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Industry Insider: How to win the war on talent in the digital economy

Industry Insider: How to win the war on talent in the digital economy

From hiring to onboarding, attrition to wages, TDCX's Group CHRO, Chee Gay Lim sheds lights on all the industry and talent trends that he's analysed over an impactful tenure, in an exclusive face-to-face with HRO's Arina Sofiah during his recent visit to Singapore.

Driven by the digital economy, the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector has been growing over the years. Along with this growth, organisations are all looking for the same talent – not just in BPO, but also across the wider digital economy.

As such, hiring the right talent would be one of the key challenges today, Chee Gay Lim, Group Chief Human Resources Officer, TDCX, shares, in conversation with HRO's Arina Sofiah.

The problem, however, does not lie in being unable to hire. In fact, TDCX saw almost 12,000 joiners from the start of the year to October, and onboarded almost 2,000 per month.

The real question, Lim elaborates, is where can we find more? The business seems to demand more than what it is currently hiring today. This is what the group is working on as it continues to expand its sourcing.

On top of that, there is also the challenge of employee retention.

Since the market for good talent is tight, many organisations risk losing employees to competitors. As previously mentioned, the growing digital economy has everyone looking to hire the same type of talent, such as for B2B sales, for instance. Nevertheless, Lim considers it a "good challenge”, representing growth.

Still, challenges vary market to market. As Lim shares for example, attrition in Malaysia remains low in comparison to that in Singapore or the Philippines. 

In terms of hiring, some multi-lingual markets such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand have been seeing other nationalities relocating there for work. However, the challenge lies in continuing to attract them in lieu of lingering COVID-19 restrictions in their own markets, and in competing with other markets in Southeast Asia for this talent. Lim adds, “Further, the same talent is being hired in their local markets while we are also trying to hire them in our markets.”

Another difference Lim has noticed would be wages, especially considering the inflation from market to market. While inflation in Malaysia and Singapore may be considered “in control”, inflation in other markets such as Japan, Hong Kong, and Thailand is continuing to grow at a faster pace. Candidates’ wage expectations, as a result, vary from country to country. This may pose as a challenge when it comes to ensuring they are paid per the market rate, Lim shares.

“You can imagine: sometimes we revise our salary metrics more than once a year,” he quips. Currently, TDCX pays its employees according to the market medium, which has shifted almost every four months.

“Of course, this is good for employees,” Lim laughs.

Along with these above factors, Lim highlights a couple more:

  • The changing expectations of new joiners. Perhaps spurred by COVID-19, talent are more “demanding” right now, he notes.
  • Good talent is not just available in select countries. Instead, they are being hired as far as in the US, for example, in mostly remote roles; thus, adding to the strong demand for good talent.

Tackling the challenges head-on

As a basis for tackling these challenges, Lim firstly acknowledges the value of working closely with stakeholders. As teams come together and assess the business, they would all have a common goal — attracting and retaining employees. 

To do that, one of the most important factors TDCX focuses on would be employee experience. “We always believe that good EX drives good CX,” Lim affirms. 

Good employee experience involves many touchpoints, he elaborates. These touchpoints are not just limited to HR, but also involve hiring managers.

“How do we make sure hiring managers have been equipped to attract new candidates? When employees come on board, how do we make sure that they are able to integrate new joiners into the organisation, and help on their needs?”

Another focus for TDCX would be employer branding, and how it differentiates in its employee value proposition.

As Lim shares, the Group invests a lot in its people development. It has career development and career navigation to help with internal placement.

Along with all of this, TDCX is reviewing its policies, which the organisation did during the pandemic, and is still continuing to do today. For example, it continues to have more flexibility in its policies, considering the preference for flexible work arrangements, especially amongst the younger generation. This flexibility can also extend to working hours, such as flexible hours, and employment contracts, such as freelance gig economies.

Apart from the above, TDCX is also focusing on revising its salary metrics.

Overall, Lim observes, the most notable reason for talent leaving would be lack of career progression, which is why the Group focuses on developing its internal employees. “Naturally, this role isn’t for HR to work on alone — it’s a collective effort, where managers and leaders come together,” he points out.

To aid in this, TDCX holds regular dialogue sessions between employees and managers, where they may discuss career progression and performance. Initially, the organisation had these evaluations twice a year, but has now made it a more continuous effort.

“We focus a lot also on developing our employees to the next level, to enable them to progress internally. “Currently, 10% of TDCX’s workforce is in internal placements; not counting the six-month-new joiners, this figure stands at 30%. “However, we still believe that this is not enough, and that's why we want to continue developing our employees to be promoted to take on larger, better job scopes.

Further, the Group has job role assessments to identify skill gaps and track career development,” Lim adds.

How the BPO landscape is evolving

Having joined TDCX in 2017, Lim has noticed some major landscape changes in the BPO sector, with the first being the growth of the business.

While BPO used to be a “dying industry”, it has now become a growing industry due to the digital economy. Take TDCX for example – the Group grew from a workforce of 3,000 overall, to almost over 18,000 in a period of five years.

Perhaps in tandem, Lim has noticed a stronger demand for talent acquisition. Getting competent talent acquisition specialists has become pivotal to growing the business, he affirms.

Finally, another major landscape change would be the investment in HR technology, whether it’s a hiring tool, or for data insights such as SAP SuccessFactors which TDCX leverages.

Looking ahead, Lim sees this war on talent being a priority for CHROs such as himself.

"We need to be able to differentiate ourselves, especially in terms of the employee experience and employee value proposition. That continues to be our key focus,” he summarises.

Along with that, another priority would be the investment in data analytics and prediction. Data insight and intelligence will be key for CHROs to prepare for emerging skills and HR planning amidst such large-scale growth. For example, this may just help anticipate the number of talent acquisition needed to support the business, Lim shares.

Lastly, there will also be a need to innovate and reimagine HR processes, particularly to drive flexibility and employee wellness. As part of its current efforts, TDCX is continuing to invest in its digital wellness programme and in connecting employees pertaining to their wellness, prevention, and support.

Even with these three big priorities, Lim is mindful to not place other areas such as the Group’s DEI and ESG on the backburner.

In doing so, Lim emphasises the importance of having a strong HR team. “It is crucial to attract competent HR leaders, especially in the areas of talent acquisition, employee experience and total rewards,” he elaborates.

Of course, technological investment in data insights and predictions remains important.

On a personal level, Lim also shares how TDCX continues to work with global providers. For example, continued support from the Group’s global providers help when it comes to hiring in new sites. “We need to make sure that we work with payroll providers as we continue to grow.”

Not only that, support from digital wellness providers continues to play a part.

Overall, Lim personally prioritises reimagining HR processes, particularly in terms of hiring. “We continue to make sure that hiring becomes streamlined and seamless.”

While the Group is already fully digitised, Lim hopes to keep enhancing the velocity of its hiring.

The Group also continues to work on its compensation and benefit as part of its differentiator, while reviewing its policy from the top and investing in technology to support growth in new markets.

Finally, as the Group also prioritises the use of data insight and intelligence to proactively address issues, Lim’s next step forward will focus more on predictive and more proactive measurement that HR should play in growing a business.

Lead image / By HRO (featuring the interviewee, Chee Gay Lim)

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

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