As we get set to unveil our upcoming e-magazine to you, we bring you a behind-the-scenes look at our cover interview where we hear from Dr Kumar Abhishek, Vice President & People Lead, APAC, S&P Global about how the organisation underwent an HR transformation to bring about a series of futuristic people-centric changes.
As a sneak peek at what's to come, in this quick five-minute read, we find out more about Kumar as an HR leader, his motivations, and how things are kept 'fresh' throughout his 21-year HR journey.
Q I understand you first joined HR about 21 years ago, why did you choose HR as a profession?
I joined the HR profession more by choice than chance after completing my formal MBA from XLRI in HR. In fact, I completed my degree in Electronics and very soon realised that I love man more than machine. On a more serious note, I think the technical rigour and numerical literacy of those days have added to my people skills. I used to be a voracious reader during my college days and ended up reading many books on human behaviour to understand why we do what we do. This curiosity transferred into interest in the workings of organisations and the larger society. I thought being in HR could make me learn the most and help me to make a difference by enhancing the individual engagement and in turn drive organisational efficiency and social prosperity. It has been such an enriching experience ever since.
Q Having been in HR all your career, how do you keep things ‘exciting’ or ‘fresh’?
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” This perfectly explains my journey in HR. Four industries in five countries, across six organisations, in two decades, have kept things lively. The central theme that propels me the most is the ability to provide solutions to business problems. And it keeps on changing with time. As my role has changed over the years, now the excitement is to predict and prepare for the future of work, empowering the workforce to learn, unlearn and relearn. I am excited about the way work and the worker are changing with the advent of AI, blockchain, machine learning, augmented reality, and IoT. And there are other sides of technology, the sustainability question, ESG, employee experience, generational expectations, gender parity, and the gig economy. Imagine, the way businesses are going to operate post-COVID-19 where, for the first time in history, millions of employees have worked from home mandatorily for such a long period of time. The possibilities are endless and always exciting to harness people challenges to deliver sustainable business results!
Q What is your leadership style and what do you recommend to young managers and future people leaders?
I believe in a strength-based approach of leadership. Give individuals the work that aligns with their natural strengths and build teams that are diverse in their strengths. This is the sure-shot way to drive productivity, enhance engagement and satisfaction of the individual team members. I hire people for their potential and empower them to do their best by creating a psychological safety net for them to experiment. My advice to young managers and future leaders is to hire better people than yourself and then get out of way. Gone are the days when managers need to direct and monitor employees, today, employees are hired because they know what their job is. The role of the manager then becomes that of a mentor, to stretch, grow, guide them, and to remove “blocks” impeding their progress in the organisation.
Preview: People-first solutions for the future
About a year ago, S&P Global was on a version of the classic three-pillar model where HR business partners report into divisional heads while global Centers of Excellence and HR operations provided fragmented local support.
Realising that this model limited HR’s flexibility to meet rapidly expanding global business complexity and demands, the organisation relooked at their model, seeking to create a scalable, streamlined and empowered regional people function for APAC.
Today, the APAC HR model is divisionally consistent and agile. People partners, regardless of where they sit geographically, support all divisions and report into the regional people lead - who reports to the Chief People Officer and sits on the people leadership team.
Moving forward, the team strives to enhance the people experience by bringing in the best-in-class, futuristic people-centric measures.
In this upcoming interview, we will explore how the firm focused on regional empowerment and people experience to implement the structural changes.
If this has piqued your interest, keep an eye out for Human Resources Online’s March-April 2020 edition of the Singapore magazine which will be up online within the next week.
Art Direction: Mohd Ashraf
Photography: Lee Guang Shun (Studio Three Sixteen Pte Ltd)