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HRUnplugged: The top ways HR has evolved in recent years

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HR today needs a certain level of IT competencies to leverage an effective partnership with the IT team, says Thiveanathan K, Chief Human Resources Officer, UTAC Group.

Q What are the top ways that HR has evolved?

Technological advancements in the form of digitalisation, AI, automation, machine learning and analytics have improved HR operations’ effectiveness, decision-making and predictability. Once a disruptor, today it has become an enabler.

One of the widespread applications has been the emergence of HRIT specialists within the HR function. At UTAC, HRIT is a familiar role. During the initial years, this role was part of the IT organisation and now it has moved to become part of the HR team.

Nowadays, newcomers to the HR team already have a certain level of IT competencies that enable effective partnership with our IT team towards leveraging technology and bringing HR’s innovation to fruition.

At UTAC, the L&D team has embraced such technology by developing our own LMS with e-learning features to facilitate learning of standardised content globally. We have adopted a blended learning approach and developed bite-size refresher trainings with role-plays, gamification and even producing in-house videos.

Automating the performance management system is another project led by the HR team. This year, we are enhancing it to capture coaching notes between the supervisor and employees throughout the year, which can provide valuable information for periodic performance discussions.

The profile of the HR professional is expected to evolve from a single function “I” expert to an “M” – multi-skilled ability to apply our knowledge across multiple domains and situations.

Employee wellness with technology is another aspect that has gained traction over the past five years. Progressive organisations are investing in wellness as it forms an essential part of promoting holistic employee engagement.

UTAC has established a long-term collaboration with AIA and introduced mobile technology-based health benefit programmes towards improving our engagement, productivity and health costs. This year, we are also embarking on telemedicine.

Q What are some skills that you think are important today, but may be outdated in the next five years and vice-versa?

Some fundamental HR skills include planning and organising, which entail workforce management, records management and other transactional processes. These can be repetitive, tedious and complex depending on organisation size and structure. With the introduction of HR technology, such roles are expected to diminish over time.

It goes without saying the required skills for HR will include being tech-savvy in managing digitalisation and being social media-savvy. While such tools are great enablers, HR professionals are expected to complement technology with “high touch” to maximise the employee experience. This includes behavioural skills such as influencing, problem-solving and internal marketing.

To be relevant, while we in HR are constantly in touch with what’s happening outside our organisation, we must partner closely with business leaders to ensure each of our interventions are reflecting the business needs, employee demography and changing priorities.

The profile of the HR professional itself is expected to evolve from being a single function “I” expert to an “M” – multi-skilled ability to apply our knowledge and skills across multiple domains and business situations.


Vital stats: Thiveanathan K (Thivi) joined UTAC in mid-2013 with more than 20 years of HR leadership experience. Reporting to the CEO and board, he guides the organisation’s people practices that impact the group’s US$800 million business and its 11,000 employees across the globe.

Before this, he has held HR leadership roles with MNCs such as Coca-Cola, Goodyear, and Honeywell, across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and the US. In 2006, he was awarded the “2006 Malaysia HR Leader Award”. Thivi, a martial arts enthusiast with a third degree black belt in taekwondo, also practises yoga and plays golf.


This interview is part of our CHRO 4.0 special edition where we we introduce you to Human Resources’ Advisory Panel 2019, and pick their brains on the burning questions the function is facing.

Read more here: CHRO 4.0: Decoding the HR skills of the future


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