In conjunction with Microsoft, ChapmanCG continued its Asia HR Networking series by hosting over 20 Regional Talent Acquisition leaders in Singapore on Friday 6th of November. Attendees from a number of organisations including Abbott Laboratories, Google, Illumina, Manulife, PayPal, Philips, Qiagen, SAP, Shell, Singtel and SITA joined us to discuss linking the Talent Acquisition function to the overall retention and engagement strategies in APAC.

What Does Your Perfect Hire Look Like?

Our host, Zoe McBride, APAC Talent Acquisition Lead with Microsoft, began by sharing a new HR strategy that has transformed the way the organisation looks at people and productivity across the entire business. This cultural change journey Microsoft is on is at the centre of the HR strategy. When seeking new recruits, Microsoft hire a broad spectrum of people to cover all consumers - from Xbox to Enterprise Cloud customers, and everything in between. There is also a new recruiting goal, which is to ensure that every new hire has the clarity and energy to strengthen Microsoft’s retention and engagement over time. Zoe was the first to admit that, “We are still defining what this looks like, but ultimately being 'customer-obsessed' and having the ability to cut through what can be a complex environment that is going through a significant transformation are the things Microsoft is seeking.”

Retain and Engage

Interestingly the next point of discussion, around retention and keeping employees engaged, came out of Microsoft’s goal of having everyone ‘work as one’. Gone are the days when companies want different functions and business units to compete against each other - now there is a push to break down the silos in which people have worked in the past, and to reward collaboration and cooperation instead. The company is even including this in the performance management system, so that if employees take risks, collaborate and come up with new innovative ideas, they will be rewarded. Linking collaboration to rewards is a fantastic idea, and one that we think will deliver results going forward in terms of creativity and innovation.

The Building Blocks of Retention Start With TA

Sharing the Talent Acquisition strategy at Philips, Adele Png, Head of TA for ASEAN Pacific, discussed the on-going journey that her team is taking with the hiring managers, to ensure that they play an active role in talent attraction and retention right from the start. The TA team at Philips has responsibility for putting in place the “building blocks” of retention from the start. ‘Job briefings’ with hiring managers will include succession-planning discussions, which aim to take a deeper look at the current, as well as the future needs of the role. This ensures that full consideration is given to the scope of the role and how it will evolve with the business needs, and the type of profile who will succeed and grow in that role - all important building blocks of retention. Other building blocks are also put in place when hiring managers take equal ownership in the hiring process, and the TA team equips them with the right tools. These managers are coached to be able to ‘sell’ their EVP, assess for the right profile and manage candidate care. Hiring managers are also tasked with bringing talent on board who will grow into the job, as opposed to simply choosing someone with the requisite experience, thus sowing another seed as these hires tend have longer career ‘runways’. It has been a challenging but satisfying journey, and Adele has found that the hiring managers are significantly more engaged and are increasingly aligned in their views and language around new talent.

It was noted that ‘under-hiring’ someone who has the potential to grow into the role may not be the right strategy for certain positions or individuals. Microsoft spoke about the need to ‘over-hire’ talent in order to attract some of the brightest in the ‘cloud’ space or other critical roles, due to the competitive nature of the industry, the limited talent pool and the rapid growth targets. A key characteristic for Abbott when it identifies executive talent is someone who can grow/move in his or her career in two to three years. SITA shared that retaining its workforce was not always about offering career advancement, rather its workforce is mainly employees who have long tenure with the company, and they have sometimes had to step down in order to move into a new role.

Retaining Through Mobility

This led to a discussion about internal mobility as another method of retaining key talent. It is important to ensure that managers understand that an employee is the ‘company’s’ talent, as opposed to the ‘manager’s’ talent, and that an employee who does not excel in one role may do well in another. Google is an organisation that subscribes strongly to this belief, and staff there can move after spending one year in a role. Whereas this has enabled many employees to have interesting careers within Google, the resulting high rate of internal mobility does make it challenging to balance both business and employee interests. Shell, on the other hand, approaches career planning by looking at shorter stints in the early career, and longer stints in the later career, which has also proven to be a winning formula for employee retention. Regardless of the approach, it is clear that the TA team plays an important role in the equation, having the overarching view of available talent, as well as corporate needs.

The TA function is continuing to evolve, and from the active discussions, it is clear that this function plays a crucial role in the overall engagement and retention strategies of most corporations. It was also evident that TA must continue to work closely with the hiring managers and other HR colleagues to ensure that all dots are connected in the talent roadmap, from attraction right through to engagement and retention.

Many thanks go to our hosts at Microsoft, and we look forward to reconvening in 2016 to catch up on Talent Acquisition trends next year.