Be a HR pioneer, not a follower

HR professionals must be willing to lead the digital change they wish to see, says Singapore Land Authority's Chye Har Er.

Even as technology takes over the workplace, HR leaders must be pioneers. Only by leading the way can HR can win their seat at the table – and make their voice heard.

This was the key message imparted by Chye Har Er, HR Director at the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), during the HR Transformation 4.0 Congress.

Taking place at One Farrer Hotel & Spa on September 15 and 16, the event saw HR professionals from across the region come together to share and discuss how best to thrive during this era of technology and disruption.

“We should not be using technology for technology’s sake. Everything starts with the customers,” said Er during her presentation. “For us in HR, technology is a new enabler to help us better connect with our employees, and create a human experience for them.”


Enhance and enable

Er’s team at SLA – which won the HR Transformation Through Tech award at the HRM Awards 2017 – use a two-pronged philosophy to guide their incorporation of technology into the HR function. First, that technology should enhance the employee experience by creating "moments that matter" during the significant milestones of their careers. Second, it should enable employee effectiveness by equipping the workforce with the right mindsets, skills, tools, and environment – such that they don’t just have what they need to do the jobs of today, but also the jobs of tomorrow.

For example, SLA initiated a pilot project to incorporate virtual reality (VR) into the recruitment process. The team  produced a video clip showcasing iconic properties under SLA management (such as Dempsey Hill), and crafted a few hundred of its own VR headsets to bring to recruitment events.

The uniquely delivered brand story proved to be an instant hit, with the SLA booth pulling in never-before-seen crowds.

But more importantly, the unusual approach brought greater credibility and respect within SLA itself:

“We actually introduced the concept of virtual reality into the minds of our business development folks,” said Er.

“We were the first department in the organisation to use that concept and bring it to life. Today if you go to SLA’s Facebook page or Youtube channel, you’ll see that our business counterparts have picked up the VR technology, and are using it to market state properties that are up for sale or rental today.”


Lead the way

With the success of that project, the HR team at SLA moved on to more small-scale projects, including a mobile application that handles transport claims in just three clicks. This project has since been scaled up for implementation across the rest of the public sector.

A key learning point that from these experiences, Er highlighted, was that HR needs to lead the way.

“We cannot just rely on IT to tell us what to do. If the organisation is on a digital transformation journey, we have to be out there,” she said.

However, going digital isn’t just about developing new apps: “It’s about cultural challenges – adopting that open mindset and embracing new ways of doing work,” she added.  

That starts in-house.

“Most HR departments are laden with administrative processes and it’s so difficult to find time and people to do work outside that scope. Half the time we are fire-fighting in the office and we don’t even have enough time to clear all the paperwork and administrative processes,” Er conceded. “But we told ourselves we just had to get down to doing it.”

Start small, and be ready to greenlight and kill projects as necessary. When you do hit the jackpot, you will find that success breeds more success, she explained.

“When our first team tasted success, from that tiny project, they wanted to do more. I am fortunate to have a small team of committed people who are willing to lead the change, and who are focused in what we want to achieve. We just had to start somewhere, and to slowly earn our place on the management team – and in so doing, we won a voice at the table.”

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