HR Tech Festival Asia Online 2020: The role of HR and technology in ASEAN

On Day 2, government and industry leaders discussed the role of HR and technology post COVID-19 at the ASEAN Future Of Work Track.
By: | October 1, 2020

The role of HR has been put under the spotlight by the COVID-19 pandemic, as it finds itself at the forefront of helping the workforce and organisations in Southeast Asia adapt to the new normal and emerge from the crisis stronger.

And this crisis has also further emphasised the need for HR to adopt technology, which is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have. With organisations implementing cost-saving measures such as retrenchments, the need for technology to drive workforce agility so as to meet the ever-evolving demands of employees and customers has never been more pronounced. 

Government and industry leaders converged at the ASEAN Future of Work track of the HR Tech Festival Asia Online 2020 to address the challenges and future of HR in the region.

Kicking off an insightful Day 2 of the event was Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State, Singapore Ministry of Manpower, who highlighted the importance of the role of HR and what Singapore is doing to help the HR community support the workforce, such as providing training courses for companies to help them digitalise.

“HR is put in the spotlight to provide strategic leadership on workforce matters, whether to implement responsible cost-saving measures and retrenchments, to plan and execute reskilling and redeployment of employment to new job functions and to ensure that employees stay safe and continue to perform optimally both onsite and at home. I’m heartened to see HR professionals in Singapore rising to the occasion,” he shared.

“Businesses have had to reset their modus operandi, some even had to pivot to new areas of growth. Others need to transform their workplaces and processes to be more resilient and agile. The institute of HR professionals (IHRP) has set up a COVID-19 taskforce comprising HR professionals and leaders. They have curated resources and toolkits to equip the HR community to navigate the challenges post COVID-19. 

“In the face of future disruptions, businesses must establish a system of safe management measures even as restrictions ease. And all these require both HR and employees to adapt and learn new skills. So the transformation works ahead of us demands digitalisation to harness the best talent available and this requires a robust and merit-based talent hiring process and measures that ensure workplace diversity and inclusiveness so organisations can recruit from a wide and diverse pool of talent,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made business transformation even more urgent by disrupting supply chains, labour flows and business operations. Businesses have to transform the ways they operate in response to structural changes to our demographic landscape and rapid technological advances. Workers too have had to adapt to a new world of work. 

During the panel discussion session “Developing The HR Profession Of Tomorrow – How HR Will Support Business Transformation”, thoughts and insights were shared on how HR can better play its role as the strategic business partner whilst leveraging technologies to support immediate and longer-term business and workforce transformation. 

“COVID-19 has accelerated changes in terms of digitalization and remote working. Businesses would not be able to function without HR at the forefront of that. The need for HR to be leading the business and sector remains unchanged. And building HR capability for upskilling has become even more important,” said Poon Hong Yuen, Deputy Secretary (Workforce), Ministry of Manpower, Singapore.

“Through this pandemic, HR leaders have become gym trainers – rebuilding muscles for others, and also for themselves. Many digital tools that we tried to implement at Singtel normally take a year to 18 months. But we managed to implement them over the last few months. And HR has been the key catalyst and enabler in making this happen,” explained Aileen Tan, Chief Human Resources Officer, Singtel Group.

“In the past, we interviewed candidates in the physical setting, with paper signing and filing. But during the pandemic, we leveraged on the digital tools including having virtual online interviews, e-offers, e-onboarding. The opportunities for us were also around digital learning and online learning, where we surpassed the number of training that we usually conduct in a year,” she added.

Mayank Parekh, Chief Executive Officer, Institute for Human Resources Professionals (IHRP), urged HR leaders and professionals to develop both digital and business acumen so that they will be able to propel their organisations forward in this increasingly digital and disruptive world.

“HR needs to develop digital acumen on how to make the best use of technology. The technology needs to be complemented with analytics and this is something HR needs to be more confident in doing. Analytics is important to review business and employee performance and there needs to be more evidence-based thinking behind the recommendations that HR is making,” he said.

“HR also needs to stay grounded to the human aspects, but at the same time being confident and familiar with change management. HR needs to enable agility as they try to navigate through the changes that are coming up, as well as to be able to influence decision making in terms of reskilling the workforce and what skills are needed for the business.

To help solve business problems, HR needs to have an intimate understanding of the business, and HR can add value by asking the right questions and thinking holistically,” he concluded.