Leading Through COVID-19 and Resetting for Growth
In the last episode of this series, we chat with the CEO of Omni-Plus System (OPS), Marcus Neo and his son Daryl, to learn about their leadership philosophy, and how OPS is resetting for growth through investments in Human Capital. Marcus poetically summed up his learnings as a leader with a Chinese idiom that stuck with us – “居安思危” – to be prepared for danger, even during peacetime.
Started back in 2002 right before SARS, Omni-Plus System (OPS) is no stranger to seizing opportunities in times of crisis. Lessons learnt from SARS laid the foundation for OPS to emphasise the need for a learning organisation that is prepared and agile to respond to the disruptions of Covid-19.
OPS is a large, local materials engineering company, with presence across 8 countries in Southeast Asia and China. They work with upstream suppliers, partners, and customers to provide end-to-end solutions on Engineering Plastics, Technical Consultancy, Product Development and Specifications mainly for MNC clients in the technology sector.
Identified as a high-growth and rapidly expanding company by Enterprise Singapore’s Scale Up Programme, OPS consistently invests in their digital infrastructure and Human Capital to become leaders of the industry. This has not only prepared them to respond to Covid-19 with agility but also enabled them to reset for growth.
Marcus: “Covid-19 was a golden opportunity that enabled us to pause and reflect on what would give OPS a competitive advantage in the future. With the push for remote working, we also realised that we need to accelerate our digital transformation. To expand and grow, we must address some gaps and invest even more in the infrastructure to support our business and Human Capital. For instance, knowledge management – this needs to be systemised to reach people more effectively, instead of relying on specific personnel. This is especially crucial as our operations are spread across 8 countries.
Reskilling and upskilling our Human Capital through building a learning organisation has always been our key priority but we need to accelerate the process and make it more structured. Moving forward, to continue to reset for growth and seize opportunities in a (hopefully) stabilising market, we will be focusing our resources on conducting deeper training needs analysis to identify critical skillsets and capabilities to ensure our workforce is fit-for-future.”
Marcus: “Human Capital has always been the primary focus since we started this business – if we take care of our people, they will take care of the business. This shows through our high retention rate. So far, this has helped us to “weather the storm” with agility. To emerge stronger in the post-Covid environment, two main areas of our culture are critical.
First, communication and engagement with our employees is key. During a crisis, the situation can be ambiguous and confusing. My role as a leader is to absorb the noise and sense make. I akin it to the army, leaders need a strong marching order: one leader, one voice, one mission. That is how we stay united and move as one. At the same time, our leaders engage employees by keeping a two-way communication channel. We are open for feedback or concerns. We remain flexible, address individual needs and take on a more caring leadership approach during the crisis.
Second, we believe in consistent investments in organisation-wide learning. We look outwards to work with institutions like A*Star and Yamagata University for internships to groom prospective talent through cross-functional, end-to-end projects. Our new hires in the Data Scientist position also go through an 18- month structured training programme to equip them for the job. Mobility options are also provided for our young leaders to build up their regional exposure across our business operations. Through the Scale Up Programme, our senior management are also exposed to overseas training and attachment opportunities. I firmly believe in lifelong learning to stay relevant. I also set an example and have taken up a PHD course in material science at Yamagata University through this programme!”
Marcus: “I was impressed with the insights and analysis we obtained from the Tool. The report indicated the Human Capital processes that we needed to improve and the comparative national benchmarks on the maturity of our processes.
We managed to identify tangible and structured steps to improve our Human Capital processes while maintaining our unique learning culture. Moving forward, we are looking to implement some of the low hanging fruits right away, like having a more structured knowledge management system and creating a training and development roadmap so that all our employees will have opportunities to upskill and reskill for the future. We will also be focusing on revamping our performance management framework to identify and retain our high performers more effectively.”
Daryl: “The Tool made us realise the importance of talent attraction and succession planning. Although our retention rate is high, we knew we needed to attract younger talent to rejuvenate the organisation with fresh ideas and perspectives. With insights from the report, we managed to enhance OPS’ employee value proposition by increasing our online presence on social media platforms like Linkedin to connect with and attract the large millennial talent pool.”
Marcus: “As long as you have the right leadership mindset and a strong learning culture, a crisis can always be turned into an opportunity. Most importantly, it is vital for leaders to “居安思危” – your organisation needs to continuously and consistently improve, seek best practices from external experts and invest in your Human Capital even during peacetimes to ensure that you will be prepared to seize the opportunities when they arise.”
Six months ago, the “future of work” felt distant. Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of digital transformation and the future of work is now.
Korn Ferry’s research has found that 67% of CEOs believe that technology will create more value in the future than Human Capital will..
While global leaders have bet heavily on technology to reset for growth, they have overlooked the value of Human Capital. This is a big and expensive blindspot as Korn Ferry’s economic analysis has found Human Capital to be 2.3 times more valuable to the global economy than tangible assets, like technology.
Winning organisations that can reset for growth will be the ones that create value by leveraging the power of both people and technology. This means that it is vital for organisations to close existing digital skill gaps and create a learning organisation that embraces a reskilling mindset.
Here are 3 things that organisations can do to address the digital skills gap:
- Remove barriers to a learning mindset – Ensure that the culture supports these changes and that right leaders are in place to role model new ways of working and are committed to reskilling
- Understand future demand – Conduct an organisation-wide training needs analysis to understand future workforce needs and identify critical skills needed to meet short and long-term business objectives
- Embrace diversity – Recognise that the leaders needed to drive this change will not come from the usual places and do not fit traditional moulds. Existing leaders need to be humble enough to unleash and embrace future talent.
If you are a business leader also looking into leveraging on your human capital to accelerate through this crisis, reach out to us for a complimentary advisory Human Capital Health-check at firstname.lastname@example.org.