Charles Bendotti, Global CHRO at Philip Morris International, David Thomas, APAC HR Head at Manulife and Fiona Wong, Asia Talent Head at Metlife co-hosted ChapmanCG’s Matthew Chapman, Tim Spriggs, Odilia Poon, Ringo Lau, Tracy Goh and 47 other HR and Talent Acquisition leaders to discuss The Role of HR in Driving Digitalisation, Technological Innovations in the Workplace and How Technology is Affecting HR.

The millennials, or ‘Gen Y’ as we refer to them, continue to be the centre of attention. As we know, HR can no longer solely rely on traditional methods for attracting and retaining top talent. Greater agility and flexibility coupled with new ways and skills of learning are required. However, it is no easy feat in playing catch-up with technological advancements while trying to meet the ever-increasing expectations of the young workforce. Additionally, learning every day and the fast dissemination of a constant stream of knowledge is a challenge in its own right. Organisations, and their ways of working, need to be transformed to prepare for the future.

An entreprenuerial mindset towards learning

Companies need to think of creative solutions to impact employee engagement levels as well as employer branding. A common thinking across numerous HR leaders in attendance was the mixing together of digital and social interactions that go beyond Facebook at Work. For instance, Philip Morris International and Walmart shared how they brought technology into their workplaces by partnering with IT enterprises in creating easily-accessible distinctive project forums. Employers invite start-ups to work closely with their employees to turn their ideas into reality. Ideas that are pitched online will be subject to peer-voting and volunteering. This exchange of ideas and involvement in group projects promote collaborative behaviours across the organisation. Seed money is provided in stages with senior management being the quality judge. To encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, members can pull the plug on their projects at any point in time.

Empowering employees is another powerful tool to engaging a workforce, especially the young and hungry-for-knowledge. Citibank’s ‘My Career’ page has seen a surge in its usage ever since they have guaranteed true transparency where only the user has visibility on his/her own learning results (i.e. neither the managers nor HR is allowed any form of access), and it also includes links to various recommended learning platforms thereafter. This ensures employees are given more honest feedback as to where they are in their own learning cycles. McDonald’s has also recently developed a Talent application that changes event-based TM to everyday TM, eliminating HR as the middleman. Internal customer experience is once again enhanced where employees are empowered to own their careers, own their feedback and own their networks. Everyone can view your profile on the mobile application and individuals can reach out and leave feedback continuously. Leaders will also be accountable to grow talent, even in the absence of physical interactions.

Think healthy, work flexibly

Flexible working hours have been the norm in countless companies, but some such as Telstra take it a step further by allowing their employees to work across offices no matter the geographical boundaries, let alone the locations (such as office/home/café) within the city. One of Interpublic brands has also recently introduced unlimited time off in the region. All these initiatives are huge plus points in the eyes of millennials. What is important would be a company-wide effort in making this flexibility a local policy where no one questions your whereabouts and, of course, trusting your team to deliver what is expected of them. It is also critical in ensuring a consumer experience for employees where they are supported by great collaborative tools across multiple platforms and allowing accessibility on mobile units. Not only does it help the internal customer perform the job in a smarter way, these fluid and spontaneous conversations also cut through generations, teams and time zones, connecting each employee closer in the global village.

Ensuring consistency of message is key. One may encourage flexible working hours, but a reduction in workload comes hand-in-hand when encouraging people to live healthier and happier lives. With 20 years of behavioural science and analytics to prove it works, companies like AIA and Manulife have made it their brand promise by launching ‘AIA Vitality’ and ‘Manulife Move’, respectively. Working with a slew of reward partners (such as cinemas, airlines, supermarkets, and gyms), they have integrated health and wellness initiatives for both internal and external customers. Any fitness device can be linked to the application that allows the employee to track the daily activities in return for redemption points. Not only are employees motivated to exercise, they are actually actively thinking (and acting) on these positive thoughts daily.

Data security concerns and change management

Everyone is excited about analytics. But the flip side to digitisation and predictive analytics that help organisations plan and strategise is that it creates a moral dilemma: the constant tracking and analysing employees. Ultimately, in the end, it comes down to mutual trust and open communication. There needs to be a clear intent and willingness of the CEO, with commonality across the entire executive committee. Without the lead from the top, an organisation can deploy all sorts of tools and technology around analytics, but nothing changes because the changes don’t last. A tool is as good as its usage, and that goes hand-in-hand with both positive mindsets and relevant skillsets. The whole digitalisation piece needs to be strategic. A constant feedback loop is high priority, but good governance is equally important and must not be overlooked.

Everyone agreed that the only path forward was through digital transformations in giving good customer/candidate/employee experiences. The devil is in the details as one needs to be thoughtful in approaching digitalisation and looking beyond technology. It is never about the software, but the decisions an organisation makes and the manner in which these changes and technologies are implemented. We need to find the right balance amongst pace, priorities and resources, as well as between social tools and centralisation. Organisations needs to find a sustainable model that is friendly to people, processes and the environment while maintaining organic growth, innovation and speed.