BMW's Vaishali Ahuja

It is no wonder that BMW's employees can move across the Group based on their interests, development requirements, and business needs.

Based in Singapore, Vaishali Ahuja designs, defines and develops talent management concepts, guidelines, and initiatives for her pan-continental remit. Starting her career in the automotive industry in 2000 with the largest two-wheeler company in the world, she then joined BMW in 2006, and was most recently Country HR Director of Japan in Tokyo before taking on her current role in January 2022.

She will be speaking at the upcoming Accelerate HR 2023 conference, on the topic 'Shifting from designing recognition programmes to building mindsets'.

In conversation with HRO's Lara Samson, Ahuja talks about the talent strategy that embraces diversity in all parts of the business around the world, ensuring employees are at home at any BMW location worldwide.

Interview excerpts below: 

What, in your view, are the top challenges and opportunities of leading HR in your sector and remit?

My role involves leading HR across Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa (APMEA). As you can imagine, the region is very diverse. A mix of working cultures, combined with evolving employee expectations, especially in the new world of hybrid working, makes the overall people topic very complex. However, the common thread is that we are all part of the BMW Group.

As the world of work changes at an unprecedented pace, along with external global factors, all of us in HR live in interesting times, which pose both challenges and opportunities.

With most organisations looking to recover and rebound, where are you finding the headcount your team needs, and how are you coping with the talent shortage?

Finding and nurturing talent is a bigger challenge than ever before, and we need to be innovative to stay ahead of others.

For us, it is about hiring externally as well as developing our own talent, which is key to our business strategy. For example, in the past year, we have rotated existing employees into new roles and have relocated those with specialised skills across markets in APAC as well as globally.

Brain drain is a real concern in Asia at the moment. In this time of manpower shortage, how are you and the team preparing to manage these talent-related challenges?

As a global company, being mobile is one of the cornerstones of our talent strategy. Employees move across the Group based on their interests, development requirements, and our business needs. No matter where you are from, how old you are, or what you like, we embrace diversity in all parts of the business around the world, and our talent strategy ensures this. With such a culture – you are at home at any BMW location worldwide.

Looking towards 2023, what's the biggest change that you believe needs to take place in HR?

While our efforts to find the best talent around the world will continue to be a challenge, a more important challenge is handling the psychological safety of our existing employees.

In the past, full focus was on performance, with mental health being almost an afterthought. In a post-pandemic world, irrespective of the country culture, it is critical for HR to keep its ears and eyes open when it comes to the health and wellbeing of employees.

HR will need to ensure leaders at all levels within the organisation understand the topic, embrace it, and support employees as opposed to using it as a crutch for non-performance.

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Photo / HRO

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