HR leaders from Amazon Web Services, EZ-Link, Syngenta Asia Pacific, and Twitter APAC, talk about how they've had to reinvent existing beliefs about work and ways of working in 2020, and what they've learnt from it.

As we enter 2021, to help set the tone moving forward, the team at HRO interviewed about 20 HR and business leaders to put together the key people-related learnings HR and business leaders have gained from their experiences during the unprecedented year of 2020.

The first article saw leaders from Fujitsu, foodpanda, and more, shared tips such as encouraging and practising flexible work, investing in online wellness resources, rethinking the conventional ways, a shift away from the office mentality, and more. In the second one, HR leaders from Diageo, Toll Group, and more, shared their experiences, including continuing to engage employees, the importance of culture and purpose, and more. While the third part of the series has leaders from KONE Corporation, Unilever, and more, talk about leading by empathy, investing in L&D, protecting employees' safety and wellbeing, and more.

This fourth article sheds light on what leaders from Amazon Web Services, EZ-Link, Syngenta Asia Pacific, and Twitter APAC, have observed throughout 2020, a year marked by reinvention, resilience, and remote working.


Sandra Teh, Head of Employer Branding, APJC, Amazon Web Services

2020 has been an unusual year for AWS customers, partners and our employees. It’s also a time when the work we’re doing is the most critical. Here are my learnings from 2020.

Of the 14 Leadership Principles we have at Amazon, one of my favourites is ‘invent and simplify’.

By listening to our customers’ feedback, we will always be well placed about what to build. More than ever, our builders remain customer-obsessed, listening to the challenges faced by our customers, then architecting and recommending meaningful solutions.

2020 has been a year of reinvention, as we found new ways to welcome thousands of new and diverse employees at AWS through virtual job interviews and onboarding sessions.

Diverse teams enable us to be bold to experiment and take risks. I’ve been impressed with the all-round creativity in our teams. From new hires to managers, our teams have enjoyed activities like virtual yoga and cooking classes during work hours.

Lastly, many of our employees around the world are doing impactful work for customers and communities. My team has been busy uncovering these stories and creating videos to bring these to life – all while safely working from home.

Georgina Chung, Head of HR, EZ-Link

Employee health and wellness has always been a key priority for us but the events of COVID-19 meant that we had to take on a different lens when it comes to caring for employees.

With work from home being the default mode of work since Circuit Breaker, the concept of a physical workplace community had “eroded”. We immediately recognised the need to explore new ways to ensure that employees were engaged, motivated, and supported.

Whether it was providing meal and transport allowance for onsite essential workers or organising virtual physical wellness programs like Piloxing (which was popularly requested), we made sure that the physical and mental health of our employees were kept in check.

A rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation meant that setting up the right communication channels for different types of employee engagements was paramount – whether for townhall meetings, team catch-ups or employee feedback. But communication without action is dead.

Hence, we made sure to take action quickly and address any latent issues before they escalate. This helped to seal employee confidence and trust in knowing that their voice was heard, and that EZ-Link would take the necessary precautions to safeguard their health and wellbeing.

Armaan Seth, the Head of HR at Syngenta Asia Pacific

It is rare that a year changes and teaches you lessons that last a lifetime.

2020 has taught us resilience and patience and forced us to modify our core beliefs about work, how we treat our people and the future of our workplace.

The term “people-focused” for me has now embraced even more fully the notion of health and wellness not just for employees but also for customers. We see this when overcoming the challenges of staying connected and engaged with each other remotely, and in implementing safety guidelines for physical interactions.

The quick pivot to digitalisation is another surprise and welcome change. Digital tools and skills are now a necessity, and have helped my company to quickly and effectively launch global initiatives such as the Good Growth Plan, a set of ambitious sustainability targets to combat climate change with farmers and partners.

Lastly, I’ve seen the power of an inclusive culture in ensuring that people can bring their real selves to work over Zoom calls. Flexibility is the ‘new norm’ as we juggle work and family and learn to build an agile and collaborative culture in the workplace of the future.

Lim Zhi Rong, Head of HR for Twitter APAC

2020 has been a challenging year as we adapt to new realities such as embracing remote working arrangements globally. Work from home has equally highlighted the importance of safeguarding our employees’ wellbeing and company’s #LoveWhereYouWork culture.

Communication in the workplace has always been crucial, and during this period of physical distancing, it has become ever more important for us to check in and connect with one another.

For example, pre-COVID, we participated in a weekly Friday #TeaTime - so amidst lockdowns, we made sure to continue with virtual editions for employees to interact and engage with their colleagues. We have also made a conscious effort to encourage our Tweeps to prioritise their health, and make time for themselves and their loved ones.

2020 has also reminded the collective business community that employees have different needs - and that there will never be a one-size-fits-all strategy.

For example, while we have many tools and channels in place to help make the transition to remote working as smooth as possible, there are many whose new office environment is less than ideal. Look at parents, for example, who may well be navigating closed daycare centres and juggling work with childcare. At Twitter, we stepped in to ease additional expenses by providing reimbursement for alternate options.

Our people are the very foundation of what makes Twitter great - and never has this been more apparent than in 2020. We are #OneTeam, and we will continue to ensure that our employees' needs are our number one priority.


Over the next week, we will be sharing more of these learnings in our series of five articles, marked as 2020 recap. 

Photo / 123RF

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