Article: OCBC’s Head of Group HR, Jason Ho on ‘Adaptable HR’

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OCBC’s Head of Group HR, Jason Ho on ‘Adaptable HR’

In this exclusive interaction with Jason Ho, Executive Vice President and Head of Group Human Resources at OCBC Bank, as part of the special series - Adaptable HR - The future is now, he reflects on why adaptability is a critical skill in the current times.
OCBC’s Head of Group HR, Jason Ho on ‘Adaptable HR’

From all the uncertainty and ambiguity that we are going through right now, one thing is clear, the future is all about ‘adaptability’. Being adaptable is no longer a choice, but is an imperative. 

Chapter-1: Adaptability in HR: A brief overview


The third edition of the Alight Solutions’ State of HR Transformation Study in partnership with People Matters truly demonstrates this sentiment, i.e., “The next curve of business impact is Adaptable HR”.

The agenda of this year’s study is Adaptable HR and it could not have been more relevant than today when everything at the workplace is undergoing a dramatic transformation. It is critical that HR teams accelerate the change of their HR Service Delivery Model and drive the shift needed in organisations to adapt to this new business model. 

Reflecting on the enablers of successful transformation from the study, it was found most of the success comes through when HR is willing to change itself. In fact, resistance to change from HR is the biggest barrier in realising transformation. As one reflects on these findings, this is not something that is new. The ability to lay it all out in a logical, disciplined, and executable manner is the art of becoming adaptable.

In order to delve deeper into Asia Pacific’s largest study on the State of HR Transformation, Jason Ho, Executive Vice President and Head of Group Human Resources at OCBC Bank, Shaswat Kumar, Vice President & Asia Head - Payroll, Advisory and Cloud Solutions, Alight Solutions and Ester Martinez, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, People Matters came together to reflect on “What Adaptability means in the current times of COVID-19” in an interesting interaction.  

This is the fourth episode of the series Adaptable HR - The Future is Now where Jason Ho, a renowned business leader and a champion of change and adaptability himself, reflected on the journey of OCBC to becoming the leader in adaptability and transformation. 

The conversation was led by Shaswat Kumar Vice President & Asia Head - Payroll, Advisory and Cloud Solutions, Alight Solutions who presented some interesting insights that are driving the current world of work and will help organizations to transcend into the future of work as they understand transformation better in the context of business and HR both, based on the Asia Pacific State of HR Transformation Study 2020. Some of the key insights from the report were:

  • Focus of HR Transformation is all about enabling Business Transformations
  • Combination of HR Operating Model, Digital Tools and Disciplined Governance drives success
  • HR Function always had clarity on HR’s Effectiveness agenda; yet the top gaps remain consistent
  • Digital is key for HR to deliver on both Employee Experience and Compliance
  • HR Technology satisfaction improves as buying behaviour changes
  • Governance is HR’s Achilles Heel
  • Tipping points for HR are moving targets

Chapter-2: CHRO’s take on adaptability in HR


“Jason Ho, Executive Vice President and Head of Group Human Resources at OCBC Bank reckons adaptability is key to the sustainable development of business and people.”

Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

A champion of change and adaptability

Prior to assuming the role of OCBC Head of Group HR in 2015, Jason Ho was OCBC’s Head of Asset & Liability Management, Global Treasury. Although he had been involved in HR initiatives like the OCBC Mentoring program and coached participants for taking on bigger roles within the bank, transitioning into this role was a powerful moment for him as he came from an inherently totally different position that he held for more than 30 years. 

Talking about his transition into an HR role, Jason shares, “My previous role of managing global market and asset-liability was very clinical in nature and the focus was on managing risks strategically. What I have discovered during the transition is that HR plays a very impactful role in OCBC because we do not just look after HR responsibilities, but it is a core part of the strategy and capital committee that strategizes on policies, strategy, regulations and allocations, and bank business. So before officiating, I spent the first six months just listening to my peers, team and also spent time knowing the different functions of the HR like people who managed compensation, talent acquisition, etc., so that I could strategize on what we need to do next for the future. This transition transformed my views and thoughts about the business especially the HR function.” 

Adaptability: Learn fast, fail fast, succeed fast! 

Jason shares another experience where he had to set the context for an offsite of 200 members, two years back. “I addressed my members on the importance of adaptability. To make them understand the inevitability of this skill, I used a metaphor, chameleon,” says Jason. 

He further elaborates, that if you would have observed, the chameleon is the only creature that has the power to see in two different directions, it can change color, in case of danger, and also it has a hook that has water, to survive in hot conditions.

By quoting this example of a chameleon, Jason stresses on the fact that until and unless people’s mindset not adaptable to change, they cannot embrace challenges that come with the transformation.

Change is always coupled with a degree of discomfort and uncertainty, and hence, you need to be adaptable to the changing environment and the ecosystem you operate in.

“To sum up, adaptability to me is to embrace what is happening, must recognize the challenge, and be brave enough to experiment and move fast,” he expresses. 

The session on Adaptability at OCBC was successful as people used this campaign as a scorecard to determine what they can do to nurture their growth - be it building new skills or capabilities, or new functionalities for the ease of doing business. In fact, Jason shares that, after the offsite, many colleagues wrote to him about their plans on developing themselves and initiatives they have planned to become more adaptable.

Asking the right questions to lead the transformation

Highlighting one of the findings of the State of HR Transformation Study that states the combination of the HR Operating Model, digital tools, and disciplined governance drives success, Jason explains, “Yes, the combination drives success, but while the words are easier to read, they are equally very difficult to execute. You need to ask yourselves these three questions, to set on the right path of adaptability and transformation.”

According to him, you should ask the following three questions:

  • What are the capabilities required?
  • What are the business requirements?
  • What is required to add value to the business?

Get your strategy right on HR Governance & Data

Talking about adapting to the future of work, Jason shares there are two trends that organisations need to get right. “A lot of HR organisations talk about data as a tool that helps them in making agile decisions. However, one of the flaws in implementing analytics strategy in most companies is that they don’t have a strategy at all. The discussions around data are reporting data and using data but not on what does it actually mean to have data, says Jason. 

A key thing to be a successful organisation in HR is having a clear data strategy. A clear data strategy is not about using dashboards. There is a need to have a source of identifying and collating unique data, a team that can make sense of data, a way to make the insights consumable for people. Your data strategy should be all about how you elevate the art of using data. People must be able to consume data in the best possible way and retrieve insights out of it.

Further, the right data strategy is critical for HR Governance. “A lot of us don’t think about it and talk about it, however, being adaptable demands collaboration and data-backed decisions instead of anecdotes that have little credibility,” says Jason.

Highlighting OCBC’s journey, Jason shares that they have accelerated upward from stage II of the data curve and have designed their own platform which helps them identify the needs of employees and how they can create better employee experience. 

How leaders can champion adaptability

Everyone’s afraid of changes, so it is a leader’s responsibility to lead the way and reduce the fear experienced by people during change.

When you lessen the threat of a change, it puts people in the right mindset and allows them to do things in a different way and thereby, incorporating adaptability in the organisation’s DNA, asserts Jason.

HR Transformation is increasingly playing a central role in the readiness of organisations to transform their ways of working. Further, the current pandemic has already put HR in the spotlight to lead the change in the ways we work, reiterating on the fact that “Adaptability is the simple secret of survival”.

(To download your copy of Asia Pacific’s largest study on the State of HR Transformation 2020, click on this link.)

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Topics: HR Technology, #AdaptableHR

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