Human Resource (HR) professionals would never have imagined the many challenges that COVID-19 has unceremoniously dropped on their lap.
The effects of the pandemic has crushed the economy, putting many employees in stressful situations wondering what the future has in store. HR professionals are holding up the fort trying to keep everything in perspective and aligned. HR leaders now face the pressure to cut costs to alleviate the bottom line. What HR do is of paramount importance because the way cost decisions are managed will determine how well they sustain performance during this crisis and how well an organisation can emerge stronger.
Citadel Search hosted our latest webinar in September 2020 by inviting 3 Panellists, Aaron Boey, Group CEO of Eu Yan Sang International Ltd, Tang Li Chow, HR Director of Haw Par Corporation Limited and Cassandra Ong, Senior HR Business Partner from Kuok Singapore Limited Group.
The webinar was put together by Citadel Search for HR Practitioners, hosted by Citadel Search’s very own Managing Director, Cindy Yeo. Through this conversation, we facilitated an interesting conversation and discovered HR cost-efficiencies that HR Practitioners can capitalise on during this difficult period.
We are glad many HR Practitioners joined us in this webinar – they came from top MNCs to fast-growing local companies, ranging from CHROs to HR Heads and fielded great questions that contributed to an engaging evening.
In this webinar, the 3 panellists gave our HR Practitioners insightful and practical measures :
- Review of HR Spend
- How HR need to stay relevant and deliver service– what are some ways to measure the efficiencies of HR in organisations
- How is technology impacting HR during this pandemic
- How to handle retrenchment sensitively with a heart
These are our 5 biggest takeaways:
Human Resource Management Insight # 1:
There are various cost-cutting measures organisations can implement to be cost-effective.
As a HR veteran with more than 20 years in the industry, Cassandra Ong shared various HR cost-reduction initiatives that have proven to be effective in achieving cost-efficiency for her organisations, present and past. However, these initiatives were not just needed because of the impact of COVID-19, it was also an opportunity for organisations to right-size their employee population, to have an engaged team of employees who have the structure and resources to help the organisation meet its strategic business objectives.
Among all the cost-reduction initiatives she had implemented, one of the most unique initiatives shared by Cassandra in her previous organisation was to establish lower pay scales for new hires, which successfully made it more cost-efficient for her previous organisation. More drastic methods of cost-reduction included the painful exercise of reducing headcount, restricting travel, localisation of roles, benefits alignment to the economic situation and practical measures such as the useful discipline of employees to have lights out during lunch breaks, reducing paper print, using a different grade of paper in office administration and renegotiating vendor contracts, etc. Every dollar counts!
Interested to find out more? Do keep a lookout for Citadel Search’s podcast channel!
Human Resource Management Insight #2:
Handling retrenchment the right way
In times when organisations are actively cutting costs, retrenchment becomes an inevitable strategy. When Citadel Search asked Cassandra about how she handled retrenchment, she shared that regardless of whether there is a COVID situation or not, retrenchment may be an inevitable resort when business goes south.
Some companies have done it without the due consideration of their employees’ feelings. It is important to handle the retrenchment process well and to understand that the employees have worked hard and contributed to the company.
However, retrenchment can be done right with sensitivity and care, using a humane approach. Citadel Search’s webinar participants all learnt how Managers in the organisation need to be properly trained when conducting retrenchment exercises. They may not have the necessary skills and must be armed with skills and knowledge on things to avoid during retrenchment exercises. For more information on how to do it effectively, come talk to us!
Human Resource Management Insight #3:
The need to embrace Digital Knowledge
Our panellists talked about how people are getting more tech-savvy in this day and age. In the past, employees can be very traditional and hence very uncomfortable with technology even till to the extent of not knowing how to respond when online meeting invites were sent to them.
However, COVID-19 has further accelerated the use of technology, even the most traditional of employees are forced to become tech-savvy and embrace technology to work efficiently during this pandemic. The Citadel Search’s host reckoned it is remarkable to see how highly adaptive employees have become in these uncertain times, and technology has played a big part in helping with this progression. Technology has helped organisations save costs. With online video calling platforms, people can now close deals through online means. Employee training can also be done through E-platforms, regional meetings can be conducted live via online collaboration tools, saving the costs needed to fly regionally or internationally.
Human Resource Management Insight #4:
It is crucial to pivot and go into digital strategy
Our panellist Group CEO Aaron Boey shared how Eu Yan Sang pivoted and continued to excel amidst the pandemic. He shared how the leaders advised their employees to focus on the things that they can control, to always remain strategically sound but actively astute. From Aaron’s perspective, the business is not sustainable and built based on just short-term measures like cost-cutting, because whilst the cost has to be managed, revenue has to come in as well.
During the lockdown, when Eu Yan Sang retails stores needed to close, they got employees to leverage their assets. One part of the strategy was digitalisation by moving retail stores to e-commerce platforms. The other part of the strategy was using more traditional methods by calling up customers to find out what they needed, what they lacked and fulfilling them, as part of their efforts to maintain their tradition of educating customers and building relationships. Even with the country-wide lockdown, Eu Yan Sang managed to achieve great success, even hitting 2/3 of their normal sales with all their retail stores closed. Many ideas and tactical innovations that were implemented came from their people, their spirit to never give up and strive for longer term and sustainable success.
It was inspiring and amazing to see how our local companies such as Eu Yan Sang demonstrated such thought leadership and are ahead of the curve, giving the webinar participants a much needed boost!
Human Resource Management Insight #5:
How to measure the efficiency of the HR people in your organisation?
HR leaders must be efficient, as they are one of the driving forces to help businesses adapt and achieve organisational goals, especially during times like these. It is interesting to listen to HR Director Tang Li Chow shared his perspective on how he would measure the efficiency of his HR teams. He candidly shared that one success measure is how often employees voluntarily engage with HR, instead of the other way of HR initiating contact. He shared that this can essentially help to reduce the number of employee situations turn sour and how trust can be developed in HR.
Li Chow also shares that his approach to increasing the efficiency of his HR teams is to welcome employees to come to him with their grievances and demands. With staff voluntarily coming to the HR to express their opinions can be a bedrock to an employee survey without the need to actually conduct one. It puts HR in a better position to know what the employees need and want, rather than the employees make assumptions that HR will not be able to help them. Especially during these times, it is imperative HR practitioners see COVID as a gift, so that we can reflect on how we are managing, helping and engaging our employees.
We concluded the fruitful night with Cindy Yeo, the MD of Citadel Search summarising that the role of HR has certainly changed. We all need to shift gears, move beyond from compliance to be strategic value creators, be agile and embrace great leadership behaviours to stay ahead of the game.
It is crucial to keep employees engaged during this time and foster the value of lifelong learning to build connected learners. With this spirit, it will hold everyone in a good state in this new “normal”, making it less challenging.
Here at Citadel Search, we believe that if our local companies can successfully pivot and emerge stronger from these difficult times, all of us can also learn from their success.
We would also like to encourage all HR practitioners, we know you have been working doubly hard and we recognise you for what you have done and holding the fort for HR. Let us see COVID as an opportunity to do things that we could not do before. This is a golden opportunity for HR to step up, create strategic value and make a memorable impact!