Saturday, 1 October 2011

Innovative Asian People Strategies


   As someone who focuses on helping organisations develop more innovative people management and organisation development strategies, I’m interested in this statement from the CIPD:

“Across Asia, unprecedented rates of growth and levels of change are making strong demands on the strategic ability of organisations to innovate and on their creativity.  Building organisations that thrive, and developing the talent pool to lead them are challenges at the heart of business strategies.

We’ve developed new insights into these challenegs through our research in Asia.  this paints a picture of a regional HR profession that can overtake current global best practice to deliver uniquely Asian HR strategies that are truly growth-orientated.”


It’s a bit of a fluffy statement, but also quite profound, if true.

Given this, one of the sessions at the Singapore Human Capital Summit I was most looking forward to was the one on innovative Asian people strategies. Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much innovation in evidence as I would have liked, although a couple of the case studies were reasonably interesting.

So Sumeet Salwan, VP HR, SE Asia at Unilver described the scale and growth that Unilever is facing, and also emphasized that it is having the right people, and a performance culture, not technology etc, which is critical to business success.

Summeet gave a nice example of workforce planning leading to a better understanding of the sorts of actions which would be needed to generate this success.



And I agree with Sumeet that Unilever deserves credit for understanding that this required some significant investment and big actions, not just “focusing a little more and working a little harder”. So Unilver has invested 45m (SGD?) in a new ‘4 acres’ leadership campus in Singapore.

I also liked the presentation from Hamidah Naziadin at CIMB. She has been working at this major regional bank for 20 years (starting off doing all the payroll etc herself). The company has also seen huge growth and challenges including mergers, Unions etc, and was also the one organisation to note that it now uses social media to support orientation etc.


I liked CIMB’s focus on ‘carefrontation’ – being a type of open confrontation based on respect for the individual, which struck me as a very appropriate Asian approach..

I was also interested that at the same time I was tweeting about this, someone else at the conference tweeted about the perspective of an employee in another Asian company suggesting that the Western concept of straight talk is simply an excuse to be rude – something which I think is often true. So I like the idea of carefrontation, but is it that innovative?

Is there really more innovation taking place in Asia than in the West? I’d have loved to have read through all the entries to the Asian Human Capital Awards, and certainly the winners of this – HCL and Manila Water were quite innovative. But I’m not sure there’s as much HR innovation going on in Asia as the CIPD suggest – or that needs to happen of course…

This is certainly a region of immense challenge, I’m quite certain of this. And the conference was full of data points emphasising the huge numbers of people who need to be recruited and developed as leaders etc (Walmart Asia suggest they’ll need to interview 1 million people over the next 5 years). They do need innovation, but I’m not currently convinced that many more of them will be able to follow in HCL’s footprints (meaning finding a unique strategy which differentiates them – not just copying Employees First, Customers Second – which I’m not convinced will work) than will be able to do so in the West…

(Without the right help of course!)



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