29 April 2019
Regional leaders gathered at the 20th AAMO Triennial Conference to discuss how to equip themselves to lead with impact.
Disruption, ageing talent pools, diversity, inclusion and emotional intelligence – these are just some of the pressing issues current and emerging leaders face, especially in Asia.
Asia is expected to become the world’s largest economy by 2030 in terms of GDP contribution. In an increasingly volatile and uncertain environment, Asian leaders will need to have a clear understanding of the megatrends in the region and develop the right combination of mindset and skillsets to respond effectively to the complex challenges facing them.
These issues were thoroughly talked about during the 20th AAMO (Asian Association of Management Organisations) Triennial Conference on April 29, at the InterContinental Kuala Lumpur.
The conference was organised by the Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM), who currently holds the Presidency and Secretariat for AAMO.
“Collectively here at AAMO we need to be at the forefront of offering organic solutions to the many leadership and talent challenges that Asia will face.
“It’s our hope that this conference creates a platform for dialogue and debate on how to keep organisations creative, relevant and futureproof,” said MIM CEO Sivanganam Rajaretnan.
The conference opened with a keynote address by Pramod Bhasin – Founder of Genpact Ltd and Chairman of Clix Capital Services in India.
His speech on “Dealing with Disruption” centred on how could companies meet the expectations of a rapidly changing talent pool and opportunities offered by Industry 4.0 technologies.
“Technology is neither good nor bad. Disruptions only makes it obsolete. The main challenges I see are the lack of digital migrants, a need for new leadership skills to inspire the workforce, and the ability to scale up at a frightening pace.
“There also needs to be risk-taking and the agility to adapt. Perhaps it is time to unlearn the habits of professional management system.
“Professional management often defaults to same sets of behaviours regardless of need, but the hardest part to change in an organisation is its culture.”
Plenary Session 1
Titled “Developing 21st Century Skills”, the first plenary session was moderated by Imran Kunalan Abdullah, Principal Consultant in HR and Digital Talent at GTEX.ASIA. The panellists were Kiranjit Singh, Country Head, Malaysia & Philippines, Ipsos Business Consulting; Monir Azzouzi, Vice-President, People Experience and People Relations, Go-Jek; and Arne Gast, Partner, McKinsey & Company.
The workspace of tomorrow would no longer be defined by location as much as it is by shared values, objectives and common aspirations.
“CEOs need to think about what skills are needed to remain competitive in the future. Many people don’t want to work for boring large companies.
“So, what if, for example, banks are reimagined or run like fintech start-ups? You will need an unfair share of the best and new IT talents. It will not be possible to continue outsourcing IT work,” said Gast.
Kiranjit added that most jobs in Malaysia currently and in the low and semi-skilled categories.
“Aside from technical skills, employees should work on some key non-technical skills such as social, flexibility, having an open mind, creativity, innovative and so on.
“Governments across Southeast Asia are trying to produce ideal graduates but that is not sustainable or possible at a macro level, instead policymakers should focus on having an ideal pool of graduates.”
Monir told the audience that C-suite executives have to change themselves to address the future of work.
“Culture and leadership are part of the transformation of an organisation. Even mid-level management have to be on board for change, seeing that they are the ones who execute plans and strategies.
“Organisations should also start hiring people with nano degrees, instead of just university ones. Youths can start adding value to the talent pool at a younger age with these nano degrees.”
He added that the perception that Asians love hierarchy was not necessarily true.
“For example, Maxis used to have so many layers of management. But it cut out most of its bureaucracy so it has less managers. In fact, people with great ideas are able to bypass traditional paths for promotions.”
Meanwhile, Gast said organisations might not be able to save obsolete jobs but could look into saving its workforce via building huge education programmes.
“Those who might have their jobs displaced can get educated in relevant topics that serve the need of the organisation. The workforce also needs to have a mindset that upskilling with help you keep your career.”
Plenary Session 2
People over the retirement age have valuable experience and skills but what strategies can organisations and HR managers employ to make the most of this source of talent. This session titled “Leveraging an Ageing Talent Pool” sought to delve into this issue.
It was moderated by Omna Sreeni-Ong, Founder & Managing Director, ENGENDER Consultancy, with panellists Roshan Thiran, Founder & CEO Leaderonomics; Prof Datuk Dr Norma Mansor, Social Wellbeing Research Centre, Faculty of Economics and Administration, Universiti Malaya; and David Pich, Chief Executive, Australia’s Institute of Managers and Leaders.
Dr Norma outlined that those aged between 50 and 59, and above 60 will dominate the world population in the coming years.
“There are examples of organisations retaining their aged workers. BMW had carried out a survey among its aged workers where pain and aches were highlighted as a concern. So, the company made 70 small changes in the ergonomics of its work areas.
“It has consistently proven that aged workers have good reasoning, judgement, depth of experience and more consistent at work. Governments should start considering policy changes to encourage regulation of work for the ageing population.”
Pich added research in 2008 found that people working past age 60 was at 8% but by 2017, it was at 25%.
“Earlier at our institute, we had two candidates interviewing for the top job. One is 35 and the other is 62. After our stringent screening and interview process, the institute gave the job to the 62-year-old, based on skills, competencies and experience.
“We should remove age bias when hiring talents.”
Meanwhile, Roshan pointed out that being older did not mean being irrelevant, it should be about growth.
Plenary Session 3
This session covered “The ROI of Diversity & Inclusion”, discussing about a diverse and inclusive workforce that contributed to profits and competitiveness.
It was moderated by Bharat Avalani, Founder & CEO, Connecting the Dots Marketing Consultancy with panellists Anushia Kandasamy, Affiliate Advisor, Aberkyn Southeast Asia; Cheryl Khor, Asia Pacific Operational Risk Leader, Deloitte; and Dr Juliana Chan, Founder & CEO, Wildtype Media Group.
Dr Chan highlighted that boards needed to reflect real diversity.
“While boards might say they have women on board, but more often than not, you will find the same one or two women sitting in 10 boards.
“Another example is most VC partners tend to be men, hence creating a bro culture that proved to be problematic is some of the biggest start-ups. This doesn’t necessarily create an environment where women will want to be a part of.
“Start-ups headed by women often do not get support from mono VCs, so they would approach women VCs instead. Hence you might miss out on some great business opportunities for having a lacking in diversity and inclusion.”
Khor added that a traditionally mono company coincidentally put in a woman leader, who in turn hired a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Later this company saw year-on-year growth in double digits.
“The tone from the top is important. We each have unconscious bias that we should be aware of. We need to call out unconscious bias, especially if it is coming from the top. Having a diverse workforce helps to manage risk when dealing with different streams of customers.
“Organisations with sustainability initiatives should have policies relating to diversity and inclusion. If you are in a leadership position, put those policies in place, if you are not, then speak to the leadership. Do it because you believe in it.”
Anusha also agreed that there is a need to call out prejudices and biases while providing space for different views.
“We should be open about our personal biases so we can adjust our views accordingly. For example, there should be policies for parents and not separate them into maternal or paternal ones. It perpetuates certain stereotypes.
“To have real change, people have to change because organisations don’t change.”
To end the conference, the event saw a special talk by Dr Benjamin Palmer, CEO, Genos International, Australia on “Future-Proof Leadership”.
“Emotional intelligence (EI) is one of the yardstick in getting leaders. There are a lot of skills that humans have that artificial intelligence doesn’t.
“The way we feel influences our decisions, behaviours and work performances. Some 85% of us are not conscious about the way we feel.
“To have healthy EI, we should have a certain level of self-awareness, empathetic, authenticity, emotional reasoning, self-management and positive influence. Developing high EI is a game changer for business. You’ll see turnover rates decrease about 15%, productivity goes up 25% and absenteeism going down 30%.”
He added this not only makes a person a leader but a better person, being more resilient in life.
“Organisations are beginning to use EI to retain talent and carry out growth plans.”
Gala Dinner and Awards Night
Held on the same day, the 20th AAMO Triennial Gala Dinner and Awards Night honoured high calibre leaders from various organisations across the Asia Pacific. The highlight of the night was to confer the AAMO Visionary Leader and Nation Builder Award to the Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as a recognition for his contributions in transforming the nation into one of the world’s most successful economies.
In addition, AAMO conferred the AAMO Asian Leadership Award 2019 to:
• Sanjiv Goenka, Chairman of RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, India.
• Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah AO, Founder and Chairman, Sunway Group; Founding Trustee, Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, Malaysia.
• Professor Dr Abdul Bari Khan, CEO and Founder of The Indus Health Network, Pakistan.
In his keynote speech, Tun Dr Mahathir said: “As long as I live, I will try not to allow this nation of ours to flounder and fall, to lose its dignity and sense of purpose.
“I am aware that the challenges seem insurmountable at times. We have prevailed in the past and we will hopefully prevail now and in the future.
He also said he drew much of his leadership skills from his career as a doctor.
“In a lot of ways, managing a nation requires similar processes as those of a doctor, and where and when necessary, leaders have to make drastic and decisive decisions so as to save the nation.
“Most times, the people, like most patients, do not like having to swallow the bitter pill. But a responsible leader, like any responsible doctor, may have to force their people and patients to accept the prescription for the good of the nation in the long run,” he said.
Meanwhile, AAMO President and MIM Chairman Dato’ Ng Tieh Chuan said Tun Dr Mahathir was recognised his vision, courage, self-sacrifice, endurance and distinguished leadership.
“We wish to acknowledge high impact leaders who have achieved significant transformation in the way organisations and people think and operate. Our award winners have demonstrated a high level of passion, dedication and excellence, and instilled these qualities in their team.”