Themed “HR in the Driver’s Seat: Purpose • Sustainability • Future Ready”, the HKIHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition 2021 will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from 11 to 12 November.
As the flagship makes a comeback as a physical event, it provides a platform with a human touch for HR professionals to nurture connections.
As we move from the new normal to the next normal, organisations and individuals are confronting what their collective goal is and how they can achieve sustainability during COVID-19 and beyond. The HKIHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition 2021 will shed light on the issues and trends pertaining to the HR community. Ian Choy and Teddy Liu, cochairpersons of the HKIHRM 2021 Annual Conference Organising Committee, concurred that the flagship event is an ideal stage for HR practitioners across the sectors and ranks, to share insights amassed from their organisations’ response to COVID-19 and game plans for a speedy rebound.
Professionals who aren’t from an HR background, including CEOs, would be invited to join the Annual Conference to offer their thoughts on the rapid changes to the business landscape induced by COVID-19. The co-chairpersons believe that this will help the HR function gain a better understanding of what the future holds for their organisations and gear up for the driver’s seat.
Why are purpose, sustainability, and future readiness important for the HR function to take the lead in their organisation? How have the definitions of these qualities changed after the onset of COVID-19?
Teddy: We are preparing for a better future and every company has a purpose. There must be an alignment of the purpose and expectations toward the future. COVID-19 is a time for reflection, helping us understand what we should do going forward. Sustainability is about us continuing to serve our company, customers, and community. The environment is changing all the time so we must learn and groom ourselves to be future ready.
Ian: People exist for a purpose if you look at the traditional psychology model, in which everyone is searching for self actualisation as their highest goal. COVID-19 was a turning point for us, marking our acceleration in this area. The HR function has always been about our people, nowadays it is more so than ever since people make up the organisation and give it the competitive edge. It is important for us as stewards of people to ensure we are future ready and the sustainability of our company continues.
What are the highlights of this year’s programme and how are they different from last year’s? What is special about the Next Gen Forum and how will it draw audience from across the industries?
Teddy: Last year the Annual Conference went virtual due to COVID-19. For this year’s flagship event, we expect a continuation of the online mode, which means geographical boundaries can’t hinder us from inviting speakers from around the globe. This arrangement offers participants a better portfolio of speakers, rather than just speakers from Hong Kong.
Ian: The Next Gen Forum is different from last year’s Young HR Forum. We want the panellists to be more diverse in terms of their backgrounds. We are no longer focusing on whether they are from the HR function – we want to give our audience a much wider view. Nowadays the competition for any industry or company is no longer coming from their own. For instance, the motor industry is competing with the technology industry. Therefore, we want to expose everyone to a more macro set of ideas.
How can HR professionals pivot from the passenger’s seat to the driver’s seat?
Ian: We are at the turning point where people should understand that we need to be more agile than ever. In the past, HR as a function tended to be more rigid because we saw ourselves as the guardians of company principles. Yet the way we execute initiatives need to be different and more relevant to the evolved circumstances. COVID-19 has taught us that we need hybrid working arrangements and social distancing which have become norms. The workforce expects to work remotely at least partially post-COVID. For us to pivot to the driver’s seat, these are things that we as HR practitioners should do to cater for our people.
Teddy: The founder’s mentality concept by Chris Zook and James Allen gives us a good framework of how we as HR professionals can be more pro-active as intrapreneuers, to understand why the founder established the company and how we can drive it like him/her. This mindset enables us to take the leap from the passenger’s seat to the driver’s seat.
The founder’s mentality encompasses three areas. Firstly, it is about the organisations or insurgents and what their minds are focused upon. As entrepreneurs, they have a sense of mission. Secondly, these organisations celebrate the frontline employees. Lastly, they possess the owner mindset, which means they are action driven, cost conscious, and non-bureaucratic.
How can the HR function spearhead their organisation’s navigation of COVID times to prepare it for the future of work?
Ian: As HR professionals, we need to stay relevant in the changing environment and be observant of the shifting habits of our workforce and society at large. A case in point is hybrid working. We need to be more digital savvy since the journey of digitalisation has been accelerated in the past 18 months and there is no turning back to the old ways. Safety and sustainability will still be on everyone’s mind in the next normal, so HR practitioners need to provide a safe and sustainable environment for people to work in.
Teddy: To fulfill the HR function’s purpose, we should build a stronger company culture and cascade it across the ranks, aligning the organisation’s focuses while ensuring that our workforce is agile, and their skillsets are up to date. HR professionals need to embrace the challenge of helping their workforce understand what their company culture is, what their organisation’s goals are and why it is pursuing them, and how everyone can collaborate to deliver the corporate vision.
What are the lessons learnt from managing the workforce during COVID-19 that can be transplanted to post-crisis times? What are the challenges for the HR profession that you can foresee?
Ian: COVID-19 made us realise that we can’t have a one size fits all approach towards our workforce. Due to the public health situation, many people’s role in their family has suddenly dialled up. We need to cater for people at different stages of life and create as much flexibility as possible without disrupting business operation. Flexibility will be more important in the future with people from some organisations demanding to work from home permanently for work-life balance and better productivity. This trend will eventually become a part of all industries. We need to adapt our business model to cater for that or else risk losing talents to our competitors or other industries.
Teddy: The HR function is not just managing the workforce – we are also automating work processes for our organisation. One of the key challenges we face is enhancing our people’s technological savviness and understanding how they can leverage technology to improve work efficiency, without fear of being replaced by it.
Based on the lessons learnt from coping with COVID-19, what do you think is the most important quality that leaders and talents should develop for them to sail through change and be truly future ready?
Teddy: Leaders and talents should always be learning, reflective, agile, and young at heart. We need to have courage and persevere when encountering failures.
Ian: We must learn to learn. Circumstances have changed so much that none of our past experiences serve our current situation well. Thus, we need to be agile and open-minded – learn from anyone who can shine a light on our situation like we are trying to get through a dark tunnel. Hopefully, leaders and talents will become a better community together.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Teddy: The Annual Conference gives participants an opportunity to reflect. After all, COVID-19 is here to stay so we need to ask why we are here and what we can do. We should contemplate what purpose we are serving and fight hard for it.
Ian: Since we are looking forward to holding the Annual Conference physically, we should remember how fragile things are and treasure our human connections when we get together. Face-to-face events have become a luxury, we should seize the chance to learn from one another, sustain existing connections and build new ones at the Annual Conference.
Navigate post-COVID times
The 41st edition of the HKIHRM’s Annual Conference and Exhibition will equip cross-generational HR professionals with the latest knowledge and insights, to lead their organisation out of COVID-19. Concurrent sessions and workshops will gear up HR practitioners as drivers of change in the evolving work landscape.
Furthermore, exhibitors will showcase up-to-date solutions that help the HR function to be future ready. As organisations endeavour to overcome challenges presented by the next normal, the Annual Conference and Exhibition will inspire HR professionals to be creators of workplaces that talents can thrive in.