Skip to main content
Article | Beyond Data

Top 5 HR priorities for 2019

Talent|Total Rewards|Wellbeing|Inclusion and Diversity|Future of Work

By Sambhav Rakyan | January 23, 2019

Five priority areas where HR must thrive in 2019.

Digital transformation and social revolution proved to be among the greatest challenges for HR in 2018. We live in times where silence or slow action from employers can be seen as apathy. Meanwhile, organisations are struggling to find a balance between practising transparency and securing their data at the same time.

We will see similar challenges and conversations continuing into 2019. But this year, it is crucial for the HR function to exercise strategic proactivity. HR must understand how global market forces will impact their organisation and take advantage of digitalisation to thrive in a complex and volatile world.

These are five priority areas where HR must thrive in 2019

Commercial acumen

Across Asia Pacific, only 14% of organisations have reached a significant level of digital maturity and are fully prepared to meet new challenges in the future of work. A key factor in successful digital transformation is having and keeping the right talent. For those ‘Digital Leaders’, this is not a feat achieved by sheer luck, rather the result of a well-defined strategy and a keen understanding of how digitalisation will impact their business in the long-term.1

There are massive socio-economic and political movements today that are causing rapid shifts in every region. On top of digitalisation and social revolutions, there are trade wars, populist agendas and geopolitical tensions in various parts of the world that are also influencing the dynamics within the global labour market.2

It is crucial for HR professionals to be attuned to these market trends and to be well-informed in the circumstances around these, so that they can competently help their organisation respond appropriately to changes in business strategy vis-à-vis talent requirements. HR must collaborate and proactively partner with business leaders and managers in order to identify and mitigate talent risks.

Social activism

Employees today are boldly calling out employers who are slow to act on the urgent need for gender neutrality, pay parity, and inclusion and diversity. In many Asia Pacific markets to this day, there remains a clear line between the roles and capabilities that are traditionally expected of men and women. When we review the male-to-female ratio of most functions across the region, men still hold a majority of IT and engineering roles, while women still dominate in most of the HR, legal, and finance roles. Additionally, gender distribution disparity increases significantly starting at the middle management levels. Only 7% of executive level roles are performed by women across 13 major markets.3

Around 40% of employers in Asia Pacific have taken actions to promote an inclusive and diverse culture, create gender-neutral policies and review their recruitment and promotion practices for gender bias. However, when it comes to the highly sensitive issue of gender pay equality, less than 20% have examined their pay matrix for possible gender-related gaps. Only 23% see gender pay equality as a major factor in base pay decisions.4

There is a new social contract that employees expect their employers to fulfil. Demonstrate your willingness to meet it by prioritising a gender pay diagnostic in your organisation and urgently addressing any discrepancies that may be found. Affirm your commitment to a long-term behavioural and social shift within your organisation by consistently practising transparent communication around pay and career decisions.

Digital mind-set

Less than 10% of HR functions globally today are fully prepared for digital transformation.1 Only 8% use advanced technology for rewards programme design and delivery, and only 17% do the same for pay programme development and delivery. It’s not surprising to see that over 70% of these tech-minded organisations are reporting higher employee engagement around rewards and benefits, and significantly less difficulties with talent attraction and retention.4 5

HR must accept that digitalisation is no longer an incoming wave of change. It is already here and it is bringing about fundamental changes to existing business models, which in turn is influencing significant redesigns to jobs and work processes. Leaders will look to HR to help determine how people and machines can co-exist and work together. This is why digitalisation is not just IT’s concern but very much HR’s as well.

Today’s talent can sense when their employer is not ready for digitalisation and they will be quick to head for the exit. Globally, almost half of organisations say their talent acquisition issues are due to not being recognised as a digital brand, while over one-third say it is because they have no well-defined digital strategy.1 HR must seek out opportunities that would help them to truly understand what digitalisation means for the business and for the workforce. This is the best way for HR to be prepared to provide guidance to the business for emerging challenges in an increasingly digitalised workplace.

Connected data

Data is the ‘oil’ of the new economy.

Thanks to the agility that comes with advanced technology, data can be readily accessible to everyone who needs it for their work. Employees will continue to network and collaborate more, leading to more data creation and sharing. And as data is increasingly commodified, it will become even more urgent to find an integrated platform through which to consume data on-the-go.

When HR is able to harness their organisational data through an integrated and agile platform, they can easily and more efficiently connect various data points and disciplines, thereby gaining a holistic analysis that would inform critical business decisions in less time and effort. The automated process that powers this possible scenario will also empower HR workers to do more ‘human’ work, such as focusing on pay parity, pay transparency, people development, upskilling and employer branding.

In most organisations around the world today however, the manner through which data is entered, shared and used remains very different and dependent on various factors – where one person enters data is not necessarily where others might access it. Additionally, more than half of HR functions globally still rely on an extensive system of spreadsheets.4 It is not surprising to find that for over a third of digital novices worldwide, a lack of data insights is the top challenge in their digital transformation.1

And as HR evaluates digital solutions, the cyber hygiene practices of the service provider must be top-of-mind. Although there are private cloud offerings, the organisation’s entire database of personal and confidential information will nonetheless be ‘in the cloud’, where cyber risks are ever-present. Perform due diligence to ensure a balance between mobility and security.

Wellbeing, diversity and inclusion

Around 90% of Asia Pacific organisations are facing attraction and retention challenges, especially with in-demand digital talent.1 But among the employers that are leading in the Total Rewards space, only a quarter globally are experiencing these difficulties with all employee groups. Notably, less than two-thirds of such organisations are challenged with attracting critical and high-potential talent, while only 39% experience difficulty attracting diverse employees.5

What is the secret to their success? Around 70% of Total Rewards leaders say that, one of the main actions was including a holistic wellbeing programme as a key component of the talent value proposition. Inclusion and diversity (I&D) was identified as a major factor towards achieving wellbeing in the workplace.5

Less than a quarter of companies globally today have a formal programme that focuses on I&D.4 HR should not have to wait on legislation before pushing for a long-term organisational change around I&D. It is crucial however, for this change to begin at the top – companies with a diverse board outperform peers on profitability by 21% and value creation by 27%.6 Get buy-in from the C-Suite by objectively presenting the positive effects of I&D on the business, and by developing a measurable and methodical plan for establishing cultural change.7 Integrate I&D principles into rewards by creating policies and practices that will allow every employee to feel safe and valued at work.

What are your key priorities for 2019? We would love to hear your feedback.

12018 Artificial Intelligence and Digital Talent Survey, Digital Transformation Practices Report – Asia Pacific
2 2018 HR Trends Report – Asia Pacific (Q3)
3 2018 Compensation Survey Workforce Analytics – Asia Pacific
4 2018 Willis Towers Watson Getting Compensation Right Survey
5 Mapping the new Total Rewards journey: Global findings from the 2018 Modernizing Total Rewards Survey
6 Why Diversity And Inclusion Matter
7 Inclusion and diversity isn't just good for employees – it's good for the bottom line

Contact Us