Janice Foo is Head of People at KPMG in Singapore.
As a seasoned HR leader, Ms. Foo specialises in attracting talent and creating high-performance teams, which serve as the driving force behind KPMG's success.
Ms. Foo brings with her years of regional experience in all aspects of HR which includes crafting and implementing talent strategies to drive people engagement and organisational growth. Her track record proves her calibre as she is also a trusted advisor and pragmatic executive coach who builds confidence in senior management and leadership teams. Ms. Foo speaks regularly on topics close to her heart in promoting inclusivity, equality and diversity in the workplace.
In this exclusive interview, Ms. Foo sheds light on how organisations can seize a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine the workplace for the future by creating a learning tribe, fostering a hybrid work culture and building a healthy and sustainable workplace. She also discusses the need to raise digital capabilities for greater team collaboration in a hybrid workplace.
As a talent leader, what key factors are shaping your outlook towards the new ways of working in the emerging hybrid workplace?
The future of work is more than just going hybrid.
On top of digital methods and the use of emerging technologies to drive engagement and motivation of employees, talent leaders will need to seek out ways of driving innovation, provoking new thought and creatively pivoting business models. This is especially since employees today are driven by a sense of purpose, beyond just the flexibility to set their own schedules.
Furthermore, companies should also be prepared that, in the future of work, disruptions could happen. Hence, the survival of companies might hinge on them becoming capable of being unpredictable – leveraging agility as a competitive differentiator.
Some strategies that facilitate this renewed focus include creating a learning tribe, fostering a hybrid work culture, and building a healthy and sustainable workplace.
Creating learning tribes, for example, addresses employees’ need to work productively in teams to reach diverse perspectives that can generate innovative solutions. It also builds deep subject matter expertise and gives that sense of purpose for employees looking to work with greater meaning and intention.
Experts can be gathered from across the firm and from outside to share knowledge and skills generously with employees. Cross-country projects, multi-business interactions, on-the-job learning, and inter-department immersion stints can also add to greater engagement while developing future-relevant skills for jobs that may not even exist today.
Fostering a hybrid work culture involves creating an open company culture where there are frequent conversations and speaking up, even when meetings are largely virtual. Companies will also need to find the sweet spot between allowing employees autonomy and flexibility without sacrificing team cohesion, productivity and inclusion.
In building a healthy and sustainable workplace, spaces and settings will need to be designed to promote healthy working habits and business resilience.
Workplace transformation efforts should also incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities which involve green workspaces to curb climate change as well as policies to safeguard the physical and psychological well-being of employees.
For instance, KPMG is strengthening its global commitment to ESG, with a US$1.5 Bn investment focused on training its global workforce, harnessing data, forging alliances and developing new technologies.
How are employers responding to the need to digitise internal processes and systems, and the need to raise employees' digital capabilities?
Technology has become integral to getting work done in this digital economy – and the need to raise the capabilities of the workforce in digital methods of doing business, communicating and engaging has also become critical.
Moving forward, it will not just be about emails, intranets or virtual meeting tools. The digital workplace needs to break down communication barriers in a hybrid work setting, transforming employee experience by fostering efficiency, innovation and growth. This allows us to invest more time in carrying out high-quality work.
Beyond Industry 4.0 is the metaverse. Data will drive personalisation not just for consumers but even for employee engagement. Human-machine collaboration will be key to driving business opportunities and insights. Hence, we are cognisant to equip our people with the skills to effectively harness these tools.
How do you see the role of digital workflow solutions in making workplace communication more efficient, especially cross-functional communication? What is KPMG Singapore doing differently to enhance cross-functional collaboration for its workforce?
The concept of cross-functional communications across teams is not new to KPMG. Our people have always been working together in teams consisting of multidisciplinary professionals. By doing so, we bring innovation, creativity and fresh perspective to projects which also results in the team being more productive.
The future of work calls for the need to put in greater efforts into team collaboration, especially since it involves both physical and virtual workspaces. Digital workflows come in useful here as it helps to complete processes or tasks and keep track of the data around progressions, activities and deadlines.
For example, we are well connected with KPMG firms globally which is crucial when there is a launch of multiple reports simultaneously. Our technology tools enable us to share ideas and resources – while predicting trends and producing insights for the market ahead of the curve.
If you could offer one piece of advice for leaders in the new world of work to improve workforce and workflow management, what would that be?
Don’t just look at workflow management. Think about workforce engagement.
With talent being a scarcity, business leaders are also increasingly aware that they need to foster people-first mindsets to position their organisations as great places to work.
About 24 per cent of Singapore CEOs surveyed by KPMG view employee value proposition as their top operational priority over the next three years, as compared to 13 per cent of their Asia-Pacific and 19 per cent of their global peers. Singapore’s business leaders are also increasingly prioritising how they reward and incentivise talent (38 per cent in 2021 versus 14 per cent in 2020).
The future of work is more than just where employees are based. The aim of employers should be to create plugged-in, people-first and purpose-driven organisations that are able to make a positive impact on the world while propelling future growth.
This exclusive interview is one of a 12-part series on ‘Augmenting employee productivity and engagement with digital capabilities’, co-presented by People Matters and ServiceNow.