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Driving the HR function through technology

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Perception Management, Acacia Fabrics, and Ricoh Malaysia speak on technology initiatives that propel their businesses and workforces.

With the government’s “National Transformation 2050” plan actively promoting digital transformation, companies are quickly adopting forward-thinking digital initiatives to drive their HR function’s impact.

Whether it’s to find a better fit for a candidate or improving employee communication, Perception Management, Acacia Fabrics, and Ricoh Malaysia share the technology initiatives that are propelling their business and workforce.

No.1: The right match

Having worked with recognised names such as PETRONAS, Sanofi, Unilever and more, PR and communications boutique agency Perception Management (PMSB) prides itself on delivering the right perceptions for its clients. Similarly, the agency prioritises on finding the right talent and aligning the right perception to its organisation.

On that note, Adit Rahim, director of client services at Perception Management, speaks on how culture is a key factor when it comes to the success of talent acquisition and retention.

“In helping talent absorb the culture of our organisation, we must also be open enough to appreciate the culture that they subscribe to. If possible, bridge both cultures towards harmony. By doing so, mutual respect is given and gained, ensuring the objectives of the company and talent are given the supportive platform required for success,” he says.

But to first find the right talent, the agency goes beyond educational qualifications through its human psychometric personality analysis. By leveraging on data analytics, the company gets to identify each candidate’s strengths, what drives or motivates them, and even their emotive expectations. The analysis also takes a 360-degree approach where social attributes are provided due consideration.

According to Adit, the company and talent can work towards meeting and surpassing each other’s expectations.

“While people talk about the right fit, at PMSB we are all about potential for growth,” he says. “With that said, we look at candidates that display the potential to be agile, amidst development, their ability to constantly evolve with the needs and wants of the industry as well as clientele expectations. Candidates that embrace lifelong-learning as not only a mantra, but part of their ethos.”

The firm suggests merging interesting tasks and a working environment that is in accordance with staff’s interests to promote their personal growth, coping and wellbeing.

Additionally, it is trying out cloud-based computing which allows it to tap into a vast information architecture from anywhere. To provide its clients with strategic and effective counsel derived from more than 20 years of public relations expertise, Adit explains: “We are able to cater to our clients’ demands and expectations almost instantaneously from anywhere in the world, allowing us to address challenges and matters affecting our clients in real-time.”

Explaining how this offers staff a competitive edge, he says: “While many are still struggling to react to happenings around them that affect their business viability, we have been able to take a step back and assess the situation, analyse and compare with our past experiences in order for us to respond accordingly and effectively solve situations.”

In fact, embracing technology has helped empower the firm to be part of the digital PR evolution. Further explaining this digital shift, he notes how traditional PR focuses on the promotion of influence, reach and reputation management – taking on the organic and traditional approach of cultivating engagement and relationships.

Through this, it has helped his staff build on their capabilities in the PR industry.

“In the past, the focus for traditional PR revolved around only print and broadcast media. Now, it also recognises the importance of online media to develop positive brand visibility and customer engagement,” he says.

“For us, we have ventured beyond the traditional, evolving the elements of traditional PR while also building relationships with bloggers, website editors and key online influencers. We then marry this evolution with online marketing techniques such as SEO, link-building, tagging, etc. By doing so, we are able to increase our clients’ brand visibility and credibility, successfully achieving and promoting positive customer engagement.”

No.2: Managing performance expectations

Acacia Fabrics recognises that going beyond just conventional payroll and recruitment, human resources today requires a rather comprehensive cycle of talent. Due to the emerging changes in the modern way of operating the business, the purveyor of fine fabrics acknowledges the need for more strategic functions from human resources to cope with the processes to rise to the challenge and remain competitive.

With that said, Loo Swee Ping, head of human resources for Acacia Fabrics, highlights how performance management is a key issue in HR.

The firm is running a pilot project to roll out a cloud-based performance management system as part of an HR initiative to replace the conventional manual performance system which is done annually towards year-end.

“We are hoping this system will eventually ease a lot of manual work, enhance efficiency and encourage two-way feedback between appraiser and appraisee which will then reduce unnecessary bias,” Loo says.

“Both superiors and co-workers would have the flexibility to provide feedback at anytime through an account created for each employee. KPIs set are monitored progressively and any hiccups could be easily tracked for changes and improvement. Meanwhile, top management will also be able to monitor the progress easily through the system and advise whenever necessary.” For example, the sales team will easily be able to track its sales revenue closely against the financial KPIs set, manage sales trends proactively and promptly rectify issues that arise.

To further encourage the sales team to return and improve the collaboration with the operations team as a whole, Acacia has introduced gamification to encourage healthy competition. Through this initiative, rewards are allocated to the winning team each quarter and it is given an opportunity to nominate a peer from the operations team to share the win. “We believe the operations team (back office) should not be left out when it comes to recognising their contribution.”

Apart from that, talent acquisition is another challenge within the industry.

“Getting the right fit into the organisation right at the beginning is better than dealing with hassles later. As for the applicant, getting to know more about the organisation first is equally important in order to have some understanding of the nature of the business, the corporate culture and whether it is the right avenue for future career growth should there be an opportunity to excel together with the hiring/future company,” she says.

Delving into the initiatives at Acacia Fabrics, it is currently hosting an online assessment which provides useful guidelines for the hiring process such as cognitive structure, energy, emotional balance, problem solving and performance. Through this, applicants will be guided through an online assessment while the programme gathers data about their actions and answers based on the five criteria being set and measured.

“Such technology is able to predict how well a candidate will fit in the role that he or she has applied for. We can then use this data in our hiring decisions, and hence, cut out, or at least reduce, the ‘gut feeling’ through the process. This helps to enhance the efficiency of the HR function in terms of recruitment and administration.”

No.3: Fostering employee connectivity

With a global workforce of 98,000 and a local headcount of 500 employees, Ricoh Malaysia finds the challenge for organisations goes beyond just improving productivity, but in enhancing employee connectivity.

Speaking more on this issue, Doris Tham, general manager of human resources at Ricoh Malaysia, says: “The core functions of human resources have not changed much over the past decade. However, as technological solutions continue to advance rapidly, that is, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence, it has definitely impacted the way human resources thinks, acts and speaks. The challenge for organisations is no longer limited to improving workforce productivity, but more importantly, employee connectivity.”

With continuous advancement in technology reshaping the way companies attract, develop and retain talent, she highlights that simplicity, connectivity and speed are three essential elements in any technological system design. She comments: “The intense level of connectivity will enable new employees to integrate more quickly, create effective team cohesiveness and allow the organisation as a whole to operate at the rapid speed of today’s business needs.”

With that said, Ricoh Malaysia enhances its employees’ working relationships with the utilisation of its interactive whiteboard (IWB) and unified communication systems.

According to Alice Lee, managing director of Ricoh Malaysia (who also oversees the HR department at Ricoh Malaysia), communication through branches nationwide in Malaysia for training and meeting activities is speedier thanks to such utilisation.

“The work styles we see in Ricoh Malaysia, and across the globe, and the work style changes you are seeing across enterprises are real. It is beginning to get more difficult to operate old technology in the new world of the work environment,” Lee says.

“Globally, Ricoh is strongly promoting our value proposition of empowering digital workplaces to make people work simpler and smarter. At Ricoh Malaysia, we have what we call ‘live offices’ where we use intelligent devices, solutions with documents and cost management tools in our current workplace environment.”

For instance, Ricoh encourages strong collaborations among employees with its “huddle rooms”, defined as small conference areas equipped with advanced communication tools for quick discussions. The Ricoh IWB fits into these rooms, which allows anyone to interact and communicate with another while achieving better and more productive discussions.

This will also decrease chances of documents being misplaced and misfiling issues and at the same time save time for retrieval and space for storing.

Additionally, users can also view the status of such processes.

“In a way, an employee can be more efficient and will be able to anticipate what is next for their action. Eventually, this will increase our employees’ productivity through accessibility of documents from anywhere, anytime and enhance information security without compromise,” Lee says.

On that note, Tham also highlights how today’s business environment moves so rapidly that organisations cannot focus on what has happened in the past. “Organisations then have to allocate resources to have foresight of what is going to happen in the future and plan ahead and appropriately,” she says.

“HR analytics is to apply analytic processes to the human resources department with the aim of improving employee performance for better return on investment. HR analytics does not just deal with gathering data on employees’ efficiency. Instead, it focuses on providing insights on the data to make relevant business improvement decisions.”

In Ricoh’s view, technology is vital to create an impact, but technological changes need to come together with its people and processes. With it, it will establish the trajectory that works best.

“With the generational gap getting wider, technological usage cannot be ignored in everyday workplace automation. The three key steps to transforming organisations into digital workplaces are workflow, workplace and work style,” Lee says.

With workflow, Lee explains that technology maximises operational efficiency and minimises environmental impact by transitioning from paper-based work flows to digital-first operations for cost savings and improved operational efficiencies. Meanwhile, when it comes to the workplace, the company will need to have a suite of intelligent devices in place to form a connected office to encourage smarter and better collaborations.

“With everything in place, your business can adopt a mobile workforce, offering employees flexible working opportunities and promote new work styles,” she says.

Photo / StockUnlimited

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