Valuing people: Firms need to walk the talk

Valuing people: Firms need to walk the talk
Mr Koh: The prominent corporate figure and angel investor was speaking as judging panel chairman of the Asian Human Capital Award.

SINGAPORE - Flip open any corporate annual report these days and chances are there will be a section or two on how important human capital is to that particular company.

But in reality, says well-known corporate figure and business angel investor Koh Boon Hwee, only about one in ten firms actually walk the talk.

"That's why they have high turnover rates, they have people coming and going. Because their practices - the day-to-day things that the management says and does - do not support (what they say). Employees react to your practices, not what you write," said Mr Koh in an exclusive interview with BT recently.

The 60-year-old - a former chairman of DBS Group Holdings and Singapore Airlines, among various corporate giants - was speaking in his capacity as the judging panel chairman of the Asian Human Capital Award.

The awards, which honour innovative and impactful practices in companies across Asia, are sponsored by the Manpower Ministry, global business school Insead, CNBC Asia Pacific and the Singapore-based Human Capital Leadership Institute.

The winners will be announced at this week's Singapore Human Capital Summit held at Resorts World Sentosa, a two-day event that will be graced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Previous years' winners include household names such as Unilever Asia, The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore and Standard Chartered Bank.

This year, Mr Koh and six other judges mulled over a record number of 63 entries from 45 different companies in seven countries. There were 18 submissions from Singapore firms.

In Mr Koh's view, what differentiates a successful company from a failure is the quality of its people.

He hoped that the award would not only showcase best practices in human resources but also serve as models that other employers could emulate in the long run.

"Sometimes, practices are not all that difficult to share. For instance, you can give me the recipe for an outstanding dish - but it doesn't mean that I can prepare it," said Mr Koh.

"It's my hope that the companies also show the process they had to go through, the difficulties they faced and the challenges they overcame. We hope that successful companies can give enough of an inside view to help others along," he added.

This week's summit on Wednesday and Thursday, meanwhile, will provide an Asian focus on the latest strategies, research and proven practices in winning the war on people management, said its organisers.

"The theme is singularly focused on Asia and we believe it's timely as the region positions itself to become the world's dominant economic powerhouse," said Human Capital Leadership Institute executive director Kwan Chee Wei.

"With the rapid shift of economic activity and globalisation in Asia, leaders are hard-pressed to address leadership, talent management and human capital resources in this new, uncertain landscape," he added.

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