11th HR Leaders Asia Spotlight: How did you overcome your biggest challenge throughout your HR journey? UOA Group’s Haikal Akmar shares his insights

As we look forward to the most awaited HR event of the year, the 11th HR Leaders Asia 2022, Rockbird Media talked with respective thought leaders who will speak and share their experience and expertise to enlighten the event. 

We are delighted to present to you one of our featured speakers, Haikal Akmar. He is the Chief Human Resources Officer of UOA Group, one of the leading property groups in Malaysia whose area of expertise focuses on culture building, learning & development, and employee and performance management. He was introduced to the Top 100 Global HR Leaders and one of the 50 Best HR Leaders in Malaysia. In 2018, UOA Group won the Malaysia Best Employee Award. 

In this spotlight interview, Haikal shares his perspectives on leadership, empathy, his principle, and the biggest challenge he has encountered on his path as an HR. 

During one of your interviews, you mentioned that leaders must be able to practice empathy. So how would you define the connection between empathy and leadership? 

  • Okay, well I think it is interrelated. They should have the ability to understand the needs of other people and be mindful of their feelings and thoughts. In order to be an effective leader, one must be able to understand how empathy works and to lead the team as a whole. 

Being in the industry for more than 15 years with various organizations. Do you continuously discover new skills about yourself in your CHRO journey? And what is it? 

  • Yes, absolutely. I’ve actually been constantly learning, especially with the new generation. The trend has changed. The HR landscape also has changed drastically, a simple example – the learning speed has increased tremendously. And that also contributes to faster knowledge discovery.  In my leadership role in HR, I constantly make an effort to design people strategy as part of business drivers. That includes aligning various human capital levers.

Harmonizing multicomplex generation within organizations has been his newly discovered skill. In this fast-paced world, most organizations are now permeated by Millenials and Gen Zs. He learned to balance and connect across multi-generations in the workforce. He also ascertains that it is one of the biggest HR challenges not just in Malaysia but also everywhere in the world. 

I spent a lot of time trying to understand how to connect all different behaviors in the company, and bring those different parts together. I relook at the organization culture & look at steps and strategies to make it as one key driver. So that’s one area I did in the organization where I work. We look at the existing values, we curate the behaviors that reflects the values, we picture the sort of culture we desire to have, then train & retrain our people to embrace the change of different generations that will quite simply achieve the same goal or objective of the organization. 

Having won multiple awards, we asked what is Haikal’s number one principle that makes him do his best in his career as a CHRO. Haikal has always looked at HR, not as HR. During the interview, he revealed that his strength is always in transformation (performance) and culture building which are very important to move organizations forward. And to achieve that, firms need people who embrace the same culture & vision and share the same belief. 

“And I always tell my team that my philosophy, as a HR, we change to RH instead of HR. So HR is what we always do. But for you to be an effective HR who tracks success, you must be RH (Resourceful HR),” he added. 

For Haikal, HR is always the subject matter expert. If something happens in the firm, it would always go back to HR. And from a business perspective, Haikal believes that the HR industry manages the largest, most valuable, and most expensive asset in the organization which is the people. 

“I always have this mindset that we always have to be resourceful humans. We are human resources but you’ve got to be a resourceful human who solves problems, a human who anticipates issues, a human who wants to move things forward. And if you have that mindset, I think the rest will come together with you.” It will drive you to be more creative, innovative and competitive. Because when you want to be resourceful humans to your organization that allows your brain to think, “What level do I want to bring?”, “What more or differently I have to do?”, “How can I be more resourceful in my functions?” 

Can you share one of the major challenges you have encountered as an HR and how were you able to overcome it?

  • My biggest challenge is always to unite everyone in the organization to achieve the same goal, especially in large conglomerate. To drive transformation in this business scale is pretty challenging. But although it looked very difficult, I always start with building relationships. So, I spend a lot of time in any organization where I work to build relationships first when I want to drive change. And when I have those relationships, we build trust. 

I continue to look into the change framework and its design approach, making collaborations as one key ingredient in my transformation projects. When we talk about transformations, a lot of people only do lip services. They only say, “Okay we have this project, this is how the framework looks like”, “Let’s do it together”, “Okay, you do this, you do that.” But if you put away lip service, you design by collaborations, you are able to bring those changes (projects) to the heart of the people. So, that is why they’re essential – to track and transport successful transformations. One of the biggest challenges is always to get your stakeholders come together. But when we have support from the heads and the top management, the entire change process works seamlessly. 

In legacy organizations, he pondered that it is one of the toughest challenges they share. Building relationships, the collaborative design approach, and building trust are very critical for him in his at least three-year organization experience. He concluded it always has to start there and then the rest will fall into place. 

What would be your message to the attendees of the 11th HR Leaders Asia? 

  • The future of HR is today. Today, the role of HR has completely transformed. HR needs to own business transformations, now and forwards, they are no longer part of the committee but they are the captains who drive change. And that’s critical because HR possess more human skills. HR leaders understand organization design, HR understand people they manage in the entire organization. HR leads change management. When we do business transformation, these are the skills that are really essential to drive success. HR should be actively and consistently involved in the decision-making process for the organization at the top level. I think that’s critical. The 11th Leaders Asia is a great platform for us to hear from our HR folks who have gone through some challenging situations in their organization and learn from their real life experience. Those shares are really valuable to all of us.

Make sure to register and join Haikal and the other featured speakers in the closing panel discussion on “HR as a leader of transformation: Leading the journey beyond the traditional ways of working” to explore and learn more about their knowledgeable perspectives revolving around the HR world. 

Stick around for more thought leaders’ spotlight interviews.


#HRLeadersAsia #HRLeadersMY2022 #speakerspotlight  #rockbirdmedia 

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About Rockbird Media

Rockbird media is an international business media company that produces B2B events and offers business solutions.