Christian Ihre, Co-Founder of branding consultancy Lynxeye, Ms Su-Yen Wong, CEO of Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) and Ms Caitlin Pan, Senior Researcher at Human Capital Asia discussed various elements around doing business in the ASEAN region. The trio had specifically a conversation around human capital in the ASEAN countries with comparisons to the Scandinavian way of doing business.
Ms. Pan started off saying that the key concern of many local South-East Asian companies is centered around human capital with the challenge of how to find and attract people with the right skills. Using number and data she shares is one way to help organizations inform and take decisions internally on how to best move the business forward. Ms. Wong added that other aspects of human capital are the organizational issues companies face nowadays on how to best lead their teams in dynamic and disruptive environments. A comparison was also made between Scandinavian and Southeast Asian values and business norms with each region on the respective end of the power distance scale. We have Sweden as an example of being a highly individualistic society and most of the Southeast Asian countries on the contrary being more collectivistic. Ms. Pan’s advice to the audience was to think about how best to transfer leaders from one cultural environment to another in order to enjoy fruitful collaborations. There are no good or bad ways of cultural business aspects but more important is to understand each other.
Mr. Ihre also shared his own experiences on starting and building his company here in Southeast Asia where it has been a most humbling experience for him as a Swedish business leader to get many different cultures within his team to fit into one unit. His view is that in general there is a higher acceptance of cultural differences amongst the younger generations in comparison to the older. He sees a trend shift happening amongst the younger generations. In Southeast Asia there is a desire to fit in rather than to stand out. But in the more mature parts of the region, Southeast Asians have found their own way of individualism, not to stand out, but more on how to find their own identity. This trend is also extended to the work force where a desire to have your own opinion is more acceptable and desirable.
Ms. Pan mentioned the importance of not seeing culture as a hindrance to doing business across nations. Employees are the reflection of the management. Correct incentives and culture will help to be successful, but unfortunately human capital is not one of the highest priorities in many companies.