Automation, Employee Engagement, People Analytics and More from HR Tech APAC


Our third annual HR Tech APAC event concluded this week with presenters from around the Asia Pacific region providing insight and fielding questions on a wide range of topics, from strategies for automation to digital transformation, people analytics, remote work and more.

If you weren’t able to attend all of the sessions or simply weren’t available during those hours, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some of the best highlights from the event.

Working in the New Normal

It would have been impossible for an event like HR Tech APAC to unfold and not address the biggest global issue of recent history, COVID-19. It’s thrown a wrench into how work gets done and the way companies operate over the last few months and there are now a ton of questions that need to be answered when we look at the future of HR.

Avery Banta, HR Director for Globe Telecom Philippines, got us started with a session about the virtual workplace being the new normal. She examined the development of new personal routines in working from home and how the new work from home dynamic is effecting Globe Telecom employees. Through company surveys, the HR team was able to reveal growing concerns within the company about work-life balance.

“That pressure to do more and work longer hours was self-imposed,” Banta said. “They were telling us that they were losing the boundaries of work and personal life and in doing so as a consequences were losing the time for personal pursuits. Some said they weren’t taking breaks or were eating lunch very late. One of the drivers of people feeling that pressure is virtual meetings and people really came out of it feeling like we had to look at how we conduct meetings and how often.”

READ: Remote Meetings: How to Make Them Engaging and Productive

People also had concerns over their home workstations, mental health and ability to use tools remotely. To address some of these issues, Banta’s team sought to create new virtual engagement initiatives that involved town halls, team games and even involving the family members of employees in activities.

The other piece of the effort was focused on providing new development opportunities, such as developing a community of practice for Agile champions across the organization.

“We explored all possible digital platforms that can help our employees get a headstart on their learning during this time,” Banta said. “Internet connectivity became an issue, so we set up a new virtual IT support portal. We started a partnership with the office chair supplier so that our people could get ergonomic chairs and we launched multiple consultation channels for both physical and mental health concerns.”

The conversation shifted toward the digital workforce and robotic process automation (RPA) in our second session with a chat between Digital Workforce Evangelist for Automation Anywhere, Sumeet Pathak and Tricor Co. Group Director of Transformation, Tim Hurman.

Organizations across the board are at a different stage in the journey of automating mundane tasks to free up humans to do what they do best, think like humans. But as this journey goes along, the lessons that are learned are being applied across industries and companies to speed up the rate of automation.

Once the automation journey has been scaled, two big areas where companies are seeing benefits from RPA through bots for payroll and corporate secretarial activities that involve exchanging information between multiple systems. Bots for payroll, for example, allowed Tricor (an IT services company) to change passive manual processes that involved waiting for clients to instruct them who to pay. Instead, they’ve created bots that engage with the clients, show them the previous months expenses and ask for changes.

“The upside of that is that on our payroll services is we’re seeing increased capacity for our teams and services for our clients,” Hurman said. “From the bots perspective, their actually processing this first time correct. As long as the data is correct, they’ll do the right thing.”

At the same time, for many there is still concern around automation that its primary purpose is to eliminate jobs for humans. Pathak from Automation Anywhere, however, sees it as an opportunity to upskill and reshape people’s thinking about automation.

“Team management is a continuous journey, so what may apply with one organization, won’t in another,” Pathak said. “You have to understand the human complexities present in an organization. The fundamental thing is to make the people doing the work realize the benefits of automation. Humans are not designed to do mundane activities. I think this technology is becoming so simple that they can become citizen developers and take control of the technology for themselves. It’s about shifting their skillset and if you do so, I think it’s very well received.”

What About Data?

It would be impossible to have a conversation around technology in the modern world without also having a discussion about data. In a world grappling with COVID-19, every HR professional is looking to better understand employee engagement data so they can better inform leadership of how employees are feeling and build culture initiatives to address problems.

Fiona Scullion, a Lead People Scientist at Culture Amp, led a conversation in which she and Jasmine Quinn, Head of Organisational Development and Reward for oOh Media, examined the way oOh Media has gone about using employee engagement data. Quinn’s team has been focusing on gathering feedback for some time, but then the focus becomes how do you act on the insight you gain from the feedback?

“The approach we’re taking is to make sure that our listening is as continuous as possible,” Quinn said. “We’re using a blend of different feedback mechanisms looking for feedback we get through individual employees and leaders. I think keeping leadership and the people and culture embedded in the various parts of the business had been important. In the last three months, it’s been a pretty constant process that we’ve been running surveys and those have been a really great collaboration and connection mechanism for our wellbeing, safety and environment teams.”

Acting on insights is important as engagement with people’s concerns leads to increased engagement with what’s going on in the workplace from employees.

“What we find at Culture Amp is that when feedback becomes really powerful is when leaders are very open and transparent and that they close the loop when people do feel vulnerable when they give feedback. We did an analysis on people who took action on feedback and building trust. And there was increased engagement around the questions they acted by anywhere from 4-8%.”

READ: Employee Experience: The HR Guide to Meeting Employee Expectations in the New Normal

People analytics is a hot topic right now as well, as how we examine all of that data matters as much as how we collect it and will impact what we do with it a great deal.

Dr. Jaclyn Lee, Chief Human Resources Office for the Singapore University of Technology and Design, led a discussion titled “Data-Driven HR: Transforming the Organization with People Analytics” in which she took a look at implementation of people analytics strategies and how to be successful in making the most of your data and identifying metrics.

She dove into the skills that are needed for HR analytics with five pots of skills forming a complex web of competencies. But chief among them was the ability to understand the business and being able to connect HR functions to business goals and outcomes. Marketing was another, not so much of the business itself but in selling HR’s role and function within the company through data visualization and clear communication.

Other skills included understanding programming, IT structures, social sciences and statistics.

“You might look at analytics and feel like it’s understand and indeed, it is difficult, “Lee said. “Don’t’ start with something not too complex, start small and focus on a business problem that really adds value. Keep it simple and continuously learn. There are five phases to an HR analytics journey: data collection, define your metrics, develop clear KPIs and continue to improve process, evaluate your decisions and finally create strategic value for your business.”

Join us for Future Events

Other sessions included in this year’s event focused on dealing with COVID-19, returning employees to work, digital transformation for HR and the rise of vertical development.

Our online events continue throughout the year and offer a great deal of content designed specifically to address issues in the HR space. If an event isn’t focused on your part of the world, don’t worry, there are plenty of lessons to learn still and you don’t have to watch sessions live. Registrants to our free online events get access to all the sessions on-demand after the completion of the event.

For more information about upcoming events, click here.

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