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The HR Summit & Expo Hong Kong 2016 brings business leaders together to share innovative ideas

The skills needed by employees of the future are changing, as are their expectations of the rewards and satisfaction they get from work.

Everything from the type of benefits and wellness programmes on offer, to an organisation’s social responsibility and moral conscience, will come into play when choosing to join or stay with an employer.

Unsurprisingly, the competition organisations face when it comes to recruiting, retaining and engaging the best and brightest is growing all the time.

To help today’s human resources professionals navigate this fast-changing landscape, the HR Summit & Expo HK 2016 will bring together a host of top business leaders and HR experts to share not only their experience, but also some of the latest and most innovative ideas.

This inaugural event, held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 12 and 13 and featuring more than 25 speakers, will explore the future of work and leadership at a time when best business management and HR practices seem to be in a state of constant evolution.

The summit’s plenary speaker will be Tom Mehrmann, chief executive of Ocean Park. Under his leadership, the company has seen a huge expansion in visitor numbers and the size of its workforce. Mehrmann will share the company’s experience with acquiring and retaining young talent, particularly in the face of competition from Disneyland Hong Kong.

Ocean Park’s fortunes had been on the wane before Mehrmann took over as CEO in 2004. Working together with staff and Allan Zeman, the chairman of Ocean Park, he came up with a redevelopment plan.

“At that time, we could definitely invest further in building bigger facilities and greater rides,” he explains. “But we also needed capable staff, who I consider as the software to drive the hardware.”

One challenge was to ensure new hires, who did not know much about the park, were sufficiently engaged. “We needed to communicate and deliver an employment value proposition to them, to help them realise that they actually have a lot of opportunities here and we will help them grow.”

Sharing the lessons he has learned in more extreme circumstances will be Rob Lilwall – adventurer, author and motivational speaker. Lilwall’s theme will be change management in a complex business environment.

“Going on adventures is just like walking through life,” he points out. “From time to time, we have to face our fears.”

Lilwall draws parallels between handling change within an organisation and climbing a mountain in strong winds; it’s a matter of finding answers to questions.

“When we face obstacles, no matter at work or on an expedition, we should treat toughness as a challenge – but not a problem,” he advises.

“We need to have a positive mindset, take good care of ourselves and focus on the goals, which are always the motivation for us to move on. And, if necessary, we should ask for help from the people around us.”

In his presentation on “neuroleadership”, Charles Caldwell, HR director of the English Schools Foundation, will explain the relevance of the latest research into neuroscience and the ways in which it can transform our ideas about leadership.

“I’m a big believer in employee engagement and a bottom-up approach,” Caldwell says. “Our job as leaders is to make sure the next generation can replace us.”

In this “post-heroic” leadership model, the person in charge empowers individuals to each be leaders in their own way. “What neuroscience is now telling us is why many leadership traits – some of which are common sense we would teach our children – actually have substantial science behind them.”

Among the ideas Caldwell will explain in his presentation are questions on where and why people feel threatened. “The brain processes for threat are five times greater than those for opportunity. This explains why people are resistant to change.”

If his audience takes only one lesson, Caldwell would like it to be a questioning of their reflexive response to this type of challenge. “Start by taking a deep breath, push your threat response to the side, and see the future as an opportunity.” 

Niq Lai, head of talent engagement, CFO and co-owner, Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN), will be outlining his company’s innovative co-ownership plan at the summit.

“If someone works for a company for more than 10 to 20 years and the company performs far better than the market, then I think that person should be given the opportunity to benefit from the company’s outperformance,” Lai explains.

He adds that staff who opt to become co-owners “have the opportunity to do well if the company does well and to suffer if the company suffers; this is what we mean by alignment of interest.”

During the 2012 management buyout of HKBN, 90 middle-to-senior managers became co-owners. By 2015, the price of the shares in the company had increased six-fold. In the subsequent second phase of the scheme, 400 supervisors and above-level employees were invited to participate, of which over 270 took up the invitation.

Lai says the scheme changes attitudes and improves performance. “If you are working for yourself, it is normal for you to strive for excellence.”

In her presentation titled “Talent Strategies of Octopus – Fintech Company with a Flair for Hospitality”, Ivy Leung, the head of HR and administration at Octopus, will describe how she has tried to adapt HR practices learned in the hotel industry to her work in a more tech-driven sector.

“More than half of my colleagues are technical people and most people who take up computer science or electronic engineering love to work with computers,” she says. “But in the hotel environment people always talk, talk, talk – there’s lots of face-to-face communication.”

Leung has striven, therefore, to increase Octopus’ emphasis on the importance of developing a service culture and the need for a human touch. She recognises employer-employee relationships as a two-way street, however, especially when working with Gen Y and Gen Z. “We address their social needs and their need for self-assertiveness,” she says.

This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Powering HR professionals.