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LiveHire x Viventis Leadership Series

Chris Cooper, Chief Revenue Officer at LiveHire, sat down recently for a conversation with Yu Ming Chin, Executive Director of Viventis Search Asia, as part of LiveHire’s Leadership Series. The discussion aimed to highlight Yu Ming’s distinguished career and thought leadership within the human capital landscape in the Philippines.

The following article features excerpts from their conversation, originally recorded during the webinar: “LiveHire & Viventis Leadership Series” 

Note: the discussion transcript has been edited slightly for better readability.

Interested in hearing the full conversation? Watch the recorded webinar here.

Chris Cooper: Can you describe your leadership style and how it’s evolved over your career?

Yu Ming Chin: Reflecting on my leadership style and its evolution over my career, I’ve observed a significant shift influenced by a variety of experiences. Like many, I received formal leadership training in structured programs and educational settings. However, I’ve come to realize that true leadership is honed through practical application and continuous learning. Embracing the concept of “leadership in the flow of work,” a phrase gaining traction in the Learning and Development (L&D) space, has been transformative for me. Initially, my approach leaned towards authoritative, a natural inclination from my background in education, where clear direction was essential in working with students. However, witnessing the evolution of the workforce—from Gen X to Gen Y and now Gen Z—highlighted the changing cultural norms and attitudes. This led to a shift in my leadership style, moving from authoritative to delegative, and ultimately towards empowerment. I’ve come to value adaptive leadership as a unique blend, one that emphasizes situational context and strategic foresight. Today, my focus is not only on guiding individuals within the organization but also on inspiring them to align their personal career aspirations with our broader strategic goals.

Chris Cooper: That’s really interesting how you mention adaptive leadership and how it’s evolved over your career, especially considering the impact of different situations and generational changes. You might have started out with a more directive style, which was perhaps influenced by your early experiences. But as you encountered various situations and worked with different generations in the workforce, it seems your leadership approach shifted. Moving towards a more collaborative and motivational style to build high-performing teams makes a lot of sense. It highlights the fluidity of leadership and the importance of adjusting to meet the needs of both the organization and its employees.

Chris Cooper: I know Viventis offers in-depth management development and career accelerator programs, and that’s all part of that effort to educate and develop young leaders and individuals who want to shift to a career in consulting. What do you believe is the most important quality of a successful leader?  Is it that adaptive nature or are there other elements to it?

Yu Ming Chin: Well, during the selection process, besides the two to three primary criteria we focus on, such as solid academic performance and active involvement in university leadership activities, there are a few more critical aspects. Firstly, candidates must possess robust interpersonal and communication skills. However, the most vital attribute, in my view, is their ability to think critically and make sound judgments. Many individuals lack proficiency in decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking, which are fundamental traits we seek. Given that educational environments tend to be highly structured, we often need to devise scenarios to assess if candidates can demonstrate these skills. Additionally, although it may sound cliché, another crucial quality we prioritize is an inclination towards achievement. Given the nature of our work in career consulting, which revolves around influencing individuals, an inherent drive towards accomplishing goals is invaluable. Therefore, we emphasize the importance of an achievement-oriented mindset in potential candidates.

Chris Cooper: Yeah, it’s interesting because these qualities are often referred to as ‘soft skills,’ but they are crucial capabilities like influencing others, exercising sound judgment, and problem-solving. Particularly with the rapid evolution of the workplace driven by technology and other factors, being adaptable and capable of making sound decisions on the spot are essential for effective leadership.

Chris Cooper: Speaking of how people adapt their leadership and how that impacts culture. Viventis recently won the “Inspiring Workplace and Employer of the Year” awards. How would you describe the kind of unique culture you’ve created at Viventis?

Yu Ming Chin: Oh, well, you know, it’s a truly interesting and humbling recognition. Personally, I wasn’t expecting it. Our organization is realistically small, lacking the grandeur of larger entities. Yet, our culture is deeply rooted in our core values, particularly emphasizing the importance of family spirit. We strive to treat each other with fairness and equality, anchored by a clear focus on our main product: career development. Supported by values of excellence and agility, collaboration ties everything together. We make concerted efforts to embody these values across all levels of the organization.

Receiving the recognition as the most inspiring workplace amid the challenging start of the pandemic was truly significant. During those tough and unexpected times, when businesses across sectors were laying off employees, we remained committed to our principle of family. Despite facing immense pressure, I made the decision that no one would be laid off or demoted.

At one point around April, everyone was prepared to receive pink slips, and I wasn’t sure how long I could sustain a non-revenue situation. This experience highlighted the importance of aligning our organizational mission with broader life goals. We communicated this message internally, striving to lead by example and maintain our commitment to our values.

Chris Cooper: Well, that’s awesome. I love that and it’s such a big decision because that is so difficult, as you say, particularly in the human capital space, to be able to maintain that environment and not have any loss of roles is just massive and very courageous for a leader, To your point about ‘walking the talk’, I’ve seen publications where you’ve described the work your team does as a source of happiness for everyone in your universe, your candidates, your friends, your partners. And it’s all about providing jobs and contributing to broader economic development.

Chris Cooper: Looking ahead to the rest of 2024, do you have any big social impact initiatives on your plate or anything that you’re excited about?

Yu Ming Chin: We are truly living in an entirely new world, one that I’ve come to describe not as the ‘new normal’ but as the ‘never normal’ world. In one of my recent blog posts, I delve into the concept of ‘perma-crisis.’ You see, in this ever-evolving landscape, you never know what might happen tomorrow on a global scale or within your organization or family circle.

Therefore, one of the key initiatives I’ve undertaken personally, and as a leader of our organization, is to foster a stronger readiness for change. I believe in building authentic leadership that acknowledges we may not always have the answers to the challenges impacting our organization. However, it’s crucial to maintain a clear sense of direction.

From a business perspective, we’re witnessing the profound impact of technology, automation, and particularly Generative AI. Consequently, we must radically prepare ourselves for these shifts. I’ve cautioned my team about the impending fifth Industrial Revolution, which will undoubtedly reshape industries with great force, catching many off guard.

Furthermore, within our organization, ensuring continuity is paramount. We’ve developed a strategic succession plan, investing in comprehensive programs such as individual development and strategic leadership plans. These include detailed personality assessments like the Hogan assessment, guiding the growth of our senior leaders.

To sum up, this encapsulates my overarching perspective for 2024. It’s a year marked by uncertainty and rapid change, demanding proactive adaptation and a steadfast commitment to our organizational goals.

Chris Cooper:  That makes a lot of sense. Your depiction of the ‘perma-crisis,’ where we’ve been grappling with ongoing challenges for years, resonates deeply. We’re at a critical juncture, especially considering the nascent stages of AI. Over the next few years, its potential for disruption is monumental, particularly within the human capital sphere.

The impact will reverberate through how recruiters engage with candidates and how companies seek out talent. It’s fascinating to hear about your strategies for navigating this swiftly evolving landscape and instilling a culture of innovation and readiness within your team. Adapting to this shifting paradigm is key to staying ahead in today’s dynamic business environment.

Chris Cooper: Thinking beyond 2024, what’s your long-term strategic vision for Viventis? Do you see AI and automation changing the services you provide or enhancing them in some way? How do you see that playing out if you think three to five years from now?

Yu Ming Chin: Ohh, that’s a very powerful question. If I may lend a strategic perspective to delve into the profound and radical changes within our human capital work, particularly in talent attraction, I envision a significant transformation driven by Gen AI. The advancements in technology, especially in sourcing platforms, powered by high-precision language models, offer a wealth of highly qualified candidate options.

This technology is complemented by robust candidate management tools, enhancing the overall candidate experience. Essentially, it allows us to create AI assistants and cohorts that mimic our recruitment approach, potentially doubling our productivity and performance. This necessitates pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones and embracing paradigm shifts.

Over the past five years, we’ve heavily invested in LinkedIn, recognizing its potential to revolutionize candidate sourcing through its advanced features and sophisticated AI-driven candidate support. By learning from our practices and providing tailored guidance, these platforms elevate our engagement with candidates.

As we navigate through this era of uncertainty, it’s crucial to invest wisely, ensuring we align with the trajectory of technological advancements. Making the wrong choices could lead us astray, akin to boarding the wrong train or ending up at the wrong destination without our luggage. It’s imperative to adapt and evolve, leveraging technology intelligently to propel our success.

Chris Cooper: Interesting. Of course, you also don’t want to risk losing what people love about your company today. There’s a difficult balance to strike between AI, automation, and the human touch that candidates love. 

To your point about candidate experience, they both play a role, but it’s probably a fine line to walk to make sure that you still have that great human engagement, but that you’re getting the level of productivity that you need out of your team so that you can continue to grow your business and deliver phenomenal services and your team continues to move into more strategic roles. 

In the realm of recruitment software, we’re not alone in grappling with where to integrate AI within the candidate journey. Identifying the ideal touchpoints for AI intervention versus human interaction requires careful consideration. With AI’s continuous advancements, this dynamic landscape demands ongoing adaptation and collective innovation.

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