human resources online

An essential cog in the HR machinery

Managerial efficiency is one of the most overlooked areas where technology can play a role. Aditi Sharma Kalra explores the experiences of HR leaders who have dabbled in HRIS decisions, integrated talent management, predictive analytics, and more.

In a US-based survey of 500 managers, it was found a majority of them (36%) spend in the range of three to four hours per day on administrative tasks such as responding to emails and submitting expense claims. Conducted by West Monroe, a close second was the range of one to two hours per day, cited by 34% of managers.

This survey may have been conducted in the US, but the issues hit close to home. At conferences and events regularly, HR leaders share with us that managerial efficiency is one of the most overlooked areas where technology can play a role.

Recently, Otis, a unit of United Technologies Corporation, launched tools and service apps as part of its global digitalisation strategy to be implemented in phases across Southeast Asia in 2018. Globally, more than 31,000 employees are expected to benefit from initiatives such as a library of codes aimed at promoting self-directed upgrading among employees, including more than 160 service employees at Otis’ Singapore Service Department.

On another note, Hong Leong Bank (HLB) has introduced a virtual assistant named HALI which will help the bank improve its operations efficiency by 60% over the course of the year.

A first in Malaysia, HALI is set to assist two main core support functions – HR and branch operations. Developed for HLB by Hyperlab, for staff, having HALI means being able to make enquiries with regards to HR policies and procedures (including medical benefits, staff loans, leave policy and payroll) from their personal digital devices 24/7.

In this feature, we probe HR leaders across the region on similar such experiences with technology in its various forms.

A platform to enhance HR’s bandwidth Amit Das, director – human resources, Bennett, Coleman & Co.

With corporate enterprises at a digital crossroads today, Bennett, Coleman & Co (BCCL) started progressing on the digital journey to create an enabling people agenda supported by state-of-art technology.

Responsible for the overall human capital management of BCCL, India’s most diversified media conglomerate, is Amit Das, director of HR, who shares: "The ability to digitally reimagine the business is also determined by a coherent and clear digital strategy, supported by leaders who foster a culture and an ability to adopt and drive the change.

"This inspired us in our quest for the right HR technology offering, that is, an integrated talent management platform aimed to provide delightful ‘moments of truth’ and consistent experiences across the employee life cycle touch-points, to the discerning generation of talent."

The journey required BCCL to audit of all its people processes and look for areas where technology could positively impact the employee experience. The search was on for the right HR technology platform that would reduce the time and effort of HR to manage repetitive transactional activities and enhance HR’s bandwidth to manage more strategic deliverables up the value chain.

“We partnered with the IT function to choose the right intuitive technology for high adoption, identified internal evangelists for accelerated buy-in, helped employees understand what was in it for them, and customised training and highlighted quick wins for adopting the new technology,” he says.

During the journey, we realised that all cloud platforms come with a certain standard set of functionalities, which have limitations in terms of configurability.

After an exhaustive search, a vendor was identified, offering a cloud-based integrated talent management product, which best suited BCCL’s requirements, by providing a user experience and analytics features, ease of integration with the existing HR system, and scalability to seamlessly transit to a mobile-based platform.

This vendor helped BCCL deploy important people processes such as recruitment, L&D, compensation, and more. Further, he affirms the seamless technology unification across the employee life cycle has improved the employee experience, while for decision makers, easy access to the integrated data has led to actionable intelligence and more informed decisions.

“However, during the journey, we realised that all cloud platforms come with a certain standard set of functionalities, which have limitations in terms of configurability. Hence, we leveraged this opportunity to re-look at our processes and re-engineered them as appropriate in order to achieve successful implementation,” he says.

With the successful launch of the platform, BCCL has internalised its mobile-first strategy. The integrated talent management platform has been made accessible to all employees on the move. A hyper-personalised and customised learning app has also been launched to cater to the unique needs of high-potential employees, aligned to their career aspirations.

Looking forward, Das anticipates further interesting work towards the maturity of the digital journey, adding: “The journey entails a future-ready HR professional, who is a new-age avatar; an HR leader with a perfect mix of business, technology and domain skills.”

Predictive analysis on people data Jacob Jacob, group CHRO, Columbia Asia Healthcare

Many companies embark on a digitisation journey with various objectives in mind, but for private healthcare provider Columbia Asia Healthcare, HR digitisation has always been a part of its strategy towards enterprise growth.

“One of the key ingredients that we look at is predictive analysis on people data for enterprise growth that connects people and performance,” explains Kuala Lumpur-based group chief human resources officer Jacob Jacob.

To qualify this statement, he shares that the team keenly tracks the entire journey of all its internal customers (that is, employees) and uses the data to help make people-related decisions on issues such as talent deployment, talent management, and harnessing the potential of employees who can perform one level above what they perform today.

“Therefore, in our quest for people excellence, critical data points around people parameters are tracked for proactive decision making,” he says.

Of course, in any journey of excellence, not only is communication key, but also the buy-in of stakeholders who are going to be impacted by the change.

You will never get 100% buy-in to the changes, but you need to concentrate on getting at least 60% of the key stakeholders who support the cause.

“Should you get your communication parameters right, then a majority of the challenges that you face are catered to. You will never get 100% buy-in to the changes, but you need to concentrate on getting at least 60% of the key stakeholders who support the cause and can see the key value-add in embarking on this journey,” he says.

In essence, in Jacob’s view, applications for day-to-day HR administration are all mandatory, and they are no longer a source of competitive advantage. Rather, it is HR’s ability to use data for decision making and having a USP through HR digitisation that will be the value-add for stakeholders.

On this journey towards the use of technology, the team at Columbia Asia has developed in-house technology specific to each country of operation to cater to the demands and expectations of the changing scenarios in healthcare and its own vision for 2020.

Technology adoption across levels and generations Che Zulhaimee Bin Abdullah, general manager, group human capital and administration, Composites Technology Research Malaysia

An aero-composites manufacturing company, three-fourths of the employees at Composites Technology Research Malaysia (CTRM) comprise technicians and technical support staff. Being in the aerospace industry, with customers such as Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier, CTRM is subjected to a lot of audits by various authorities as well as customers.

“Hence, in human capital, we have to ensure our skilled employees and support staff are all well-skilled, knowledgeable, and maintain a good attitude,” says Che Zulhaimee Bin Abdullah, general manager of group human capital and administration.

At CTRM, 99.9% of employees are local talent, including from Sabah and Sarawak. As such, the company uses a host of technology tools for various reasons, for example, applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram for official as well as non-official communications; Google Forms for pre-recruitment exercises; and online applications such as SurveyMonkey,, Kahoot and Pigeonhole for engagement and training purposes.

Additionally, FlexHR is being used for general administrative HR applications, including payroll, employee expense claims, leave administration, etc. All employees have access to the system to view their payslip, apply for leave and expenses claims, as well as other HR-related matters.

Noteworthy, for HR analytics, the team is working with group human capital to develop its own dashboard for monthly reporting and KPI monitoring purposes using Tableau.

With so much activity underway, he expands on the execution of the initiatives.

“We faced some problems when we introduced e-payslip and e-claims,” he admits.

Since more than 60% of our employees are from the younger generations, we do not have much problem or resistance in implementing these initiatives.

These problems were overcome in a number of ways – setting up a computer room and calling selected employees from the ground to attend the training; and opening a temporary kiosk where personnel were stationed to explain the initiatives to employees. Concurrently, flyers were distributed to employees, a hotline number was advertised for all questions raised, and banners and buntings were placed at strategic areas such as the cafeteria.

Interestingly, CTRM also has official communication channels such as the “HR Echannel” through email as well as CTRM TV to share news with employees and push adoption rates. Briefings were also organised for appointed leaders as well as social leaders. Going the next level were support groups such as the employee assistance programme and a group called “Troopers” to also assist in engagement and communication, especially at the lower level.

So how has the experience and observations been since? “Since more than 60% of our employees are from the younger generations, we do not have much problem or resistance in implementing these initiatives,” he says, adding the extensive engagement programmes have certainly helped across levels.

In terms of the key results, he points out that not only are employees now empowered to manage their own leave and print their payslip, but overall the organisation has seen improved information flow and better understanding from employees. Engagement has significantly gone up, even as employee attrition has reduced.

“We reported 13.4% reduction in the attrition rate from FY2015/16 as compared to FY2017/18,” he reveals. He adds the annual attrition rate for FY2017/18 stands at 9.79%, placing the company in a win-win situation.

The considerations in selecting an HRIS Kamarunnihar Abdul Samad, general manager, human capital, Icon Offshore

Having considerable experience using different HR information systems (HRIS) throughout her career, Kamarunnihar Abdul Samad, general manager of human capital at Icon Offshore, takes us through some of the key decision factors for those who are starting out on their HR technology journey.

“A typical HRIS would provide all the modules: employee management information, payroll and benefits administration, recruitment process, performance development plans, training records and disciplinary actions,” she says. “Another important feature of most systems is the reporting functions and analysis capabilities.”

Some organisations may have specific and unique needs for their HR processes, a typical example being an employee’s claims process. If such organisations, Samad points out, already have the claims process in place before purchasing the system, the new HRIS must meet those specific needs, especially since most HRIS available in the market allow some level of customisation.

The budget to purchase and maintain the system should be determined upfront. The costs include the initial price, subscription costs, charges for software licences, and add-ons.

In her view, it is pertinent for HR professionals to look at the following key considerations before deciding on which HRIS to choose:

  • The budget to purchase and maintain the system should be determined upfront. The costs include the initial price, subscription costs, charges for software licences and costs for any add-ons in the future.
  • A system that is robust enough and can grow with the business. It should be able to have add-ons or can work flawlessly with other systems.
  • User-friendly for both the HR team as well as the employee experience.
  • Provides a self-service portal and manager service portal for the employees to update their personal information (for example, marriage status, change of home address, new child) and for the managers to manage their staff’s information (such as their leave balance, attendance, etc.).
  • User training is provided to the HR team as well as the employees.
  • Efficient ongoing support is crucial as the system will definitely have hiccups, especially during the initial stages of implementation.
  • Get other parts of the organisation to be involved during the selection process, including IT and finance, to get buy-in and ensure smooth implementation.
  • Research about the system. Check with existing clients to get feedback on the system.
  • Some of the newer systems allow remote access via mobile phones or tablets. This is an important feature, especially for people who travel a lot in their job.

Choosing the right HRIS is crucial as it will free the HR team from unnecessary data entry jobs to focus more on strategic functions, Samad says, as she signs off.

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