Speakers express the need for companies to rethink their people strategies
A total of 150 human resources specialists, people managers and corporate leaders attended the Classified Post HR Conference 2014 on December 18 to receive the latest insights on the profession's most topical issues from a number of thought-provoking speakers.
Held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Admiralty, the conference featured presentations from David Goldsmith, New York University professor and author of Paid to Think: A Leader's Toolkit for Redefining Your Future; Catherine Ng, lecturer at the University of Hong Kong's Institute for China Business; and Margaret Cheng, vice-president of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management and group head of HR at Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.
The morning started with coffee and refreshments, before guests were invited into the hotel ballroom to be welcomed by Alex Ho, general manager of the recruitment and education, and circulation and syndication businesses at South China Morning Post Publishers. "The 'strategic' element of HR has gone beyond improved recruitment measures and the introduction of data analytics," he said in his opening address. "That is why the top players now need to make the next step up."
Goldsmith then took to the stage to deliver a vibrant presentation on "Building effective leadership through human resource development". Drawing on his own model for enterprise thinking - featuring 12 separate building blocks such as "leading the charge", "selling continuously" and "enhancing global awareness" - he explained how "HR has to stop being HR … digital breaks down traditional HR roles".
Goldsmith also described how success in the 21st century depended on empowering others. "Are you giving them to the tools to succeed?" he asked.
Ng drew on her rich experience as an executive coach in the mainland to talk on "Managing human capital trends and challenges in Greater China". She showed how Maslow's hierarchy of needs has been flipped in the mainland's workplaces, with "self-actualisation" the guiding factor for younger workers' motivation. She also explained how guanxi - the traditional way of doing business based on personal relationships - is being usurped by the rise of digital business.
She cited the example of how the jealousy of "Leo", a sales and marketing vice-president in a traditional business unit, towards the digital business CEO was overcome by effective goal-setting and greater understanding. "You need to help people become effective leaders through self-management to face the challenges of mainland China," she said.
Following a short break for refreshments and networking, Cheng delved deeper into the issues surrounding the interaction between baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z in her presentation "Creating opportunities out of a multi-generational workforce".
She explained how each generation brings different skills and talents to the table, and how combining these talents - such as by mixing the technical and social networking skills of young employees with the interpersonal skills built up by more mature professionals - can ensure an effective workplace.
To do this, it is essential to foster collaboration, she said. "Break down internal silos so that employees from different functional areas and with different skill sets have an opportunity to work with each other."
A panel discussion on how leaders can use HR to engage diverse teams and different generations in an increasingly digital world rounded out the morning's schedule.
Goldsmith, Ng and Cheng started by giving their insights on the digital tools that are having the biggest impact on the workplace, and how leaders and their HR departments could ensure that each individual was fully engaged by such tools. They then discussed the main challenges leaders face in this quest for multi-level digital engagement, before turning to how HR on a global level can overcome engagement disparities across diverse populations and locations.
More than 40 conference-goers then attended a leadership luncheon, where they got to discuss issues highlighted during the conference with five executive trainers. This comprised Goldman and Ng, together with Asha Sridhar, leadership and organisational consultant; Dr Rhoda Yuen, a seasoned psychologist and corporate trainer; and Tan Chew Yen, a fellow member trainer of the International Association of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming).
Conference participant Paul Lyons, co-founder of recruitment firm Ambition, said the event made him question his leadership beliefs and practices, reaffirming some and re-engineering others. "As an HR practitioner in a varied and dynamic profession, one of the perennial challenges is staying up to date with the latest trends, locally and globally. So I was very happy to attend the conference, where the speakers gave the audience plenty of positive and thought-provoking ideas to consider.
"I would recommend to HR managers and directors the benefits of attending future conferences."