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We’ve all been there, implementing new systems to keep up with the times and demands of the incoming digital natives. Jerene Ang speaks to HR leaders from Essence and Otis Elevator Company to examine how you can best put a solution in place and get returns from it.
The younger generations such as the Millennials and Gen Z are known for being digital natives. By 2020, 50% of the workforce will be Millennials, while Gen Z, who were born just after 1995, will also be entering the workforce.
Being digital natives, these employees are going to have high expectations of the technology at work. In fact, according to the 2016 Future Workforce Study by Dell and Intel, 82% of Millennials believed that workplace technology would influence them when deciding to accept a new job.
With the workforce having such high expectations in terms of technology, it is necessary that HR is able to speak the same language and leverage on the right technologies to engage, and effectively manage the life cycle of these employees – from recruitment to performance management to learning and career development.
Hence, in this feature, we speak to HR leaders from Essence and Otis Elevator Company to find out some of the best practices of successfully leveraging on technology to manage their workforces.
Essence: Actionable data at the heart of decisions
As a digital-first media agency with a proud history of using technology, data and transparent media buying to advance the digital advertising industry, it is no surprise that Essence also significantly leverages on technology to manage aspects of its workforce.
When it comes to talent management, some top issues for Essence include scaling the organisational culture as it expands; and scaling its learning and development interventions and making them available, accessible and of the highest standard. Apart from that, the media agency aims to curate meaningful career paths across its teams to continue attracting and retaining top talent.
As many HR leaders can attest to, keeping employees satisfied and engaged is one of the best ways to retain them. Veli Aghdiran, regional learning and culture director for APAC at Essence, shares that while the firm has been taking a very survey-based approach to measuring employee satisfaction for more than five years, the outputs of its in-house efforts often left them with more questions than insights.
“When the insights aren’t clear, confirmation bias starts to become a more significant risk factor,” Aghdiran says.
Even though there’s no way of entirely mitigating against that, technology systems are better able to provide insights on what has a causal effect on employee satisfaction scores.
“This makes it much easier to prioritise and focus on action. When we do that, our employees see that the leadership proactively addresses the issues that come out of surveys, and they’ll probably take more time and care in responding when they’re next asked,” he says.
Turning data into actionable insights
As such, Essence has partnered with Glint to turn its six-monthly employee satisfaction surveys into insights that leave the leadership teams clear on actions and next steps. The media agency has also invested in HappyOrNot terminals across its offices to have a minute-by-minute pulse of how Essentials are answering the question “How are you feeling right now?” all over the world.
“From an employee engagement perspective, we’re constantly iterating how we use technology to not just collect data, but to efficiently turn it into actionable insights.”
Owned by the learning and culture team, throughout the process of the implementation the team has been very focused on articulating the “why” behind these investments, both to leadership stakeholders and to Essentials.
“Data is truly at the heart of everything we do for our clients as an agency. As a result, our people are very engaged with our efforts to collect and generate insights on employee satisfaction, and we’re relentlessly transparent and people-focused in our approach.
“As we transition from small company to not-so- small company, our senior leadership is very aligned behind the need to rigorously get a sense of what’s going for our people so that we can take meaningful and impactful action.”
Though senior leadership buy-in came fairly easily for Essence, the implementation wasn’t without bumps.
“Whenever you partner with a new supplier, there’s always a need to invest time and energy in the implementation. The two main areas of focus were stakeholder communication and data import and hygiene.”
When it came to the employees’ response, he notes it was mostly one of curiosity as well as positivity.
On the benefits of the programme, he reveals: “From a people perspective, the biggest impact so far is that we’ve been able to drive incredibly productive conversations with our leadership.
“Our investments have also enabled us to ensure accountability sits with those empowered to effect change in the organisation.”
Aghdiran adds that while the people functions play an important facilitative role, Essence relies on the engagement and leadership of senior management to drive the change that it wants to drive for its people.
“When it comes to business impact, these investments have coincided with a significant period of change and transformation at Essence, making the insights gathered even more valuable.
“Ultimately, our intention is to maintain high retention rates as we grow and scale. These investments in technology enable us to take timely, focused and impactful action, so that we can address problems quickly and effectively, and also turn up the volume on things that make our people happy.”
Otis Elevator Company: Taking technology usage to the next level
Amid a constantly changing industry, evolution is critical for organisations to stay competitive – even if the organisation is already one of the world’s largest manufacturer and service providers of elevators, escalators and moving walkways.
As Otis Elevator Company continues to expand with a more globalised and diversified workforce, Sandra Lee, HR director, Otis Southeast Asia, reveals: “Attracting, cultivating and retaining top talent is one of our top priorities, as we’re always looking to enhance our infrastructure and processes.”
As a company, it has continually reinvented itself. Today, it is changing the game again. “We’re approaching the transformation of our service business by putting the focus on people, including our mechanics, to improve their experiences in an increasingly urbanised world,” she says.
“Our approach isn’t just about utilising predictive maintenance, IoT, or new mechanic tools – more than that, we want to develop a connected, globalised digital ecosystem that will keep our users informed, while improving uptime.”
The company is doing so through introducing digital solutions such as a spare parts app to allow mechanics to search for parts even while on-site with their customers; an inspection app that replaces expensive and heavy equipment; a safety app which offers an extra layer of protection for mechanics; and more than a dozen mobile apps to put the control in its mechanics’ hands as well as to further open the lines of communication with customers.
At the same time, Otis’ HR programmes will also undergo digitalisation, allowing for a more flexible, forward-looking and mobile workforce – this includes the use of a new performance management system sans ratings to allow it to focus on dynamic goals and work towards milestones that are in line with business strategies; as well as a new employee survey tool powered by Glint.
Lee further reveals that Singapore has been selected as one of the countries to pilot the launch of Workday – its new HR system – to help the HR team achieve better business outcomes.
A bottom-up transformation
“When it comes to digital, we always start with our people and our customers. We lead from the bottom up – more specifically, we lead our transformation from our field employees.”
In line with that, Otis has established a “champions network” – an internal network made up of a group of Otis service engineers and leaders to front the service transformation effort and provide a stream of continuous feedback around the new tools and apps. These champions will then go on to support global teams to develop and deploy these new technologies.
Lee explains: “This process directly involves the HR team to ensure that all parties are aligned for the successful implementation of the transformation.”
During implementation, the HR team was responsible for mapping out manpower demands, reviewing incentive planning and establishing new policies and procedures, among other things.
“Our new digital programmes are fuelled by 67,000 employees – and accelerated with the strength of United Technologies Corp (UTC).”
Acclimatising to new technology
However, with the implementation of new technology comes its challenges. For Otis, this came in the form of encouraging line managers to adopt a new way of working with the HR team.
“In order to successfully execute the programme, line managers had to be able to examine the data behind our employees’ engagement drivers, and interpret them to plan the next actions.”
To help the organisation get acclimatised to the changes, training and support was provided to help managers and employees adapt to the new technology.
“We rolled out an employee communications programme that clearly explained the initiatives, along with its benefits to the business. We encouraged employees to initiate more discussions around their career development with their line managers, and put an increased focus on coaching and training to ease them into the transition,” she says.
Returns on every level
On the measurement of success, Lee says: “We measure our success by observing how significantly equipment uptime has improved, along with how satisfied our workforce is with the additional autonomy they’re given to carry out their work.”
Among others, the digital tools have benefited employees by minimising, and possibly removing, the non value-added activities Otis’ mechanics are doing today, providing mechanics around the world access to the same resources, as well as giving them more autonomy, hence, keeping them engaged and invested in the organisation.
For the managers, traditionally paper-heavy admin processes such as overtime submissions and reimbursements have become more organised and convenient, enabling them to increase productivity during approvals of the claims.
For the HR team, the service transformation programme has revolutionised the dynamics of the HR team, as well as the way it functions.
“The shared service support across the rest of UTC’s businesses has helped us streamline our processes to uncover different perspectives, which puts a focus on transformational HR work and business partnering. This has also paved the way for our team to utilise data analytics to drive more efficient business outcomes.”
As for the business, the programme has enabled Otis’ field employees to shorten the lead time previously needed to repair lifts, while improving equipment uptime, hence, increasing customer satisfaction.
“In fact, we’ve noticed an increase in customer satisfaction, leading to higher customer retention.”
Tips to get started
After looking at these inspiring best practices, here are some tips for you to take control of implementing and using technology to manage your workforce.
“Why” is just as important as “how”
Be clear about the reason for implementing the new technology. Ensuring the “why” is aligned with your organisational purpose will help stakeholders to buy into it.
It’s not just the implementation, but also what happens after
As a HR professional, you need to be much more focused on being able to draw insights from the data and use it in the day to day business partnering in an objective way.
Quality over quantity
When using a system to gain insights into your workforce, the quality of the data is just as important as the quantity of the data you have. Remember the phrase – “bad data in, bad results out”.
Technology is fast, but implementing a system is not as fast
Don’t be discouraged if the system is not working as well as you want it to at first. Remember that employees need time to get used to the new working processes. Be prepared to sink in resources, behaviour change, and investment in training and upscaling before you reap the rewards of faster and better decision-making.