Insights on Human Resource

By Darrius Tan

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 3 August 2021, Advisory organised a Discovery+ online panel: Discovery+: Human Resource. On our panel that evening, we were privileged to have experienced professionals from academia, government and corporations. The panel consisted of Ms Preet Grewal (Moderator), Head of Inclusion and Diversity, JAPAC at Twitter; Mr Alvin Goh, Executive Director at the Singapore Human Resources Institute; Ms Ong Chin Yin, Chief People Officer, Grab; Mr Soon Eng Sing, Senior Vice President, Human Resource & Organisation, GIC, Ms Helen Lim-Yang, Senior Vice President, Head of Learning Academy, Frasers Property Limited and Ms Low Peck Kem, Chief HR Officer & Advisor (Workforce Development), Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office. Our registered participants comprised students from various education levels and institutions with a common curiosity in human resource, and what they can do to better stead themselves in entering and staying relevant as a player.

Certainly! A number of our speakers shared that they came from fields such as engineering, finance, psychology, business and consultancy before entering this industry. A panelist also shared that her HR team consists of individuals from diverse fields, such as marketing and communications, which has grown in importance. As more and more companies are increasingly recognising the importance of developing human capital, many talents from different industries are joining the industry as well. 

Human Resources requires multifaceted skill sets, and is a wide and deep field spanning across many different industries. In short, as long as HR personnel can utilise data effectively and have critical thinking and design systems skills, they can be effective at their job, regardless of their educational background.

In short, Human Resource (HR) is about managing the most important asset that a company may have — its people — and finding new ways to unlock their potential. This includes finding ways to better engage employees, develop leaders and organisations, and formulate a positive working culture, amongst other tasks. There are a diverse group of functions covered within each HR team. Some HR analysts study data to make sense of training efficacy and the effectiveness of recruitment and retention strategies. There are also HR personnel in front-end and back-end roles, and operational or strategic roles. 

In today’s world, HR personnel deal with various types of challenges, including tackling issues pertaining to what the future of the workplace may possibly look like, especially in an era where rapid advancement in workplace technologies are changing the needs of the labour force quickly. For instance, maintaining a specific corporate culture during COVID-19, where many work from home, is a challenge. 

In addition, diversity inclusion has taken on a new importance, especially in companies with transnational teams. This is because employees have become more cognisant of its importance, and teams can consist of employees from different countries and working cultures. Furthermore, protecting employees’ mental wellness has taken on greater prominence. 

Lastly, increasing engagement between business leaders and employees is important because employees would like their voices to be heard. In the Singapore context, HR personnel need to balance the needs of various stakeholders, such as unions, business leaders and employees when designing workplace policies, because these stakeholders are all essential for the success of a business.

There are several hard and soft skill sets which are especially important in Human Resource (HR). One such skill is business acumen, because it is important to come from an outside-in approach, and add value for business partners so that the business leaders succeed as much as possible. 

Tech-savviness is another important skill, because the workplace is increasingly intertwined with technology, and technological expertise is key to unlocking growth and productivity. For instance, virtual productivity tools can help to increase the ease of working for employees. E-learning, which allows employees to learn new skills outside the office, has also become even more mainstream in the last few years. 

Out-of-box thinking is also critical for success, as it allows firms and teams which do not go by the traditional norms to devise new solutions and innovate. This can in turn massively increase economic and employee potential. 

Additionally, HR personnel should be people-centred, and be genuinely interested in developing people. As a panelist shared, “Don’t do HR for doing HR”. Having a human touch to your work is something employees enjoy. This is especially important in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, where work-from-home has largely compromised on the people-to-people interactions that employees used to have. In short, HR personnel should also be able to synthesise data with behavioural economics so as to unlock an employee’s potential; looking at statistics while understanding why employees tend to act in a certain way will help HR personnel to develop more effective strategies.

Pushing for a more competency-based Human Resource (HR) management system, as opposed to one based on qualifications or title, increases the likelihood that employees will be matched to jobs that best tap on their strengths. For instance, the Singapore Public Service uses Artificial Intelligence to sieve out candidates who are best suited for a position, after candidates share about their skills and competencies at Careers@Gov. Additionally, organisations can make provisions for employees from various backgrounds, such as the hearing or visually impaired during the Video CV process for interviews. This can also help to  make the hiring process more inclusive.

One should know one’s strengths and passions, and should not go for a position because it has an appealing title or a higher pay. In the long-term, one should instead go for a job that can amplify one’s strengths, because one will more likely succeed at what he or she is doing while enjoying the learning process. Apart from that, skills development courses can also help to upgrade one’s skill sets and increase one’s effectiveness at the job.