Building an employee-first workplace culture a priority for CHROs in 2023

June 4, 2023

HRM Asia's CHRO Series Malaysia 2022 took a deep dive into topics such as employee wellbeing, HR transformation, and workforce optimisation.

Organisations are faced with several challenges today, from winning the war for talent to bridging the skills gap and adapting to a changing work environment. What then, are the strategies CHROs can employing to help their organisations address these issues?

In his keynote address to kick off CHRO Series Malaysia, Andrew Pereira, CEO, General Assembly Malaysia, identified three key elements to building an adaptable organisation. The first step is to broaden the extent to which work flexibility can be achieved by increasing the level of connections and engagements at work, as well as having leaders who walk the talk on this issue. Investing in skills development is the next step. Finally, designing wellbeing as a wellbeing architect, involves training managers as frontliners and introducing wellness nudges to promote health and wellbeing in an organisation.

When it comes to addressing employee experience gaps, the advice Mallory Loone, Co-Founder, Work Inspires, offered to delegates was to focus on daily progression rather seeking perfection. She shared with delegates two case studies, one of which involved a culture revamp for an insurance company. The company sought to achieve better workplace culture in action by releasing employee engagement results in townhall meetings, diversifying its culture team, assessing the DNA of each department, holding dialogues with employees, and turning problems into action standards. As a result of these efforts, the company has been able to categorise departments into levels and create actionable standards that are tailored to each level, while remaining realistic with its culture goals.

Culture is everyone’s responsibility and is primarily driven by the behaviours and performance of leadership, shared Rob Squires, VP Regional Head, Asia and Japan, Ceridian.

He explained, “HR leaders have an opportunity to cement their custodial ownership role and create a culture of continuous value creation in the workforce. By emphasising the importance of customer and employee experience, the culture of the organisation will evolve and derive greater value.”

According to Squires, culture value creation encompasses three main components, namely diversity, sustainability, and behaviour. An organisation’s success and legacy lie in its ability to maintain an engaged and high-performing workforce, he said, and organisations that embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion are more likely to achieve market leadership.

“Ways of working and expectations on performance are critical characteristics that shape company culture. By clearly defining the expectations of behaviour at all levels of the workforce, culture can be shaped accordingly,” he added.

As the workplace landscape changes, more emphasis is now being placed on HR as organisations are finding it increasingly challenging to retain their employees. Hence, how HR leaders can create a humanised, sustainable employee health model to improve retention while promoting wellbeing in a hybrid work age was the question Simon Benjamin, President, Malaysia Institute of Human Resource Management, posed at a panel discussion that included Eddie Lee, HR Consultant (Chief People Officer), Mewah Group and Executive Director, ASEAN Human Development Organisation (AHDO), and Koljit Singh, Human Resources Director, APAC, Flexsys Malaysia.

Focus and demonstrate care to your employees was Koljit’s advice to delegates, as he explained, “Besides strategies on employee development and growth, we also take into consideration economic aspects. We work with these models and incorporate elements that will make our employees feel cared for. It is imperative that we position our initiatives from the management with care.”

Workforce optimisation is a journey to a more ready and resilient workforce and begins with a foundation of digitising workforce operations, said Pannie Sia, General Manager, and Tom Haythorn, Head of Solution Consulting, ASEAN, Workday.

As organisations navigate the new world of work, Workday combines the efficiency of an automated workforce management platform with an agile, skills-based approach, allowing them to adjust to unpredictable times, react to change, and capitalise on new opportunities when they arise. The platform provides HR, finance, operations, and payroll with insight into workforce capabilities that allow them to different roles and locations according to their skill set.

Aziz Jameran, Head of Group Human Resources Division, Ranhill Group, elaborated on his organisation’s partnership with Ramco to futureproof its employee system. He explained that Ranhill was seeking a comprehensive system with end-to-end information management functions to increase HR administrative efficiency across the organisation. A centralised HR system, Ranhill Employee System (RES), was implemented as a result of the partnership with Ramco. This system is accessible 24/7 via the cloud and supported by mobile apps to make work more flexible, and enhance workflows, communications, efficiency, and productivity for employees.

Beyond the pandemic, talent management will play a vital role in the future of work, and how organisations view and manage talent needs to change, suggested Fong Tuan Chen, Senior Executive Vice President (Group Human Capital), Maybank.

He explained, “Talent management processes no longer include creating a list of critical roles. Previously, some organisations might begin their talent hunt with a list of critical decisions that must be made by this role, then search for the talent who will make those decisions. However, this is already presuming a critical role will increase critical talent. It is not necessary. Talent management should start with identifying the critical talent first. The position can be discussed separately.”

Adrian Seligman, Executive Board Member, Top Employers Institute, presented findings from the company’s World of Work Trends Report 2022 in which “unleashing the potential of the involved employee” was identified as the top trend of the year.

According to the report, 83% of top employers involve their employees in the design of organisation and work. Seligman explained, “High levels of employee engagement alone will no longer be enough for an organisation to prosper. In a highly competitive market for talent, the best employees will also need to be deeply immersed in shaping the design of their roles, the factors affecting their performance, and the purpose of their work.”

How are CHROs in Malaysia prioritising Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) in their organisation? This was the question posed by Dr Bob Aubrey, Founder and Chair of the Advisory Board, ASEAN Human Development Organisation (AHDO) to Maybank’s Fong during a fireside chat.

In Fong’s opinion, the environmental and governance aspects of ESG will become more prominent. The question, however, lies in the social aspect, as he pointed out that organisations need to better understand how this component will evolve and which part will remain the same.

He continued, “My definition of the social aspect in ESG is more than just social equality but social equity. Equality can be perfect, but that does not equate to equity. Hence, will ESG be driven by HR? I believe that this is a much bigger issue than HR, far beyond its scope. This issue will involve organisations, NGOs, politics, government, and non-government agencies, and more.”

To address the challenges of disengaged employees and an ever-widening skills gap, Mike Warren, RVP Sales, Asia Pacific, Docebo, said that an employee-driven approach to skills learning is needed; otherwise, employees might not be engaged.

Warren described a purely top-down skills strategy as being “too slow and too cumbersome”. Instead, learning and development (L&D) and talent must create an environment where business areas and individual learners can shape their own skills journey. Having an employee-driven approach empowers employees to drive their own development and gives them the tools to manage their career progression, he added.  

Increasing complexities in the workplace require organisations to employ new levels of business agility and workforce resilience to remain competitive. For organisations to achieve their full potential, Olivier Pestel, VP, Solutions Group, Cornerstone OnDemand, recommends looking to technology and artificial intelligence (AI) for new opportunities for employee growth and engagement.

To this end, the company offers the Cornerstone Talent Experience Platform that is designed to unlock the potential of the workforce while providing organisations with a holistic, engaging, and comprehensive people experience. The platform features three main experiences, namely People Growth Experience, an AI-powered Intelligent Tech Fabric, and Learning and Talent Management to offer organisations learning and talent management capabilities.

Rounding up a successful CHRO Series Malaysia was a panel discussion that focuses on people strategies organisations should embrace as the country moves beyond the pandemic era.

Moderated by Dr Siti Rohani Md Yusof, CEO/Principal Consultant, Innovation Global Network, the session was joined by Sugunah Verumandy, Head of Human Resource, HSBC Bank Malaysia, and Nadiah Tan Abdullah, Chief Human Resources Officer, SP Setia, highlighting some of the best practices for being successful in the HR field in 2023.

Tan elaborated on her LEADS strategy, in which L represents Leadership, E is for Expectations and Employees, A is for Adaptation, D stands for Development and Digitalisation, and S is Strength.

“Clearly, post-pandemic has presented us with many new trends. Leadership now plays an important role in the organisation. It must be inspiring and demonstrate empathy. In addition, it is critical for us as HR leaders to ensure that what we state is reflected in our actions as employees now have different expectations of their leaders,” she said.

As organisations continue to plan their strategies to navigate the new paradigm of people and work in 2023, join HRM Asia at HR Tech Festival Asia 2023, which is taking place from May 10-11.

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