Resilience, remote work and rewards: HR issues for 2022

HRD Asia Awards sheds light on what leaders can expect heading into the New Year

Resilience, remote work and rewards: HR issues for 2022

Late last year, HRD Awards Asia returned with much fanfare this year following the overwhelming success of its inaugural instalment. HRD saw a surge of submissions from HR teams across the region and countless inspiring stories of resilience. As part of the process, HRD caught up with industry leaders, awards winners, and judges to debate and discuss the issues we believe will be coming to the fore in 2022.

Building resilient HR teams

Developing resilience has been key to combat the unique set of challenges that came our way over the past few months. This was even more critical for HR teams expected to continue holding the fort in the ongoing people-centred crisis. Workplace resilience levels were already low in 2020 according to a study by ADP, so HR heads had to double down their efforts in 2021 to ensure the organisation pushed through another long year.

According to ADP, resilience levels varied widely by country. India (32%) and Singapore (19%) for instance noted higher levels of resilience in the global list. Other Asian nations surveyed were much lower on the list – Japan at 12% and China at 11%, with South Korea and Taiwan both reporting just 8% resilience in their workforces.

Being in harder-hit industries like hospitality and tourism was even tougher on HR teams. This didn’t stop companies like Seda Hotels, Philippines from their sweeping wins at the HRD Awards Asia 2021 (HRAA). SEDA hotels won in the Employer of Choice and Best Health & Wellbeing Program categories. The well-deserved win was due to the HR team’s laser-focused commitment on their purpose at the organisation.

“Resiliency really is part and parcel of the job of an HR, especially in the hotel industry,” said Wilma Estaura, group director of HR at Ayaland Hotels and Resorts Corporation, which is the parent organisation of SEDA hotels. “You have to be selfless with your time. You have to be there all the time and think of ways to give back to the people and how to be resilient. If your mission really is for the people first, I think you won’t go wrong.”

A winner in the HR Team of the Year category, DANA Indonesia, shared the same focus. “During troubling times such as the COVID-19 period, HR is expected to serve as the organisation’s change catalyst,” said Lisa Mufrisno, head of people culture, strategy & employer branding at DANA Indonesia. “Raising awareness about the [business] mission to the HR team and how critical it is for the role to be executed well is essential in instilling motivation and a sense of purpose within the team during this difficult time.”

Engaging employees in a hybrid world

Furthermore, building team resilience was critical to sustain engagement levels across the organisation – a tricky task in today’s ever-changing world of work. The upside of 2021 was the positive stats around the impact of hybrid workplace arrangements. A study by Qualtrics found that hybrid working led to the most benefits in areas like wellbeing and engagement. Respondents reported a 10% rise in their ability to be customer focused in a hybrid environment. This was compared to being either in the office or remote full-time.

Regardless, challenges abound while managing engagement the past year. Mufrisno still considered the task a tough balancing act through 2021. “The biggest challenge was ensuring that DANA was able to maintain peak productivity while still having that human connection,” Mufrisno said. “This, without taking away people’s autonomy or flexibility around working arrangements.”

The HR team at another multi-award-winning organisation, edotco Group, overcame engagement challenges by focusing on a top-down strategy. The group also won in the HR team of the Year and Best Reward & Recognition Program categories, with additional excellence awards in two other areas. Their success at HRAA was likely attributed to having engaging leadership as a core pillar. This had a widespread effect across the multi-country organisation. “Another thing we did was to constantly drive high performance and enable a ‘championship mindset’,” said Ramon Chelvarajasingam, chief people officer at edotco Group. The team frequently reviewed their progress to ensure everyone was engaged in the same end goal: world-class business success. “COVID has just been a slight distraction,” he added. “Maybe you’re struggling a little bit but pick yourself up and refocus on the ‘world championship’.”

Retaining wellbeing as a top priority

Engagement aside, 2021 has shown that the struggle continues to be real for many individuals. A study by Wunderman Thompson found that almost one in four employees suffered bouts of anxiety and depression in the prolonged pandemic. Others said they’ve been struggling with an increased sense of isolation (13%) and the inevitable loss of privacy or personal space (9%) since they started working from home.

“While 2020 and 2021 offered its own set of challenges in HR, the number one is of course mental health issues and employee wellbeing,” said Wilma Estaura. Employees continued to experience high levels of uncertainty in areas like job and financial security. “They’re always asking us if the hotels would close or if there’d be more job opportunities [or hotel] duties scheduled,” Estaura said. This was why leaders kept employee wellbeing top of mind and focused on taking care of their people, even if it meant contacting them frequently to ensure staff were safe and feeling okay wherever they’re located.

This focus on wellbeing was shared by HR leaders in all industries, as many understood the debilitating impact on extended remote working arrangements. “People need to keep the balance between working life and personal life,” said Lisa Mufrisno at DANA, a financial services company. “When working from home, the boundaries between working and non-working hours are blurred. Failure to honour such boundaries can cause burnout and mental health issues.”

A culture of compassion

Therefore, it was vital to enable empathy and compassion across the workforce. Authenticity was also essential for employees to believe that leaders and colleagues were being genuine. “They know if you are sincere – they can feel it,” said Estaura. “They know if you are really taking good care of them. As a head of HR, you should always be authentic.” She believes that if leaders and teammates shared a genuine compassion for each other, companies would have a higher chance of retaining employees.

Additionally, a World Economic Forum study found employees’ increasing desire for emotional intelligence and intuition in their leaders. If a business was keen on unlocking commitment and creativity in their team members, research has shown that leaders are best focused on demonstrating their ability to be ‘truly human’, showing compassion, humility, and openness at work.

2022 and beyond

All in all, when asked what HR leaders were most looking forward to in the new year, the answer was unanimous: the digitalisation of HR. The pandemic gave HR teams the chance to accelerate their digitalisation journeys, so leaders are hoping to see continued momentum. “In 2022, what we’re looking at is the digitalisation [of processes] around us,” said Estaura. This includes in areas like employee engagement as well as training and development. Mufrisno, on the other hand, would like to utilise more technology in HR’s decision-making process and hope it’ll keep the organisation churning out people-centric solutions. “HR should automate and utilise more AI in decision making,” Mufrisno said. “Automation in employee listening tools can ensure HR practices remain relevant in the fast-changing world.”

Take a look at our Awards commemorative guide here.

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