Gary Lee is the Global Head, People & Organizational Development in Sivantos Group with over 15 years of experience in talent development, leadership, learning, OD and facilitation. Gary has worked with various MNCs, SMEs and educational institutes globally as a HR Development leader and business partner. His multi-faceted capabilities has helped to create sustainable change in individuals and teams across the globe in alignment with the organization’s strategic objectives.
Tell us about your career in the HR technology landscape.
In my experience, there’s been considerable progress in retrospect. Previously, HR information systems (HRIS) were exclusive to large organizations, but with the changing times, it is almost becoming a norm for all considerable companies to adopt this system. I have also witnessed that major local organizations throughout Asian countries like China, Singapore, and India are utilizing some form of HRIS facility. If I solely consider Singapore, it will be interesting to observe how the HR tech landscape evolves as there are large established companies and bespoke ones originated from Asia itself.
Elaborate on some of the challenges that organizations are experiencing currently and how the leaders are helping overcome them.
I feel that diversity within the workforce is both a challenge and opportunity. However, diversity isn’t just about gender or race but the people at different life stages within the organization. So diversity has altered the standardized template of employee wellness, and this is one of the biggest challenges I come across. For example, European organizations have fruit state for employees as they want their people to be healthier. We followed the same concept in Singapore but implemented once every two weeks. In Asia, if everything works fine with the program, there will be no pandemonium, but, if it fails, the feedback is immediate. After testing out different fruits we decided to go for banana and apple. Still, it was hard to please people within the organization.
"In my learning process, I identified that rather than brainstorming over employees’ wants and needs within the organization, it’s better to approach them and ask what exactly they need"
Moving forward, we also have other initiatives to drive employee wellness as a way of working. We consider it as one of the pillars for HR. We have brought in yoga classes, different fitness gyms, and also weekly football to maintain the employee wellness scenario. Ironically, employees ask for facilities from the organization, but at the end of the day, the response is less than expected. We take into consideration the insurance coverage of our employees and cater to the domestic partners as well. Recently, we started a weekly physical exercise for 15 minutes because the mantra now is— sitting is the new smoking. We are trying to boost employee wellness, but the response is lukewarm as it takes time for the Asian workforce to acknowledge and accept the new way of thinking that is emerging in recent times.
What are some of the technological catalysts that you have employed in your organization to uphold employee wellness?
The communication medium is the primary technology catalyst, and it varies from organization to organization. In the organization which I was earlier part of, Yammer was used, and it wasn’t exactly an excellent medium to reach out. In those times, intranet was better than Yammer. In Sivantos, Yammer has a better response rate and the de facto way of communicating. We also perform internal surveys using Survey Monkey to keep things simple. Looking at the other HR systems that we have, the partnership with one of our insurance brokers provides us with specific benefits, and that can also be considered as employee well being. Every year an allowance is provided for each employee who can utilize for the medical expenses of them and their spouse, children, and others. Using a third-party insurance platform has helped us to create a more global outreach for employee wellness.
What is the unique element in the way you approach employee wellness and is there any mantra that you would like to share with the community?
In my learning process, I identified that rather than brainstorming over employees’ wants and needs within the organization, it’s better to approach them and ask what exactly they need. Even though it’s simple but people often forget the importance of this approach and things start to go out of the projected track.
Is there any advice for entrepreneurs and startups in this particular landscape?
I would suggest the entrepreneurs to benchmark themselves against the right companies as each company has their own way of managing employees. Several companies provide bean bags, football tables and concentrate more on fun activities but do that promote employee well being? Sometimes, it’s not about the bells and whistles, it’s about focusing on what matters for the employees. Moving forward, it’s necessary to provide employees with fundamentals like medical services rather than bean bags as employees are often not aware of the things that matter to them. Moreover, the startups trying to provide employee wellness solutions need to follow a standardized template in the initial stages as tailor-made solutions can be challenging for them.