Re(de)fining human intelligence in the digital world

Jacely Voon, General Manager of Human Capital with Fuji Xerox Singapore, says employers need to embrace new concepts of "Human Intelligence"
By: | July 11, 2019

As organisations seek to ride the ever-evolving digital transformation wave, it is easy to be misled by the promise of rapid digitalisation. A survey conducted by Deloitte revealed that only 13% of organisations expect technology and automation to eliminate a significant number of job positions in the near future. To optimally leverage technology, it is crucial to not forget about the enduring necessity of human intelligence. HR practitioners must now redesign traditional jobs to focus on the human dimension of work to elevate them into integrated roles.

As the Human Capital Leader of Fuji Xerox Singapore, I hold onto the belief that HR specialists’ main emphasis should always be on developing people and honing their abilities. This also means to peg ourselves to the latest HR standard in the industry, which will motivate us to constantly seek new ways of streamlining processes.

After 20 years of unpacking the complex layers of HR practice, I have formulated my own Principles of Success – which I first implemented during my stint at the Fuji Xerox Asia-Pacific regional office. The following four pillars have become the cornerstone of how I lead and develop a high-functioning team:

1. Cohesiveness founded upon a culture of trust and reliability

Through my years of work, trust has always proven to be an essential part of a fully-functioning team. Unity and cohesiveness, developed from trusting one other, is a vital concept that spans beyond just “teamwork”. On the worker-to-worker front, trust can be inculcated by encouraging open communication.

One strategy that has helped build up the Fuji Xerox Singapore’s culture is our 1-to-1 meeting sessions. These provide an avenue for openness and building relationships which is designed to encourage both parties to raise up any issues and not shun away from conflicts.

Effectively, good two-way communication also serves to smooth out competitiveness between co-workers. I constantly remind my team that we do not play a zero-sum game: the success of one does not mean another’s loss. When our counterparts succeed, the whole team wins together. Cultivating a spirit of togetherness has gone a long way in replacing feelings of “threat” and “competition” with encouragement and cohesiveness.

Truly, no team member can function without the support of another. I believe that a healthy culture of trust embedded within any organisation will propel members to help one another, respect each other, and resolve problems together as a cohesive unit.

2. Continuous improvement using the Blue Ocean Strategy
All our employees here at Fuji Xerox Singapore are our “Human Intelligence” and we constantly seek to develop them through their time with us. As the team leader, my vision has always been to raise the bar and set higher standards for each of the members. I seek to transform our traditional, mundane, and manual ways of working through the adoption of the ERRC (Eliminate, Raise, Reduce and Create) framework to achieve efficiency and productivity.

This approach is beneficial when resources are limited, and we are expected to do more with less. In times like this, it is essential to reassess legacy processes and think outside the box; if the nature of the task is relevant, but the volume of manual work can be reduced, there needs to be elimination and replacement of certain systems by robotic process automation.

By digitalising repetitive work, we free up man-hours that can be redirected to other value-added activities, such as creating new ideas and raising the bar to strengthen our organisation’s position in the industry.

An example that happened recently was when one of our department managers struggled to maximise the potential of the remaining individuals in his team, following the departure of a couple of experienced employees.

Understanding his situation, I took the opportunity to introduce a lean and strong approach that was customised for individual units to raise internal standards. Through this process of analysing and cultivating each individual based on their strengths, we managed to realign the team’s working capacity to that of the industry’s. I am pleased to share that today the team is thriving at it’s optimum and achieving high levels of productivity, despite having the same number of employees as when they first faced the challenges.

3. Problem-solving over problem identifying mentality
Having the ability to spot gaps is easy; it’s almost second nature for any typical human being to realise there are problems. The differentiating factor lies in how each problem is addressed. Spotting issues and reacting to them in a knee-jerk manner does not add value to the team, and here is where Human Intelligence comes into play.

Human Intelligence refers to one having the ability to not only identify problems and mitigating them on a thorough level, but also identify abnormalities early, and implement solutions before they become a problem. I believe firmly in rectifying the issue by eliminating the root causes. This helps the team to break out of the situation which will also reduce time spent on similar problems over the long run.

As a leader, I hold myself to “walk the talk”. Therefore, I always attend a meeting having identified problems and bring with me suggested solutions. I am heartened to witness more of my fellow colleagues contributing solutions, countermeasures and workaround alternative options every time they notice shortcomings. As the saying goes – ‘we are only as strong as our weakest link’ – this active contribution motivates all of us to strive for continuous improvement and promote the development of a high-functioning team.

4. Exploratory Reflections
Growth comes not from completing the same task repeatedly but by discovering how best to improve processes and develop professionally as well.

Birthed from my own personal practice, I seek to cultivate a habit within my team where they sit down at the end of a day, session, or meeting to reflect on the learnings they gathered and the areas of improvement for the next session. Not only does this give each meeting a purpose, but it also ensutes that no mistakes are made twice.

This has effectively helped my teams to grow stronger as they learn from each other’s experience and encouraged to develop new ways of thinking. I recommend for all leaders to approach this reflective practice by integrating it into your current employees’ evaluation system as one of the measurement tools to monitor one’s progression within the organisation and on a personal level.

Closing thoughts

About the Author
Jacely Voon is the General Manager of Human Capital and Corporate Social Responsibility with Fuji Xerox Singapore

While digitalisation and technology are important in the current Industry 4.0 era, I firmly believe that humans are still an organisation’s best asset. The Global Human Capital Trends survey reports that there is tremendous future demand for human skills like complex problem solving (63%), cognitive abilities (55%) and more. As HR practitioners, we often face the struggle to embrace and balance a digitalised system and processes to streamline workflow. However, with adequate frameworks, we will be able to help our employees yield technology for effective work.

Ultimately, Human Intelligence carries the brand identity to form the building blocks of an organisation’s reputation. Therefore, for an organisation to reach the pinnacles of success, it is essential for us to invest in our employees and create a high-functioning team which works cohesively together.