Keeping up with HR Tech

In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, it is crucial for HR leaders to keep up with the latest technology as an enabler of their processes for their companies to run smoothly. Jerene Ang examines real-life examples from ABR Holdings, Philips and more to explore how the HR function can keep up with the latest technology.

Today, technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, including our workplace.

With more organisations expanding overseas, this uptake of technology in the workplace has enabled firms to have cross-border teams and set up global hubs. At the same time, as more employees place importance on work-life balance, employees are using such technology to work remotely.

For this new way of working to run smoothly, it is essential HR can leverage on technology for its various processes such as compensation and benefits, talent acquisition, performance management and more.

However, the HR function is well-known for lagging behind in technology adoption.

In fact, according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, despite there being more than seven billion mobile devices in the world which drives more than 40% of all internet traffic, less than 20% of companies deploy their HR and employee productivity solutions on mobile apps today.

Nevertheless, there are always opportunities for improvement, and the report highlights that in 2016 digital HR is likely to be an area of major focus with 74% of executives identifying digital HR as a top priority, with the trend moving rapidly.

Hence, in this feature, we analyse the different ways in which HR can make use of technology to enable its processes through real-life examples and success stories from various organisations, as well as tips on how to use technology as an enabler in your processes.

Case one: ABR Holdings

As the manager and operator of some of the most successful F&B brands in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and China, with an expanding headcount of about 1,500 staff in the HR department, it was crucial for ABR Holdings to improve its HRIS system to increase productivity and accessibility to the system.

Hence, in February 2016, the company upgraded its existing HRIS system – which was implemented in the early 2000s – to the latest web-based version.

James Foo, head of group human resources at ABR Holdings, explained: “Typically, HRIS systems will be installed in the respective desktops and laptops, but with the new web version, you can access it from anywhere as long as you are using internet explorer.

“As part of our HR initiative, I felt it was the right time to invest in a better HRIS system due to the expansion and manpower increase. It was also part of the human capital strategy to tap on better technology to increase productivity and have better process efficiencies,” Foo said.

After justifying the need for the new system and its benefits – real-time data, accuracy of information and shortening of processes – a seven-member project team was formed with five members from HR and two from the IT department to study the system to determine how it could be customised to ABR’s reporting requirements, what functions the system needed to have as well as which functions should be phased out.

“We’re not only planning for what we need now, but we’re also planning for what we need in the future – the next five to 10 years,” he said.

“For example, if the company expands overseas, the system has to support multiple languages. As of now, the system is only using English, but it is able to enable the use of other languages such as simplified Mandarin.

“We also look at the number of headcount and amount of data we can accommodate with this new system as well as its efficiency.”

The one main challenge ABR faced was in the area of user training.

“Despite the fact that our staff had to go through four steps to get a job done with the old system and only a click is needed in the new system, our staff were so used to the old system that they were somewhat stumped by the new system.”

To overcome this challenge, ABR implemented a user training programme where managerial level staff were trained by the system provider. Thereafter, the managerial staff trained their respective teams. As there were different modules, the staff were divided into three teams for the training programme.

After the implementation of the new HRIS system, ABR noticed its staff were able to work more efficiently and easily due to faster system processes as well as customised reports.

“The greatest impact we have seen is the decrease in data entry errors. In the past, we had to manually key in all data – even the existing ones – when we acquired new information, but with this new system, we only have to key the details in once and the system will be able to auto-populate the custom report with data we already have in just a few clicks.

“The reduction of time spent on multiple checks also allows our HR team to focus more on their daily priorities and on their competencies.”

Case two: Philips Electronics

Operating in dynamic industries such as health technology, as well as lighting, requires Philips to attract different types of candidates into the business – those from non-traditional backgrounds as well as those who might not have considered the company as an employer five years ago or even last year.

Hence, it is necessary for the employer branding team to leverage on technology to define Philips’ messaging to candidates as well as communicate it in the most relevant way.

Chris Major, head of recruitment marketing at Philips Electronics Singapore, pointed out that technology has allowed the firm to speak with external candidates and current employees to help assess the perception of Philips’ employer brand, use video to bring its employment promise to life and engage its talent through an online talent community.

Its most recent example was in the localisation of Philips’ global employment brand.

“Philips has a single global message for all candidates called an employer value proposition. This is developed out of our head office in the Netherlands and is designed to appeal in some way to all candidates, wherever they may be,” Major explains.

“The challenge we face is taking that global message and tailoring it to suit local audiences. The start of that process is gathering the information we need on internal employment experiences and external perceptions of Philips as an employer.”

To do this, the employer branding team spoke with employees and external candidates in 22 key countries to understand their experiences and perceptions of Philips as an employer.

“That presented a problem from a logistical point of view, but we were able to overcome that by mixing face-to-face focus groups with leveraging technology enabled platforms such as Skype/video calls, online moderated forums and communities and targeted online surveys.”

The whole process was owned by the employer branding team, in close collaboration with talent acquisition and human resources.

“To ensure we had the necessary buy-in from our HR partners around the world, we included them in every significant step in the process. From helping define the types of candidate we should be speaking to, to work-shopping messaging, and ultimately, approving the final versions before activating and taking to market.”

As a result of the localisation, Philips now has a series of tailored messages for each key market worldwide to suit local requirements which is linked directly to its single, global EVP.

The messages were then activated locally through a series of assets and toolkits for the company’s talent acquisition consultants to use, as well as advertising and campaign content to help promote careers at Philips to external candidates.

Commenting on the results of the process, Major said: “We have seen a positive move in all our key talent acquisition metrics.

“Time-to-fill and cost-per-hire have been reduced, and (perhaps most importantly) our quality of applicant has steadily increased.

“Our messaging is designed to help candidates ‘self-select’ out of the recruitment process, and so we are seeing ever-more relevant and suitable candidates applying to open roles.”

Employee referrals through Philips’ employee referral programme have also increased by about 30% and career site visits have increased by about 20%.

“Additionally, among our new target audiences, we have seen a dramatic increase across a range of digital platforms in both awareness of our employer brand and a willingness to explore a career here at Philips.”

Case three: AECOM

With more than 90,000 employees in the company, AECOM needed a better way to manage its compensation planning process as it continued to expand. At the same time, it wanted to simplify its processes as well as keep better records for compliance sake and a scalable system in the event of expansion.

Hence, in September 2015, AECOM introduced the sum total system to manage its rewards planning process across the entire organisation. The system was first introduced to the APAC market in 2014, excluding China, as that part of the organisation was still evolving at the time.

However, this implementation did not come without challenges.

Wilfred Chan, director of compensation and benefits for Asia Pacific at AECOM, said: “The compensation planning managers were so used to having it in a nice spreadsheet which their HR business partners were filling up for them, but now they have to log in when they’re free to complete the transactions themselves.

“It’s a change management about owning the process – it’s a shift from the HR over to the employee of the manager.”

Chan added they also had to have a change in mindset.

“On paper or excel file, the managers could send it back to HR to customise the report if they didn’t like how it was grouped or looked.

“Now it is somewhat of a cookie cutter approach. For the process to be scalable, things have to be run and look a certain way as leaders won’t want 10 different versions to look at when they approve files, they want everything to tally in a very systematic way.”

One benefit of this, however, is it helps the turnaround time for approvals to be faster.

To overcome these challenges, the HR and compensation team worked to sell the benefits of the new system, such as its accessibility (it can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection) as well as the ease of locating files as the system allows them to see who has approved the file and which stage the file is at.

Additionally, AECOM held various workshops to train the managers on the new programme via webexes, calls, classroom and online training where they had a recorded event of Chan showing the HR staff how the system can be navigated, as well as a flash message where employees could follow the steps.

After the implementation, AECOM did a post survey where a subset of compensation planning managers were asked for feedback, and then reviewed the feedback with the vendor to make improvements for the subsequent year.

At the same time, it saw positive engagement in terms of employee reaction where the employees felt they owned the process and did not have to rely on anyone to get it done.

“It also spoke to the younger employees who prefer to work through the system and do things themselves,” Chan said.

AECOM also noted an improvement in the process in terms of compliance. As Chan explained, from a compliance point of view, the firm knew that everything was accounted for and exactly who made the approval and who didn’t approve it, who made changes and why.

“Any platform that allows scalability and compliancy is always a good thing.

“Even though a lot of reporting still needs to happen through excel-based files, in terms of managing the processes, we definitely would never want to go back to excel.”

Case four: Cisco

As a technology leader, it is necessary for Cisco to use various technologies to manage its 70,000-plus employees worldwide such as “connected recognition”, the company’s internal system that allows employees to suggest gift cards to be given to co-workers.

Most recently, the firm rolled out team space – a tool designed to support its mission to serve teams and team leaders, to unlock the power of its teams and, ultimately, accelerate team performance.

Ashley Goodall, SVP of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco, explained: “Starting with HR in September, we have begun to roll out team space in phases. We currently have 8,000 employees from various global functions across the company on the platform, and we’ll have the entire company on by the Fall of 2016.”

Cisco decided to roll out the new system when its employees pointed out its old performance management system was causing more harm than good.

“Rather than forcing an immediate replacement, we simply shut off the old system. This allowed us time to find the best way to serve our people.”

While the traditional performance management system focuses on the individual, Cisco noticed that great accomplishments were delivered not through an individual, but through teams.

To unlock the power of teams across the firm, Cisco chose a technology that helps people understand and reveal their strengths to their teams.

“Team space is personalised for Cisco and has specific features that help us better manage talent.

“For instance, our people told us that annual reviews were not working. This was because these were mandatory, infrequent and backward-looking conversations not at all relevant to what we’re currently working on.

“What we’ve discovered is the best teams have frequent, future-focused conversations about the work that better mirrors the pace and reality of our work. So, team space includes a check-in tool that complements this necessary human touch.”

When implementing team space, the biggest challenge was taking a step back and deciding what the company really wanted the technology to achieve.

“That meant stopping the use of a system that no longer worked for us and feeling comfortable without a technology in place until we found the best fit.”

Once the technology was selected, implementing a new system for 70,000-plus people was in itself a challenge, so was encouraging engagement with the new system.

To work past the barriers, Goodall explained the team pushed itself to look at the bigger HR goals instead of rushing through the system.

“We learned that we needed to solve for something bigger than just a new system for performance management. We’re actually solving for teams –and how to find and make more of the best teams. Finding the technology that would help us achieve those goals was a bigger priority than having something in place in the short term.”

At the same time, Cisco trialled the new programme before a full roll-out to work out the kinks and get feedback before committing to a larger introduction.

After the full roll-out, team space is expected to help Cisco accelerate team performance, and in turn, deliver better outcomes for its customers.

In the long term, this technology will help scale team excellence across Cisco through customised tips for team leaders about what the best teams are doing. It also allows leaders to measure their engagement against the best teams, and against their own engagement over time.

Trends in HR tech

After having a look at the case studies above, we spoke to Timothy Darton, GM of Workday Southeast Asia, for five key examples on how organisations can leverage on technology to optimise their HR processes.

Mobile recruiting:
Organisations are increasingly turning to mobile recruiting technologies that foster greater collaboration among the entire hiring team. These enable managers, recruiters and team members to collaborate anywhere and anytime to quickly and easily share feedback and ensure talent is not lost.

After spending a considerable amount of time and money to hire the right candidate, it is important to have the right technology in place to help turn that person into a productive, contributing employee as quickly as possible. A simple-to-use (no training required), highly engaging, yet completely configurable on-boarding process – accessible from multiple device types – will not only onboard people more efficiently, it will engage that new employee more effectively, improving loyalty and retention.

Business process flexibility:
One process does not fit all. Often, enterprise systems are hard to configure and even harder to change. This tends to result in organisations changing the way they’d prefer to run their operations to ways that the system can easily accommodate. All business processes should be fully configurable to meet different needs without having to re-code any part of the system or placing any operational cost or overhead on the business.

Enabling a more data-driven business:
The costs and delays associated with third party BI tools and data warehouses should, largely, be a thing of the past. Business intelligence must be easily accessible and fully integrated to HR processes, which requires an HR system with built-in, real-time analytics and reporting.

Support for business change:
Companies are always re-organising and modern HR technology must be flexible enough to support this type of business change without breaking business-specific processes; analytics and reporting, or; role and security profiles – efficient companies are to constrained by the systems in these regards.

Image: Shutterstock

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