Samir is EY Asean Workforce Advisory Leader, with extensive consulting experience in helping organizations to develop business strategies linked to people-organization dynamics across Southeast Asia. He has worked on numerous competency, performance, and rewards design and implementation projects for public-, private- and third-sector clients.
His experience covers all aspects of human resources consulting, ranging from organization structuring and manpower planning to job redesign and the future of work. Other areas include creating differentiated reward programs, developing a high-performance culture, integration of performance and reward and talent programs, as well as HR process review and audit.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
To thrive in the new normal, digital transformation is a must. But isn't it a huge challenge for many businesses? Can the digital world fill the chasm to thrive in the post-pandemic world?
If you were asked in 2015, where do you see yourself in five years? Your answer would probably differ from where you are right now. This goes to show the unpredictability of the world we live in, and the pace of change we’re currently experiencing is only going to accelerate. How we live, work, and play has been drastically altered over the past nine months as we’ve learned more about the new normal – where digitization can address the challenges created by COVID-19.
Prior to the pandemic, organizations already recognized the need for digital transformation and were looking at ways to leverage technology to remain relevant to consumers and improve productivity levels. Now, it has become even more apparent that those who do not digitize rapidly may struggle to survive.
While digital transformation remains a challenge, organizations are discovering that it is not an insurmountable task. Organizations are demonstrating agility in their approach to digital transformation, bypassing bureaucracy, and red tape in approval processes. In the past, the implementation of a remote-worker policy in a large organization would have probably taken two to five years to pass through the approval processes – this year, organizations have made the move in a matter of days and months for the sake of survival. When change is a matter of urgent necessity, the choice is clear.
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This is exactly what businesses are recognizing, that digital transformation is the only option to compete, remain relevant, and thrive in the current environment.
In the current situation, organizations have been forced to look at the HR operations, policies, and processes through a digital lens. Is it time for organizations to digitize HR? How can HR up their game amid this uncertainty?
HR will need to continue providing current services and ensure that they meet baseline service expectations of employees, customers, and the business. However, they should consider how HR technologies could help to optimize their outcomes.
According to EY research, the HR function currently spends over 80 percent of their time and budget on vertical services that are largely administrative and operational in nature.
Instead, the HR function needs to reframe their operating model and go horizontal to focus on services, leveraging technology, and analytics, that improves the employees’ experiences and creates long-term value. As the HR function works on delivering people-first experiences, they should leverage data and analytics, in tracking service metrics to determine the return on investment (ROI) on talent and consumer value.
Technology will allow large organizations to harness and analyze their large amounts of data to solve issues seamlessly and efficiently, while still complimenting the traditional outcomes. This is key to delivering an approach that is of high value and impactful to the business and its leadership.
Over the past few months, organizations have focused on workforce planning, job redesign, and the performance reward metrics – all of which rely upon the use of data analytics and technology. This shift has created an opportunity for HR to step up and showcase its value and become mission-critical for businesses, and we can expect this reliance to increase in the future.
During the pandemic, a focus of HR analytics has been on employee well-being and using technology to get a better understanding of how employees are coping and what they value from the business. Using detailed data-stories and analytics, this can help employers understand the varied needs of workers, and eventually create a better employee experience in the long run. This has never been more important.
When you look at HR through a technology-focused lens, we better understand the kinds of change that have occurred over the past few months. This helps us to look ahead at what we might expect in the future of HR tech adoption.
Given the breadth of constraints that many organizations are facing, how can HR build an effective business case for new technology right now?
To build an effective business case for new technologies, we must first take a step back to better understand the landscape we currently operate in. Budgetary constraints will always be a challenge that businesses face. Even during prosperous times, it is still best practice to be prudent with spending. Instead of focusing on their financial constraints, businesses should instead look at their business priorities and ROI of technological investments.
Organizations must understand which technology is going to create value and the payback period before a meaningful investment is made. Crucially, HR should position itself as a vessel for these kinds of technologies.
What are the key areas of HR function have you seen maximum tech implementations in the last few months and the reasons for it?
Over the past few months, we have seen an increase in HR functions using analytics from within organizations to help drive cost and reward optimization to determine how best to reward their workforce. Defining employee experience and optimizing these reward systems can be made a lot faster and more effective through the use of technology.
As organizations undergo digital transformation, job roles are evolving, new tasks that need to be supported with new skills are emerging, driving the need for reskilling. Employees recognize this trend and learning has become a highly valued employee proposition.
We have seen technology implementation ramp up in the learning space through online classes, and virtual seminars or conferences. This use of technology has had the effect of lowering costs while increasing the variety of learning opportunities available for employees, ultimately helping organizations to reimagine the roles of their workforce, create more value over the long-term and become re-deployable through an organization.
For the post-pandemic world, do you think the archetype of a successful leader will have to be reimagined?
When discussing the archetype of a successful leader in a post-pandemic world, we often talk about emerging stronger; but to some extent, we also need to learn to live with the changes that we’ve experienced, and a successful leader will understand that operations will not return to post-pandemic days.
It is clear that the behavior of consumers is drastically changing: The way consumers will share data, the way that they will shop, the products they buy, and the experiences that they spend money on will all drastically change. According to the EY Future Consumer Index - which tracks emerging consumer behaviors and sentiment around the world - 50 percent of consumers still expect their lives to change significantly in the long term. As COVID-19 accelerates the digital adoption rates of consumers, organizations will need to reskill their workforce to consistently deliver meaningful digital customer experiences.
For a leader to lead an organization during this time of change, they will need an agile mindset, understand the importance of ‘‘digital-first’’, and be people-centric. We also need leaders to be able to be flexible and have a higher level of learning agility so that they can lead the organization into the next stage of its development.
What do you think the future holds for HR for the post-pandemic time which will be largely data-driven?
In the near future, we can expect the HR function to transform through the use of data. HR will play a crucial role in the implementation of a business’s digital transformation, retaining the right talent, and re-training the right people to keep up with this pace of change, helped along by a data-driven world.
The use of data analytics in an efficient manner for future decision making could be greatly beneficial to both the employer and employee and HR professionals must realize the value that they can bring through the use of these metrics. They should look at the vast amount of data available, deriving insights on performance, and being able to define the right reward mechanisms that work best for the organization overall.
Read more such stories from the November 2020 issue of our e-magazine on 'The State of Digital HR’