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"The notions behind an ideal workplace of the future have completely shifted, and employees today have differing priorities and demands engineered by the rapidly changing environment and a transformed workplace," says Lekha George Formerly Head of People and Communities for ASEAN and Korea, Cisco (pictured above). 

In this conversation with Bridgette Hall, you can also look forward to George sharing about: 

  • How has the conversation around diversity and inclusion evolved in the HR space;
  • Some of the biggest HR challenges she faced managing talent in the tech sector, and
  • What she predicts will be the biggest workforce trends for 2022 and beyond.

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Q: Take us through your rise up the ranks in HR, and what drew you to the industry and what has kept you in it for almost two decades?

Early on, I was fascinated by the realisation that the key enabler for growth and success for companies rests upon the dedication and efforts of the employees that strive to make it happen. The most ambitious business plans can come to nought without a driven, engaged and motivated workforce.

This drew me to human resources and through the years to be involved in multiple areas of HR ... business partnering, learning and development, staffing, compensation, employee relations and HR operations. I found it rewarding to contribute towards improving the employee experience through all these aspects of HR.

It is fundamental for companies to define the right people strategies in line with the needs of the business while recognising the realities and opportunities in the market and environment. The tech industry is incredibly fast-paced and is front and centre to innovations and cutting-edge transformation in the world. It’s been very fulfilling to make my contribution in this sector, and a great personal journey of learning and growth.

Q: How has the conversation around diversity and inclusion evolved in the HR space? What do the HR leaders of tomorrow need to know?

The conversation around diversity and inclusion matters now more than ever as companies embark on their post-pandemic recovery path. The global pandemic has transformed the way we interact and collaborate with others in the workplace, forcing HR leaders to rethink talent management and employee engagement strategies to cultivate an inclusive culture that offers equal opportunities for all, and welcomes diversity across all spectrums.

Clearly, in the hybrid workplaces of the future, work is what we do and no longer a place we go to. Employees are placing greater value on trust, increased flexibility, and their mental and emotional wellbeing.

With the absence of a physical office space, banding teams together and moving to hybrid work and workplaces, organisations need to be purposeful and ensure that every voice is heard and that no employee feels isolated or alienated in a remote work environment.

HR leaders need to have in place inclusive policies, best practices and collaborative technology and tools that support and empower employees to thrive in their roles no matter where they are, as they navigate this new world of work.

With a renewed focus on employee wellbeing, and a keen understanding of the unique challenges employees face today, HR leaders can foster an inclusive, collaborative, hybrid work environment where all employees are welcome and heard, feel a sense of belonging and can realise their full potential.

Q: You’ve spent most of your career in HR in the technology industry. What are some of the biggest HR challenges you’ve faced managing talent in the sector?

It is no secret the technology sector has traditionally been a male-dominated one. While there has been considerable progress made in advancing gender diversity in recent years, more needs to be done to attract and retain women in the field.

The presence of unconscious bias and glass ceilings may serve as barriers for women to advance into tech leadership roles. Looking ahead, it is key HR leaders recognise these barriers exist and work to eliminate them. This will go a long way in uplifting our women leaders of tomorrow as we work towards a more gender diverse future for the technology industry.

Attracting and retaining talent in the technology sector has also been uniquely challenging leading to a war for great talent. In such circumstances, driving a thoughtful and holistic talent strategy while recognising what drives and motivates talent is vital.

Elements of these include ensuring a work environment that plays to the strength of employees, fosters trust and a shared sense of purpose among teams; empathetic leadership that is truly enabling and supportive, open and transparent; frequent dialogue on work priorities and career development that helps employees articulate career aspirations; and opportunities for coaching, mentoring and sponsorships to help employees continuously learn, gain skill adjacencies and grow.

Q: Who is the one person who has inspired you the most in your career, and why?

An individual’s success is never truly only their own and it takes a village that comes together to be the ‘wind beneath their wings’. For me, it’s been my family that has stood rock solid by my side, encouraging me to lean into whatever I chose as my passion and priorities, and I owe everything I am to their support, encouragement and their celebration of me.

Q: With today’s rapidly evolving environment, what do you believe is HR’s No.1 responsibility/the top way that it can add value?

The human resources function is a hugely critical one, and is even more so in a post-pandemic world. In the transition to a hybrid future of work, we need to acknowledge the inevitable and seismic shift in work cultures, norms and employee expectations.

The notions behind an ideal workplace of the future have completely shifted, and employees today have differing priorities and demands engineered by the rapidly changing environment and a transformed workplace.

As a result of this, HR leaders today have the unique opportunity to equip the business and employees to successfully navigate changes, reimagine ways of working and collaboration, and build a culture that is inclusive, agile and resilient – one which will have a lasting impact on their organisation in the years to come. This, in my opinion, should be the top priority for HR leaders in the coming years.

Q: What are some of the most significant workforce trends you predict for 2022 and beyond?

In managing a hybrid workforce, employee engagement has risen to the fore as an important focus area for organisations, as they look to adapt and emerge stronger amid the fast-changing business landscape.

With remote working becoming the mainstay of the future workforce, employees will increasingly value having a better work-life integration. As such, organisations need to rethink traditional HR policies and look at employing the right strategy fit for the changing workforce.

With the world around us changing rapidly, roles and skill requirements will continue to evolve. Recognising the fluidity of the environment, dynamic career planning with a focus on acquiring critical skills that can open multiple opportunities, will be of greater value than a focus on traditional linear career paths.

Looking ahead, technology will continue to be a key enabler in keeping remote workers happy, engaged and productive, allowing for quality collaboration among teams and smoother work processes. The rise of automation, for instance, will allow employees to move away from mundane, repetitive tasks and take on higher value roles, greatly improving job satisfaction and creating a high-performance culture in which employees are empowered to be their best selves.


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