Article: Employee assessments must be based on reasonable performance expectations: Head-HR, HSBC Singapore

Performance Management

Employee assessments must be based on reasonable performance expectations: Head-HR, HSBC Singapore

COVID-19 may have a significant impact on our financial results and our variable pay is awarded on a discretionary basis taking into account ‘what’ has been achieved and ‘how’, says Brandon Coate, the Head of Human Resources for HSBC Singapore, in an interaction with People Matters.
Employee assessments must be based on reasonable performance expectations: Head-HR, HSBC Singapore

As we move toward the post-pandemic world, business and talent leaders are looking to reset the workplace and people policies in the new reality of work. Businesses are increasingly realizing the need to focus on employees’ well-being while ensuring productivity during this tough time. 

We caught up with Brandon Coate who is the Head of Human Resources for HSBC Singapore to find out how they are adapting to the new normal and realigning the performance and rewards strategies.

Brandon joined HSBC Singapore in April 2019 and has responsibility for the delivery of HSBC’s People Strategy in Singapore. Born in the US and educated in the UK, Brandon has worked for HSBC over 12 years in multiple Human Resources roles in the UK and Hong Kong. Prior to joining HSBC, Brandon started his career in consulting at Watson Wyatt and has also worked at Lehman Brothers.

Here are the excerpts from the interview.

How has the impact of COVID-19 been on the banking industry? How are you adapting to the changing times and embracing the new normal?

COVID-19 has accelerated already existing pre-pandemic trends in the banking industry. For example, online banking was on the rise in recent years, but it became absolutely necessary for many of our customers in the past few weeks. Similarly for policies like working from home – HSBC already had the infrastructure and policies in place, but most people have only really embraced remote working in recent months. HSBC Singapore has set out its ways of working principles. HSBC has well-established policies, technology, and management support to enable and empower employees to work from home. During the peak of the circuit breaker phase in April, we had 87 percent of our employees working from home. HSBC is actively participating in the Return to Onsite Operations Taskforce (ROOT) organized by the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), which focuses on the measures that will become the ‘new normal’ in offices and branches.

Also Read: Companies that succeed amid COVID-19 will be those that prioritize people: Walmart’s Donna Morris

What are some of your latest measure in terms of business continuity and digital innovations? Do you think COVID-19 is accelerating innovation opportunities in banking?

For HSBC, AI and data analytics are part of our Singapore strategy to focus on Investing in digital capabilities and building the ‘Bank of the Future’ for our customers. Since January this year, we have seen self-directed investments into equities, unit trusts and forex continue to trend upwards. Since the launch of our mobile banking app in June 2019, the number of customer logins to the HSBC Singapore app has outpaced those who use our online banking platform by more than twice. We have also streamlined processes and platforms to improve operational efficiency and customer experience by implementing thirty remote servicing processes as well as digital wealth solutions. To ensure that our employees keep pace with our digital transformation, we have also implemented a Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) industry initiative that looks to up-skill individuals for banking jobs undergoing a transformation.

How do you see the performance management and rewards systems landscape across organizations globally amid this COVID-19 pandemic?

It is even more important for employees to stay connected with their managers and colleagues through open, frequent, and meaningful conversations throughout the year, to support their own performance, development, and well-being.

Organizations must remain committed that assessments must be based on reasonable performance expectations taking into account COVID-19 and agreed by both managers and employees through these frequent, open conversations based on individual circumstances, including consideration of real-life challenges and factors that might impact employees’ performance outcomes.

Clearly, COVID-19 may have a significant impact on our financial results, but it is too early to say where we will be at the end of the year. Our variable pay is awarded on a discretionary basis and is dependent upon Group, business, and individual performance taking into account both the ‘what’ has been achieved and ‘how’ it has been achieved.

In the HSBC context, we introduced the Continuous Performance tool to support our Everyday Performance & Development (EPD) Conversation, helping managers and colleagues stay connected, collect feedback and evidence their achievements throughout the year.

What's your take on how should HR and business leaders redesign the performance management and reward strategies amid this crisis? 

  • Team engagement/morale/well-being
  • Collaboration
  • Personal development/Flexibility and Willingness to adapt new role and skill

Remote working became the new normal during the pandemic lockdown. How are you embracing remote work? What are your strategies?

Focus on employee’s well-being – HSBC introduced a wellness campaign for colleagues in April to build staff engagement and connectedness during this work from home period, and create a stronger sense of community in a virtual world. The campaign involves engaging with employees through various initiatives and resources such as LinkedIn Learning sessions, virtual webinars by both external and internal speakers, and live workout sessions via Zoom. This wellness campaign will continue to evolve within HSBC to further engage employees both onsite and offsite as remote working becomes the new norm. We have regular townhalls and engagement sessions to obtain feedback from employees on how they are feeling including well-being surveys.

We launched Telemedicine service to ensure employees could see a GP and receive medication without leaving their homes. Employee Assistance Program available to employees and dependents to provide 24/7 support.

Do you see a shift in expectations from your employees in terms of assessments and rewards?

Consider the real-life challenges and factors that might impact employees’ performance outcomes. Recognize the time and effort that some employees need to invest when balancing their work and caring responsibilities.

  • Recognize employees’ contribution to help maintain the service and the performance and well-being of the team by taking on additional responsibilities
  • Recognize that employees’ core responsibilities have temporarily lost relevance due to a change in priorities.
  • Identify employees experiencing poor well-being or mental health, signpost them to the company’s employee assistance program.
  • The expectation that the organization is committed to ensure employees are not unfairly disadvantaged by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Recognize COVID-19 pandemic added barriers that might be hindering employees from performing the full scope of their role.
  • Agree actions that will help to mitigate or remove any barriers, such as adjusting objectives.
  • Consider the team member’s proactive behavior and attitude to supporting the wider team as their role may be momentarily less relevant but how have they supported other team members
  • Recognize employees’ flexibility and willingness to develop new skills and adapt to a different role and how they have contributed to overall service performance outcomes

Where do you see the banking industry five years down the line and what are your top priorities as you come out of this pandemic?

The continued well-being of our people. We are likely going to be living with COVID-19 for some time and as we have seen in other countries it is inevitable that there will be future waves and therefore ensuring our employees’ well-being will remain our top priority.

Defining the Future of the Workplace and ensuring we have robust policies to support employees who have embraced home working and would like it to remain as a long term option. Providing greater support to managers to ensure they are equipped to manage a workforce spread across the office and home working. Ensuring that despite the locations people work that there can remain collaboration and innovation.

Ensure our employees are equipped with the appropriate skills that are relevant in the workplace: Change & Transformation, Agility, Creativity, Connectivity, Resilience, Customer Engagement, etc.

Read more such stories from the August issue of our e-magazine on 'Performance and Rewards in the New Normal

Read full story

Topics: Performance Management, Benefits & Rewards, #RethinkPerformanceandRewards

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