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The HR industry is now two years into a global pandemic, and if the challenges of 2020 and beyond have proved anything, it’s that businesses can’t afford to lack innovation.
With the priorities ranging from health and wellbeing to recruitment, technology and rewards structures, the HR industry’s push towards tech and innovation has been in overdrive. While 2020 was characterised by a transition to virtual technology and remote working, the last 12 months have seen employers step back and take another look at their values, their branding, and the type of employee experience they want to create. They have re-evaluated their benefits packages, strengthened their diversity and inclusion strategies, and focused on ensuring strong career development and training pathways.
The Innovative HR Teams 2022 survey focused on initiatives conducted throughout the past 12 months. Nominees were asked to reflect on a range of areas, and to detail their bold, forward-thinking strategies to deal with the new wave of challenges facing HR.
The 2022 winners list features companies across a broad range of industries, spanning eight different countries. It includes companies in operation for under 10 years, as well as established companies with a 100-plus-year history in the region. This year’s winners have all embraced the need for innovation and change and have developed some truly creative initiatives to face the HR challenges of the modern world.
“We could easily have been wiped out [during the pandemic], but thanks to the vision, culture and resilience of our people, we’ve emerged as a survivor and a strong contender to change the future of travel going forward”
Cary Shek, Klook
In 2020 the pandemic forced businesses to push their tech strategies forward in a major way, and while the ‘technological revolution’ of 2020 still persists, the focus has now moved away from pure business survival.
Creating a healthy, happy and engaged workforce was a major theme of submissions for the Innovative HR Teams list in 2022. Most of the winners started by re-examining the core values and purpose of their business and considering how best to enable their employees to connect with this purpose.
One of these winners is travel tech company Klook, which began as a start-up eight years ago and now has over 1,000 employees. People and culture VP Cary Shek highlights the challenges of running a travel business during a pandemic, and says Klook’s focus on innovation, core values and employee care has enabled it to come out thriving.
“The pandemic was an unprecedented global event that saw borders close and travel come to a halt,” Shek says. “We could easily have been wiped out, but thanks to the vision, culture and resilience of our people, we’ve emerged as a survivor and a strong contender to change the future of travel going forward.
“In 2021, we launched new Core Beliefs to take us into the future,” Shek explains. “PATH (Push boundaries, Ask for and give feedback, Take ownership and Help each other) was born after hours of employee focus groups, leadership interviews and ideation. It’s not just a poster on the wall. Following the launch, we also had workshops and leadership training, and we focused on employee wellness.”
Spirits company Beam Suntory also took time to refresh its brand and mission statement in 2021 and is planning to refine this further in 2022 to reflect its “values, employees and diverse cultural experience”.
Senior director, global learning and change Ilja Rijnen says reflecting Eastern and Western culture was an important aspect of this process and helped inform the values that the organisation would seek to demonstrate going forward.
“Our unique East-meets-West culture at Beam Suntory sets us apart and brings us the best aspects of both,” Rijnen says.
“We incorporate the Eastern qualities of taking a long-term view, sustainable care and a harmonious blend of nature and people, and Western traits such as agility, flexibility and transparent communication.
“We are looking to combine the best of our past and present, give our employees a chance to dream big and pursue ambitious objectives, and to build a stronger future.”
“We are looking to combine the best of our past and present, give our employees a chance to dream big and pursue ambitious objectives, and to build a stronger future”
Ilja Rijnen, Beam Suntory
Since the dawn of the pandemic, HR teams have had to introduce innovation into every aspect of their work. This evolved from virtual Zoom drinks to online training, collaboration and learning opportunities, and companies are now looking at how to combine remote management with upskilling and career growth.
According to Intel HR manager Salina Lim, understanding which people play a key part in the social fabric of your organisation is valuable in driving change. Throughout 2021, Intel Asia’s HR team launched a Social Networking Analysis (SNA), which surveyed over 450 employees to identify key ‘influencers’ in the organisation. She says this analysis has helped improve collaboration, skill development and adaptation to change, and was used to inform ‘gig’ assignments that have helped employees develop new skills and build their “innovation muscles”.
“The ‘gigging’ has become a new preferred way of learning and has expanded as a way of life in the organisation,” Lim says.
“Building on the insights from the SNA, our team used gigging to improve collaboration, while also tackling employees’ needs to develop new skills and expand their networks. This allowed the organisation to tackle unaddressed problems and build our innovation muscles through these gig assignments.”
Enhancing technological capabilities has been more of a challenge for some sectors than others, and according to winner Singlife with Aviva, the insurance industry has often struggled with being “sufficiently digitally engaged”.
Following the 2020 merger of Singlife with Aviva, the new company’s Group Head of People, Ms Vicky Chai, says that there was a need for employees to foster a digital mindset to effectively drive change and innovation within the organization.
“We introduced a mobile-based social learning approach to support our people development agenda. This achieved stellar results with more than 67% of our organisation (900-plus employees) spending an average of 36 minutes per week actively upskilling. Based on a poll conducted, 95% of the respondents gained new knowledge and perspectives, and 84% saw an improvement of overall work performance.” Chai says.
“Our team used ‘gigging’ to improve collaboration, while also tackling employees’ needs to develop new skills and expand their networks. This allowed the organisation to tackle unaddressed problems and build our innovation muscles”
Salina Lim, Intel
As organisations consider what they want to achieve over the next year, the 2022 submissions have made one thing clear: employee wellness is going to be front and centre of HR strategy.
The pressures of the Great Resignation have forced companies to re-evaluate rewards structures and benefits, and to ensure they have strong support systems in place. With employees looking for the best deal they can find, the competition is tough, and the need for innovation will remain sky high.
Initiatives over the past year have included Aboitiz Group’s ‘power-down hour’, which blocks out calendars between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to provide employees with an undisturbed hour-long break. Several of this year’s winners brought in health experts and conducted webinars on COVID-19 and vaccination, while others expanded their parental support and leave policies, increased support for differently abled employees, and strengthened their focus on diversity and inclusion training.
The Innovative HR Teams 2022 submissions reflect an outstanding level of progress, creativity and innovation in Asia’s HR sector – a trend that will no doubt continue into next year and beyond. HRD Asia extends huge congratulations to this year’s winning teams, and we look forward to reading about the challenges and new initiatives you will bring forward in the coming year.
The Innovative HR Teams 2022 report recognises teams that are breaking boundaries to move the HR industry forward, whether by taking a progressive approach to recruitment, introducing new technology, or rolling out a groundbreaking reward and recognition strategy. The report offers HR teams a unique benchmarking opportunity to see how their initiatives compare with those of the profession at large.
Readers were invited to nominate HR teams who were agile, bold and forward-thinking in their people strategies. Nominators were encouraged to focus on a broad range of areas, including talent management, diversity and inclusion, health and wellness, and HR technology. Entries were expected to largely focus on initiatives introduced and results achieved in 2021.
HRD Asia objectively assessed each entry for detailed information, true innovation and proven success, and benchmarked them against the other entries to determine this year’s winners.