HR driving transformation of future-ready workforce

Day 1 of HR Tech Festival Asia Online 2021 highlighted how HR leaders can help their organisations prepare themselves for the future.
By: | September 22, 2021

With COVID-19 set to become endemic in Singapore, HR must focus on strengthening organisational resilience for the future, urged Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State (SMS), Ministry of Defence & Ministry of Manpower, Singapore.

Giving his opening remarks on Day 1 of HR Tech Festival Asia Online 2021, SMS Zaqy said, “The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation of workplaces and the workforce. HR must continue to take the lead in managing this shift, supporting both people and processes to stay ahead of the transformation curve.”

With remote working likely to form part of the norm even as workers gradually return to the workplace, HR will also need to tackle issues such as employee engagement, cross-team collaboration, and workforce productivity, said SMS Zaqy, while highlighting the importance of readying organisations for the future.

He added, “HR tech itself is an area that merits continued investment. Besides time and manpower savings from automation of HR processes, technologies also allow businesses to drive more strategic decision-making and deliver a superior employee experience (EX).”

However, workers should not be rendered obsolete in the face of rapid technological advancement. “Businesses must build an agile and cross-functional workforce through training and reskilling. HR has a vital role to play in ensuring workers are equipped with the digital skills to adapt to new challenges ahead,” SMS Zaqy concluded.

The pandemic has been an accelerator of organisational change, including the role of HR, said Josh Bersin, Global Industry Analyst, and CEO of the Josh Bersin Company. “Organisations are entering the most radical design of talent practices in more than 30 years. Agile organisational models, a highly diverse workforce, a tight labour market and reskilling are bringing massive changes to the workforce.”

To manage these changes, companies can no longer copy best practices from others, and must now invent, iterate, and scale new work models. With tech and data now integral to every domain, including HR, understanding tech vendor solutions are now mandatory, Bersin urged, while highlighting that one of the best ways to create employee engagement, is by creating employee productivity, and by simplifying and clarifying the work experience.

Drawing on the principles of the Japanese martial art concept of Shuhari, Amer Iqbal, APAC Head of Digital Transformation, Facebook, identified the five big changes facing organisations: A distributed workforce, exponential technology change, leadership change, all companies being tech companies, and new entrants.

Organisations, he added, need to recognise change as the only constant, avoid quick fixes, look back to look forward by taking small incremental steps. Lastly, find out what changes are relevant to your organisation and do not overthink – just get started and the path forward will reveal itself, said Iqbal.

The pandemic caused a seismic shift in consumer behaviour through the creation of new digital habits, and accelerated the digital transformation for many organisations, observed Eklavya Bhave, Regional Director, APAC and Japan, Coursera.

Emerging job opportunities, such as data analysts and scientists, require digital skills, Bhave added, before highlighting how the essential skills of the future involve a combination of digital and human skills, including resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility. To keep up with the evolution of online workplace learning, Coursera’s SkillSets programmes help develop critical skills for critical roles and support key roles in functions across the enterprise.

It is more important now than ever before to reimagine work, declared Brent Colescott, Senior Director, Global Business Strategy & Transformation, SumTotal Systems. When it comes to talent management, the process, the technology, and the people must all align. “Can you align your processes with the capabilities that technology provides?” Colescott asked.

He also encouraged organisations to create a culture of training, learning, and development that will create opportunities to attract, engage and retain talent, who expects flexibility in how they work, development opportunities to grow, and a visible career path.

The pandemic has created a huge shift in how we experience the world of work, and the hybrid work model is here to stay, suggested Radha Shreeniwas, Vice-President, Global Talent Partner, APJ, ServiceNow; and Sasha Wight, Founder and Employee Experience Lead, wrkflow.

Organisations need to address the challenges posed by hybrid work models, including designing adaptable digital workflows that create organisational agility, whether employees are working from home or the office.

When effective digital workplaces are present, organisations can then focus on creating employee experience strategies that are based around empathy and human leadership and are more focused on individual employees’ needs, they added.

By 2025, half of all work tasks will be handled by machines in a shift likely to worsen inequality and widen skills gaps, causing a growing number of employees to worry about job loss, said Mike Bollinger, SPHR, SWP, Vice President, Cornerstone OnDemand.

However, the “robot revolution” will still create 12 million net new jobs in the next five years. The question is – do employees have the necessary skills to take on these jobs?

For instance, the top two skills for 2025 identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF) – analytical thinking and innovation, and active learning and learning strategies – did not even exist on WEF’s 2018 list. Organisations thus, need to learn how to manage skills atrophy, while facing a scarcity of talent, Bollinger said.

One third of the skills in job requisitions four years ago are no longer relevant today, highlighting the urgency of upskilling and how organisations need to shift to meet employee needs, said Johannes Eckold, Director, HCM Strategy & Business Development, ASEAN, Oracle.

Identifying technical skills, digital skills, soft skills, and agile skills as the four critical skills for tomorrow’s employees, Eckold advised organisations to create and encourage a learning and growth mindset, and to understand the skills within the organisation and empower employees with a one-stop shop to manage and grow their skills.

To succeed in an experience, companies need to embed employee insight into every critical decision at every level of the organisation, said Lauren Huntington, EX Solution Strategist, Qualtrics.

When it comes to diagnosing an organisation’s maturity, she recommended six key competency metrics:

  • Lead: Architect, align and sustain successful Experience Management (XM) efforts.
  • Realise: Track and ensure that XM efforts achieve well-defined business objectives.
  • Activate: Ensure the appropriate skills, support, and motivation to achieve XM results.
  • Enlighten: Provide actionable insights across an organisation
  • Respond: Prioritise and drive improvements based on insights
  • Disrupt: Identify and create experiences that differentiate the organisation.

The first real experience that new employees have of their future employer is as a candidate, and the way they are treated during the application and interview stages will impact their decision to join or not, said Michael Lee, Managing Consultant, SHL Singapore.

The business outcomes to be gained from a transformational candidate experience are clear, even if the process can be intimidating, he added, before identifying six shifts that are emerging as natural opportunities to transform the candidate experience – Giving value, empowering candidates, continually iterating, personalising experiences, being authentic, and differentiate via diversity.

HR leaders need to create conditions for employees to be more agile, productive, collaborative, and innovative, said Lucy Adams, CEO of Disruptive HR.

Start by creating an adult-to-adult interactive environment, where people are encouraged to speak up, use their judgement and embrace change. HR also needs to think from a consumer-graded experience, Adams recommended. Employees can be clustered based on similar needs and wants, as well as motivation, while leaders are given more insights into who their people are.

Lastly, humanise the employee experience, and focus a genuine understanding and insight into how employees think, feel, behave, and get motivated. Use these insights to design processes and have frequent conversations and touch-ins with employees to generate better engagement, Adams concluded.

HR Tech Festival Asia Online 2021 continues on Wednesday, September 22, and will provide key insights into workforce issues such as leadership and hybrid workforces.

Click here to register for HR Tech Festival Asia Online 2021 and don’t miss your only opportunity this season to be part of a regional event which delves into in-depth discussions across key workforce issues such leadership, culture, technology and employee experience.