A #SHRM18 Interview with Chien Ping Tham


Last October I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Singapore. Despite the 13-hour flight, I landed excited and refreshed to experience a world that seemed so different from my own here in North America. From food to friendly gestures, I did a ton of research to begin to understand appropriate business and social customs in a new country. I spent hours speaking to people who had visited or lived there to discover the cultural nuances and of course, their favorite restaurants. The last thing I wanted was to appear ignorant or uneducated in a new business environment. I felt lucky to have a global perspective on talent and to see it in action.

This global perspective has only become more important as HR leaders advance in their career into worldwide roles. In fact, it’s not just a nice to have anymore but required - especially as companies in North America and Europe begin to expand in this market due to the rapid growth of huge economies like Indonesia and Vietnam. Their ability to understand not only the programs to create but how to translate activation for a local culture is fundamental to their success and the growth of the company. What’s even more critical is how they evolve their thinking beyond their own community.

North American and European HR leaders must be aware that the culture and many “norms” are different. “In Southeast Asia, for example, flexible work arrangement is something that is still very much seen as a benefit more than a policy, unlike in Europe and North America where commuting to work can be impacted by weather conditions,” says Chien Ping Tham, Senior Associate Consultant at Singapore HR Institute and presenter at the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition. “The notion of ‘you are only working if you can be seen working’ is still prevalent in this region and thus a lot more can be done to promote flexi-work arrangement which has been validated to support retention of talents and productivity as well.”

Chien Ping took the time to speak with me about the nuances of Southeast Asia and elaborate more on what he plans to cover during the presentation, HR Challenges in a Diverse Southeast Asia: Perspectives from Singapore. During our conversation, we explored top regional trends and concerns for global leaders in Southeast Asia from time off to culture-building. For any company who wants to understand the diverse nature of the region and the subsequent challenges, and the views of how HR is largely practiced - this is your session.

That’s one of the beauties of the SHRM conference. It brings together speakers from around the world to deliver presentations that prepare your mind for a new cultural approach once you’re back at your desk. If you have the aspiration to be a talent leader in the region, I cannot recommend this presentation more for your personal development and for strategies that will help you build a localized approach to an eclectic region and culture.


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