Why technology is not the key component of transformation

HR technology is an enabler of transformation, not a means to an end.

Besides technology, change management and culture-building are also central to business transformation, said several digital transformation experts and business leaders at a Workday panel discussion titled Engaging Singapore’s Workforce of the Future on Wednesday (November 29).

That’s because HR technology is getting increasingly easier to implement, says Ong Whee Teck, CEO, Trusted Source.

“It used to take 12 months, if you’re lucky, to get something up and running. Now you can go live as early as 12 to 18 weeks,” he says.

The focus, Ong adds, is no longer just on technology, but on the alignment of three key elements – people, processes and technology.  

Old habits die hard

Merle Chen, Chief Talent Officer at Singapore food and beverage (F&B) group The Lo & Behold Group, is also of the view that technology now plays a secondary role.

“HR technology is all about enabling our employees to deliver a superior guest experience,” she says.

The Lo & Behold Group began transforming its restaurant processes five years ago, when it became one of the first F&B groups in Singapore to implement the iPad system for food orders. As a result, staff are now able to fully focus on engaging with guests and providing quality customer service.

“It was the change management process that took longer. We had to get our staff ready and equipped to do the work,” Chen explains.

Change management is increasingly crucial in a changing world because old habits die hard. Chen admits that even though the group introduced a biometric system for time, attendance and rostering, some managers still fall back into their old ways of using excel sheets.

Giving transformation a home

Building a hospitable culture for change is also a part that’s often neglected, says Miguel Bernas, Vice-President of Digital Marketing at MediaCorp.

“A lot of what drives transformation is culture. It is the culture that will give people a sense of purpose and this is what really drives innovation and change,” he says.

Bernas, who was brought on in early 2016 to drive the adoption of digital and performance marketing capabilities across the marketing teams of 15 business units at MediaCorp, says such a culture starts at the top.

He likens the digital transformation lead’s role to that of a foreign virus entering an organism. The role of this person is to “infect the rest of the organisation, spread and change everything”.

“But the antibodies, or the existing employees, out of fear and insecurity, will start attacking the virus until they wear it down,” explains Bernas.

“This is where strong leadership really matters. They have to lead the change by example so that nobody has an excuse to say ‘they are too busy.’”

Beating disruption

With almost 90% of entities believing they will be facing disruption in the coming years, David Hope, Workday Asia-Pacific’s President, says the key is to disrupt internally first.

“Technology is not the answer, it is a great enabler. Cloud is a great enabler. But transformation is an ongoing journey,” he says.

Indeed, with 40% of attendees saying competition for talent was the biggest issue they face, the panellists agreed transformation will remain the fundamental focus for Singapore companies in 2018.

“As a technology company it’s an exciting time to be in Singapore. We see more companies using digital technology to transform how they do business externally and internally. We look forward to continuing to be part of the evolution of employee engagement in Singapore,” says Hope. 

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