Opinion: HR must match the changing face of business

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 11 Nov 2015

Innovation is coming, and HR must move away from its traditional admin role, says Ruchira Chaudhary

Ruchira Chaudhary - profileThe role of HR in Asia is well established and growing. What’s changing is the movement from HR as a traditional personnel and admin role, to a more strategic partner in business planning and implementation. In my experience, having led several merger integration exercises, I see there is growing recognition of HR being viewed as a strategic function and one with a seat at the table – however I don't believe we have tapped HR to its full potential.
Part of the reason is that south east Asia is not a homogenous geographical cluster, and HR factors and policies cannot be seamlessly migrated from one area to another. Each of the countries that make up the region has distinct cultural aspects and nuances that need to be taken into account. In Singapore people are methodical with a high attention to detail, and we are dealing with very process-focused employees. In Thailand, by contrast, there is a focus on relationships and maintaining them for a long time. It’s important to be cognisant of these differences when you work in this environment.
The interesting thing about living and working in Singapore is that many home-grown organisations and local businesses take a lot of pride in being Singaporean. They are actively engaged in promoting the national development agenda. The stereotype of the Asian organisation is that it is hierarchical and very bureaucratic – sometimes this is true, but more often than not it is the reverse.
In recent years, there has been a wave of start-ups and new ventures. The government and regulatory bodies are creating an ecosystem that strongly supports this growth. Educational bodies such as the University of Chicago are placing entrepreneurship and innovation at the forefront of their teaching, and the paradigm of traditional and hierarchical business is moving towards these new-age ventures.
The business landscape in Singapore will become a lot more innovative and creative. While process management and implementation excellence will continue to be at the very core of Singapore's competitive advantage – there will be greater emphasis on creativity and innovation. Government funding and incubators, as well as coaches like myself, are assisting with students taking on new ventures. A climate of change and invention is on the way, and hierarchical business models are recognising that they must change with the times. HR will have a strong role to play in these new businesses. Trends are telling us that it’s time for HR to revamp, reshape and re-trend to match the changing face of business. HR professionals need to be proactive in furthering this shift, especially given the proliferation of new ventures, and Asia needs to play a strategic role in understanding the cultural differences between the old and new age of business.
Ruchira Chaudhary is the senior partner at iOpener Institute for People and Performance and the executive coach for University of Chicago Booth School of Business's ADP Asia program.