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HR Insights Sharing with Hong Siu Ming, Total Rewards Expert

Through a common friend, I have the honour of connecting with Mr. HONG Siu Ming, who is currently serving as the Vice President and Head of Compensation and Benefits for Great Eastern Life Assurance. Siu Ming is an experienced HR professional with over a decade of exposure to all facets of the HR value chain. In view of Siu Ming's experience, I thought it would be interesting to hear his thoughts as a HR professional who specialises in Compensation and Benefits. Following questions I had raised with Siu Ming and his insights to these questions.

Three areas that excite you currently as a C&B professional?

Traditionally, C&B has been seen as a rather operational role, from payroll and benefits administration to salary survey participation and expatriate administration. Increasingly, I am seeing C&B evolve beyond the traditional into more strategic roles in line with the general evolution of HR as a profession and its growing importance in organisations. In my books, C&B is an area which if leveraged fully, has the ability to impact organisational outcomes through its influence on the psyche of people. As a C&B professional, I am most excited by the possibilities this brings, as there are limitless possibilities as to how we can design benefits, incentives, compensation, work-life and employee engagement programs to influence employee's thinking and behaviour to drive organisational outcomes. This is what excites me.

One area that C&B professionals need to focus on to ensure HR value proposition stays relevant?

C&B professionals cannot live in their own world. To be an effective C&B professional, one needs to be able to marry science with art and understand the business and the needs of the line while at the same time not caving in too easily to requests which goes against C&B principles. Having said this, many C&B professionals tend to also get too technical about the science involved that they lose sight of the human aspect. To this, key to being a successful C&B professional is to be able to exercise discretion where necessary and not be a stick in the mud by holding onto theoretical ideals, and at the same time be an effective communicator to explain the programs and seek buy-in. Effective C&B programs are those which are simple and easy to understand and fair (offers a clear line of sight) and communicated well.

One advice for young HR talents wishing to be in the field of compensation and benefits?

Before stepping into the C&B world, it would be good to have a stint as a business partner, or actively engaged with the business partners. It is crucial to understand the needs of the line and be aware of what is happening on the ground so that you would be able to design programs which are relevant. C&B is a role which requires a great deal of maturity, as you are exposed to the most sensitive info to each employee - their pay. Coming into the profession as a young individual, and being exposed to salary data for the first time, you might feel "imbalanced" and a sense of inequity when you find out that some colleagues you don't find deserving are paid salaries which are higher than your own, or that there are people in the company who are paid astronomical sums of money. This is normal, but if you are not able to handle this maturely, you would not be able to be objective in your views, which would affect your ability to design and implement the programs effectively.

If you have a magic wand, what would you do differently in your career?

I am an accidental HR practitioner. I graduated with a Banking and Finance degree and all my life I had wanted to be a banker, specifically in corporate banking. Circumstances or fate (as I would love to believe it to be) predicated that HR would be my calling instead, and to date, I have never regretted a single day in my life of being a HR professional. The past decade, I have had the opportunity to be involved in all facets of the HR value chain, and in my current role directing C&B programs within the Group. It has been a wonderful and successful experience and I would say I have been very fortunate. If I had a magic wand, I would certainly have liked to try running a business unit, and see how far that takes me, but till then I am looking forward to evolving how C&B is done within the Group and looking for opportunities to share my experience with like-minded professionals to take the profession and industry forward.

How would you see the future of the HR profession in Asia?

I would certainly like to see more talents coming into the HR profession from the beginning of their careers. Traditionally, HR was seen as a support role and not as glamorous as the line units. There were also many professionals who joined the HR profession as a mid-career switch or an area which they could "retire" in. Times have changed and I have noticed in the past 5-7 years that organisations are starting to take HR seriously, especially in Asia where there has been unprecedented economic growth fuelling a recruitment boom, and talent acquisition, retention and motivation have increasingly become top of the agenda at the Board level. This has resulted in significant demand for top quality HR professionals to drive such agenda and to ensure that the organisations are competitive. With the increased focus on HR by organisations, it is natural that the future is bright for the HR profession in Asia.

About Siu Ming

Siu Ming has over a decade of HR experience, involved in all facets of the HR value chain. Through the years, he has designed and delivered key HR programs targeted at driving organisational performance through people. Some of his achievements include delivering consistent employee engagement scores for his organisation in the Aon Hewitt Best Employers zone for the past 6 years through the interventions he has designed and implemented, designing and implementing forward looking and innovative C&B programs which have been recognized by reputable agencies/awards such as Singapore Human Resource Institute, Human Resource Management (HRM) magazine, Benefits Asia and Asian Human Capital Award as a finalist or winner. He is currently the Vice President and Group Head of Compensation and Benefits for the Great Eastern Life Assurance Co Ltd, responsible for directing C&B program design and implementation within the whole Group. He has a MBA (Distinction) from the University of Warwick, and a Bachelor of Business (Banking and Finance) (Hons) from NTU. He is also a Global Remuneration Professional (GRP) (Worldatwork), Global HR Professional (GPHR) (SHRM) and a Fellow of the Life Management Institute.

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