What Exactly Does a Human Capital Partner Do?

June 27, 20178:00 am2270 views

You may have heard about companies being praised as Human Capital Partners in the news, where these “HCPartners” get preferential access to government support and resources.

HCPartners are handpicked according to three criterias, i.e. having a:

  1. Strong Singaporean core by investing in the development of local employees across all levels. 
  1. Stronger balance between hiring and managing local and foreign employees. 
  1. Skills transfer from foreign to local employees to enhance capabilities.

1. Human Capital Partner Benefits

To the potential future HCPartners out there, how did existing HCPartners manage to set the gold standard for human resource practices even before the HCP was launched? In order to understand what a Human Capital Partner (HCP) does exactly, let’s take a look at Panasonic case study as an example.

Panasonic recently opened its Refrigeration Compressor Business Unit (RCBU) and moved its global business HQ outside Japan. This is significant because it is Panasonic’s first such relocation of global HQ outside of Japan in the recent decades.

Panasonic's new RCBU HQ

Panasonic’s new RCBU HQ

Panasonic has been increasingly investing in R&D, starting from 9 R&D staff in 1988, to 60 today (out of its 1,300 employees in total), and aims to have 120 in the future. Yet Panasonic also announced the gradual elimination of 200 jobs in 3-5 years, which raises concerns such as:

  • Out of these 200 jobs cuts, how many Singaporeans will lose their jobs?
  • Will more foreign talent be brought into Singapore to run Panasonic’s new global HQ, at the expense of local jobs?
  • Does the new global HQ only benefit those at the management level at the expense of the rank-and-file and junior PME staff?

We explore how Panasonic addressed these concerns in a manner befitting a Human Capital Partner.

  1. Strong Singaporean Core

Contrary to the first concern that Singaporeans will be laid off close to 200 jobs, Panasonic has clarified that firstly, the 200 jobs are manual jobs which are currently performed by foreign workers (there are 350 foreign workers in Panasonic Singapore’s 1000-man workforce).

Panasonic Appliances Refrigeration Devices, Singapore’s manufacturing centre director, Leong Mun Chong reaffirmed the strengthening of Panasonic’s Singaporean core by saying,” If we transform into a smart set-up, the reliance on foreign workers will be reduced and we can employ locals to manage advanced technology.”

See: A Tripartite Initiative to Develop Human Capital for the Future: HCP Programme

Mr Leong also stressed that in the last 45 years, Panasonic Singapore has not carried out any retrenchments. This aligns with the Tripartite Guidelines for Managing Excess Manpower, which advocates for alternatives to retrenchment to be exercised first before retrenching.

Manual job in Panasonic's current factory

Manual job in Panasonic’s current factory

2. Stronger complementarity between local and foreign employees

To address concerns of an influx of foreign talent due to the move of its global business HQ from Japan to Singapore, Panasonic shared that it only plans to bring in 5-6 Japanese staff, whilst announcing its plans to hire another 60 locals for its R&D team here.

Panasonic is also working closely with its union, the United Workers of Electronic and Electrical Industries (UWEEI), to hire retrenched workers from other companies who have relevant skills, as UWEEI also represents workers from other companies in the electronics sector.

In a time of increasing disruption, Panasonic has a big challenge ahead to stay competitive as its current set up across different countries is not integrated, but actually isolated from one another by different processes and locations.

By shifting its global business HQ from Japan to Singapore, Panasonic wants to create interconnectivity between processes in Singapore’s factory, with horizontal spread to its factories in Malaysia and China where the Singapore HQ can monitor various data in real time for quick decision-making.

Screenshot from Lim Swee Say’s Facebook page

Screenshot from Lim Swee Say’s Facebook page

  1. Skills transfer from foreign to local employees to enhance capabilities.

Panasonic shared that one of its weaknesses is an ageing workforce with 200 people reaching 62 years old in the next few years. Hence training local successors to take over both existing jobs and smart jobs of the future in next 5-6 years, with wage increases to attract and retain talent, is a big priority!

In addition, Panasonic’s manufacturing plant in Singapore will be transformed from traditional manufacturing to Smart manufacturing – a Digitally-enabled Smart Factory with a manufacturing control tower.With these changes, Singapore will become Panasonic’s HQ for its refrigeration compressor business.

Panasonic's push towards interconnectivity

Panasonic’s push towards interconnectivity

This challenge also creates many opportunities for Singaporean and foreign colleagues to work closely together to connect disparate parts of Panasonic’s global business into an interconnected, competitive whole.

Panasonic is tapping on their union network (of which more than 90% of its 1000 headcount are union members) to communicate the company’s plans for the future. The union is also working with management to mobilise Panasonic’s workforce for upskilling via both in-house and external training (we hear a WSQ course is in the works).

On top of that, Panasonic re-employs valuable employees who are past the retirement age to help transfer their accumulated experience and skills to younger employees, who will be their successors in carrying out future jobs.

Panasonic has many challenges and opportunities ahead to stay relevant in the future. Its choice to take on the world in a manner befitting a Human Capital Partner (HCP) that sets high standards for other companies to learn from.

Author credit:

Julia Chan is a full time working mum with experience in business development, marketing and teaching, picking up an MBA along the way. She currently guest writes on a range of topics such as work, parenting, travel and government.

Also read: Critical Role of HR as a Business Partner to Company’s Success

Feature image credit: freedigitalphotos.net

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