HR Panel Discussion - Adapting to the New - What We Learnt in Lockdown and Looking to the Future in APAC

8 Minutes

Last week Elliott Scott HR APAC in partnership with Arcadia Consulting hosted a Webinar Pane...

Last week Elliott Scott HR APAC in partnership with Arcadia Consulting hosted a Webinar Panel Discussion where we considered ‘Adapting to the New - What We Learnt in Lockdown and Looking to the Future in APAC’.

Moderated by Joanne Ford of Arcadia, our panel comprised – Sarah Lo, Head of Human Resources, APAC, Fidelity International Ting Smith, HR Regional Director, Gensler Mark Albas, Head of Learning, Arcadia Consulting Stuart Elliott, CEO and Owner, Elliott Scott HR Recruitment With companies currently getting to grips with an evolving working environment as well as the new social distancing regulations, our panel shared some great insights as to what strategies companies are putting in place as well as a picture of the challenges we may face in the weeks and months to come. Culture Ting Smith kicked things off by addressing the possible long-term impact on culture. She shared that the workplace has clearly become virtual in nature with companies embracing new technologies to enable employees to connect and interact to support creativity and collaboration. She acknowledged that employees may be missing the “water cooler” informal chats but at the same time, given that everyone is experiencing the crisis together, we have probably got to know our colleagues a little bit better as people are more open about discussing their experiences over Zoom.

Leadership In terms of expectations on leadership Sarah Lo explained that moving forward, while employees will not expect leaders to have all the answers, they will expect them to be clear and decisive with a sense of firmness and direction. Leaders should be open and transparent and prepared to listen to the needs of their employees. Meanwhile, Mark Albas reflected that there will be a need for leaders to sharpen their online presence to project more energy and authority to deliver a more impactful message. Learning and Development Mark addressed what the future looks like for learning and development. He shared that it would be much more technology-enabled with greater adoption of tools to facilitate this.

Mark mentioned that companies will need to be nimble to offer a variety of content and media, with a large premium being placed on face-to-face learning. He also reflected that in this new world learning and development professionals will become advocates for navigating the organization as there will be greater importance on this in a virtual setting. In terms of learning needs, Mark foresees increased demand for virtual presence to enable effective online communication; for leading and enforcing change – both for self and leading teams; and maintaining client momentum, to connect with clients in more meaningful ways, to increase rapport and handle client’s stress points. Talent Acquisition Stuart Elliott discussed how companies have been recruiting during the crisis. He shared that if anything, recruitment processes have lengthened, moving from between five to seven interviews to upwards of ten for any given hire. He mentioned that interviews are typically less structured and instead consist more of informal chats as companies try to assess the cultural fit of the candidate into their organization. Stuart also observed that while there are more out-of-work candidates active in the market, employees are latching onto the jobs even tighter, with the result being that there has been a removal of the passive market. Candidates are also a lot more conscious of the stability and financials of the hiring company to ensure their long-term prospects. Ting added that she felt that companies would be assessed on how they have responded to the crisis with candidates questioning the benefits on offer and their provisions for flexible working. Sarah noted also that companies are working harder to attract candidates, causing them to evaluate their positioning in the market.

There was a lot of discussion around the impact on younger workers in particular. It was agreed that younger employees face more challenges working from home as they often share accommodation with family or flatmates, with the problem in Asia being more acute in locations such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo where flats are typically smaller due to high real estate costs. There was also agreement that younger workers would be challenged without access to mentors and more experienced employees from whom they would be able to observe, shadow, and learn. However, Mark noted that the younger generations have found the new way of working to be more inclusive and people, who may not have previously had a voice, are more able to speak up. Younger people have also been able to suggest new technologies to companies, reverse mentoring the older generations on their use. Finally, he noted with remote working and virtual “cocktail hours”, companies are coming around to the way that younger people want to work.

Concluding, Sarah summarised her thoughts by saying that the new way of working is a fantastic opportunity for HR professionals. She encouraged people not to be frightened but instead to embrace the change. There is a huge opportunity for HR to play a role in the evolving workplace and to partner with our business leaders and employees to collaboratively shape the future of the function. Ting added that Covid-19 has elevated HR by presenting further opportunities for HR to have a seat at the table. She also stated that HR teams are advocates for the health and safety of our employees and that we should grab this opportunity to showcase new HR projects and ideas.

Finally, Stuart signed off by sharing that the blended workplace is what he sees us progressing to with smaller offices and more people working from home. He reflected that while companies will utilize the benefits of home working, there is still a need for social and personal interaction.

If you would like to discuss any of the points shared, please reach out to me Vincent Romano, Managing Director of Elliott Scott Singapore on LinkedIn or at