Snapshots of the Annual Conference and Exhibition 2022
Conference Explored the Scope of What Comes Next for a Re-energised HR Function
Centred on the theme of “Revitalising HR”, the Annual Conference and Exhibition 2022 – a flag event of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) – equipped participants with useful insights on top-of-mind topics while helping them to recharge their batteries.
The conference provided a lens into the changing world of work and what it means for the HR function as they prepare and develop talent management strategies for a future that is increasingly hard to predict.
As a major initiative of the Institute’s 45th anniversary celebrations, the conference was designed for HR practitioners at all levels to connect and share ideas about the trends, challenges and opportunities shaping the future of work. With the agenda packed full of presentations, discussion panels and interactive sessions featuring influential speakers, inspirational HR practitioners, C-suite business leaders and professionals from non-HR backgrounds, there were ample opportunities for delegates to be inspired by personal development tips and actionable takeaways. Adding a new dimension to the flagship event, the HKIHRM HR Excellence Awards Ceremony 2021/22 also took place during the conference.
In his welcoming remarks, Lawrence Hung, President of HKIHRM, stressed that developing and advancing human capital is of crucial importance to sustaining Hong Kong’s continuing success and competitiveness. Amidst challenges including economic uncertainty, skills shortages and talent outflow, Hung was confident the HR profession could play a vital role in effectively turning challenges into opportunities, while at the same time, creating a compelling narrative to attract and retain talents.
“As it has done for the past 45 years, the Institute will keep on supporting members while collaborating with employers and employees to overcome current and future challenges. We will also continue to look for ways to expand the frontiers of co-operation with the government and relevant authorities for the benefit of members and the wider Hong Kong community,” Hung stated.
Oscar event of the Hong Kong HR community
Praising the HKIHRM Conference and Exhibition as the “Oscar event of the Hong Kong HR community”, Ayesha Macpherson Lau, Chairman of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority and Guest-of-Honour of the event emphasised that on all fronts, HR management is the backbone of Hong Kong’s development. She complimented the HKIHRM on making a significant contribution to enhancing the professional standards of HR practices in Hong Kong during the past 45 years. With Hong Kong businesses facing unprecedented human capital challenges arising from COVID-19, Lau noted HR practitioners have a crucial role to play in helping employers to identify, hire and retain talents. “Fortunately, Hong Kong is blessed with world-class HR practitioners who have spared no effort in offering innovative ideas to help employers attract talents in this difficult time,” she told the participants.
Lightbulb session illuminated emerging insights
During the lightbulb session of the event, internationally renowned HR thought leader, researcher, and analyst Josh Bersin explained in his keynote speech how the COVID-19 pandemic had prompted fundamental changes in people’s mind about themselves and work and how the concept of “Irresistible-by-Design” can help organisations with their talent management strategies. Speaking by video link from the US, Bersin noted “Irresistible-by-Design” focuses on organisations designing work around the desires, skills and aspirations of its workforce. The aim, he said, is to build an employee-centric culture where shared values and attitudes – in particular trust – can inspire the incumbent workforce and attract the best job candidates. He added that “Irresistible-by-Design” is closely linked to branding, which defines an organisation’s identity and provides the scaffolding to form its mission while giving employees at all levels a sense of identity and purpose in their work.
Bersin went on to say that, hastened by the pandemic, the demand for human-centric or “soft” skills can be expected to continue to intensify as the operating models of organisations transition from traditional to tech-driven and service-oriented. The reason, Bersin explained, is while companies progressively rely on technology, they increasingly depend on human traits for designing, marketing and communication. “There are no machines or technologies that can perform these tasks as effectively as humans can,” Bersin noted.
During a Q&A session with Nathan Khan, Head of Partnerships, Hong Kong and Taiwan LinkedIn, Bersin provided tips to revitalise HR. He advocated investing in the HR function through professional development, job rotation and career support initiatives. HR practitioners should also learn about every aspect of the organisation and industry in which they work and be prepared to proactively adapt. Bersin also highlighted the importance of HR practitioners keeping a sold grip on utilising technology, keeping data up to date and ensuring they understand how to use information technology systems.
The elevated importance of the people leader role
In the wake of the pandemic as organisations focus on bouncing back, the panellists taking part in the CXO Boardroom session unanimously agreed the new world of work had set in motion an exciting but challenging time for the HR function. According to the panellists – who represented a diverse range of industry sectors – as the intersection between management and staff, more than ever, the HR function needs to operate on a more strategic and specific level. For example, while organisations are in the process of adapting to the reality of talent shortages and hybrid/remote workforce management, the HR function is tasked with identifying talent management solutions to achieve business strategies while keeping staff engaged, satisfied and productive. Defined as delivering an end-to-end “employee experience” that enhances the quality of life for workers and their families, the sentiment echoed throughout the conference.
In response to a question that asked them to consider the priorities necessary to revitalise the HR function, the panellists highlighted the importance of communication and storytelling. With digital communication platforms creating both positive and negative outcomes, they stressed that it was crucial to communicate the right message to the right employee at the right time, especially around the topic of employee well-being. As HR is dealing with people, the panellists said showing genuine concern for employee well-being needs to be a central tenet in any HR strategy to build a resilient workforce. This involves engaging the workforce, listening to feedback and improving policies and practices, including creating communication channels for staff to speak with managers about issues they may be facing.
Reimagining leadership values
With the post-COVID reshaped world of work becoming a recurring discussion point at this year’s conference, young professionals participating in the future leaders panel touched on topics relevant to the future of work, especially when the constraints of the pandemic are removed. The panellists indicated that from an employee perspective, experiences gained from adjusting to the destabilising effects of the pandemic could be used as a catalyst to focus on an organisation’s purpose, meaning and value. This could include the opportunity to re-imagine processes and practices that no longer serve the workforce and replace them with more human-centric solutions. Instead of rigid people processes, the future leaders suggested focusing on results and less on how they are achieved. This means valuing and integrating the perspectives and contributions of different groups of employees and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to contribute their own unique perspective.
The panellists agreed when it comes to taking on leadership responsibilities, attention should be placed on attributes such as communication skills, co-ordination and teamwork, rather than years of service. They further explained how the HR function, being dedicated to supporting the growth and development of managerial skills among the workforce, could facilitate hands-on experience that enable future leaders to develop skills from outside of their comfort zone.
The panellists also emphasised the need for emotional intelligence if visionary leaders are to make sure their goals are achievable, and their decisions receive support. As explained by the panellists, when coupled with active listening, empathetic leaders are in a stronger position to turn their vision into an actionable plan.
Ending a day of insightful presentations and discussions full of useful advice, Kris Lui and Jenny Pong, co-chairpersons of the HKIHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition 2022 Organising Committee gave their closing remarks and hoped delegates had been energised and revitalised by the event, whether on a personal or professional level, in readying themselves for the next big step.
Fireside Chat: Achieving a High-return Investment on Life
A popular attraction of the HKIHRM Annual Conference, the Fireside Chat featured social entrepreneur, Ricky Yu, CEO and Founder of Light Be, a social enterprise that provides alternative housing solutions.
Light Be is the first social housing enterprise in Hong Kong that aims to unlock human potential and lift families out of short-term poverty by providing them with affordable homes.
In a Fireside Chat with Kris Lui, Co-chairperson of the HKIHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition 2022 Organising Committee, Ricky Yu, spoke about what motivated him to seek purpose and meaning in his life and the sense of fulfillment he receives from helping families to overcome socio-economic challenges. While some people find pleasure in travel, buying a bigger home or even owing a private airplane, Yu said his satisfaction comes from pursuing what he described as “a high-return investment on his life”.
In 2010, impelled by a strong urge to do something more “impact-driven” with his life, Yu quitted his successful career as a top executive with a multinational firm. On his own admission, with little knowledge and even less experience, in the world’s most expensive housing market, Yu hit on the unlikely concept of convincing Hong Kong property owners to rent out their properties at below market rates to provide affordable homes to help lift families out of short-term poverty. In spite of any initial misgivings, 12 years later, not only have hundreds of families benefited from the Light Be project by becoming less dependent on government welfare, but many have also thrived by developing themselves. “We have a success rate of about 80%,” Yu confirmed.
He explained that across Hong Kong, Light Be – the name is simplified from “let there be light” – collaborates with property owners to provide tenants with accommodation, referred to as “Light Homes”, at below-market rents for a period of up to three years. Light Be’s tenants, who are referred to the organisation by social workers, come from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, such as victims of domestic abuse or social isolation and those lacking opportunities to achieve upward mobility. “The aim is to give the tenants time to put their lives back on track, for example, looking for stable employment, so that they can climb out of the poverty trap,” Yu said. Property owners benefit from collaborating with Light Be through assurance that their properties are managed under a well-organised system and that the impact they contribute to makes a difference to people facing real challenges.
In addition to being provided with an affordable home, tenants are offered career, family and financial guidance support. With assistance from Light Home Managers, who make monthly checks on their progress, each tenant family develops and work towards a key performance indicator plan that includes personal life skills and upward mobility goals. “We treat the tenants as students, who learn how to develop themselves, and then they ‘graduate’. It’s like a degree course,” Yu said.
Although it may not seem immediately obvious, Yu noted how HR practices and Light Be’s objectives share similarities through their focus on people-centric activities. “Light Be invests in human potential,” Yu noted. Similar to the way the HR function supports personal and career development objectives, Light Be’s operating model empowers people to build resilience and seek personal development avenues. Offering advice to HR practitioners at a time when many employees in Hong Kong are facing financial and career uncertainties, Yu said it is important to pay attention to employee well-being, especially staff in the lower salary bracket that are sometimes “invisible”, especially within large organisations.