Q&A: Sam Moon: “Nobody has job security anymore"

Author: Doveen Schecter | Date: 22 Dec 2015

The executive director of NexGen on what the next five years holds for HR

Sam Moon - profileSam Moon is the executive director of the Next Generation Leadership Council (NexGen) – which means he has spent the past 30 years working in Hong Kong with major global traditional media brands such as The Economist, Dow Jones and Businessweek. He arranged visits for luminaries and world leaders, inviting speakers such as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George Bush Sr, Tony Blair, John Major and Colin Powell to conferences and forums.
Now he’s building NexGen, a membership-based, independent, non-partisan think tank and advocacy organisation composed of Hong Kong business leaders who believe in the power of technology to transform society for the better. People Management had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the future of HR in Asia.
Has being a father of three and an openly gay man affected your work in Asia?
When I first came to Hong Kong I had a boyfriend and we adopted three kids. We were together for 19 years with kids in school, and I didn’t have a choice: I was out. I grew up in a time before computers and before social media and, because society told me growing up that I was wrong and didn’t discover until I was 21 that I am right, it’s really influenced the way I see the world and made me want to uplift and enable people.
Whenever, over the years, someone would say: “I can’t do something,” I would say: “Open your mind and once you start asking how you can do something, the solutions come your way.” That’s been the most important observation of my entire life. I think it’s made me a better person and a better manager of people and a better leader, because I don’t just accept the status quo.
What HR changes do you predict for Asia over the next five years?
I’ve had an inside view working with one of Asia’s leading brands, The Economist, and have been in the offices of CEOs and country leaders across Asia and I thought I’d seen and done everything. This year I had a unique experience that really changed my perspective.
The chairperson of the Next Generation Leadership Council, Rosana Wong, sent me to Singularity University in California for a six-day executive program at the NASA Space Centre in Silicon Valley. Those six days re-wired my mind and re-invigorated my energy. The next five years in terms of human resources, artificial intelligence and robotics, are all on exponential curves.
Nobody has job security anymore. Whatever you saw in the last five years, that might have been related to, say, robotics or healthcare as enablers, will change again in the next three years. There will be tools and technology that use artificial intelligence (AI) and self-learning. Some predictions say that within five years, up to half of white-collar jobs will be eliminated in banks, and insurance back offices.
Over the next five years, any dialogue between HR professionals should rethink any kind of community we have, not just employees, but all stakeholders. Every organisation should be part of that community dialogue and see it as an opportunity to redesign, reshape and rethink our societal values. Here in Hong Kong we tell our kids to get a good education so they can be a good doctor, lawyer, banker, but the banking industry in the next three to five years will be completely disrupted.
How did the Singularity University experience inform your work with NexGen?
My six-day Singularity University experience allowed me to bond with 80 people from 27 different countries. I came out convinced that this is how NexGen will start to change minds.
For two days, we will have 14 of the smartest people on earth that work as thought leaders and department heads at Singularity University, what they call their ‘A Team’. Of the people attending, 40 will be NexGen business leaders, coming from sons and daughters of major conglomerates and families here in Hong Kong. A further 20 will be scholarships for other parts of society that we need to have as part of this dialogue and 20 will be from the top tier of civil servants. This is the start of retooling Hong Kong and making sure it has a bright future. I find that as a part of human resources, if you are inspired and your heart is in something then you inspire other people.