View from the top: David Serés

Author Ian Gerard Koh
July 10, 2020

In the latest edition of our View From The Top series, we sit down with David Serés, HR VP for the South East Asia and South Korea (SEASK) region at Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), to find out his views on the evolving role of HR. 

David’s responsibilities include leading the regional HR team based in Singapore, as well as the respective HR teams in countries, within SEASK.

Before joining BI, David took on several leading HR roles, which exposed him to different best practices in multiple countries and sectors. He joined BI in 2002 and he has worked in Spain, Argentina and Germany (Headquarters), before moving to Singapore. Under his leadership, his team has driven a very robust HR agenda and facilitated multiple transformational changes and initiatives in the region, making HR a truly appreciated partner for the different business and functions.

David has an MBA from the ESADE Business School and has a degree from Universitat de Barcelona in Labor Relations.

What are the major priorities for your HR team or division over the coming year and how do you plan to address them?

We have very important priorities for this year, which have been unavoidably impacted by COVID-19.

Rather than taking it as a blockage, we have taken it as an exciting opportunity to further drive the HR agenda in our objective to benefit our business and overall company.

For this year, we wanted to leverage new technology and global processes to increase automation, simplicity and effectiveness in the HR deliveries.

Furthermore, we wanted to invest our best resources and time to continue building our robust People Growth strategy that provides multiple opportunities to managers and employees. This will help us to develop our talent pipeline further, both for the short and long-term future.

Lastly, we wanted to reinforce our Employer Value Proposition as an employer of choice.

Our company has a very important mission, and this is to improve the health of humans and animals. Is there anything more relevant than this? Therefore, because of our unique mission, culture and values, we are convinced that our company is the best place for agile, diverse and entrepreneur talents.  We want to ensure this is well reflected in the way we project our company brand, internally and externally.

COVID-19 is obviously affecting our plans in how we wanted to make the HR agenda evolve. However, it does not change our ultimate goals and this is a great opportunity to show our strengths in manoeuvring in a very changing and uncertain environment.

We are convinced that the challenges posed by COVID-19 will just make the HR function to be stronger and even more strategic.

How important is the diversity and inclusion (D&I) agenda within your organisation and where are you focusing your efforts?

The diversity of our people is key for our customer understanding, our ability to innovate and our employer attractiveness. Thus, it is crucial to have D&I in order to grow our business. We want every employee to feel a sense of belonging at our company – Boehringer Ingelheim – by working towards shared goals, while at the same time being and feeling valued for his/her individual uniqueness, talent and diverse thinking. We believe that diversity without inclusion is not good enough, and that only when both are well mixed, companies go into the next level.

Personally, I am absolutely convinced that working with people with different backgrounds and mindset, and contributing to a common purpose opens a vast array of growth opportunities.

How do you think COVID 19 will change leadership styles?

Probably it is too early to make specific statements, however we all must acknowledge that the world will never be like before COVID-19.

Companies, leaders, employees, societies have been and will be forced to change. Leaders must embrace that change and take it as an opportunity; only the ones who prove they are adaptive will not only survive but build a competitive advantage.

Leaders are currently dealing with a level of complexity which has no precedent, and it’ll only become more complex in future.

Business decisions must be taken faster than ever, considering that there is much more available – but changing – data, there are multiple sources of information – often giving contradictory perspectives -, there are multiple generations in the workplace having different expectations from the job and the employer, etc.

Therefore, leaders need to display agility and smart judgement to manoeuvre throughout such a complex landscape, and they need to understand that action needs to prevail from perfection.

What are some leadership best practices that have proved evergreen, even during COVID-19 times?

Leaders are as good as the team members are – no leader can succeed long term without a competent and committed team around them. Based on this, my best practices are:

Give trust to teams and individuals, pay respect to individual background, nationality and culture. The more diverse the better.

Practising active listening is very important. Ensure you built a strong Team around, stay close to them and listen to them. Then, set a clear direction while keeping the ability to adapt to the changes that may come up.

Leaders need to show passion and commitment in what they do. They need to be driven by high standards in terms of performance but also in terms of strong ethical principles. Leaders need to stay genuine, curious, humble and credible… and walk the talk!

Lastly, leaders must keep a growth mindset and empower teams and individuals.

Do you think HR is viewed as an attractive career option and what do you consider its key selling points?

With the due respect to other wonderful career options, I believe that working in HR is the best decision anyone can make.

Being a HR professional gives you the fantastic opportunity to be close to the way people think and perform, while providing the unique opportunity to steer companies through the priorities by working with the most important asset – its people.

After many years as HR professional, I still feel the excitement to have the opportunity to learn from extremely bright minds working together.

And being in HR, it gives me the golden opportunity to build a platform which will support the company and those talents to go the next level. The legacy of developing these people and seeing them move through their careers it is extraordinarily rewarding.

Please note that all commentary and opinions provided are those of the individual, and not the organisation/company.

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