Professional of the Year 2007: HR Professional of the Year Profile
Fernando Esquivel, HR director, Asia Pacific, Microsoft says, “The [HR] function plays a critical role in defining the strategies for growth, workforce planning and the overall organisational strategy.” HR is crucial in attracting and retaining the best talent, creating a value-based environment, building leader and in ensuring that the people who stay on benefit from the growth of an organisation. Andrew How, general manager of Hay Group Singapore also sees a more holistic approach to HR across the last few years, with less specialisation. He thinks there is an overlapping of roles with HR increasingly holding strong discussions with line managers across the organisation.
This would make HR more of a value proposition in an era where human capital is increasingly hard to satisfy. While HR professionals are said to playing an increasingly strategic role in their company, HR director of IBM Singapore, Tho Lye Sam thinks the administrative work associated with the role cannot be ignored. She says the other is the more strategic part of the business, which is to “understand the business, the trends, the workforce, the diversity and the demographics.”
This gives HR a challenging role, attributing it with some of the most difficult tasks in business today. In a competitive environment, where attrition rates are growing, some companies are making their mark in the domain of HR. These companies may be unique in terms of their values and culture, but display certain common HR ideals that could explain their success.
The Human Resources magazine's HR Professional othe Year survey reveals that the top three companies to work for in Singapore are large multinationals, with Hewlett-Packard (HP) ranked first, IBM in second position and Microsoft in the third. They are followed by Shell, Singapore Airlines, Citibank, Agilent Technologies, ExxonMobil, Motorola and General Electric.
Technology companies dominate the rankings, once again proving its growing stature in business today. Interestingly enough, industries such as retail & hospitality and government & community services are absent from the top 10. So is general manufacturing.
The list is essentially a testimony to the global nature of business with multinationals occupying pole positions and featuring only one Singapore-based company, Singapore Airlines in the fifth position.
Top winner HP garners 86.23% of the votes. It is ranked highest in the HR technology category (17%) and also has a strong showing in the business process outsourcing category (13.28%). It fares less well in the compensation & benefits category (5.19%) as opposed to IBM (6.69%) and Microsoft (7.38%).
Foo Chiew Eng, HR director, Southeast Asia, HP believes that the work environment at HP could explain this win. Foo says HP’s culture is very much driven by the work environment and open-door communication, which is its hallmark. She thinks employees need to feel motivated to contribute the best they can. Its people promise “Grow and win with HP” is one of its key initiatives. This is enabled through programmes in career development, talent management, leadership learning solutions and total rewards. Total rewards are about performance-based pay as opposed to mere seniority alone.
HP also conducts the Voice of Workforce (VOW) survey every year to get employees’ feedback. The one thing Foo keeps referring to is the environment. She says it is part of HP’s roots to engage employees by promoting open communication, which is indispensable to help managers and employees connect.
First runner-up IBM also conducts regular surveys to test the pulse of its people and Tho highlights five key differentiators of IBM’s HR positioning in Singapore. The company strongly adheres to the following principles: a value-based climate, with dedication towards clients’ success because “without them we wouldn’t be here”. Second comes diversity, third is leadership, next comes flexibility and in the fifth position is performance-based pay. Commenting on the ranking, Tho says, “We’re very honoured and we never expected it.”
She thinks that people want to join IBM not because it’s a global brand, but to make an impact, not only in the company, but the community at large. It is also about working for a “forward looking company”, one that allows employees certain freedom in both work and life. Tho says says more than 70% of the IBM workforce is mobile, and that being mobile is about trust and not only about technology.
Both IBM and HP also draw on their diversity in terms of nationalities and services to enable employees to change jobs, learn through interaction with other cultures and encourage fun at work. Foo says HP’s success is “not a one-time effort, but a continuous evolution of the organisation that has brought us to where we are today.”
At Microsoft, Esquivel believes that people are the company’s key asset. Building a strategy around people, Microsoft is committed to making an employee’s stay within the organisation a rewarding one. The company offers working parents flexible work arrangements; facilities such as mother’s room and three days paid leave for employees to do volunteer work for the community. “Within the People Agenda, HR is accountable to support our business leaders to make our HR and people initiatives a reality in the areas of diversity and inclusion, compliance and living our company values,” he says. These values could lie at the heart of their success. Like Foo, Esquivel thinks “it’s a continuous journey”.With business transformation follows HR’s transformation. Growing alongside business, HR enables companies to align people strategy and organisational objectives. What Esquivel says about their mission could lend itself to HR, “enabling people and businesses throughout the world to realise their full potential."
- Hewlett Packard Asia Pacific
- Microsoft Asia Pacific