Roselin Lee, VP of Human Resources for Shiseido Asia Pacific, has been in the beauty industry for the better part of a decade: first with Estee Lauder as Director of HR before moving to her present position with Shiseido. People Matters asked her how she and her team have been supporting leadership and employees alike during this period of workplace closures and movement restrictions. Here are the highlights of the conversation.
How are you and your HR team supporting the priorities of the business leadership during this period?
Over the last few months, our leadership team has spent time focusing on employee well-being and safety, job security, and employee morale, alongside key operations of identifying relevant business trends and opportunities in e-commerce. For us, as HR, our role is to support the senior leaders and our regional CEO to nurture an inclusive environment to continue to empower our employees in delivering their best on a day-to-day basis.
One key factor is communication. While leaders are carrying out their business continuity plans to efficiently restore operations, minimise the impacts and rapidly respond to operational hinderances, internal communications need to be clearly defined and functional.
It is important to hone a clear, honest, empathetic and simple approach to communication, and we continue to maintain open communication across the board to ensure that our employees receive accurate and up-to-date information on the situation, how it is impacting our business, and what our plans are to mitigate this.
We are also working very closely to support our executive leaders to implement any possible and relevant initiatives to continue to keep our employees motivated, well and safe during this period.
What are some of the challenges you've run into so far?
As the situation continues to evolve every day, we have less visibility on the timeline of when it will swing back. This pandemic is causing huge turmoil to the global economy and beauty companies like us are not spared. Multinational organizations are trying their best to balance employee needs with financial realities even while they implement measures to cut costs.
My role as the HR leader for the Asia Pacific requires me to balance the needs of our employees and operational functionality. Our employees are our most important resource and asset, and our top priority is to protect their jobs and to continuously motivate them.
The most difficult question that I have faced pertains to job stability, which is challenging for us to answer with confidence during this period of uncertainty.
Social isolation is another major challenge that we are facing during this time. As we settle into a new norm of remote work, we understand that employees are missing the informal social interactions of an office setting, which may make them feel more isolated.
How have you been tackling these issues?
We continue to encourage regular professional and personal interactions amongst our employees via the various communication tools provided, and ensure that managers set up additional virtual check-ins with employees. Remote workers are benefiting from having “richer” technology, such as video conferencing, that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were interacting face-to-face.
As early as mid-February we had been putting precautionary measures in place—work from home arrangements, special leave for employees who were required to self-isolate or those who had to juggle home matters and work, the procurement of health and hygiene supplies including surgical masks for our hundreds of employees across the APAC markets.
We also understand that family and home demands can impinge on remote work and expect these distractions to be greater during this unplanned transition to virtual work.
Business-wise, we have regular conversations around business sustainability when we anticipate the best scenario of recovery in the third or fourth quarter, so that we are able to better prepare.
How about the senior leadership? What do you see leaders needing to do to navigate these challenges?
Effective leaders take a two-pronged approach, both acknowledging the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling in difficult circumstances, but also providing affirmations of their confidence in their teams. Our managers need to acknowledge employees' stress, listen to their anxieties and concerns, and empathise with their struggles.
As we settle into a new norm of working remotely, it is important for our leaders to maintain a focus on what’s important – first, our employees, and second, the current state of the business. In this period of uncertainty, our employees need transparency more than ever and require a consistent touchpoint with their managers to know that there is a support system available for them.
What's one thing you are not compromising on during this period?
Learning should not stop during this period. On the contrary, as an organisation, we should continue to leverage on technology to learn the “new normal” way of work and make the best out of the current situation as much as we can.
Hence, my learning and development team has started to work closely with the digital team to launch online training modules, leveraging on our global e-learning platforms to continue the momentum of upskilling and competency building. While it has not been possible to have face-to-face training programs, my L&D team has converted several training programs, especially those relating to organisation culture and performance management, into virtual formats.