Portrait: Nicolas Ribeyron, Regional HR Manager Imerys - Pigments for Paper Asia Pacific

Nicolas Ribeyron is Regional HR Manager of Imerys-pigments for Paper Asia Pacific. He tells us about his challenges and projects within Imerys. This is the portrait of an HR Manager with a strong social ambition and the willingness to promote bold projects to stimulate the engagement of all employees.

Can you tell us about Imerys activities ?

Imerys is the result of the absorption, in 1999, of English China Clay by Imétal. The group has since specialized in industrial minerals and encompasses extracting, transforming and commercializing minerals such as kaolin (incorporated in paper and ceramic), clay, calcium carbonate, graphite….

The Calcium Carbonate, in particular, extracted from marble, is incorporated in a variety of products such as paper, plastic, paint, glue or diapers.

What are the main fields of expertise within the Group?

The group activities are well summarized in the motto « transform to perform ». Imerys looks after all operations of extraction, treatment and packaging to provide ready to use products to its customers (mainly industrials).

Its key fields of expertise cover: extraction (geologists and mine engineers for the optimization of open mines), manufacturing, supply chain (critical given the volumes processed) and marketing (to add value to the customer’s product chain).

How important is the pigments for paper Asia pacific division?

Within the pigments for paper Branch, we are employing slightly more than 520 employees and 300 contractors in Asia Pacific. Our organization is made of multiple small entities in Australia, China, India, Indonesia (JV), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore Taiwan and Vietnam.

Asia is, along with Brazil, the region with the fastest growth. China, for example, is one of the largest printing and writing paper exporters in the world.So yes, the Asia Pacific Division is very strategic to our business.

What has driven you to this position?

I joined Imerys 5 years ago, in charge of recruitment and after 6 months as a Personnel Manager in charge of several Business Units. Since 2007, I have got the opportunity to look after the HR of various teams in Asia: to conduct multiple recruitments in China, India and Thailand and to participate in a very interesting due diligence process in India.

As soon as I started with Imerys, I made no secret of my desire to go on expatriation and live in Asia. When the opportunity eventually arose end of 2008, I didn’t hesitate.

Where does this project to live abroad stem from?

Prior to Imerys, I worked with Schlumberger and Tiscali. With Schlumberger, I had the chance to start my career through a trainee program in New York, where I was in charge of promoting the activities of SEED: a foundation connecting schools to Internet in developing countries.

This first experience was extremely interesting. The project itself was very exciting: aside from classical HR aspects, I was in charge of coordinating more than a thousand volunteers in 30 countries and I contributed to the website’s content.  Living in New York was also a great privilege. When we came back to France in 2003, my wife and I already had the project to further experience an expatriation, but in Asia.

How did you manage to adapt to your new work environment in Singapore?

Very simply. The region is full of cross cultural challenges: in each country of the region, within my own HR team, with the management. It proves to be a daily source of enrichment, full of great challenges to deal with.

How would you describe the main challenges you face, as HR Manager in Asia Pacific?

There are three key areas which definitely represent essential stakes for the Pigments for Paper Asia Pacific Division: safety, develop cross functional teamwork and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Safety is, in our field of activity, a fundamental preoccupation: guaranteeing the security for all our employees and contractors working in our mines and factories. We have been successful recently (0 day lost in 2009 due to industrial injury), but security remains a daily challenge. We are now focusing not only on preventing accidents but on identifying whatever sources of risks; which happens not to be an easy culture to implement.

The goal is to induce actual changes of safety related behavior. We organize regular behavior based safety visits. The observation noticed during the visits are feeding action plans to improve our working conditions and industrial processes.

Teamwork. As Imerys is formed from a series of mergers & acquisitions, the group is characterized by a strong tradition of decentralization. This situation is altogether an asset (as regard to the autonomy of our teams and managers) and a challenge when people are supposed to work together and make the extra move beyond local boundaries. - How do we manage to do so? - Through an array of initiatives in various fields:  the development of cross functional projects mobilizing teams from different countries or business line; mobility, by promoting opportunities for people to move from one country to the other within the region; financial incentives, which have been aligned to  reward cross team cooperation; and communication, with the creation of a regional newsletter.

Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR is a core component of Imerys way of making business. We translate this ambition in the region through the implementation of simple initiatives that are opportunities to federate our employees: internal sustainable development challenge for the best projects to improve work conditions, protect the environment, partnerships with universities and schools; greetings cards to support schools in China, Vietnam and Singapore.







"Drawing from Vu Thi Thu  - Age 13, Mongson Secondary School (Vietnam) used for the 2010 Greeting Card"


This year, for example, we have organized a regionwide "Minerals day", where we open our mines and factories to the public and to our employees' families. In Singapore, where presenting our offices would not present any specific interest, we chose to invite them to come to the Genesis school - that we are currently supporting - to make paper with the pupils. This event, besides financial support, was an opportunity for our employees and the media to discover the unique educative project of this school which provides children with special needs an opportunity to follow an academic cursus and, whenever possible, to bridge the gap with the general education system.


What the Honda strike in China reveals

The Foshan Honda factory, in China, has been experiencing an unusually lengthy strike lately on salary claims, that could be a starting point for factory wages to rise significantly in the near future. The fact for the strike to be allowed so far to continue, shows that salary increases might be henceforth encouraged by the Chinese Government as a way to fuel a domestic demand led economic growth. The strike actually emphasizes two major opposite trends in the chinese job market: the continuous pressure on salaries for young graduates and the increasing shortage of young skilled workers, which provide the latest with an increasing power of negotiation.

According to an article by the New York times, dated May 31, "the wages of young graduates have actually declined in recent years as China has rapidly expanded its universities and built new ones, creating a surplus of more highly educated workers." There would be a glut of young graduates, with the result that an increasing number of them would be currently unemployed.

The increasing proportion of young chinese going to university joint with the results of the one child policy, would have opposite consequences on young skilled workers, whose declining number produce workforce shortages and set them in a position to claim for higher wages.

China could therefore see it's low wage advantage dwindle in coming years, with some companies already looking for other places, such as Vietnam or Cambodia, to relocate.


Immigration advisers in New Zealand must now be licensed

New Zealand introduced a mandatory offshore licensing for people providing immigration advice about New Zealand.

The measure which becomes effective on May 5, 2010, is aimed to build confidence and enhance the quality of services provided to potential migrants to New Zealand. It applies to all advisers, no matter they are based in New Zealand or located in another country.

Competencies required from licensed advisors are the following: relevant qualifications, knowledge of Immigration advisers licensing scheme,knowledge of immmigration law and policy in New Zealand; ability to lodge applications and appeals; English language proficiency;professional, ethical and responsible business practices; and maintenance of professional development activities.

There are currently 414 Licensed advisers, of which 132 are based outside New Zealand. Immigration New Zealand no longer accepts applications from advisers unless thay are licensed or exempt.

more information: Immigration Advisers Authority


High increase in recruitment expectations in Asia

In it's last Quarterly report, the Hudson cabinet laid emphasis on the consolidation of hiring expectations in China, Hong Kong and Singapore. With additional power on the side of job seekers and increased difficulties to retain talents, a majority of respondents indicate that they are likely to make counter offers, mainly by increasing basic salaries, in order to retain employees who would resign to join other companies. While recruiting firms are the most popular hiring method in Hong Kong and Singapore, China relies preferably on direct recruitment and employee referrals.

China: 64% of respondents indicate they expect to grow their headcount in Q2 2010 (compared to 49% in Q1). Most buoying sectors are the Banking and Financial services sector, Manufacturing and Industrial as well as consumer goods. The IT sector shows an impressive recovery with 53 % of positive expectations compared to only 27% in the previous quarter.

Hong Kong: the average positive expectation is only 59%, but with sharp contrasts: 73% in the banking & financial sector, 63% In IT and 57% in Manufacturing (which nevertheless shows a remarkable recovery compared to its 39% result in Q1).

Singapore: 54% of companies expect to grow their headcount. Candidates with Marketing and sales background are in high demand.

► See the Q2 2010 Hudson report


New trends on recruiting practices

For recruiters:

  • Second life used to be the darling of technologically savvy recruiters not so long ago. but the bubble burst rapidly because of the length of learning curve.
  • Recruiters are increasingly using social media to screen for candidates (linkedin, viadeo,..) or to google their web print.
  • They can use new ways to carry out interviews : video interviews...

From the candidates' perspective:

  • They must still pay particular attention tho their CV.
  • They can use and must manage their profile on the web.



Social media at work

Social media - Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin and the like - have not only invaded multiple parts of our personal lives. They are now infiltrating our professional environment, changing the rules of the office and the workplace. Companies have to adapt, but most of them are unusually lagging behind social trends. While some, for respectable reasons, can be tempted to control and restrain the usage of social media in the workplace, others try to tame the beast and initiate bold and sometimes highly rewarding experiments. But there is a long way to go to become a social media savvy company, the path remains unchartered and each company should find it's own way according to it's goals, activities and culture.

Social media are fast expanding and do not respect traditional boundaries

New to social media? Check on a presentation by Marta Kagan on slideshare, where social media are liken to teen sex: "everyone wants to do it. Nobody knows how. When it's finally done there is surprise, it's not better". Did you know that Facebook users were now more than 400 millions? In January 2010, unique visitors on Facebook outnumbered for the first time yahoo's (133 millions, compared to 132 millions) and should soon outnumber Google's (140 Millions) as well. 5 billion minutes are spent on Facebook everyday. It would take more than 400 years to watch all videos posted on Youtube. There are more than 13 millions articles available on wikipedia and an average of 3millions tweets per day on tweeter...

The social media phenomenon is huge. It expands 3 times as fast as the overall internet rate. It encompasses various websites and activities: social networking (Facebook,...), professional networking (Linkedin, Viadeo...), microblogging (twitter), document sharing (scribd, slideshare, Ted talks,...), social bookmarking (delicious), expertise sharing (wikipedia). It was bound to permeate the professional environment, with increasing pressure on those who could have a pretention to control it: IT specialists, Human Resources professionals, Legal, Marketing and Public relations experts.


Companies may be tempted to resist

Social media at work are far from being welcome. Amongst fears, there is security and productivity. Companies may be worried of negative buzz, espionaje or invasion of privacy. They emphasize the impact on employees contribution: if employees are spending their working hours watching Youtube videos or surfing facebook, then surely they won't be doing what they are paid to do. In front of increasing usage of social media at the office, some companies organize the resistance: according to a survey by Robert Half Technology in Singapore, 38% of 1400 Chief information Officers polled would have implemented stricter social-networking policies, twice as much as respondents saying they have relaxed their company's rules on social networking sites such as twitter and facebook. 55% of respondents felt it was critical to ban the use of social networking at work altogether. Some other companies, like IBM, preferred to set guidelines on social media activities that are not only valid during business hours but also whenever a self identified IBMer participates online.

But temptation to use social media reveals irresistible

Meanwhile, more and more companies are already using social networks for recruitment or sourcing purposes. They use social media to develop their corporate brand or to drive leads to their corporate website. they find new ways to build a two way communication channel with clients and prospects in order to increase satisfaction and client retention. They design internal social platform to manage their employees, build communities, spur motivation and enhance knowledge sharing. For those companies, the risks of social media usage in the workplace are to be balanced with the risks of failing to jump on the bandwagon: failing to snatch opportunities to reduce costs or to develop business; failing to manage one's brand on internet and being unable to react when the brand is attacked on social media; failing to attract top notch generation Y talents, as an increasing number of the latest show concern on their technological environment and the overall technological maturity of the firm they will join.

The number of companies and recruiters using social media tools to screen candidates is expandind rapidly, and professional networking sites like linkedin provides them with customized solutions. Companies like IBM keeps in touch with ex-employees through a hub on linkedin called The Greater IBM which proves to be an important platform for business communications. The company has also improved employee collaboration and work productivity with IBM's Innovation Jam, an interactive website which enables an online exchange of ideas aiming at "solving organisational and global challenges with a "crowd sourcing methodology. It is doing a lot of training on wikis, so that any number of experts on a particular subject can share information and capitalize on experience and knowledge. EMB, a subsidiary from OCBC Bank created an official Emb Facebook account. The platform is seen as a way for colleagues to better connect and socialize with one another.

How to become a social media savvy company?

The road to excellence is not only perillous but also difficult. Using social media and using them well, requires from the company that it dedicate to learning new ways and new approaches to do business and management. The same way it took Serguei Bubka several years to master his new perch, companies have to invest for the future and go all the way through the learning curve. The probability that a one can fit all policy might emerge remains low, and companies should work on building practices that fit the best it's goals, its activities and it's culture. For that matter they should be encouraged to engage all their stakeholders in the process: IT, HR, Legal, Marketing and PR specialists as well as all employees occupying frontline positions with the public.







Hays quarterly reports provide useful tips on market trends

SINGAPORE- In its last quarterly report on Singapore employment market trends, the recruiting cabinet Hays was emphasizing the switch occuring on the marketplace with additional power for job searchers to select their job of preference and to negotiate their conditions of employment.

Amongst the most buoying sectors are the following:

Financial planners, HR Managers, geotechnical design engineers and sales executives are in High demand.

  • Accountancy & finance: Financial planners and analysts are in high demand as companies are looking for the future, making long term investment and implementing more projects.
  • Banking : with heightenened state of regulatory and controls environment, operational risk management (ORM) and compliance professionals are in continued demand.
  • Construction: jobs generated by the surge in government spending to improve civil infrastructure.
  • Finance technology: companies are looking for candidates with strong object oriented skills set (C++/Java based…) combined with options based risk-trading experience.
  • Human Resources: large Multinational companies are establishing Regional HQ functions in Singapore. Candidates with International, APAC and SEA experience are therefore very much in demand.
  • IT: rise in demand for experienced candidates in SAP and development (including Java, C++ Infrastructure and sales professionals are also in demand.
  • Pharmaceutical: companies are engaged in restructuring their commercial teams. the situationa has a positive effect on clinical research organizations, with rising outsourcing figures from 2009.
  • Sales & Mkg: mainly in IT&T and Financial services.

More information on Market trends in Singapore:

Information on market trends in other countries in APAC:

Singapore celebrates exceptional first quarter growth

SINGAPORE - The Singaporean economy enjoyed an exceptional growth in the first quarter of 2010. As compared to the last quarter of 2009, the economy grew by 32,1 percentage points, an exceptional achievement only partially explained by the low level of the economy in the quarter of reference.

As a consequence, the Singaporean Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) raised his forecast for the country's GDP growth in 2010 from 4,5-6,5% to 7-9%.

The growth reflects in manufacturing performance, which is mainly to be attributed to Electronics, driven by the recovery of global semi conductor chip sales, and to the biomedical sector. The services sector grew 11% quarter on quarter, indicating also a strong recovery.

With fears of a new dip in recession fading, concerns switch to risks of inflation and the Singapore Government is expected to tighten it's monetary policy.

Asia is investing on the development of Asian tourists in France

Asian tourists in Europe has seen their number increase sharply recently and constitute a privilege clientele for high luxury products and hospitality specialists. Chinese tourists alone spent nearly $ 155 million in High luxury goods in France in 2009, around 15% of overall expenses from foreign tourists in the sector; a figure showing a 37% increase compared to the previous year. Chinese tourists have overpassed Russians and are leading the race far ahead of Americans (whose expenses are estimated to $64 Millions).

Hostelry chains have well anticipated the trend and are currently investing massively in the old continent in order to cater to those tourists accustomed to high quality services and expecting prestations adapted to their taste.3 prestigious groups frmo Singapore are planning to open an establishment in Paris in the coming months: Raffles Hotels & Resorts sholud settle in the newly refurbished former hotel Montceau; Shangri la Hotels & Resorts is to open at the same period it's hotel in the former palace of Prince Roland Bonaparte, a grand nephew from  Napoléon and Peninsula is planning the opening of it's parisian hotel in 2012.


Indonesia courts foreign investors

INDONESIA- South East Asian countries are vying fiercely for attracting foreign investment in order to spur growth, create jobs, and enable bold development in strategic areas. Once a country imposing tight limitations, Indonesia is now reviewing it's investment rules to make it easier to invest in the country.

Indonesia needs to attract more foreign investors. For that matter it is actively reviewing it's legislation, dating from a 2007 presidential decree known as the "negative investment list" which imposed caps on foreign stakes in industries such as health care, education, logistics and agriculture. In strategic sectors such as healthcare, where indonesia needs a significant upgrade of it's current capacities, the cap could be thus lifted up to 67%, versus 49% for other industries.

Besides, Indonesia should be doubling it's investment in overall infrastructure such as roads, sea ports and airports over the next five years.

The aim, according to Gita Wirjawan, Chairman of the Investment Coordination Board of Indonesia, is "to reach a 15% increase in foreign investments over last year's US$14 billion". An increasing part of the latest should originate from Middle East, India and China.




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