Hwa Choo Lim is the Vice President of Human Resource at Equinix Asia-Pacific. She is responsible for leading the company’s HR function in the region and oversees the overall HR strategy and operations for various business and functional leaders in achieving their business outcomes by attracting, retaining and developing the best talents across Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Joining Equinix in 2018, Hwa Choo brings with her a wealth of HR and leadership experience at leading technology companies, including Cisco Systems, Avago Technologies, Agilent Technologies and Hewlett-Packard.
In this exclusive interview with People Matters, Lim stresses on the importance of flexibility and wellbeing along with the benefits organizations can reap from investing in digital HR.
Here are some excerpts from the interaction.
What are some of the key learnings that will drive your people strategies in the year 2022?
The pandemic has forced organizations to make a sudden shift to remote working and therefore, they have to accelerate their digital transformation/adoption to cope with their employees’ expectations. At the same time, we needed to enable our managers to lead, manage, and support their team virtually while ensuring team productivity.
One had to be prepared for the unexpected. Providing employees flexibility and empowering leaders to nurture a flexible working environment has been a key learning. There also needs to be more emphasis on employees’ wellbeing whether physical, financial and mental. And finally, having a set of clear guiding principles forms the foundation that enable executives to make more informed and faster decisions relating to employees. Building a culture of trust and respect where we embrace different perspectives and celebrate strengths and contributions is fundamental.
How can HR analytics be leveraged to gain a competitive advantage in the hunt to attract and retain talent?
Despite the fact that data analytics is hardly a new concept, more and more businesses have realized in the past two years that they can improve HR functions as well as business processes as a whole.
All functions have become increasingly dependent on data, and workforce analytics simply reflects that trend. In a knowledge economy, HR leaders are bound to be interested in data analysis that helps them attract, motivate, and retain the right talent.
Using data to assist businesses in identifying talent need and supply with certain skillsets in various places needs to be focused on. This helps talent leaders in making informed hiring strategy (buy, borrow or develop). Data analytics will help a company's talent acquisition function become more productive, identify potential recruits' career drivers, and develop a competitive market positioning. Leveraging the HR platform to capture, monitor and track performance management (setting goals, quarterly reviews, year-end assessment etc.) helps leaders and employees to have objective discussion on performance, potential and development areas. Such analysis can also help identify which employees are more likely to resign in the short term, allowing organizations to intervene to avoid costly turnover.
What do you think would be the dominant digital trends in the world of HR this year?
- Predictive Analytics: Predictive Analytics will help HR teams and organisations to predict future trends based on past and current data. This help us to be more proactive in addressing the potential challenges (hiring, developing and retaining talents)
- Cybersecurity: With continued cyber-attacks and data governance, cybersecurity and data privacy will take precedence. It becomes important to educate employees on all things relating to data privacy and governance as employees are usually the weaker link to such exploitation.
- Talent war for digital talents with niche/future skillsets: The current hiring landscape for hiring tech talents, whether software developers/engineers is highly competitive. Building a compelling and strong employer brand becomes more important than ever as potential talents are keen on what they want. The need of the hour is to identify distinctive qualities of the organization that create the brand affinity and connection with them. It’s beyond having a competitive compensation package and a swanky workplace.
- More of mobile first: Now work needs happen anywhere and at any time, organizations must implement infrastructure to accommodate the flexible working needs. There is a need for mobile integrated HRMS tools that makes it a click of a button easy process for employees to attain leaves, benefits, and payslips among others.
With employee experience taking centre stage in the age of digital and hybrid work, what are some of the challenges that are likely to turn up?
With organizations going entirely digital or adopting a hybrid working module comes a certain set of challenges. A key challenge that arises from hybrid working is to ensure seamless operations and communication. An integral part of remote working is the ability to easily and effortlessly interact with employees, customers, partners and prospects without any barriers through calls and video. Employees want flexibility and choice on how they work, learn and play.
Along with the challenge of flexibility and remote & hybrid work comes with a need for strong data privacy, faster and simpler HR tools to maintain employee engagement. Leaders need to be mindful of the needs of potential employees arising from these challenges, they need to lead, manage and motivate teams differently. This will require a clear framework and guidelines so that leaders and their team can agree on what hybrid work will suit individuals based on their roles.
Another key challenge that can arise is setting clear goals/deliverables. The need for correct measurement of employee performance to avoid potential employee relations cases or grievances. With the dynamic change in the way we work, we realise how work and wellbeing is inextricably connected. To achieve a healthy work-life integration for their people, talent leaders must supplement well-being programmes. Building digital wellness and productivity, managing individual and team capacity, and fostering job crafting. Providing individuals the ability to make meaningful decisions about what and how they contribute to the organization should be a part of priorities for leaders.
What are some words of advice that you would like to share with fellow leaders to elevate their business and people strategies this 2022?
Workplaces that design their work with the individual, team, and organisational well-being of their employees in mind will create a sustainable future where employees grow and thrive. Different people and different teams will have unique needs for them. Creating an environment that allows employees to be autonomous and gives growth will go a long way in maintaining employee engagement and make them feel valued. The current workforce is also very vocal when it comes to the causes that they care about. They want their voice to be heard whether on diversity, inclusion, societal or environmental. Leaders should work towards creating a platform that the employees can leverage to discuss their opinions safely.
The most effective strategy to boost employee retention is to implement a more effective training and development program that addresses each employee's specific requirements and issues. Talent leaders must understand their employees' needs in order to give them the best learning opportunities. Leaders must empower employees to embrace challenges as learning and growth opportunities. This will provide an environment for employees to thrive and contribute to work and community that matter to them.
Leaders must reinvent the relationships between talents, roles and teams in order to capture opportunities given by the future of work and champion employee potential in work and life. This cohesive approach will elevate the people strategy of an organization with a direct effect on the business function.