Opinion: HR must think beyond borders

Author: Wilson Wong | Date: 13 Apr 2016

The CIPD’s Wilson Wong on the future of work, and the big trends reshaping the workplace

Wilson WongNothing stays still for very long in Asia and this month I’ve been meeting with lots of people discussing the future of work.
 
At the recent Future of Work seminar organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM), we explored some big themes, with broad agreement that data literacy and analytics must be part of 21st century human capital management.
 
The CIPD also launched The Future of Talent in Singapore 2030 report. In a fast-growing region of the world, attracting, developing, retaining and deploying talent is a key competitive advantage. The report drew on a panel of 30 Singaporean and Singapore-based experts to explore their understanding and recognition of ‘talent’.
 
Coming in the wake of the 2016 Singapore Budget, where there was a lot of emphasis on human capital development, the research contributed to the national discussions on the relationship between technical excellence and innovation in Singapore, and the various initiatives to meet short-term skills shortages.
 
But the broader context matters too. This month alone, we’ve seen interesting developments in the parliaments of Vietnam and Myanmar; more festering news on 1MDB in Malaysia; the impact of El Nino on rainfall and temperatures in the region with more extreme variations, and the global impact of China’s economic slowdown. You may ask – what’s this to do with HR?
 
All these (and more) are factors shaping the business environment which impacts the future of work, workplaces and workforces across the region. We are increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Slowing domestic demand for steel in China, coupled with over-capacity, has forced Chinese producers to export, forcing prices to plummet. Older EU plant face closure with job losses in the thousands, while the US has imposed higher import tariffs. Anti-dumping fines and cases are mounting.
 
Meanwhile, relatively high economic growth in China – compared with the developed economies of the West – is increasing the number of overseas students that return to China. The practice of HRM in China has to evolve rapidly to retain talent.
 
To be architects of the workplaces of the future, HR has to pay attention to the complex interactions that shape our lives. This ranges across some thorny questions on positive discrimination, appraisals and getting ahead. All of these operate in a socio-political context; one that HR professionals need to consider in their practice.
 
The recently published United Nations Development Programme 2015 Human Development Report focuses on the theme ‘rethinking work for human development’. Work (rather than the narrower ‘job’) is “the means for unleashing human potential, creativity, innovation and spirits”. I see the HR profession at the heart of this conversation, shaping organisational and policy decisions to further human development so many more can enjoy better work and working lives.
 
Wilson Wong is head of insight and futures at the CIPD