Daniel Brandenberger, Head of HR UBS Singapore, HR BP WM South East Asia & WM GFO APAC, UBS AG Singapore

UBS AG Singapore took home the gold award for 'Excellence in Digital Transformation' as well as the gold as ‘Employer of the Year’ at the HR Excellence Awards 2021, Singapore.

In this interview, Daniel Brandenberger, Head of HR UBS Singapore, HR BP WM South East Asia & WM GFO APAC, UBS AG Singapore (pictured above) spills the beans on creating a highly motivated workforce, where 90% of employees agree that they are being provided a professional and respectful work environment.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

At UBS, our purpose is to reimagine the power of people and capital to create a better world for all – a world that’s fair, sustainable and gives everyone the opportunity to thrive. To remain an employer of choice, we want to fulfil our mission to provide a best-in-class employee experience, where we invest in our employees and connect the right resources and talent. Our UBS culture is inclusive, diverse, and equitable, with a focus on the employees personal development, engagement, and wellbeing.

Our HR strategy is driving ‘A New Way of Working’, and positioning our organisation as a great place for employees to unlock their potential.

The way we work together, is constantly evolving in these times of rapid change and transformation. The UBS agile ways of working ensures that we can deliver better outcomes faster, and transform the way our firm gets things done. We’re proud to deliver on our new HR strategy and priorities, as we transform into a more agile, digital function and firm.

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?  

Our HR priorities and mission focus on our employees personal development, engagement, and wellbeing. The results of this year’s Employee Survey show us that we have a highly motivated workforce. 90% of our employees agree that we provide a professional and respectful work environment. We also see high ratings across all dimensions of line manager effectiveness.

During this challenging period, support from our stakeholders and senior management helps us reach our goals. We want to create a positive work environment and provide easily accessible and effective HR services for employees. Leadership is very active in suggesting ideas to keep employees engaged and we have a biweekly meeting with leaders to make quick, flexible decisions on how we can support our staff.

Q Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?  

When COVID-19 shut workplaces across the globe, HR teams faced the unique challenge of managing the health, safety and wellbeing of employees in a purely remote environment. One of our major obstacles has been to take personal, often sensitive processes and handle them virtually. 

At UBS, our HR innovation activities are structured around insights, efficiency, experience, and connectivity.

By using this disciplined framework to guide our digital transformation, we’ve been able to offer more detailed and targeted advice in both face-to-face and online settings. This is making this challenging period significantly easier to manage, and we’re well-placed to adapt to changing demands on us as a function.

Q As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your gameplan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?  

Creating genuine impact with tangible results is important to us, and that’s why we track employee sentiments through a bank-wide survey on a yearly basis. Considering COVID-19 benefits, we tracked the results through staff feedback collected in an open inbox on an ongoing basis. 

In our internal survey, our employees responded favourably to questions related to work enablement, work environment as well as learning and career opportunities within the firm. We’re proud to beat the financial services benchmark as well as the high-performing organisation benchmark. 

One of the most important findings, is that an effective line manager provides feedback and promotes internal mobility. The learning opportunities that the firm offers plays an important part too.

One of the key achievements for us, was our focus on providing job opportunities by onboarding 300 graduate and mid-career hires into our UBS programme for employability and resilience, launched in 2020

Q We’re now seeing HR manage portfolios that were previously considered far from their job description. In your view, what are the top three skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO? 

The pandemic underscores the need for more dynamic talent management model and more agile ways of working setups.

In my view, a great HR head is a transformational leader, who champions agility, and uses data to analyse situations quickly to make the right recommendation and decisions for the business.

The past year has brought challenges that few would have imagined. The acceleration to modernise and digitalise companies, has required adaptability from both employees and employers, to remain productive and profitable

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