On June 24, AmCham China hosted its 22nd Annual HR Conference. The Chamber’s longest running Signature Event returned with fresh perspectives from knowledgeable speakers and engaging discussions that expanded beyond HR implications. The full-day event, held at the Marriot Northeast Hotel in Beijing brought together a broad array of HR professionals, stakeholders, business line and function leaders, and senior executives for a managerial discourse on how organizations, culture, and leadership can adapt to a post-COVID-19 era while also surviving “the Covid marathon.”
Pictured above left: Colm Rafferty ,Vice Chairman of AmCham China and Vice President, Asia Pacific/Chairman, China at Vermeer Corporation, delivers opening remarks. Pictured above right: Charles Shao, Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry, introduces AmCham China’s HR Forum.
Gao Lin, CEO and Founder of Message Coach and a former AmCham China Board member, led the day’s program, welcoming attendees and introducing the Conference’s first keynote speaker, Sean Stein, Senior Advisor at Covington & Burling and the former U.S. Consul General in Shanghai. Stein opened his keynote speaking about AmCham China’s DC Outreach Trips. Stein said that in his 25-year career focusing on US-China policy, no other organization had the same audience, attention, and influence in DC as AmCham China. Stein went on to outline the challenges from US-China relations in the Biden era and its impact on human capitol. He stipulated that the challenges seen in today’s bilateral relationship are due to fundamental shifts in how the two countries view each other, rather than any specific politician’s fault. While the US’s priority still remains complying with the WTO system and integrating China into the traditional world order, Stein said China is less concerned with those priorities and more focused on economic policies that can benefit China. The impact of the shift in US-China relations, he said, are that there are more frequent disagreements between HQ and Chinese subsidiaries, compliance costs are on the rise, and companies are beginning to reevaluate their China strategy. However, Stein predicted stability in the bilateral relationship, saying that these changes and evaluations are happening slowly and that we are seeing the relationship steady as the two countries work to define a new, more predicable relationship.
Pictured above left: Gao Lin welcomes keynote speaker Sean Stein.
The second keynote delivered by Zhang Qinghua, Professor at the Department of Applied Economics at Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, briefed attendees on the shifting labor landscape following the 7th National Population Census. Professor Zhang noted that while the population growth rate has decreased, there has been concentrated population growth in certain cities. She identified some of the attractions to certain cities as market efficiency, industrial structure, transportation infrastructure, and public services, and predicted that a large function of HR will be to accurately identify magnet cities in which to hire employees.
Pictured above left: Professor Zhang Qinghua. Pictured above right: Sean Stein.
The first panel with Charles Shao, Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry, Teresa Shi, Chief Financial Officer at Chayora, Gloria Xu, Vice President for Greater China at Dow, and Charles Yan, Managing Director for North China of Colliers International Property Services, discussed takeaways from the previous year and how to prepare for the “next normal”. There was a general consensus that market opportunities have increased in the data space due to the pandemic, and Shao added that China’s swift COVID-19 recovery makes it an attractive market for international investment. Xu said the “silver lining” of the pandemic was a shift in global HR practices; people were required to adapt, learn, and align, leaving machines to do some lower level work so HR could focus on high value projects. Xu and Shao agreed that while digital transformation is promising and has large investment, challenges still remain and the failure rate is high. But they concluded that more talent is needed to push forward digital transformation across all sectors.
Pictured above: Panel I – Charles Shao, Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry, Teresa Shi, Chief Financial Officer at Chayora, Gloria Xu, Vice President for Greater China at Dow, and Charles Yan, Managing Director for North China of Colliers International Property Services
The second panel gathered a group of experienced HR thought leaders. Panelists Michelle Zhang, Global Head of HR at Pfizer, Steven Song, Beijing Managing Director & Senior Client Partner of Korn Ferry, Melody Xu, China Head of Human Resources at HP, and Edward Guo, China Head of HR at S&P Global, shared their thoughts on how organizations create agile and effective transformation.
Zhang observed that the business model for companies has changed with the ability to IPO more easily in Hong Kong. She went on to say that entire organizations go public without a product or business model, instead generating revenue with capital. She cited this change in the revenue model is example of the agile transformation many have been forced to adopt in the face of the pandemic. Xu pointed out while there are numerous ways to define agile transformation, HP defined it as “meeting the cultural demands from the customers and anticipating the needs of consumers.” The panelists all said that transformation is both urgent and important, with the pandemic underlying the need to be prepared with solutions before a crisis occurs.
Pictured above: Panel II – Michelle Zhang, Global Head of HR at Pfizer, Steven Song, Beijing Managing Director & Senior Client Partner of Korn Ferry, Melody Xu, China Head of Human Resources at HP, and Edward Guo, China Head of HR at S&P Global.
The Conference’s last keynote speaker, Wei Wei, Founder & former CEO of McKinsey Academy and a former Vice President at SAP, delivered the final address of the day on deconstructing digital transformation in HR. He defined effective transformation as finding solutions at different stages and argued that all transformation now belongs under the umbrella of digital transformation in the new era. Citing a case study on a supermarket, he outlined how AI provides opportunities to increase efficiency and accuracy beyond human capabilities, saying that while this is the kind of project that HR leaders must push, it is not limited to the field of HR.
Pictured above left: Wei Wei. Pictured above right: Sean Stein and Colm Rafferty.
The third and final panel of the day focused on HR’s role in diversity, equity, and inclusion, with speakers Annie Wang, HRVP at Bayer Greater China & Bayer Pharmaceuticals Division for China and APAC, Dr. Zhang Dongmei, Distinguished Scientist and Assistant Managing Director at Microsoft Research Asia, Sylvia Pan, Vice President at United Family Healthcare and GM and CEO of Beijing United Family Hospital, Johnny Choi, Partner & Head of Employment for China at DLA Piper, and Cici Wang, Executive Vice President & China Head of HR at Edelman. The wide-ranging discussion touched on both the importance of, and challenges to, DEI. Wang recognized issues such as resistance from business departments, where success is measured by reaching quotas and achieving targets. She said the solution is to include DEI in the high-level agenda, and shift to make it a practical issue with measurable actions and results. Pan used BJU has an example of positive company culture, citing the 10% of their employees who choose return to work after retiring. After the constructive panel, the speakers were all in agreement that DEI is key to encouraging innovation and positive change in organizations.
Pictured above: Panel III – Annie Wang, HRVP at Bayer Greater China & Bayer Pharmaceuticals Division for China and APAC, Dr. Zhang Dongmei, Distinguished Scientist and Assistant Managing Director at Microsoft Research Asia, Sylvia Pan, Vice President at United Family Healthcare and GM and CEO of Beijing United Family Hospital, Johnny Choi, Partner & Head of Employment for China at DLA Piper, and Cici Wang, Executive Vice President & China Head of HR at Edelman
The successful and revealing HR Conference was wrapped up with two breakout sessions led by Malcom Nerva, Co-founder & Partner of Emerge Global LLC, Natasha Miller Naderi, Founder of Emerge Global LLC, and Gao Lin. Naderi and Nerva’s session explored new ways of working through interactive exercises, and discussed how to chart evolutionary work journeys. Meanwhile, Gao Lin’s inspirational session posed powerful questions aimed to pinpoint incentives, and stressed that the most important factor for success is converting external motivation to internal motivation.
Pictured above left: Lin Gao. Pictured above right: Malcom Nerva
Check out more pictures from the 22nd Annual HR Conference below!