By Natalie Koh
The Discovery+ Series is a series of events, delivered through online digital solutions, which give students the chance to speak directly with working professionals, and learn about careers they aspire to enter. Given the developments in the COVID-19 situation, Advisory is keen to provide support to the many students who are experiencing woes in this time of disruptions, by digitalising professional mentorship.
On 5 May 2020, Advisory organised a Discovery+ online panel on Human Capital. We had the privilege to host Brandon Lee, Group Director, Transformation Support Group, Workforce Singapore; Bianca Stringuini, Head of Inclusion, Community and Wellbeing (APAC), Visa; and Rahul Daswani, Head, People and Culture, Open Government Products, Govtech. The session was moderated by Anastasia Shamgunova, HR Director (APAC), Kaspersky Lab. In the Human Resource (HR) industry, there is much talk about trends among the different generations in the global workforce, and how people approach planning their career based on what is important to them. HR’s job is to adjust and bring value to organisations in order to attract youths to their companies.
OECD defines human capital as the knowledge, skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services, ideas in market circumstances. In Brandon’s eyes, human capital is “what makes things go round”. Individuals’ skills, experience, motivation, aspirations and resources bring to reality companies’ plans and visions. Regardless of the nature of an organisation, an important role of HR is to maintain a unified culture in the organisation, which ultimately influences its behaviour and output as well.
Firstly, HR ensures that people are a good fit for their jobs, in order to best accomplish the organisation’s mission. This may involve using technology such as algorithmic searching to quickly find the most suitable applicants.
Secondly, HR builds the appropriate infrastructure for people to best accomplish their work. For example, anonymous channels of feedback are important to ensure clear and transparent communication, allowing organisations to efficiently handle performance management.
Finally, HR ensures employees’ continued learning and growth. This is part of keeping people in the organisation — if they are unable to grow in their organisation, they are more likely to leave to seek new learning opportunities. For example, despite being in a non-technical role, Rahul was encouraged to learn to code and automate simple structures like team updates despite there being many other engineers who could complete these tasks promptly. Such windows of learning with both institutional and cultural support help people to become the best versions of themselves possible, and when HR is able to provide these, both employees and the organisation will grow.
All speakers in the panel happened to come from completely different areas of expertise and were transferred into HR. HR is generally a field that welcomes talent from different fields of study; the skill set of a HR professional consists of both skills specific to HR and skills transferable across different disciplines. Some technical aspects are undoubtedly involved in the job, like determining compensation and benefits.
Nevertheless, one’s underlying principles are almost as, if not more, important than the technical skills involved in the HR job. One important attitude of a good HR professional is that he must love people. At the end of the day, HR deals with real people and the many issues that may arise between them — ranging from solving interpersonal conflicts to maintaining team morale. To pick up the necessary skills for HR, one must be motivated by a simple love for humans that HR professionals collaborate with on a daily basis.
Finally, the richness of a career is also determined by its breadth. Many good business leaders have some form of HR experience amidst working in other sectors of their business. HR is a dynamic job, with different challenges popping up each day, and there is something new to be learnt every day.
To find out more about HR work, resources are available from organisations like the Institute for Human Resource Professionals and SkillsFuture Singapore.
Firstly, HR is crucial for organisations to effectively change directions. Besides organisational willingness to pivot, HR plays the important role of shifting the right resources and personnel to take on the right jobs. HR is also essential in visualising the long-term timeline for new products with their knowledge of resource allocation patterns.
Secondly, HR is important in developing and changing organisational processes. One key example is performance management, where equity must be maintained. HR also needs to make these processes as efficient as possible, through harnessing technology or other means.
An in-house HR professional would definitely have greater insight on the trends the organisation is likely to follow as compared to an external consultant. This insider knowledge is especially helpful for ironing out the details of implementing changes. However, external consultants may be able to provide a third-party perspective as well as a benchmark for realistic courses of action as pursued by other organisations, since they have access to those trends and information as well.
There are many recent developments that are going to affect the HR profession. One prominent example is the invention of AI, there is the question of the extent to which robots can take over humans’ work. It is possible that some jobs that people dislike can be taken over by robots, and humans can take over jobs like programming and adding new features to the robots.
In the immediate future, HR must also hinge upon technology to accomplish its objectives more efficiently, be it in employment, developing infrastructure, or developing organisations’ members. This could come from more efficiently filtering out applicants to find the best choices.
Locally, HR should also be concerned with making careers more sustainable for people, helping companies provide not just the essentials but also things like sufficient payment, hygiene at work, and medical benefits. Furthermore, organisations can also look at insourcing talent and building up their own talent base.
At the end of the day, when HR can build up better infrastructure for organisations, they will be able to provide more sustainable jobs and improve lives.
Attracting people is just one part of the job; making people stay is more important. A company that is not diverse but inclusive is probably going to be boring, but a company that is diverse in its hiring but not inclusive is probably going to be chaotic. Focusing on creating an environment that retains and develops talents is much more important for leveraging upon people’s unique personalities and perspectives. Having a system that accounts for everyone’s perspective is a precondition for having the voices of minority groups heard, and for effectively hinging upon individuals’ strengths for a stronger collective.
As with any job, an attitude of curiosity and openness to new ideas is paramount. Keep asking questions, and you will get to better understand how the organisation works and what you are interested in. Keep asking questions, and you will find new, more efficient ways to tackle tasks on the job. Technical skills such as analytics and coaching are helpful, but there is no need for one to get a degree in them. Getting qualifications like business degrees are helpful for one to appreciate the nuances of their business, but not a prerequisite to do a HR job well. Practical work experience is much more valuable than knowing business theory well. Finally, listening to people is a very important skill that is difficult to acquire — listening to everyone’s different opinions and embracing them.
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 translates into a challenging economic situation that everyone is struggling with, but the government is doing its best to help people retain and find jobs. There are still companies that are hiring, as can be seen on platforms like MyCareersFuture, but of course some companies may be more reluctant to hire permanent staff at this point of time. Some temporary jobs include SGUnited traineeships, and even if the jobs are not permanent, they do give some experience and entry points into the market — stepping stones to a long-term career for jobseekers.