Sarah Davies is the Senior Vice President and Chief HR Officer for P&G Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa. Her career with P&G has spanned 17 years and multiple countries including Canada, the U.S., and Singapore. Sarah is passionate about leadership development and coaching and is responsible for leading P&G’s Human Resources Function for over 17,000 employees. She is a vocal and active advocate for workplace policies that enable Equality and Inclusion, including parental leave, flexible work hours, mentoring, and career development programs.
The year 2020 is over but we still have uncertainty. How do you see the current business landscape and organizations’ strategies to adapt to the new normal?
While the pandemic is not yet behind us, we are optimistic for the future. Our strategies have served us well before and during the pandemic, and we expect them to serve us well after the pandemic. When times are tough, it’s even more important to double down on our fundamental business strategies, for example, serving our consumers with superior brands and products. We expect some of our new ways of doing business, for example, with greater use of virtual collaboration tools, to remain for the long term.
At the beginning of the pandemic, P&G declared three critical priorities that have helped us navigate the dynamic situation and are still important today. First, we will prioritize the safety, health, and well-being of our people. Second, we will continue serving our consumers when they need us most, especially given the importance of our health and hygiene products in today’s environment. Finally, we will step up to support our communities as a force for good. Having these three clear priorities as an organization was critical in ensuring we could respond to the pandemic with resilience and agility.
How will new digital innovation unlock new ways of working in a post-COVID-19 world? How will work culture evolve in line with hybrid working this year?
There is no doubt that digital technology and innovation have accelerated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Our technology strategy is designed to support our core organization priorities, and at P&G our people’s safety and well-being continue to be the top priority. Our employees need to be able to work confidently knowing that the company is here to protect them at all times.
As an organization that already offered Work from Home (WFH) arrangements for our employees pre-COVID-19, P&G has been well prepared in transitioning to a full WFH arrangement. We had the right infrastructure and tools to help our employees seamlessly transition to remote working and could equip them with the necessary technical support to continue working collaboratively from home.
We have leveraged the full strength of our digital technology to ensure our priority activities can continue in any circumstance while maintaining the safety of our people.
How do you see the current digital transformation of learning? Is it actually accelerating in 2021?
We are finding that our consumers and our employees are embracing digital solutions with far more ease than before. In response, we have been continuously strengthening our investment in technology and upskilling our people to drive business growth.
Our recruitment and development programs have all seamlessly transitioned to online learning platforms throughout the last 12 months, to ensure there has been no impact on our talent pipeline and leadership development. We have hosted online careers fairs, virtual internship onboarding programs, and we even created an app for our newly hired managers so they could stay up to date with P&G policies and training online.
We recently announced a new digital capability program called ”iFuture” to further accelerate digital innovation in Singapore which is also supported by Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB). As part of our iFuture program, we will accelerate P&G’s digital transformation across marketing, sales, and operations and further enhance the digital capability of our colleagues.
With employees now having the autonomy to decide where they want to work, what kind of policies and practices should organizations revisit in 2021?
Our colleagues are empowered to lead with a growth mindset. This means continually testing, learning, and adapting to new styles of working that best meet the needs of their teams, within the regulations and rules of their country or home jurisdiction. We always create digital solutions with employees at the center and ensure they are part of the development process. For example, as employees are gradually returning to the office in some markets, while others remain working from home, there has been a need for more video facilities in our offices.
Another top priority is evolving employee engagement programs and work culture, to continue meeting the needs of our employees and developing them. This is especially important for us at P&G because we are committed to developing our people and growing the next generation of P&G leaders so that we win today and in the future. We continue to host virtual events, training colleges, town halls, and award ceremonies because we believe in the importance of our people and their value as our greatest assets. These will continue in a hybrid workplace so that we deliver on this important commitment to our people.
What are the keys to reinventing your organization and building a sustainable future?
At P&G, we believe in “constructive disruption” – innovating to drive growth and create value for the people we serve and for our organization. We keep our people and our consumers at the heart of everything we do and aim to continually innovate to meet the evolving needs of the marketplace.
We greatly value our employee feedback and perspectives. This means that while we are daring and decisive in trying out new ideas and processes, we also make use of available tools and resources to garner our employees’ feedback and sentiments, evaluate them, and put into action what we think will bring the most value to our employees and eventually our business. We encourage a spirit of resilience, to learn from mistakes quickly, and try again.
How is P&G preparing for a post-pandemic world? Can you name the top three priorities for the company?
Our priority will remain to protect the health, safety, and well-being of our people. We are proud of how well our people have adapted to new ways of working and increased safety protocols – yet we cannot afford to be complacent. We will also continue investing in creating a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive workplace culture, and an agile and empowered organization.
Secondly, we will continue serving our consumers and customers to ensure our critical health and hygiene products can remain available where they are needed most. This means having a robust and agile supply chain, with superior brands and products that delight our consumers and meet their evolving needs. We are also responding to new trends in e-commerce that define how our consumers are discovering and purchasing our brands.