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The latest Classified Post HR Conference put benefits and rewards centre stage

Published on Saturday, 02 Dec 2017

Against a backdrop of low unemployment levels, skills shortages, evolving technology, and no indication that Hong Kong’s competition for top talent will ease up, employers face the ongoing challenge of identifying and implementing effective ways to attract and retain employees. These were just some of the topics examined at the recent Classified Post HR Conference, which took place at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong in Tsim Sha Tsui, and brought together professionals from across the HR and wider business community.

After the opening remarks delivered by Dr Law Chi-kwong, Secretary for Labour and Welfare, the morning session opened with a presentation on “Future of Work: Is HR Ready?” by Jeffrey Tang, managing director, Willis Towers Watson Hong Kong & Macau.

Tang said that the impending use of technologies and artificial intelligence in the workplace is inevitable but the pace of implementation has taken many HR professionals by surprise. He added that it is vital for HR to engage with management to identify where the forces of transformation will have the biggest impact. “When the question of what is being disrupted is understood, HR can start looking at what the skills sets of the future should look like,” Tang said. With deeper insights, HR can adjust their hiring and training strategies to acquire and upgrade the skills they need to sustain and future-proof their organisations.

Sara Kelly, vice-president, Starbucks Partner Resources at Starbucks Asia-Pacific, said the human connection with partners (employees) and customers is at the core of the global coffee company’s business model. Crucial to this connection, said Kelly, is the care and welfare of partners demonstrated through the unique culture and benefits. “We believe that if we exceed our people’s expectations, we can exceed our customers’ expectations,” explained Kelly, who added that regular feedback and dialogue with partners plays a major part in maintaining the unique culture.

Dr Christina Sue-Chan, associate head and associate professor at the Department of Management at City University of Hong Kong (CityU), said that while salary plays an important role in attracting and retaining talent, other factors contribute to whether or not someone joins or leaves an organisation. Citing a Robert Walters global study, Sue-Chan said employees value a positive company culture, strong employer branding and career development opportunities. She said that these traits are particularly noticeable among millennials, who look for purpose in their lives and evidence from the companies they work for to make a meaningful contribution to society. “When HR is thinking about how to attract and retain employees, they need to think beyond, money, money, money,” she suggested.

Maria Hui, director, human resources at Microsoft Hong Kong, put the idea to the conference audience that it is time to re-examine the traditional concept of compensation and benefits. Hui said that instead of thinking of base pay as the defining benchmark for a benefits package, research shows that employees are looking for a complete benefits package that supports their career and lifestyle aspirations. “They want to work for companies where they can be effective and efficient while learning and sharing and being part of two-way communications,” Hui said.

With digital strategies playing an increasingly larger role in the way employee benefits are administrated, Thomas Lee, AIA Hong Kong & Macau chief corporate solutions officer, outlined how AIA’s online platforms offer benefits to employers and employees.

 Lee said that by using AIA’s digital platforms, employers who are AIA clients are able to update employee health and benefits records, register new joiners and amend the records of employees who leave their organisations.

Stephen Fung, chief executive officer, AIA MPF, explained how voluntary employee MPF contributions can help boost employee engagement and sense of loyalty, and retain key employees if employers match the contribution.

 “Employers can focus on individuals they want to retain by setting a percentage for matched contributions,” Fung said.

During his presentation on “HR Digital Transformation: Drive Change or be Changed”, Jonathan Lo, partner, HR transformation at KPMG said that during the last two years there has been a digital transformation spike towards the use of cloud technologies and enterprise resources planning in the Hong Kong HR environment. “We have been waiting for the sleeping giant to awaken,” commented Lo, who explained that KPMG had been able to track developments through its annual survey which for 20 years has been benchmarking HR transformation, technology capabilities, and operation strategies. However, Lo drew attention to the fact that while Hong Kong’s HR function is adept at implementing digital transformation within their organisation based on cost, they are less agile at justifying digital transformation from an operations or strategy perspective. “There is a compelling case for making digital transformation changes beyond costs because they can provide a range of benefits to an organisation,” said Lo.

Lo, Tang and Hui also participated in a panel discussion, moderated by Razlan Manjaji, international markets expansion lead, strategy and special projects, at South China Morning Post. The discussion focused on key challenges in engaging and rewarding talent in 2018.

If you couldn’t make it this time, the next HR Conference will take place in spring 2018.