeed in the public sector. Not only are stress and mental ill-health the leading causes of sickness absence and presenteeism, they are also major factors in the lack of productivity in many developed and developing countries.  From an HR perspective, the wellbeing agenda is critical to talent retention and attraction. Organisations should try to create a wellbeing culture, where people feel valued and trusted, have manageable workloads, realistic deadlines and a good work-life balance, and are managed by praise and reward rather than fault-finding. They will find their staff are more job-satisfied, are healthier, perform better, are committed and will go the ‘extra mile’ to deliver a quality product or service.  It is our duty in HR to create this kind of culture, and it is within our ultimate mission to do so. As long ago as 1851, the great British social reformer John Ruskin wrote: “In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it, they must not do too much of it, and they must have a sense of success in it.” This is HR’s wellbeing challenge. Professor Sir Cary Cooper CIPD president

Contents About the CIPD p5 News and analysis p6 How economists see the year ahead Case study p10 Focus on McLaren Applied Technologies Debate: employee engagement p12 Is it possible to measure happiness at work? The power of wellbeing p14 How smart organisations tackle employee health

The change challenge p22 Why understanding brain chemistry pays off HR and cybersecurity p26 Are you getting to grips with the new threat? Q&A: Merche del Valle p28 Goldman Sachs’ talent guru on making HR famous The Knowledge p30 Key workplace skills, with expert commentary The View From Here: Judith Barton p34 People Management Asia


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People Management is published on behalf of the CIPD by Haymarket Network and Haymarket Business Media, both divisions of Haymarket Media Group Ltd. Registered office: Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SP, UK

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Be part of a global community When you’re a member of the CIPD, you’re part of an international community of 140,000 members working in HR, learning and development, people management and consulting. The CIPD is the only professional body for HR and L&D in the world that awards Chartered status. It contributes to the development of HR internationally, sets and maintains HR standards, and works with governments, organisations and partners to help fulfil its broader mission of championing better work and working lives. CIPD professional membership is an achievement you can be proud of and will ensure you stand out in the workplace. It will give you status and relevance with employers and an edge over your peers. It’s a badge of your credibility: • It shows that you meet the CIPD’s rigorous standards for good practice and adhere to its Code of Professional Conduct. • It demonstrates your ability to make a difference to your organisation. • It inspires confidence in employers, clients and peers. • It proves a commitment to your continuing professional development. CIPD professional membership is respected by employers and industry, and can help improve career prospects and earning potential. It is available at three levels: Associate Member, Chartered Member and Chartered Fellow. When you gain professional membership, you can use designatory letters after your name to highlight your professional standing within the HR and L&D community.

Associate Member (Assoc CIPD) For professionals providing advice to managers across the business, and supporting the HR or L&D function. Associate membership is the CIPD’s first level of professional membership. It demonstrates that an individual has attained a recognised level of competence as an HR or L&D professional. Chartered Member (Chartered MCIPD) For experienced professionals managing, developing and implementing HR policies that support organisational objectives. Chartered Member is the CIPD’s second level of professional membership. Achieving Chartered Member status demonstrates that the individual has the knowledge and experience to create a real impact in the workplace and make a difference to an organisation’s strategy and people. Chartered Fellow (Chartered FCIPD) Chartered Fellow is the highest level of professional membership and is aimed at experts who are leading the development of strategic HR and L&D plans that drive business performance. A Chartered Fellow is a role model for the profession and part of a select group of senior HR and L&D professionals and business leaders who drive innovative people practices to help deliver strategy. Wherever you are in your career, the CIPD and its members will support and inspire you to achieve your full potential. For more information about professional membership and how to join the CIPD, please visit: People Management Asia




2016 GDP up 3.2% Employment rate 71.5% (est.) 2016 wages up 6.3% (est)

Hong Kong

2016 GDP up 1.5% Employment rate 67% (est) 2016 wages up 8.1%


2016 GDP up 6.2% Employment rate n/a 2016 wages up 7.3% (est)


2016 GDP up 7% Employment rate 87% (est) 2016 wages n/a


2016 GDP up 4.2% Employment rate 67% (est) 2016 wages up 8.1%



2016 GDP up 1.8% Employment rate 80.3% 2016 wages up 3.2%

Outlook According to Oxford Economics’ (OE) latest forecast, the economy is expected to grow by 1.9 per cent in 2017, with GDP set to increase 3.3 per cent in 2018. Opportunities The labour market will pick up “as the drag from sharp retrenchments in financial services and oil and gas-related sectors starts to ease”, says OE, leading to an increase in consumer spending. Challenges Singapore’s population is ageing and there is political pressure to restrict immigration – which means the growth in labour supply is forecast to halve over the next decade. John Walsh, director of the SIU Research Centre at Shinawatra University, Thailand, says: “Singapore is heavily reliant on conditions in the rest of the world and particularly vulnerable to a potential diplomatic offensive from China.”


Outlook Thailand has historically low unemployment rates and a wellfunctioning economy. But agriculture and manufacturing suffered significant falls in output last year, which spooked markets. Opportunities “Further strengthening the service sector will help create new and better jobs, and higher incomes,” says Ulrich Zachau, the World Bank country director for Southeast Asia, in its 2016 Thailand Economic Monitor. Challenges With uncertainty over macroeconomic events continuing into 2017, OE expects public spending and tourism to remain key drivers of growth this year, and both are vulnerable.


Labour market

Outlook The Vietnamese economy is soaring as it continues its embrace of global markets and begins to reap the benefits of investment in education and labour reform. Opportunities Improved conditions in the manufacturing and construction sectors have seen employment growth boosted and wages up over the course of the year, while, according to Walsh, the country’s large population means stimulating domestic demand should unlock further growth. Challenges “The Vietnamese economy is vulnerable to external shocks,” says Walsh – and that means it must balance its relationship with key trading partners such as the US and China very carefully.

People Management asks leading economists and experts for their country-by-country 2017 predictions

Outlook Strong exports, investment and public spending in the first half of last year kept GDP on track for a rise of around 7

Where next for the economy? 6

People Management Asia


News and analysis per cent in 2016, with a similar increase predicted for this year, according to OE. Opportunities Investment to strengthen the textile supply chain and expand new industries has been paying off, with clothing and footwear exports up around 10 per cent last year, says the report. Challenges “Cambodia looks set to try and continue to profit from a ‘Factory Asia’ approach, but there are increasing protests from workers and these may join up with community and political protests aimed at [prime minister] Hun Sen’s long-lived government,” says Walsh.

News in numbers

7.3% 126,000 Number of Singaporeans who benefitted from the SkillsFuture Credit scheme in its first year

Hong Kong

Outlook The economic picture was patchy in 2016, though slightly improved GDP growth of 1.9 per cent is forecast this year. According to OE, things remain relatively uncertain “given both domestic and external concerns, with the latter likely to be highly dependent on how US economic policy evolves under Donald Trump’s leadership”. Opportunities Hong Kong still has sound economic fundamentals, the OE report says, while the quality of the country’s technical skills and leadership abilities remains enviable. Challenges Walsh believes Hong Kong’s political scene is likely to become more divisive than not, “and this is not going to be good for the economy”.


“Cambodia will try to continue to profit from a ‘factory Asia’ approach”

Outlook Malaysia’s moderate pace of growth is expected to continue in 2017, according to OE. Walsh says: “Growth should be reasonable but is likely to rely on domestic demand and there must be a limit to how much the government can continue to stimulate this efficiently.” Opportunities In Malaysia’s 2017 budget announcement, prime minister Najib Razak revealed that the 1Malaysia Training Scheme would be extended, while the country will also introduce tax incentives for digital businesses. Challenges The OECD has urged the country to reverse a trend of 15 years of poor labour productivity, to help it meet the governmental goal of becoming a ‘developed nation’ by 2020. But so far, the metrics remain sluggish.

¥200m What it’s costing Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance in Japan to install artificial intelligence to calculate payouts

25% Proportion of employers in Taiwan that expect to see an increase in staff in Q1 of 2017 – the highest in the world

Amount Singaporean organisations could be fined if they don’t notify the Ministry of Manpower of redundancies within five working days SOURCE: SKILLSFUTURE, MANPOWER GROUP, NEWPAPER, MINISTRY OF MANPOWER


Jennifer Van Dale, partner and head of Asia-Pacific employment, and Hannah Swift, consultant, at Eversheds, give an overview of legislative changes that HR professionals need to know about

Contractual retirement in Hong Kong In FWD Life Insurance v Cheng Wing Yiu Dumas, the court was asked to look at the effect of having a ‘deemed’ retirement age relating to criteria for a bonus payment. The clause confirmed that retirement would be deemed on the last day of the month following the employee’s 60th birthday. The bonus plan provided that if employment was terminated for any reason other than death or retirement, any accrued but unpaid benefits under the plan would be forfeited. The employee turned 60 years old on 17 November 2013, so, according to the contract, was ‘deemed’ to have retired on 31 December 2013. However, he continued working beyond this date and resigned by email on 20 January 2014.

The question for the court was whether the deeming provision had the effect of implementing a retirement before the employee resigned. The court adopted an innovative line of reasoning because it was clear that both parties behaved in a manner consistent with employment continuing after the alleged retirement date. However, it found in favour of the employee and stated that the contract operated to retire him on 31 December 2013; his ‘resignation’ was therefore an empty gesture. In Hong Kong there are no specific laws that prohibit age discrimination in employment, nor is there a mandatory retirement age. The only way an employee can bring an indirect age discrimination case against their employer is when other forms of discrimination are also involved. continued overleaf People Management Asia


News and analysis

LEGAL UPDATE continued

Where an employer is considering a contractual retirement age, it should ensure that it is monitored and managed carefully so that the potential implications are known. Conversations with employees who are approaching retirement should be held in good time to ensure preparations can be made.

Salary and bonus benchmarking can breach competition rules The Competition Ordinance came into effect in December 2015 and introduced cross-sector competition law rules in Hong Kong prohibiting: agreements between businesses that have the object or effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition in Hong Kong (‘the First Conduct Rule’); and companies with market power, including monopolists, abusing their power (‘the Second Conduct Rule’). There are severe penalties for breach of either rule, including financial penalties of up to 10 per cent of annual revenues in Hong Kong for each year of infringement – up to a maximum of three years. While at first glance the exchange of salary and bonus information may be pro-competitive, as it can result in reduced costs for the company (and consequently the consumer), caution should still be exercised with this type of information exchange. If labour is viewed as a ‘market’, then it follows that employees are assets to be ‘bought’ at a price (their salary and bonus). Actions that could artificially depress the price paid by employers for their employees would be anti-competitive to the labour market, and a potential breach of the First Conduct Rule. 8

People Management Asia

Taiwan’s work-life challenge HR professionals finding innovative solutions to end long-hours culture HR professionals in Taiwan are being urged to take action to tackle a culture of overwork that experts fear is driving away talented young professionals and hindering diversity. The latest figures from the OECD suggest Taiwanese employees work an average of 2,134 hours a year, way above the OECD average of 1,771 and approaching the levels of Singapore (2,389 hours), which has the world’s longest working hours. Experts say the lack of work-life balance on the island is leading to an intergenerational schism, with younger graduates increasingly

likely to enjoy ‘working holidays’ in Europe or North America, or simply opt out of the jobs market for a time, rather than plunge straight into the world of work. Businesses are beginning to think for the first time about how they can address such issues. Under the country’s Labor Standards Act, employees are only guaranteed seven days’ annual leave in their second year of employment and none in their first 12 months. But that is changing. “Most multinationals, and also some local Taiwanese companies, give new starters at least

Employees in Taiwan complain that a culture of overwork increasingly eats into their personal lives

10 days’ annual leave,” says Linda Chen, a manager at recruitment firm Michael Page Taiwan. Taiwan’s Chinese Human Resource Management Association says some employers are now offering unpaid leave for those who wish to travel abroad for a month or more, to attract and retain more talented

Facts at your fingertips The latest CIPD research findings

Goals alone don’t boost performance Goal-setting can improve workplace performance, but it’s not always clear-cut, according to a recent CIPD report. It works best when the goals are clear, specific and challenging, while remaining achievable and applied to relatively straightforward tasks. Interestingly, the report found that, as many jobs involve complex tasks, for less predictable work unspecific

‘do your best’ goals could be more effective than clear and challenging ones. But for goalsetting to be effective, feedback – a rating or assessment – is crucial. This doesn’t necessarily mean the formal annual performance appraisal should be retained – it must be seen in a broader light, as conversations about what employees have learned and how they can improve take them mentally to a very different place to talking of achievements and results. ✶

More support needed for managing absence Despite most organisations now recognising the important role line managers play in managing absence, employers don’t always help them manage it in the most effective way, found the CIPD and Simplyhealth’s 2016 Absence Management survey of UK organisations. Compared with 2015, last year saw a decrease in the number of companies saying they

Big thinkers


The latest round-up of inspiring ideas for HR professionals

millennials. But Huang HuiYing, a Taiwanese HR manager, is among those who has opted to leave, studying an MBA in Paris after leaving a professional services firm at home. “Even when we work for a foreign employer in Taiwan, the management style is still localised,” she says, bemoaning meetings that lasted long into the evening.

train line managers in absencehandling or provide online support or a care conference with HR. “Line managers take primary responsibility for managing short-term absence in 57 per cent of organisations overall, rising to 72 per cent of the public sector,” the CIPD survey of UK HR professionals found. “Given the wide research evidence base about the importance of the line manager role in creating a great place to work, this misalignment needs to be addressed.” ✶

A strong culture doesn’t mean a rigid culture, writes business psychologist Rebecca Newton in the Harvard Business Review: “As organisational goals and strategy change over time, so too should culture be intentionally changed.” The barrier to this is often ownership of that change, which tends to end up sitting with HR, but Newton says a change in culture “is only really successful and powerful when business leaders see it as their responsibility, and see HR as a resource for helping them to achieve it”. The critical business lesson that ‘the hardest part is not to become successful – it is to stay there’, forms the basis of Rasmus Ankersen’s new book, Hunger in Paradise. Taking Nokia’s rise and fall as an example, Ankersen says that when companies become successful, they often end up fighting themselves rather than their competitors, and forget what is important to their customers. “Success and power change the perspective through which people see the world, and often in ways that are counterproductive to sustaining success,” he says. Adding a bit of science to the interview process could remove some of the variances in people’s judgements on character and lead to more effective recruitment, according to Dr Tomas ChamorroPremuzic. In an article for Fast Company, the professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University says employers can make a start by curbing the amount

of ‘chitchat’ in interviews, providing a standardised environment and process for all candidates, and focusing on a factual and data-driven evaluation of their skills, rather than trying to psychoanalyse them. Professional services firms are increasingly facing problems from clients that are so complicated no single expert could solve them, says Heidi K Gardner, fellow at Harvard Law School and former McKinsey consultant. In her new book, Smart Collaboration, Gardner says that, for these problems to be solved, specialists have to work together to integrate their separate knowledge bases and skills to devise unified solutions. “Smart collaboration is different from the mere assembly of experts’ individual pieces, after each has contributed to a ‘divide and conquer’ approach,” she says – it requires repeated interactions over time. When dealing with people, leaders need to show empathy and sensitivity, says Eduardo Braun (below). In his recently published book, People First Leadership, Braun paints a picture of the new CEO – chief emotions officer – who he believes should align people behind a vision by generating emotions such as a sense of purpose, pride and trust. To do this, a leader needs certain attributes, including humility, curiosity and the confidence to try new  things. 

McLaren Applied Technologies, Singapore

“There’s no point having a team of superstars” Being given the chance to hand pick the right mix of employees may sound like a dream scenario, but it comes with its challenges



hen you hear the name McLaren, it’s understandable if your thoughts turn immediately to a Formula 1 car. The McLaren team, founded by Bruce McLaren in 1963, remains ubiquitous in the sport to this day, but it is just one aspect of the broader McLaren Technology Group. Alongside its racing and automotive businesses, McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT) takes the knowledge, technical skills and innovative thinking that has been instrumental to the group’s successes in motorsport, and applies it to other industries. This approach has led the business into solar panels and even kit for spacecraft, as it designs andPHOTOGRAPHY builds its ownXXXXX products, WORDS XXXXXX uses its expertise for consultancy and partners strategically with other companies. Headquartered in the UK, MAT entered Singapore in 2012, where it now has around 20 people among a global workforce of 250. And Singapore’s regional director, Kok Leong Lim, isn’t stopping there: in fact, MAT has just launched its first dedicated recruitment campaign, called Apply Yourself. The organisation works with the likes of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and NASCAR, using data management, predictive analytics 10

People Management Asia

and simulations to design better products and processes. In F1, this could be the onboard telemetry (analytics) or the race strategy; with GSK, it could be about improving the way patients use asthma inhalers or digitising the supply chain. The development of the Singapore office has primarily been to support these partners, but also to expand the business’s talent pool at an international level. An electrical engineer by training, Lim says that although a lot of partnerships may begin in, or be based out of, the UK, most of the organisations McLaren works with have a global presence. As MAT was looking to expand internationally, Singapore was a strong strategic location – and, as with many multinationals, as the team grows, the reliance on head office will lessen. But building a team of highly skilled individuals from scratch brought challenges, as Lim found out. He realised early on that “we can’t just be McLaren overnight” – it was important to first learn about the market and determine what would work best. “We needed to think about what would make the Singapore office unique, but still retain the culture and ethos of the McLaren brand,” he says. Because while using the technology and expertise that McLaren has built up over the years is part of what MAT does, it’s not the whole story: “It’s the approach, the culture,

Kok Leong Lim is helping McLaren move away from its traditional background in motorsport (right)

Case study

Singapore McLaren Applied Technologies

Singapore Strait

the DNA of what makes McLaren, applying what we call a ‘data treatment approach’ to everything we do.” The fact the company works across a range of industries also posed challenges in terms of recruiting the right people and training them. “One of the first challenges was thinking about what kind of job description I am going to write and whether I should be hiring someone from a specific industry,” says Lim. “If I hire someone with specific industry expertise, and then we are working on a project in a completely different sector, could their skills be reapplied in that situation?” As time has gone by, the team has learned how to utilise people with what he calls an ‘aggregate’ skillset. “We realised we would never be able to find one person who could

employ are as good as each other – passion and attitude are more important. Now we have quite a sizeable team, one of the first things I think about is whether the applicant is going to be able to fit in with them; there is no use having an all-superstar team if you can’t win the match.” That means on-the-job training is focused on coaching staff on the way the firm works – how it looks at problems and the methods it uses to solve them. There is an element of mentoring, where more senior staff work with those who are less experienced. “We also have a secondment programme in place, so they can work on a variety of projects,” says Lim. “The team here are also working on projects from the UK, for example. It is a useful way to upskill the workforce, and it’s very motivating.” The strength of the brand helps too. The business has forged ties with government agencies such as A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) and universities to help find new recruits. “We’ve tried to tap into the existing talent pool,” says Lim. “There is a high density of high-tech companies, which makes co-location and co-innovation much easier. “We are not at a steady state yet, but we have reached some kind of critical mass enabling us to operate quite independently. The plan is to try and integrate the satellite office in Singapore with the UK. We have a constant rotation of resource that we’re sharing. Initially, we needed the injection of the skillset and talent from the UK, but now we are able to tap into our partner networks here, and the talent and skillsets here, and we are starting to add value back to the UK. At the size we are now, we are very nimble, we bring diversity and help our partners celebrate innovation, so the challenge is to maintain that as we grow.” People Management Asia



McLaren Applied Technologies

“If someone has specific industry do everything, so expertise, could we tend to hire people with diverse lied and complementary that be app skills,” he says. “The in a different skill is the given. Each of the people we sector? ”

The debate

Is engagement still HR’s holy grail?

From surveys to HR conferences, employee engagement is seen as the key measure of workplace effectiveness. But does it have real credibility? INTERVIEWS LIANA CAFOLLA

David Thomas Senior vice president and chief HR officer, Manulife Asia

It’s only one piece of the puzzle We believe strong staff engagement is crucial to our success as a business, and it is a key area of accountability within the company. Leaders at Manulife are measured for their impact across three key areas – essentially, financial success, customer experience and employee engagement. The rationale behind this structure is that a high degree of employee engagement is crucial to deliver first-rate customer experience and, ultimately, financial results. In

our view, engagement surveys offer a good, regular pulse check to the business leadership – but measuring engagement is not an HR strategy in its own right. Engagement data is always vulnerable to a lack of candour from some team members; inevitably, some staff will vote with their feet instead. We monitor a range of metrics with that in mind – regular measures of staff attrition, promotion levels, development rates and the progress of identified high-potential staff are all valuable data points to take the temperature of a group. Ultimately, none of these measures can be taken in isolation; we consciously focus on ensuring that managers

possess empathy and a good working knowledge of their teams. We see consistently strong correlation between high levels of engagement and those teams, business units and geographies that are our best performers. But engagement is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. Data, combined with experience, should drive insights and those insights should drive behavioural change – starting with the business leadership. Unless there is a genuine desire to act on engagement data, the collection exercise becomes moot.

Dr Elizabeth Martin-Chua HR consultant and adviser; author of Creating Winning SMEs

What matters is how you treat people Engagement is about discretionary effort. Employees contribute more not because they have to but because they want to. It’s about the total person being immersed in the job: the head, the heart and the gut. We can take it one step further by maximising employee effectiveness, to be more productive and creative. With the drive for a lean workforce, higher productivity


People Management Asia

and innovation, it is important for organisations of all sizes to understand that, by treating their employees differently and by involving themselves more, the outcome is not only better financial results or expansion of the business but much happier employeremployee relationships. How do we achieve employee effectiveness? By leaders and managers showing real interest in their subordinates, by coaching and mentoring them as individuals

and championing their growth. This would kick-start the process of higher productivity and greater creativity, leading to innovation of products and services. Working on engagement is just one part of a process HR should be undertaking, which includes ensuring each employee has a value match and job fit in the organisation, providing enablers and monitoring delivery of results and reward in the most appropriate manner.

Gitansh Malik Regional lead, Best Employers Asia, Aon Hewitt

Engaged people means better business results Engagement is the best medium to measure job satisfaction and commitment. An engaged employee can provide significantly more discretionary effort – ‘doing whatever it takes’ to complete tasks – and ultimately have a positive impact on business results. Our extensive global research demonstrates the power of engagement to drive business performance. It suggests that, for individual organisations, a 5 per cent increase in engagement results in 3 per cent incremental revenue growth. Companies in

the top quartile engagement range see a 4 per cent rise in incremental operating margin. Engagement measurement is paramount for any business, and higher engagement results in stronger performance. Engagement analytics is a powerful tool that organisations use to quantify the value of engagement and improve their performance. Some key engagement-linked business parameters leveraged to drive better outcomes are customer satisfaction, financial results, market share, safety and employee turnover. The cost analysis of improving engagement driver scores enables companies to intervene in areas with the highest ROI. With the onset of technology and social hyper-connectedness,

some organisations are moving towards measuring and tracking employee experience continuously through their life cycle. Such ‘continuous listening’ approaches, hinging on robust technology, cater to frequent gathering of feedback through multiple channels and taking requisite action. They typically include feedback from new employees, pulse surveys, performance discussions, exit surveys and more. But to garner maximum benefit from continuous listening strategies, leaders and practitioners need to listen to what staff are saying about the organisation and simultaneously act to have a positive impact on employee experience.

Ivy Lau Head of talent engagement and corporate social investment and co-owner, Hong Kong Broadband Network

Employees’ criticisms are more important than metrics At HKBN, we see people and culture as our competitive advantages. It is our management philosophy to prioritise talent and engage our talented people through our unique culture. We consider it our LUCA (legal unfair competitive advantage). We care about how people fit into our culture and how committed they are to our values. We want talented people to either love us or hate us. For those

who love us, they will be truly engaged and committed to our culture and our values. For those who can’t quite fit into our culture, they hate us and leave – this is both good for those who leave and for the company. We study talent effectiveness, which consists of both engagement and enablement. Enablement factors such as collaboration, training, authority and empowerment allow us to understand feedback on the work environment, which affects productivity and effectiveness. We also pay attention to culturespecific factors to see whether our

people can uphold our culture. For example, co-ownership and entrepreneurship are the key elements of our culture, so we look at the number of people who voluntarily join our co-ownership plan, which is a three-year share option scheme. While we do conduct engagement surveys regularly, we see such exercises as an open channel for talents to share their feedback. What we value most are the insights generated from these surveys and the qualitative criticisms, rather than the actual score or rating.

People Management Asia



People Management Asia



of employees say it is their employer’s responsibility to encourage health and wellbeing


Investing in employee health pays dividends in the long run. So why are so many business leaders still not convinced?

A comprehensive wellbeing scheme can lead to an average 30 per cent fewer compensation claims


A dedicated wellbeing programme can lead to an average 28 per cent reduction in sick days






People Management Asia


hey say that a bit of hard work never hurt anyone. But the evidence of exposure to a long-hours working culture suggests the very opposite is true. In Japan, devotion to the company helped build the country into an economic powerhouse as corporate foot soldiers vied with each other to put in superhuman hours of unpaid overtime. But the subsequent long-hours culture has been blamed for everything from a low birth-rate to the prevalence of stress-related illness. And last year, the concept of karoshi – death from overwork – came to international prominence with the news that official figures suggested 200 people had succumbed to it last year. Most suspected the number was conservative in the extreme.


of office workers in Singapore surveyed by Roffey Park said they face more stress than six months ago


of adult men in Malaysia classify themselves as smokers, almost exactly double the rate of Singapore


But karoshi is not a new phenomenon, or restricted to Japan. China is experiencing a surge of exhaustion-related deaths, which some experts have put at up to 600,000 per year. Stress levels are on the rise right across Asia as the issue reaches the public consciousness for the first time. “It is a well-known fact that Asian workers put in some of the longest hours in the world,” says Louis Lye, country manager for fitness wearables business Fitbit in southeast Asia. “However, we are beginning to see a shift to addressing wellness.” Partly, this is happening at a governmental level. In 2015, Japan pushed through legislation forcing employees to use their paid leave. In Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower is encouraging firms to adopt flexible working, and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair

and Progressive Employment Practices is publicising the concept of corporate wellbeing. But the more profound, and immediate, shift is coming from companies themselves, which are fed up of counting the cost of ill-health. “For a long time, there was an incorrect belief that as long as someone was not ill, that was wellbeing,” says Jochen Reb, associate professor of organisational behaviour and human resources at Singapore Management University. “Now, research is showing more and more that the absence of illness is not the same as wellbeing. Instead, individuals and organisations can take active steps towards enhancing wellbeing, and thereby productivity.” Long hours are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are a particularly illustrative example of why

of large multinationals now operate some form of corporate wellbeing programme for staff



the effects of work on individual health are so profound – and why organisations increasingly see both a moral imperative and a business case for intervening. Working just one extra hour a day increases the chances of suffering a stroke over the next eight and a half years by 10 per cent, while people who toil away for 55 hours a week raise their risk by a third, according to a recent study in medical journal The Lancet. Those who spend longer at work are also more likely to develop heart disease. It is thought that the stress of long hours can trigger biological changes in the body that, over time, can lead to chronic conditions. The stress and mental ill-health that harmful work environments can induce is one side of the wellbeing coin – if companies can put in place preventative measures that reduce the risk of harm, and react quickly when an employee is diagnosed with a condition (whether it is work-related or not), they will reap the rewards in engagement and productivity. But it is even more rewarding to encourage staff to take ownership of their physical and mental wellbeing and live healthy lives – playing into the broader idea that work can and should be a force for good in wider society. Dr Sarah Dunleavy, research adviser at CIPD Asia, points to the teachings of the 14th Dalai Lama, who said: “The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of wellbeing becomes.” HR, she says, should be the embodiment of this ideal in the business: “HR professionals have an added responsibility to safeguard the wellbeing of our organisations and the people in them. As the Dalai Lama’s quote suggests, by cultivating a culture of happiness and wellbeing, we create a strong organisation.” The starting point must be understanding what we mean by wellbeing and the reasons it is worthy of organisational investment. “Wellbeing is about more than not being

“HR has an added responsibility to safeguard the wellbeing of employees”


People Management Asia

physically sick,” says Dunleavy. “It includes physical, mental and social health.” In practical terms, she adds, that means moving away from a ‘health and safety’ mindset that sees wellbeing primarily as a compliance exercise that reduces the chances of causing harm, and instead thinking about a holistic approach to health and wellbeing in the workplace across five domains: health, work, values and principles, collective and social, and personal growth. Viewed in this way, there is no one-size-fits-all approach: an effective wellbeing strategy will meet the needs of the specific organisation. “It should be at the centre of how an organisation realises its mission, and an active part of its daily operations,” says Dunleavy. “It shouldn’t consist of one-off initiatives.” Many companies have some way to go in this regard, in common with the societies in which they operate. Asian countries ranked low compared to other regions in the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index, which attempted to measure wellbeing in its broadest sense. Singapore (97th of 145 countries) and Hong Kong (120th) in particular appeared to have considerable room for improvement.

And yet the rewards are there for the taking. A meta evaluation from the US-based Chapman Institute found that a health promotion programme of even average effectiveness could decrease employee sick leave by 25.3 per cent. Little wonder employers that are making a determined effort to implement meaningful and holistic wellbeing programmes for their staff are reporting a variety of benefits. “Ensuring the health and happiness of our employees is key to our strategy,” says Christina Chan, head of HR operations at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The club is Hong Kong’s biggest taxpayer and has around 20,000 employees. Its wellbeing programme, which was established in the 1990s, encompasses a range of strands. These include graduate training, industry-specific training, occupational safety and health measures that include ergonomic training, regular health talks by doctors and discounts on fitness wearables. The club holds more than 70 seminars a year and more than 3,000 employees join its various health schemes. It also utilises less health-focused ways of ensuring wellbeing – holding regular social gatherings where A comp wellbeinrehensive can help g strategy tackle p businesses resente eism

The ‘macho’ culture of working life was said to be a key factor when Lloyds Banking Group CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio was signed off work for stress

employees are encouraged to mingle with management, for example. “We feel it is vital that an employee feels as though their company respects them,” says Chan. “We want them to feel proud that they work for the club. In this way, we can minimise absenteeism and staff turnover and also encourage them to strive for the good of the club.” Multinationals are also increasingly proactive in this area. Google operates a widely admired mindfulness programme. Other holistic perks of working for the company include regular fitness consultations, free provision of personal trainers and canteens where each dish is colour coded according to how healthy it is. Fitbit, meanwhile, has an acclaimed internal corporate wellbeing programme, but also helps other companies harness

the power of their fitness trackers to create customised schemes. Employees use the trackers as a motivator within a reward programme or company-wide competition. A Fitbit dashboard with aggregated data can track steps, calories burned, active minutes, distance and hours of sleep. Yet there is no ‘gold standard’ for what a corporate wellbeing strategy should encompass, says Reb. “I don’t necessarily believe in a one-size-fits-all approach,” he says. “There are a number of activities and programmes that are evidence-based. Employers can provide wellbeing activities in areas such as physical exercise, healthy eating, relaxation, sleeping or emotional intelligence. They can also ensure they provide nutritious and tasty meals. Perhaps the best way is to take a kind of cafeteria-style approach and let employees pick from a range of options.”

Two of the most important questions to ask when developing a wellbeing strategy are what it should cover and how it should be implemented. The aim could be to ensure employees can get the job done productively while remaining engaged and maintaining a positive work-life balance. But the solution will probably encompass far more than just a concept of health: it means thinking about diversity, the way communication takes place and the way work is organised, to ensure people feel they have autonomy. Many of these factors are inter-related, but optimising the approach to wellbeing means thinking about them all. Does this have to be expensive? The trick is to create a strategy that works in the unique context of an organisation, no matter what its size. Initiatives such as promoting good physical and mental health, People Management Asia



“Our wellbeing strategy helps us minimise absenteeism and staff turnover”

training line managers to have difficult conversations, good line management and job design, valuing difference, enabling employee voice through communication and consultation and ensuring autonomy don’t have to carry a large price tag. If implemented in a coordinated manner, they can place wellbeing at the heart of an organisation in a way that a one-off initiative such as free fruit or an annual dinner simply can’t. Wellbeing plans can be costly to create. Large western companies spend an average of $878 per employee on wellbeing, according to a study from Fidelity Investments. “The majority of companies in Hong Kong are SMEs,” says Tracy Hiu, associate director of the human resources management programme at Hong Kong

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes is among a new generation of business leaders who have talked about the importance of encouraging wellbeing


Baptist University. “Therefore they are not able to afford much in terms of workforce wellness. Many prefer to invest money in engagement activities such as an annual dinner or a Christmas party, as it seems like a more direct and effective investment.” Yet there are always cheaper solutions, from co-opting advice from government departments and websites to forming a partnership with other businesses to reduce the cost of initiatives. A more pressing issue is privacy. Should it really fall on employers to intervene in the health matters of their staff? Hiu ascribes a laissez faire attitude towards corporate wellbeing among many companies to a perception that wellbeing should be a personal matter. When you throw in the revelation, which broke in the business press last year, that some large US-headquartered multinationals have been using ‘big data’ from wellbeing programmes to track employee pregnancies – not to mention habits such as smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise – and it’s easy to see why many have

With its variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices, it can take some time for the uninitiated to get to grips with the myriad tenets of Buddhism. Similarly, the efficacy of ‘mindfulness’ as a business tool can also take some a while to pin down. Defined as the psychological process of bringing your attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, mindfulness is a translation of the ancient term sati, a significant element in some Buddhist schools. It can be practised through meditation, breathing exercises or simply by taking some time to pause and observe the present moment as it is. While the practice can trace its roots back for millennia, it has gained phenomenal traction in western countries. Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American, adapted Buddhist teachings on mindfulness and developed the mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) programme that is widely seen as the motherlode of the modern mindfulness movement. Mindfulness is the number one health topic on most app stores. Leading mindfulness apps have been downloaded more than a million times, and organisations ranging from Google and AOL to Britain’s National Health Service have been incorporating the concept into their learning regimes. Google, in particular, is famous for bringing mindfulness meditation into its training. The most popular of its

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A comprehensive

Can you really be mindful through an app? Global businesses are embracing mindfulness, a concept that takes traditional Buddhist ideals into a corporate setting. But not everyone is sure it lives up to the hype courses for staff, Search Inside Yourself, brands itself as a workout for emotional intelligence and regularly has a waiting list stretching to six months. Yet despite its voguish appeal, the mindfulness movement – which is, to be fair, backed up by extensive evidence extolling its use in the treatment of psychological disorders and improving the focus of individuals – is not without its critics. Opinion is split on whether it is an invaluable way of focusing the mind and increasing productivity, or a wellbeing fad being used to secure and legitimise the interests of corporations. Detractors (and even many mindfulness trainers themselves) dismiss the shift towards corporatised ‘McMindfulness’, bemoaning the fact that mindfulness has now become a multibillion-dollar industry. They argue that ‘being in the moment’ offers scant relief when employees are being asked to do more with less and working long hours with increasingly heavy workloads. Adherents, however, argue that better mindfulness can help to reduce stress, anxiety and conflict, and increase resilience and emotional intelligence. They say it can also improve communication in the workplace. “In most first-world countries, stress and burnout syndrome have become the main reasons for sick days,” says Christian Carow, founder of the Mindfulness Project Thailand, a not-for-profit organisation that

aims to promote sustainable, mindful living. “Training has a proven tremendous impact on stress levels and stress regulation. It helps to identify the stresses in your work, life and mind patterns. Also, applying mindfulness on communication processes leads to a much better understanding of problematic communication patterns in team and management structures.” Although mindfulness meditation and its use in alleviating stress has been rethought in the west, the ancient art in its present form is making its way back to Asia. MBSR courses are now available in places such as Singapore and Hong Kong, and firms beyond big multinationals are adopting mindfulness principles in the workplace. “The development of conscious attention is the basis for every form of learning,” says Kirsty Campbell, wellbeing coordinator for a major international school in Phnom Penh. “Mindfulness… influences children’s learning. Practising conscious attention can be compared with tuning a musical instrument before you play it. Why should we not tune our learning instruments before we use them? In giving mindfulness a place in the curriculum, you not only stimulate learning. You also stimulate self-confidence, creativity, compassion and the executive functions.” But even those who see the practice overwhelmingly as a force for good accept that its purity can be watered down or misused. “There is indeed a resistance

to mindfulness about adapting pure Buddhist concepts and using them in different settings,” says Carow. “The concept has been watered down… and used to earn a lot of money and make it into a cheap psychological alternative. “The more serious drawback is that companies use these concepts to make their employees more stress-resistant and high-performing and turn mindfulness into a way to generate higher profits. The core of mindfulness training is to reduce suffering on an individual as well as on a social level. If it is used in an egotistical or selfish way, it can easily become manipulation.” Nevertheless, few would argue that having a stressed-out workforce is a desirable thing. And with mindfulness meditation widely recognised as an effective way of combating stress and anxiety, mindfulness is undoubtedly worth considering as part of a wellbeing strategy. “There are so many scientific studies on the downside of multitasking and rumination,” says Alan Wallace, an acclaimed author and teacher on mindfulness. “Every type of disease, whether it’s physical or psychological, will be elevated if we are stressed out. That’s where mindfulness comes in.”

“Mindfulness training has a proven tremendous impact on stress levels”

People Management Asia


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What is wellbeing?

The key factors behind the increasing interest in improving employee health – among both businesses and governments Investing in employee wellbeing ought to be a winwin for employers, bringing gains in productivity as well as demonstrating a duty of care and offering benefits to wider society. But behind the idea lies a complex web of interconnected factors. Most staff are safer at work than ever before, thanks to advances in health and safety technology and legislation. But stress and mental illhealth have become ever more important factors as the pace of business has increased in recent years, and academic thought has increasingly recognised that engaged and contented staff whose health needs are attended to work harder and are more loyal to their organisations. Wellbeing encompasses prevention of illness, the promotion of good overall

behavioural economics approach to how people make healthcare decisions. Behavioural economicsbased tactics used to ‘nudge’ employees towards better health include providing a small gift to remind recipients health and the way people in which overwork is to schedule a health check. with health conditions are undoubtedly a factor. HR Behavioural science suggests that treated by their employer. professionals, senior leaders employees are likely to want to But it is wrapped up in the and managers all have a role reciprocate. Other successful idea of ‘good work’ that is in addressing these issues. strategies include asking staff fulfilling in its own right and to commit to a certain health that puts employees’ holistic To find out more about the CIPD’s work on wellbeing, and goal such as a desired weight or wellbeing at the heart of the hear the latest thinking on the smoking cessation. way work is organised. topic at a regional event in Asia, But however you approach There is an imperative, please visit it, wellbeing is moving from an too, in the increasing cost of For more on the theory behind HR topic to one that is central absence management, and employee wellbeing, read the to business performance. “It the rise of more complex CIPD wellbeing factsheet at used to be that businesses saw mental health problems, wellbeing as a soft, fuzzy thing at best,” says Professor Sir Cary Cooper, psychologist, president concerns about the potential for helpful study, researchers found that when employees of the CIPD and one of the world’s leading advice to slip into monitoring. were encouraged to write down the date authorities on workplace wellbeing. That’s where the way wellbeing is and time of a flu vaccination there was a A turning point in this attitude came in communicated becomes important, says significantly higher participation the aftermath of the global recession, Reb: “Employers can encourage good rate than when they were when one of the driving forces in many wellness habits and offer workplace simply encouraged to get countries was the public sector, which mindfulness training programmes to a vaccination. had to act to reduce epidemic levels of help their employees become more aware. By studying which stress to increase productivity. Such awareness can lead to insights into tactics worked and “Lots of organisations in the private what negatively and positively affects which ones didn’t, sector, meanwhile, see turnover as the our wellbeing.” researchers were issue that forces them to look at this,” says This describes a ‘nudge thinking’ approach applying a Cooper. “They became so mean and lean that is far more appropriate when it comes that if they lost any more people, they simply to something as personal as wellbeing than wouldn’t be able to carry on. They a corporate diktat from on high. A 2011 needed a strategic approach to wellbeing study conducted by researchers at top Ivy – and, beyond that, they needed a League institutions in the Implementing generous wellbeing culture.” US in conjunction with rnity maternity and pate Wellbeing, in Evive Health concluded that e leave policies can mak this reading, a simple ‘nudge’ can be as a big difference to staff is simply too effective as financial incentives important – and significantly less costly. Nudge theory a topic to describes how small interventions in the ignore any environment or incentives can encourage longer. people to make better decisions. In their Embracing wellbeing initiatives can help staff cope with the modern workplace

“They needed a strategic approach to wellbeing, and a wellbeing culture”

People Management Asia


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Why is change still so difficult? GETTY IMAGES

Change is a key part of business. But to truly unpick, and alter, our rigid adherence to the status quo, we need to understand the neuroscience behind it WORDS GEORGI GYTON


People Management Asia


s there a sentence more terrifying to hear, as an employee, than: ‘You’ll be seeing a few changes around here’? Even confident, high-performing individuals can be struck dumb by the prospect of their certainty and security being overtaken by the prospect of something new, no matter how benign it turns out to be in reality. In one sense, that’s an odd reaction because – no matter how we define it – there has never been more change. Organisations open up, close their doors and alter their business models faster than ever before, abetted by globalisation, digitalisation and cut-throat competition. We are beset by restructures, office moves, changes of process and new colleagues. Yet no matter how much change we experience, it never fails to trigger a threat response. In short, where the business leaders who mandate change see an opportunity, everyone else sees danger.

Change management theory often notes research from Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, which found 70 per cent of large-scale change programmes inside organisations fail to meet their goals. His colleague, Rosabeth Moss Kanter – another of the change management world’s most respected academics – believes this is because businesses fail to plan ahead and anticipate the human factors: “The best tool for leaders of change is to understand the predictable, universal sources of resistance in each situation and then strategise around them.” You can’t always make people comfortable with change, but you can minimise their discomfort. And the key to that is to understand what’s going on in our heads when change comes knocking. “If you look at it structurally, the network of the brain that is involved in noticing changes and deciding what to do – the

“HR is the secret agent that facilitates change, but it doesn’t have to be its face”

prefrontal cortex – is one of the most energydemanding, easily tired and easily overwhelmed parts of the brain,” says Dr David Rock, director of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of the bestselling Your Brain at Work. “That means changing how we do even the simplest of tasks is a very complex process. This region is connected to every other part of the brain, and essentially works like a gating function, meaning everything slows down when you have to use it.” According to Rock, the brain tries to habituate everything it can, to avoid having to use the prefrontal cortex if possible: “Any kind of change, even using a different People Management Asia


computer, makes you slow down, so we are built to automatically detect any kind of effort as a threat and any kind of energy reduction opportunity as a reward.” But threat responses actually reduce the resources available to the prefrontal cortex at the time when you need them most – so when change comes, the act of not liking it makes it even harder to process, says Rock. And if the brain is already in a threat state, small threats seem like big threats, and even neutral occurrences can be threatening: something as simple as someone asking how you are can be taken the wrong way. That means people with a strong baseline of threat are not comfortable with change. Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, dean of the School of Management at the University of Bath, says there is a gap in people’s emotions between a significant change being announced and their acceptance of the need for change. “In that black hole of transition, people go through varying well-known emotions,” she says. “These include shock and denial, through to raging and fretting about the unfairness of being asked to change jobs, behaviours or attitudes.” At this point, the past can be seen as a paradise, she adds. “People become sentimental. They paint the past as a wondrous place where everything was good, fair or safe, whereas the future is a fearsome, uncertain destination, which they are being asked to journey towards by leaders who can easily become demonised as a result.” The art of leading change, she says, is to honour the past and its merits, while at the same time showing that the future, although different, is a continuation of that past. Of course, not everyone reacts to change in the same way. A minority thrive in a

Change – the RSA way RSA MIDDLE EAST

Aruma George, HR director at RSA Insurance, on making change work 24

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changing environment and are bored without it, while for others even being asked to swap seats can become an issue. Organisations can help level this playing field by attempting to provide a degree of certainty. Dr Richard Smith, associate dean at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University, distils this into two areas: certainty of outcome and certainty of process. “If, for example, the company is due to undergo a significant merger, saying to employees ‘stay tuned, don’t worry’ is not reassuring, as they have no idea what’s going to happen and when,” he says. “It would be better if you could say something like: ‘Although we are going through a merger, we can confirm there will not be any job losses as a result.’ “However, sometimes organisations can’t do that because they don’t know what will happen. In that instance, the best alternative is to provide certainty of process. For example, you might say: ‘While we are at the beginning of this process, we can tell you a few things about what is going to happen. By 3 January, we will have completed a conceptual design and will give you an update, and by the beginning of March we will be able to let you know what’s going to happen and when.’ That way, you lay out the certainty of the process, which people can grab on to, even if the outcome is unknown.” While it is undoubtedly important to have top-level sponsorship, design and participation should come from all levels of the company, because that provides people with a degree of control – something they ordinarily lack when faced with change. “If

Develop effective communication strategies – organisational leaders need to focus on providing insights and clarity, keeping channels of communication open and ensuring messaging is consistent. Ensure leaders are visible and accessible – it is crucial that leadership is honest, transparent and consistent in its approach during times of change. Put the customer first – change mustn’t be a reason to go back on the promise a brand gives its customers. Keep things positive despite the challenges – employees

employees can participate in the design of a new office layout, or provide feedback on a new system or process as part of a focus group, they will feel like they have more control over the situation – even if it’s a small role, it makes a difference,” says Smith. Rock synthesised his ideas about individual willingness to change in his ‘SCARF model’. “You can think about change in terms of how it’s going to affect people’s status, their sense of certainty, their sense of autonomy or control, their sense of relatedness and their perception of fairness,” he says. Thinking about which of these areas the employee will react badly to can help you counteract the reaction by creating a ‘nudge’ in a different area that will balance the negative out with a positive. For example, if an organisation is introducing an open-plan office, Rock suggests there will be a natural threat to status (particularly for individuals with their own offices) that can be offset by increasing autonomy – offering people the chance to work from home. “Our research shows that if you can identify the key threat, you can reduce it at organisational level by offering a – ideally unexpected – reward in one of the other domains,” says Rock. But with change so near-constant, giving people false hope that a calm, steady state will eventually return isn’t the best way forward, he says. Instead, businesses should focus on helping people accept the fact that constant adaptation is a normal part of life. “Any time you go from uncertainty to certainty, even in the smallest variable, you create a strong reward response,” explains Rock. “But if you don’t know if something will be a threat or a reward, it’s safer to classify it as a threat, and generally a strong threat, because in the absence of information we fear the worst.” That means communicating as much information as you can, specifically aimed at addressing areas of concern. But organisations shouldn’t simply focus on mass communication, as not all employees will have the same interests or be affected in the same way, adds Smith. “They need to be broken down by department, groups of employees, or sometimes even by key individuals, addressing ‘what’s in it for me?’” he says. It’s also essential to explain the ‘case for change’ in terms of business rationale. Claire Kolly, global HR business partner for GGO ANA and technology at Thomson Reuters in Singapore, believes the first step is to be extremely clear on the changes you want to implement and why. “From

“It’s essential people don’t contaminate the business with negative feelings”

can tell when things seem different to what they’re used to. This can also trigger a ‘fight or flight’ reaction, so recognising stress points and alleviating them will increase your chances of success. Trust employees to be a part of the process rather than just at the receiving end. Filter through the must-dos, and do them well. Identify critical talent and devise a strategy to retain them, as well as alternative strategies for replacements if necessary. Make timely interventions, and keep things simple.


my experience of change within previous organisations, if people don’t feel there is a path for them to evolve from that change and they don’t understand it, it’s a recipe for disaster,” she says. It is also wise to recognise that change can take longer for some people to come round to than others, and these individuals may need more in the way of explanation and support. A lot of the problems with change management come from poor management and leadership, but HR can help counteract that, according to Andrew Green, partner at Gallup. “Most people talk about the what and how. Where people are often in deficit is in communicating the why,” he says. “If you don’t do that, you don’t get genuine buy-in and all you can rely on is compliance. Whereas if you are going through change, you need to create ownership.” Kolly believes that the more businesses involve people in the change process, the more they will take ownership of the change. “If you only take a top-down approach – ‘this is the change and you will have to deal with it’ – you will have a lot of pushback from people or, in the best-case scenario, a lot of passivity.” Like Smith, she recommends that organisations make it clear that they welcome feedback and ideas around any planned changes, so that employees feel they have a say and the ability to shape what will happen in the future. It’s also important to sow the seeds of positivity among key people in the organisation, who will then go on to spread the word to others. For those who are vocally opposed to changes, Kolly says it’s essential they don’t “contaminate the organisation with negative feelings or comments, or undermine what’s happening”. Chris Rowley, visiting fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford University, suggests drawing on a mix of western and eastern practices: “From the west, to have a great and meaningful involvement and participation in the decision-making around any change. And from the east, to follow the underpinning of the Japanese concept of kaizen, the continuous improvement of working practices.” Is it possible to experience so much change you become permanently inured to it? Rock believes you can certainly be ‘comfortable’ with change, aided by positive emotions at work, support from colleagues and a sense that you are being treated fairly. It’s also possible for companies to become institutionally resilient, through the way they structure work and the culture they encourage. Tech businesses such as Netflix and Spotify, for example, embrace a culture of change. The latter organises its employees into cross-functional, project-based groups

Could elements of kaizen – the process improvement methodology pioneered by Toyota – help build longerterm resilience to change?

rather than formal teams, to ensure people are rotated regularly and aren’t necessarily managed by the individuals they answer to every day. LinkedIn, meanwhile, pioneered the idea of ‘tours of duty’, whereby employees take on an entirely new role every two or three years. The aim is to keep restless highfliers happy, but it also makes it much easier for the organisation to change course. Kolly says it’s important to try to embed the idea that change is constant into the mindset of a company. “We are living in an environment that evolves very quickly, and you hardly have time to get over one change before another comes along,” she says. “Organisations will always have to change, to look at things differently and approach things in new ways, otherwise they will become outdated very quickly.” But changes don’t always have to be big, she says: “Just thinking about how you evolve the tools you are using, and the way you are working, can encourage people to be more agile, so that when there are bigger changes coming people don’t see them as such a threat, as they are used to adapting themselves on a day-to-day basis.” Green adds: “The best organisations are changing all the time. They build the capability not just to be resilient but to be adaptable – they build change into their default.” HR’s role in change management is an integral one, particularly in coaching managers on how to navigate their staff through the process. “To me, HR is the secret agent that really helps facilitate change, but it is not necessarily out in

front of the employees,” says Smith. “HR professionals need to help management because, although we assume people know how to lead and manage, when it comes to changes, often managers don’t know what to do and they are not going to ask. That means it’s essential HR has a solid understanding of some of the change management fundamentals.” Kolly agrees: “In the early stages, HR is key to ensuring senior and middle management are onboard with the change, and that they are informed and comfortable enough to take ownership of it and pass on the message to their teams.” Depending on the size of the business, involving staff in workshops on change may also be beneficial, she says. Change is easiest of all, of course, when it is positive. But even change borne out of misfortune can avoid falling into Kotter’s 70 per cent. The key might be to avoid thinking of it as change: with so little staying the same, telling people they are undergoing a formal change is not just bad for their brains, it’s probably self-evident. Rock, for one, says it’s time to normalise change rather than call it out: “There is a big move for companies to develop more of a growth mindset and to think more deeply about the science of change, which is exciting to see. There is a lot to learn from the science, which will allow us to move through change better.” Change, in this reading, needn’t be something to fear – in fact, with a helping hand from science, we could even learn to love it. ✶ Read the Transformational change: theory and practice report from the CIPD:

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HR professionals are being targeted by fake profiles and email scams – but they’re also a vital part of the fightback against the army of cyber criminals WORDS JENS KASTNER


People Management Asia


he high-stakes cyber espionage that allegedly took place around November’s US election could have been scripted by Hollywood. Most data breaches, of course, never make it on to the evening news, let alone on to the floor of Congress. But if HR professionals believe cybersecurity is someone else’s business, it’s time to think again. A survey conducted by Grant Thornton found Asia-Pacific businesses lost $81.3bn to cybercrime in the year to September 2015. According to Deloitte’s Cyber Vulnerability Index, Asian companies are particularly vulnerable, with Singapore and South Korea topping the index of targets. From denial-of-service attacks to Trojan programmes that monitor computer use (not to mention theft of identities and intellectual property), it’s employees who are increasingly seen as both the most vulnerable part of an organisation and the first line of defence against criminals. There is also a fear that HR professionals themselves could be targeted. “If we look at HR, the most obvious threat [from cyber attackers] is that they are most likely the part of the company that has all the personal details of people who either work for the organisation or are applying to work there – and they’re likely to have these people’s banking details as well,” says Neil J Walsh, chief of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s organised crime and illicit trafficking branch. “If I, as an HR executive, have all these details on my computer, and I am connected to a server, I am more likely to be targeted by cyber criminals than those in other parts of the business.” A typical attack, Walsh says, would see a criminal sending an HR professional an email designed to look as though it came from a senior colleague. The aim is for them to unknowingly allow the email to compromise the IT system; for example, via an attachment containing malware soft ware. There is also a growing trend for people to receive requests to connect from fake LinkedIn profiles: the new ‘connection’ will then send a file or encourage their target to visit a website containing malware. Martijn Schouten, director of people and organisation at


st her n kedIn she’s st to cost s illions

PwC South East Asian Consulting, says HR professionals’ extended access to applications and systems makes them “definite” targets for cyber criminals. And the proliferation of social media usage in the workplace only heightens the risk because it puts a greater amount of personal information in the public domain. According to Walsh, “a CEO who frequently posts on Facebook where he likes his sushi and when he will come back from the next business trip is a particularly easy [target] for social engineering by a cyber criminal”. Professor Sonny Lo, an expert on crime at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, says employees’ use of smartphones and tablets during overseas business trips poses a particular risk, “given that cybercrime is of an inherently cross-border nature”.  While organisations’ awareness is undoubtedly still lacking, Lo lauds the deepening cross-border cooperation by law enforcement agencies in the China region in recent years, including links between the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and even Taiwan. This cooperation, which includes intelligence sharing, has become a pressing issue, with police reporting many crimes involving mainland Chinese and Taiwanese telecom fraudsters targeting Chinese citizens by creating profiles for fake government officials, bank clerks and other executives. The resulting fake emails can pressure the victim into transferring a large amount of money to a different jurisdiction in a very short period of time. HR executives in Taiwan and Vietnam report that awareness of scams such as phishing emails and fraudulent password acquisition remains low. “Companies and

HR should issue clear instructions for good cyber hygiene, not least because there is rampant underground trade in addresses and telephone numbers secretly obtained through online activities,” says Stefan Ewers, Ho Chi Minh City-based associate partner at law firm Rödl & Partner. “This is usually not seen as cybercrime in Vietnam, but as a kind of ‘guerrilla marketing’.” Singapore is a salient example of how business and government can fight back. In April 2015, the Singaporean government established the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore to coordinate national efforts in cybersecurity. The city state also has other initiatives, including the National Cyber Security Masterplan 2018, which reinforces the country’s cybersecurity programmes. It is designed to boost cooperation and information sharing on cybercrime threats affecting both companies and individuals. Does HR have a role to play in such far-reaching matters? Without doubt, say the experts. Prevention of cybercrime cannot be seen as a compliance issue – it is a cultural change programme HR should be championing and embedding into recruitment processes, onboarding and performance management. HR should also be aware that demand for new cyber specialists outweighs supply, with rapid evolution of technology leading to a skills gap where the available expertise has fallen behind the changing threat landscape. Schouten says The US presidential HR teams need to be election reportedly proactive about the fell victim to cyber attacks issue. “And similarly, cybersecurity teams need to reach out to functions like HR to educate them and prepare them for what may come; it is crucial for organisations to have active awareness programmes that ensure employees are familiar with the cybersecurity threats and policies,” he says. If cybercrime isn’t on your organisational radar now, it certainly won’t be far off.  

“A CEO who posts on Facebook where he likes his sushi is an easy target”

People Management Asia



“The ‘soft’ side of the business is the part that drives results” Goldman Sachs’ leadership development guru, Merche del Valle, on making her way to the top, and how HR can become key to performance INTERVIEW KATE WHITEHEAD PHOTOGRAPHY ISAAC LAWRENCE


rom financial trader and money market dealer to head of a leadership development group may not seem like the most natural of career moves but, for Merche del Valle, realising that people issues were key to business success led her down a slightly different path. On top of a background in economics and business administration, del Valle has built up more than 15 years’ experience in roles related to human capital – even if not all of them meant working within an HR department. Beginning her career as a corporate treasury officer at PwC, she went on to work at Unilever and Prudential Corporation Asia, before leaving her post as head of talent and leadership at the latter in February 2016 to join Goldman Sachs Asia-Pacific as head of its exclusive leadership development group, Pine Street.

the conversation. Even when planning the relocation of treasury centres to other parts of the world, HR was never in the room.

As an initial observer of HR practice, what insights did you glean? I realised early on that some of the HR practitioners in the departments I worked in were very operational, but not necessarily tactical. The way HR departments were structured did not always lend themselves to practitioners being able to play a very big role in terms of driving business results. Although the processes were in place to ensure the management of people was a priority for the organisation, when I was dealing with clients at PwC, HR was never involved in

You moved to Asia almost 10 years ago. How have you found HR practice differs here from in the UK? One of the things that struck me about Asia was that some of the companies had more advanced HR practices than in London. I think this is because there seems to be more of a willingness to learn and expand your knowledge. During my last few years working in the UK, I found it difficult to work with people at C-suite level on investing in their own growth – they had already made it to the top, so why should they? In Asia, I noticed


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How did you discover your strengths in the people side of business? I have always had an interest in people, and no matter what the role, I am always asking questions like: ‘Where are these people best placed to be effective within the organisation?’ During my early career, I realised I was getting better returns and rates because of my relationship management skills and my sensitivity about people issues. It always fascinated me that something that was typically dismissed as the soft side of business was actually driving results. I saw the light at that moment, and realised I wanted to invest my time in the development of human capital for the benefit of business.

“We are told we should get a seat at the table – but we’re already doing those things ” there was more humility about leadership development: it is viewed as a lifelong journey. People are enthused to learn and do things differently. What frustrates you about the profession, and where could it improve? You often hear at HR conferences that we have to ‘get our seat at the table’ and speak the same language as the CFO, but sometimes those statements annoy me as they assume we are not already doing those things. Having said that,

HR departments don’t always have a good understanding of the overall mission of their business. You can work in a department for 20 years and not understand what the business strategy is – that’s scary. HR needs to fully understand the strategy in order to lead. When I recruit people, they have to have a business background. Something I don’t see enough of is the transfer of skills and information through teams; too often, it stays with the head of HR. We could do a lot more to help those people at the lower levels grow. The natural thing in Asia is to follow and respect hierarchy – it’s important in this society – but it’s crucial to strike a balance between following your leader and allowing time and space for others’ creativity. How important is it that HR understands the full scope of a business’s goals? HR can continue to execute salary payments and hire and develop people without understanding the business goals, but that’s not going to deliver results – it’s simply carrying out a necessary function for the company to operate. To be more strategic, we need to become a little more flexible, including the way in which people are allowed to work. We also need to be close to the mission of the business and think about the long term; for example, what talent we need now and what we will need in the future. Are companies guilty of focusing too much on the short term? We are sometimes so focused on achieving results that we’re not thinking longer term. For me, it’s not just about building leaders, it’s about building leadership into an organisation, so that, if you take one person out, the team doesn’t collapse. Flying solo is not good for anyone. It’s important to recruit people who could do a better job than you pretty much straight away. How should businesses handle millennial employees? People keep saying that millennials are different and that we need to manage them differently, but I don’t believe they are. I had the same passion when I was that age – I wanted to grow, learn and have attention and exposure. We tend to view millennials as different because we are looking at them from where we are now, so of course they are different. I think we are too focused on understanding the differences; instead, we should look at understanding the commonalities. People Management Asia



Your quarterly run-through of essential skills, with expert commentary


People Management Asia


Why proximity matters

“It's prudent to prepare for more resistance to change than you initially imagined"




The average office move ticks all the boxes required to induce panic in employees. There’s the unfamiliarity of new surroundings, the potential for your place in the pecking order to be threatened and the sheer uncertainty about what’s going to happen next. Throw in the fact that many office moves aren’t just about a change of venue – they’re likely to be aligned to changes in processes or IT systems too – and it’s vital to consider how you deal with the human factors involved. The first and most common mistake with relocations is not involving HR from the outset. If a move is led by the facilities team or IT, it’s unlikely you will be considering some of the most important aspects early on – the impact of the move on wellbeing, the ability to optimise performance and opportunities for collaboration, for example. It’s also unlikely enough thought will be given to communication: telling people what’s Christine Bruckner: HR happening, must communicate with staff from the outset when and why makes all the difference, as does actively listening to their concerns and suggestions. Dr Christine Bruckner, Hong Kongbased director of global design and

architecture firm M Moser Associates, “Above all, the best advice, which says HR has to communicate we give ourselves as well, is to listen with employees from actively and respond effectively. the outset. She advises It’s essential that the office is identifying ‘champions’ treated as an important business within the business who tool and that it is understood can help deliver key that investment in the office, messages and garner if done correctly, has just feedback from employees, as much impact as the right as well as setting up a task computer paired with the force to run the project right software.” and taking note of issues This runs counter to the such as staff concerns, trend seen among many larger HR should be practical coordination businesses for ‘showpiece’ involved in every and scheduling as part of offices that contain play areas, aspect of a move a broader risk assessment. juice bars and even slides. While “It is always prudent to be prepared there might be value in incorporating for more resistance to change than elements of fun at you initially imagined,” says Bruckner. work, and making employees feel more welcomed, comfortable and creative, there’s also considerable evidence that many Harvard University research found that ‘gimmick’ elements engineers who shared a physical office were of office design 20 per cent more likely to stay in touch with each other digitally, which led to projects being are significantly completed 32 per cent quicker underused. And, of course, installing a fussball table is Face to face very little help if employees are stressed because of the working conditions, or feel they aren’t being listened to. “People first, buildings second,” Email stresses Bruckner. “The focus of interior architectural workplace design is ultimately creating the right work environment in which people Allen curve can reach and exceed their own potential, work optimally, experience overall health, comfort and wellbeing, More Less Physical distance and ensure the continued and future success of the business.” SOURCE: HARVARD UNIVERSITY



Make your office move a success

The Knowledge


Reduce your timeto-hire

putting candidates through an extended interview process. It tests their desire to work for the company.” One easy way to streamline the process, he suggests, is to coordinate the diaries of interviewers more effectively: “Many interviews are one on one, Finding the right balance between and spaced two to three weeks apart. the need to fill a job vacancy quickly However, if you can get two or three and ensuring all the boxes have been interviewers to block out their diaries on ticked in the search to find the right the same day in consecutive hours, you person is a recurring conundrum for are able to complete the first few stages recruiters. The problem is particularly of the interview process in one day.” acute when hiring a specialist, You might also consider or where the war for talent is moving part of the process especially fierce. online – if assessments are The cost of a bad hire is, required, these could be hosted of course, also a significant on an online platform and could reason for taking your time, take place before interviews. and surveys from various And pre-planning interviews sectors have shown businesses to ensure feedback is are pickier than ever before. shared effectively between Grant Torrens: you can't always hold out Google was at one point interviewers can also avoid for the perfect fit averaging 20 interviews for duplication of effort. each engineering candidate Perhaps the most it recruited, though it now admits effective way to reduce your time to hire, this was excessive. But Grant Torrens, however, is to back away from the need business director at Hays in Singapore, to find the ‘perfect fit’ for each role. If says: “Companies have their reasons for skills are scarce or your employer brand Foxconn chief Terry Gou hired 20,000 people in a month when his company was rushing to complete iPhone 6 orders

Risk-averse recruiters Average time taken to fill a position








is lacking, it may be more sensible to hire someone with the right attributes and attitudes to develop into the role, even if they lack the exact experience or qualifications you were hoping for. “If there are a lot of candidates actively searching for a new position, you can afford to be more specific in your requirements,” says Torrens. “But holding out for a 100 per cent perfect fit in a tight candidate market could mean you will never fill the position. “If there is a candidate shortage in a skill or competency that can be trained or nurtured in a short period of time, it may make commercial sense to hire that person rather than wait until the perfect match arrives.” Consider, too, that in the rush to find the right candidate in the market, you could easily overlook your existing employees: could one of them be retrained or given a new opportunity, even if it doesn’t seem like an immediately obvious option? People Management Asia


Many HR professionals start the day with a familiar groan when they sign into their email account and see how many messages they have to deal with. It’s a common problem, says Cyrille Jégu, the Shanghai-based managing director of consultancy ThrivinAsia, not least because the number of emails being sent continues to increase even as other technologies such as instant messaging become popular among business users. “Often, we’re not focused,” says Jégu. “We move from one email to the next without making a decision about what to do.” If that sounds familiar, take heart: there are several simple steps you can take to clear out your inbox and keep it under control. The first step is to decide that you will handle each email only once. “Decide what to do straight away,” says Jégu. And remember that the delete button is your friend, he adds. If the email needs immediate action that you can complete in less than two minutes, either send a quick reply or forward it to someone else for action. If it’s not as urgent, either delete it, file it for reference and later reading, or file for later action (perhaps in a ‘reply’ folder or in your calendar, if a specific deadline is involved). For HR professionals, these deadlines could be linked to project goals, such as ‘new positions filled’ or ‘probation completed’. Many people set themselves targets of getting down to zero emails once a day, or at least once a week. But for those with serious backlogs of more

“It's a big relief – the pressure goes down immediately when email is under control”


People Management Asia

At the beginning of his first term as president, Barack Obama told his mail team he would like to read 10 letters a day – the White House typically received 10,000

than 1,000 messages, Jégu suggests putting everything that has arrived after a certain date – for example, three months ago or more – into an archive folder. You may never do anything with these emails, but they will be out of your inbox and you will still have access to them in case of need. Then go through the remaining emails one by one, starting with the most recent, and make an immediate decision about what to do with each one.

The growth of email Almost half of all email users are in the AsiaPacific region; Europe (22 per cent) and North America (14 per cent) lag far behind 143 billion business emails are sent every day, up from 89 billion in 2012

89bn 2012

143bn 2016

Jégu has helped many people empty their mailboxes and says it is a huge stress-buster when they see it is possible to do. “You cannot imagine the relief they feel,” he says. “The pressure goes down immediately when email is under control.” To help keep your mailbox under permanent control, it’s worth unsubscribing Cyrille Jégu: don't forget the delete from mailing lists button is your friend where possible, setting filters to organise incoming mail by sender or company to help prioritise responses, or creating rules to send certain emails direct to a particular folder automatically so that they don’t clutter your inbox. There are also cultural changes you can introduce into your routine that will help: walking over to speak to a colleague about a problem can avoid getting drawn into a long email chain with them, while switching to instant messaging technology for those you communicate with most frequently can also encourage more efficient conversations.



Cut down on email overload

The Knowledge


Explain the value of HR to your CEO

Enlightened businesses are acutely aware of the difference an empowered HR department can make to the bottom line – by ensuring employees are engaged and optimised, corporate values are realistic and understood, recruitment and workforce planning needs are attended to and the organisation has a strong strategic view on where it is going and the people who will get it there. But if HR doesn’t have regular access to the very top of the organisation, it’s possible that the CEO may not understand what the function is delivering, or what it is capable of. Charles Caldwell, HR director at the English Schools Foundation in Hong Kong and a consultant and futurist who has worked with a range of businesses, suggests there are three key ways to address this imbalance. And they all start with having a strong grip on data. First, make your CEO aware of external trends in your sector. “One trend might be rising attrition or changing demographics within an industry that could be signalling a potential future shortage of available talent,” says Caldwell. “Another could be the shifting technology landscape for talent acquisition.” Next, demonstrate in-depth knowledge of employee trends your leaders may be unaware of. “There are many traditional people metrics that companies measure, but HR professionals need to be creative

“If you can tell a CEO why these people are leaving, they will take notice of HR's value”

about looking at deeper metrics,” says Many businesses today are listening Caldwell. “For example, a traditional not just to staff surveys but also to metric is attrition, but you could internal social networks, look deeper and break down says Caldwell. They are the attrition into years of building complex pictures tenure, or even revenue of the real ‘influencers’ generated. A statistic such within organisations as ‘10 per cent of the sales who solve problems, people we lost in the last generate revenue or reduce year generated 40 per cent attrition. By feeding into of the company’s revenue such information, HR from the previous year’ departments can revolutionise could be material. If the statistic the way they think about succession is significant, and you can tell planning and broader talent a CEO why these people are management. By studying leaving, they are likely to Finally, HR professionals deeper metrics, HR sit up and take notice not need deep insights into professionals can help companies curb only of the statistic, but of how business strategy high levels of attrition HR’s value.” and results connect to people, as well as a granular knowledge of how the business operates. Caldwell cites his past experience with a company that had increasing sales quotas but severe attrition, with most new sales staff leaving after 85% less than 18 months: “It was obvious there was a problem and it was even more obvious where the problem sat. But no one wanted to confront it.” Proportion of southeast Asian businesses that After intense study of attrition and believe people analytics are ‘important’ or ‘very tenure data, Caldwell predicted that 93 important’ – the highest rate in the world sales people would leave the following year. He spent the next nine months interviewing staff to find out why 32% they were leaving, then showed the management team the year-to-date attrition. He was almost exactly right: 92 individuals had left. Global companies that feel they have “Fortunately, this the technical capability to handle was a show stopper for people analytics the executive team,” he says. “Huge efforts were made to arrest % 8 attrition and within 6 to 12 months Charles Caldwell: HR it had dropped can transform the way dramatically. firms manage talent However, none of Global businesses that say they are capable this would have been of creating predictive models relating to possible without data analytics and their employees creating a compelling, believable story SOURCE: DELOITTE out of the data.” 

Grappling with data

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Finding the right coach for your needs is essential for a successful experience

Coaching is a recognised technique buyers have highlighted that consumers in the development of individuals’ are becoming more diligent in their performance, as skills and knowledge are enquiries. It is perfectly acceptable to ask deepened and goals are set. But choosing about coaching qualifications (ILM Level a coach who can help you achieve those 7, for example, is a highly recognised goals is one of the most crucial aspects programme), the number of coaching of the process – and one of the easiest hours undertaken, supervision to overlook. arrangements and membership of First, before you embark on the a professional body such as the process of selecting a coach, you International Society of Qualified need to ensure you are clear about Coaches or the International the outcome you are looking Coach Federation. for. That is the most frequent Good coaches will include cause of disappointment or, the client in the design of the at worst, failure. If you are contract that will regulate not clear what the ultimate their contractual relationship: Judith Barton aim of the coaching is, it will setting the boundaries; Founder and be almost impossible to set specifying the roles of both director of coaching any meaningful matrices to parties; and describing the and mentoring at the British School measure its success. What is methodology to be used. The of Coaching it you want to achieve? What critical aspect of the contract needs to change? What do you is confidentiality – this should need the support of the coach for? Does be discussed and the parameters agreed the coach need to have wider skills or with you. If there is an organisational knowledge to draw on? sponsor, they are likely to want to be Determining the purpose of the involved in this discussion. All parties coaching can also help decide the type of coach required – for example, a business, leadership or executive coach, to name a few. Don’t hesitate to ask the prospective coach to ‘pitch’ and explain how they define coaching, the type of coaching they undertake and what their particular label means. You might want to ask about a coach’s background and experience, or ask them to describe coaching interventions they have been involved in (beware, at this point, if they break confidentiality by naming individual clients) and the tools and methods they use. At present, coaching is an unregulated industry and anyone can describe themselves as a coach. Recent surveys of HR professionals and other coaching 34 People Management Asia

should be clear – before the start of any coaching assignment – on what is to be shared with whom, and for what purpose. A coaching assignment should also, of course, have a beginning, middle and end. While it is impossible to predict at the outset the number of sessions necessary, it should be possible to make progress in three coaching sessions. Refining your initial desired outcome is more often than not the focus of the first session. Think, too, about environment – can the coaching session take place away from your place of work, which signals that a special time and space is being created for coaching? And finally, it is critical for any organisation or individual to recognise that coaching takes time. Before hiring a coach, ask yourself if you are prepared to protect the time to allow the session to be as successful as possible. If not, consider the signals it may send to the organisation – and how it might minimise the impact of your investment. Before hiring a coach, it’s important to establish what you’re hoping to achieve

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