Total Rewards Asia Summit 2024 Singapore
Top HR tech concerns CHROs in Singapore are addressing

Top HR tech concerns CHROs in Singapore are addressing

Having ambassadors, champions or cross-departmental taskforces will ensure all employees feel like they have a say in any change process – this is one of the best practices to enable a smoother transition into HR tech, as we learnt at a recent roundtable by HRO x Grab For Business. Report by Sarah Gideon.  

The ways teams work, the tools employees use, and the expectations that top talent have are all constantly evolving. And no greater factor impacts these changes more than the utilisation of technology, which helps to equip employees to perform better, both quickly and efficiently.  

At a breakfast roundtable held on 15 April 2024 (Monday), organised by Human Resources Online (HRO) in partnership with Grab For Business, 15 HR leaders sat together to discuss how technology comes into play in their talent management strategies, and how these have, ultimately, helped improve employee engagement. 

Setting the context for the conversation in her opening address, Chin Yin Ong, Chief People Officer, Grab, talked about understanding what a holistic and great employee experience entails.  

At Grab, the leader and her team are looking to weave together what they call “the P-H-D of employee experience”:  

  • Physical, in terms of the office space: Infusing, for instance, wellbeing into the office space, acknowledging the impact a workspace can have on the employee; 
  • Human: Looking at the company’s policies, and how the leadership team engages its people, and 
  • Digital: Leveraging technology advancements to bring the employee experience forward. 

In addressing these, Ong noted, the aspiration is to be able to design work that allows employees to be more and more productive without having to work more and more hours. Wouldn’t that be an ideal scenario?  

Well, keeping this wish in mind, the conversation moved to the key challenges leaders are facing in elevating the employee experience in their organisation through tech-powered human capital strategies, as well as their approach to ensuring these concerns are met. 

Excerpts of the conversation are shared below. 

Key challenges leaders are facing on their journey 

When asked for a show of hands in a quick poll, interestingly, choosing the right technology was not as difficult a decision for the HR leaders, as were other challenges, such as: 

  • Personalising the employee experience, 
  • Aligning the experience for remote and hybrid workers, and 
  • Increasing employee productivity, i.e., sustainable productivity. 

Below, we’ve summarised some of the key talk-points in each challenge as well the solutions surfaced in the conversation. 

Challenge #1: Managing high demand for personalised employee experience 

The first challenge cited, which many of the leaders resonated with, was the high demand for more personalised employee experiences. The absence of such personalisation when using certain tech-enabled tools tends to demotivate employees to adapt or adds fuel to the belief that the technology is not considered human-centric. This places great expectations on leaders who are trying to make strides in adoption of technology for their organisation. 

An apt sharing by one speaker was the need to contextualise the employee experience for two broad buckets of employees, agnostic of their generation: Your existing workforce, and your newly hired workforce.  

As they pointed out, workplaces today see different age groups coming in with different experience levels and each one perceives the organisation differently – for example, a newbie hired in your organisation (a Gen Yer) is going to have a vastly different experience from another Gen Yer who has been in your workforce for a while now. How then, can you contextualise the experience for them, so they know that the information you are putting out for them is meant for them, while in the process, building the organisation and building the careers of individuals? 

Concurring, a second speaker added that with the many changes happening in the manpower landscape today forcing companies to reinvent the employee experience, employees are overwhelmed with the amount of information their organisation is pushing out, and how much they are having to absorb as a result.  

Challenge #2: Employee resistance to the implementation of HR tech 

A second challenge, one that links closely with employee experience, lies in the implementation of HR technology in the organisation, and employees’ resistance to it. Among the examples cited, leaders across the table shared:  

  • Despite the availability of programmes on multiple platforms, take-up rates remain low. 
  • Long-time employees exhibit resistance to these new programmes, often citing a preference for human touch and face-to-face interactions over a screen. 
  • Many employees still prefer the traditional method where HR handled tasks on their behalf, as they find transitioning from physical to virtual programmes uncomfortable and miss the direct human engagement. 

The challenge is made more complex in highly regulated industries, especially those that are customer facing, given the increased complexity placed on them due to sectoral risks as well as the impact any new introductions could have on customer experience. 

Commenting on the potential reasoning behind these phenomena, Grab’s Ong pointed out that human psychology indicates that humans are more motivated by a sense of loss, versus the benefit they get from something. 

Often, this is what drives people to learn, she affirmed, while also pointing out that intrinsic motivation to learn is as much of a push factor in her observation. 

To that effect, keeping both the challenge of personalisation and that of resistance in mind, Lorraine Ng, Regional Head, Grab for Business commented on how change management is crucial for employees to adapt and stay relevant within an organisation. 

“Employees are changing, and their needs are changing – whether it's a Gen Zer or a Millennial. How do we make sure that we retain them and keep them happy?” 

The solution, many agreed, lies in spending more time on-the-ground and understanding the needs of employees from all demographics and backgrounds. Leaders need to stand in their shoes and see how precisely to implement tech into the HR function, therefore making the user experience as personalised and seamless as possible within the time constraint and limited resources 

One way to make this happen would be to get started in building employee maps using data to enable personalised experiences. 

Another option is to take the approach of co-creating policies so that the ensuing rollout resonates a lot more with employees, therefore driving a higher success rate of adoption of HR technology. 

Additional points to consider in personalising the EX through the infusion of tech, as well as overcoming resistance include: 

  • Gamification: Having in place a recognition system, and leaderboards to drive participation rates for employees to adopt HR technology.  
  • Milestones: Celebrating the small wins with not just HR, but with the entire business and letting everyone know the milestones the organisation is achieving can be a form of incentive to motivate employees to continue to adopt HR technology into their daily routine. 
  • Representation: Have ambassadors, champions or cross-departmental taskforces that will ensure all employees are represented and feel like they have a say in any change process. 
  • Timeouts: Introduce a ‘digital detox’, wherein employees are urged to shut down their technology access and minimise screen time for a limited period. Such guidelines can help employees balance taking up technology and knowing when to put it away.  
  • FAQs: A ‘dos-and-don’ts-guide’ to provide a sense of direction to employees will better educate them on how beneficial tech can be, and yet still be aware of how to think independently and solve problems. 
  • Coaching: Equipping teams, employees and leaders with the knowledge to have change-related conversations and provide efficient tools to support them in having these conversations better. For example, encourage leaders to explore using AI tools such as ChatGPT for skills assessments and performance coaching. This also trains them to use inclusive and supportive language in all their dialogues. 

As one speaker nicely put it, by encouraging employees to find a sense of purpose and meaning in their day-to-day lives, 50% of the battle is already won.  

They shared: “Despite all the noise around change, (at the) end of the day, if we are able to articulate the common outcomes of what we're trying to achieve and if this common outcome is aligned with employees, or your colleagues, or even your own personal philosophy, and the principles of operating, you can connect that with what it means to be coming to work every day.” 

Challenge #3: Lack of effective stakeholder communication 

With so much taking place in the world around us daily, keeping updated amidst this information overload can be a challenge. Expanding on this point, the areas of concern noted at the table include: 

  • Employees' lack of awareness on the trends that are faced within the industry. 
  • Managers are unaware that there is a problem that needs to be solved, and that technology can aid in rectifying these challenges.  
  • Poor awareness about sustainable productivity and accountability. 
  • Managers are not skilled to use inclusive or reinforcing language.  

The common thread linking these points is a lack of effective communication, or communication channels, with stakeholders — often hindering the success of a change project. 

In fact, communication is so critical that it trickles down into other talent processes across the organisation, for example, in ensuring the depth of knowledge among the senior leadership themselves on why an initiative is being taken up, and how it will benefit the organisation.  

After all, before educating others, leaders have to educate themselves. 

As one speaker highlighted, HR plays a crucial role in guiding both leaders and employees through change, noting that results improve when managers and leaders advocate for their teams. 

She shared: “When we get managers and leaders on board and aligned, we find that that's more effective because being that employees have more of the trust factor with their managers, they feel more comfortable. 

“Role modelling, training & coaching, and mentoring for managers and leaders are very important for us, because they are the ones who will be the spokespersons to lead through all these changes,” she added. 

Noting the need for synergies across levels, and echoing a point shared earlier, one leader stressed that it is crucial to cultivate an environment of co-creation between employees and all stakeholders. This will ensure that employees will feel a sense of ownership to the decision-making of tech initiatives in an organisation.  

In their organisation, for example, Fridays are blocked out for learning, and at times, coffee sessions are held for employees to speak to their stakeholders, listen to their insights, and brainstorm solutions together. 

“Even if we change 10 things, and their input is just one, they will feel good, and the affinity (to the project) is so much stronger,” the speaker explained.  

Equally important is having in place the right channels to create an environment where communication flows both ways so that employees’ fears and concerns are addressed in a timely manner. Efforts can also be channelled towards cultivating a culture of listening in, sitting with stakeholders, and speaking the language of the business, as opposed to just a people-centric conversation siloed away from business needs. 

In tandem, it is imperative that HR teams take stock of their ongoing policies and how they align with their employees’ needs, to remain sustainable in their engagement and productivity efforts. Always remember that stakeholders’ needs change daily. What they needed yesterday can be very different from today. Make sure to check if those reports you're running from last year are still needed this year!  

Key takeaways 

From the robust conversation at the roundtable, one thing that has been strongly affirmed is the importance of understanding your business objectives and employee needs that must be solved, instead of simply implementing technology for the sake of it.  

When it comes to the design process and implementation stage, fostering cross-functional collaboration and having employees involved in the design process helps ensure solutions are useful, usable, and well received.  

Finally, while change management ranges in impact, ensuring leadership advocacy, acknowledging small wins, and more can help drive greater adoption and participation in new, tech-driven programmes. 

Concluding the discussion, Ng shared how Grab For Business can come in as a partner for CHROs and rewards leaders, to better retain talent by simplifying their daily workflow through technology. 

Introducing the unified digital platform to manage employers’ everyday business needs, she shared: “Grab For Business Portal is a solution designed by employees for employees. It was developed to alleviate the burden of tedious daily expense claims that employees often face, allowing employees to concentrate on their core tasks and increase their productivity.” 

Human Resources Online and Grab For Business would like to thank the following HR leaders for being a valuable part of this discussion: 

  1. Raymond Soh, Director, People Operations & Talent, Omnicom Media Group 
  2. Siu Ming Hong, Senior Vice President – Head People and Group Rewards, Great Eastern 
  3. Tina Sharma, Head of Human Resource, Hong Leong Bank  
  4. Jasmine Chen, Director of Special Projects, Pan Pacific Hotels Group 
  5. Sanjoy Shaw, Regional HR Head, F&B, APAC, Givaudan 
  6. Jessie Cheing, Chief Human Resources Officer, Manulife Singapore 
  7. Helen Snowball, Chief People Officer, PropertyGuru Group 
  8. Anupam Trehan, Vice President, People & Communications (HR) - APJC, Cisco 
  9. Stepfanie Kee Swee Lin, Human Resource Director, APAC, Intel 
  10. Andral Lim, HR Director, Publicis Groupe 
  11. Clement Chew, People Site Lead & Talent Acquisition Lead, Global Supply Chain & Asia LATAM, ResMed Asia 
  12. Jonathan Filmer, Head of Talent Acquisition & HR Service Delivery, Frasers Property 
  13. Vasumathi Parthasarathy, Head of Talent Transformation APAC, Tata Consultancy Services  
  14. Chin Yin Ong, Chief People Officer, Grab 
  15. Lorraine Ng, Regional Head, Key Accounts, Grab For Business 
  16. Moderator: Aditi Sharma Kalra, Editor-in-Chief, Human Resources Online 

Read more about the event here.

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