Challenge our assumptions before we reinvent our organisation: Riot Games’ Dr. Susan Chen
READ the full interview in the December 2021 issue of our magazine: Work in 2022: What's Next?
As we come to embrace a new world of work in 2022, organisations have to invest in well thought out strategies to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. At the same time, in the face of dominant workplace trends, leaders have to pave the right path for their people and their business to thrive, which calls for a meaningful workplace transformation. In a recent conversation with People Matters, Dr. Susan Chen, Director, Head of People-HK & SG Game Development Studios, Riot Games shares insights on the need to break away from the comfort of best practices and engage in leadership conversations with a data-informed approach to deliver what best serves your organisation and your people.
Susan works with teams and leaders to develop talent strategies and interventions that build capabilities for sustainable growth across a broad range of companies, including a healthcare start-up in Indonesia, a fintech MNC in Singapore and a national energy company in Norway. She is a strong advocate for financial and educational inclusion, and has worked and lived in Taiwan, New Zealand, UK, Norway, Singapore and Indonesia. She received her PhD with a focus on knowledge management from the University of Stavanger, Norway, and is completing further education in the areas of educational psychology and research from Massey University, New Zealand.
Here are some excerpts from the interview.
What are some of the trends and changes that will have a significant impact on how businesses will carry themselves forward in the coming year?
There are many different micro-trends ongoing from the distributed workforce to digital transformation as well massive changes in learning and people processes but fundamentally, one of the biggest changes is the mindset shift. This involves building agility into the way organisations are designed, team making and even into the taken for granted, structured HR frameworks with which we approach problems.
One other big trend is about how we can move away from the comfort of best practices, knowing that the way things were done before are no longer going to make meaningful headway into solving problems for tomorrow. This also links to how we can build our teams or employees in a fashion that recognises them as a whole human being rather than a human at work. We have to move beyond thinking about productivity and wellbeing at work and look at the larger picture in terms of mental health for instance. In other words, a holistic approach to taking care of your people.
What are some of the potential challenges in the field of talent that must be overcome?
From a recruitment perspective, as the world of work becomes more global but at the same time less mobile, our ways of working have to be increasingly agile. This involves bringing about a sustainable change in the relationships of people with their work which has been triggered by the external environment of a global pandemic kicking in.
The key challenge in this endeavour is that organisational design, embedded HR processes, leadership and its system of values are not designed to keep up with the changes that are going on.
A company which worked in one location cannot simply commit to becoming a distributed workforce because that requires strategic thought on organisational culture, the type of leadership, performance management and even goal setting. It is a massive cultural shift which demands strategic insights for it to be sustainable. Redesigning your workforce is critical for it enables you to get the best out of your distributed workforce.
What are some of the values and strategies that will enable leaders to meaningfully transform the employee experience?
The keyword here is meaningful transformation so the fundamental thing is how do we recheck our organisational assumptions about what collaboration looks like or team effectiveness or even talent. Challenging our assumptions is the number one thing we have to do before we reinvent our organisation. This then goes back to inclusivity, empathy, work culture. Finding these answers enables you to rebuild your organisation and transform. This enables a vision and a path towards that future.
Our world has gone through a tremendous change in light of the global pandemic and it would be unrealistic for any organisation to say that they won’t change. But organisations cannot blindly follow trends either, they have to look into what transformation means in its unique way to their organisation and their people. This goes back to what I said earlier about the need to break linkages from best practices because strategies have to be designed so that they serve your organisation and teams.
What role will digital tools play in the year 2022 and how can companies ward off a potential digital disruption?
I don’t think we should try to ward off digital disruption because it is a beautiful way to innovate. What we can do as organisations and leaders is to prepare ourselves for the disruption. We have to recognise that digital transformation will continue from communication tools to product transformation technologies. What is really important is deriving meaning in the transformation you carry out for your business. Not everyone needs to have the most high end technologies. What is important in this preparation is that the purpose and meaning of the company really needs to be solid for you as a leader and your employees.
If the most innovative technology is not fundamental to building the foundation of your organisation, then it's okay and we should be okay with that.
In 2022, what are some of the workplace trends and innovations that you are looking forward to?
There are two things that I am really looking forward to. One is how do we truly make a distributed workforce a mainstream approach rather than an exception. I am excited about organisations having the conversation to reimagine their workforce to make it more hybrid and building a truly agile workforce. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to work with teams and organisations to build that true agility into your organisational design.
Another aspect that I am really excited about is reinvention of organisational learning. We have to think holistically about developing our employees. One of the major shifts is how do we develop them to become curious learners with an independent and growth mindset. This will bring back an indirect positive impact upon the organisation as opposed to the transactional learning process meant for organisational development only. I also believe there will be a lot of progress in learning technology, immersive and integrated learning experiences will be facilitated through a digital platform.
Finally, what are some words of advice that you would like to share with fellow HR leaders for the year 2022?
My first advice is really about focusing on what’s to come and not what has been, so don’t rely on best practices. This is so that you derive meaning from your organisation in the strategies so designed. My second advice is at the individual level about activating curiosity, teambuilding and growth mindset. We as HR leaders need to grow ourselves and take the opportunity, the leadership responsibility, to go above and beyond in building our teams and activating their curiosity and growth mindset as well.