As Written by Focus Network
The world of work, while navigating the most unprecedented business continuity crisis in modern history, is now operating under newer paradigms. Organizations across the globe are working towards adapting to the #newnormal and HR is at the driver’s seat of this transformation. The evolution of the workplace got rapidly accelerated and new work culture is here to stay. Considering all the contemporary challenges HR leaders in the Asia Pacific are facing, Oracle initiated a discussion with the HR leaders community to delve into these questions and talk about what they are doing to stay ahead in the game.
Based around rapidly accelerated transformations, we are now looking at ways of navigating culture, talent, and technology innovations within the Asia Pacific and how CHROs are staying ahead in the new world of work. “It’s a challenging time and there is a lot happening in the HCM domain right across the Asia-Pacific region”, says Rowan Tonkin, Sr. Director, HCM Transformation, Oracle. “There were some interesting results that we received back from our AI@Work Global study. One of the overall statistics that came from this study was that 78% of the respondents felt that 2020 was probably the most stressful year that they have had in their careers”. Different countries, industries, companies, and businesses are all grappling with the disruption that has been created by the pandemic and this resulted in a host of strategic consequences for us. Rather than taking a technology lens, we can look at an area that we really are going to have to think about responding to and providing HR leadership, and from an Oracle perspective, thinking around how technology can help address some of these really significant issues that are popping up in the workforce. 58% of people are saying that with remote working options, the pandemic has made them more productive at work. Any HR person would be looking to find ways in which we can tap into productivity and increase productivity for our organizations. Therefore, at the macro level, this result appeared to be a very positive indicator for organizations because productivity is anticipated to go up. However, that is only what the statistic would tell us.
Over 50% of the people that responded were putting in significantly more hours of work, much higher than in 2019. When we think about productivity, it usually means that we are increasing productivity through capacity because people are working longer and probably harder than they have done previously. An interesting insight from an HR point of view is to think about the consequences both for the workforce as also for the organization and the sustainability of this operating model in the long run.
This goes to a critical strategic driver that any HR leader is probably experiencing and thinking about for their organization. One of the drivers that stood out was 78% of people saying that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. This large percentage makes us stop, pause and consider the gravity of that impact. When we think about the implications this has for organizations and the workforce, everyone is experiencing it in different ways. We have people that are affected directly by the pandemic along with the financial and economic disruptions that are affecting the marketplaces where businesses are operating.
Workforces are dispersed and working from home or working in some sort of hybrid operating models, which infuses more complexity for executives to navigate. It is HR’s role to help the CEO, to help the executives find a way to get the organization through this phase. We need to take into consideration the effect that this is having on the mental health of our workforce. As HR, this is time to actively explore and implement the support structures, programs, technology, etc. that can be deployed to help employees deal with the mental health implications of working through the pandemic.
Another piece of information that sat underneath this was that 85% of the respondents felt that their mental health issues were negatively affecting their home life as well. The work from home setup differs in every country in the region with a combination of people living in accommodations ranging from small one-bedroom flats to large houses with separate workspaces, facilitating varying comfort levels experienced by people working in those environments. As mental health is putting strain around work, it is overflowing and affecting home life as well. This places importance on things such as identifying how to reduce the frustration, stress, or any of the negative impacts around mental health and still maintain the collaboration, engagement, and contribution that people are making. As we dig deeper into the details, findings are uncovering increasing reports of loneliness, depression, and burnout, as well as lack of work-life balance and more stress.
“During the COVID period, all CHRO and HR practitioners that I spoke to mentioned that they are operating at their peak”, noted Joey Woo, HR Transformation Leader, Deloitte. “HR is the busiest department in the whole organization because they have to deal with several legislations and effective measures, to ensure the safety and well-being of employees. COVID-19 has brought about a situation where HR is now sitting in the front seat, leading the business from the front. They have to rethink workforce and operational strategies, reinvent the digital experience and reimagine the future of work and workplace.” 75% of the business leaders now believe that the HR role needs to change. They also believe that HR is paramount to the success of the organization over the next 12 to 18 months.
With the pandemic, there have been some tweaks in the so-called future of the enterprise workforce and how work is done. Some of the key messages are around the balance of investment where results are now not just about the financials, but also about the well-being of the workforce. These have become very important elements in the future of enterprise design. When we look at the middle pillar of the design, which is the future of the workforce, changes are being brought to the ‘type’ of the workforce coming into the picture, combining the many types of the workforce (employees, gig, crowd, automation) and curate employee experience. In addition, how the organization has to engage the virtual team to work together in a virtual environment to ensure that the teams are delivering the right results. How to then bring in the digital platform to drive the agility and how we connect all the virtual teams together is another factor that has accelerated to the top of HR’s agenda in accelerating transformation.
All this points to the reality that traditional HR is shifting from a traditional ritual to an exponential nature. What that means is that in the past, we used to have activities based on the roles that we do. However, moving into the exponential model, the pillars are a little different as the focus is different. We are now looking at the outcomes of activities, at pace over perfection and data over opinions. We are looking at not just putting together a program but curating the experience for the employees. The focus is not on just giving tools or systems to the employees, but on how to digitally integrate all the tools. The curated experience is not about what you can bring to the table as an individual but how the team works together to achieve objectives. Exponential HR moves from individuals directing and doing work to igniting the use of connected multidisciplinary teams to define and resolve business challenges. This is the imminent shift of mindset that the HR leader needs to evolve. Deloitte shares the 4 As to look at exponential HR design: Adaptability, Agile, Architecting, and Augmented. These 4 elements are used to design exponential HR to reimagine the HR operating model so that they can reimagine the HR service delivery to connect employees and give them a curated employee experience, to achieve the outcome that they strive for.
The experience during this pandemic has been quite markedly different in various parts of the region. The scenario has been a huge catalyst for change and all the barriers that previously hindered concepts of flexibility and remote working, which facilitated people having a bit of work-life balance, have all but disappeared. People have permanent flexible work arrangements, whereas going into the pandemic it was negligible as several industries were reluctant to facilitate or invest in those options. The focus has now shifted to accepting ‘outcomes over activities’.
HR has been propelled to the forefront of leading the business forward to the next level of effective and efficient workplace design and workforce management. To keep track of the employee experience, HR has launched online surveys to gauge employees’ emotional situations and adaptation to the new ways of working, which then leads to making subtle improvements to provide satisfaction and a sense of being heard by management. The top five categories from the surveys conducted by Singtel in Singapore were time management, home conditions, leadership empathy, IT issues, and mental stress. To manage these issues, HR has incorporated training sessions for both managers and individual contributors to cover topics that help them manage their time and work more efficiently when operating remotely. Companies like MYOB, an accounting platform organization with the head office in Melbourne, had introduced the concept of ‘flex-perience’ a couple of years ago which paid rich dividends when the pandemic hit, as they were already supporting remote working and providing financial support to the team to set up their work desk at home. The concept of “outcome-focused work rather than presenteeism” is strongly catching on across all industries.
Mark Maclean from Deloitte noted, “As we at Deloitte started discussing the term ‘work-life balance’, we realized that balance is unattainable. Therefore, we started to change how we considered the issue and now have adopted the term ‘work-life integration’. Moreover, for different individuals, balance is always going to have a different, more personal meaning. From the HR perspective, it links back to a lot of the architecting and augmenting that Joey Woo described, but HR has a responsibility to figure out the best way that we can help our employees to integrate their life and their work and understand that things will work for different people at different times. This enables the new ways of working to start taking place allowing employees to work at different paces, different locations and at different times”. ”The availability and adoption of digital tools are critical in making this change happen.
With an inevitable reduction in workforce, be it via redundancies or short/long term furloughs, due to the economic and financial reverberations of the pandemic, managers needed to have these discussions more frequently and remotely compared to the face-to-face setting that it would otherwise have been conducted. This called for the training of managers to have those sensitive conversations and enabling the easiest way to collect company property from the affected employees. The circumstance also resulted in creating practical solutions like contracting couriers to collect the materials from employees’ homes to make it a considerate action mindful of the stressful position those employees experienced with the news.
Rowan Tonkin said, “Many organizations are being disrupted and sometimes this may have a negative impact on their workforces. The way businesses manage this is critical as it is a very sensitive situation and often not easy. However, this is where HR can add value with analytics, insights, and workforce planning to ensure the right decisions are being made. It is about reducing HR risk, ensuring key talent and capability is retained and any negative experiences for our people are minimized. This would mean removing the frustration of the process, creating the best experience we can with simple things such as a seamless process to return computers and materials or accessing key information people need to plan their next steps”.
This brought to close a brilliant roundtable discussion that touched on quite a variety of different real-life issues and anecdotes relating to how CHROs are staying ahead in the new world of work and taking their organizations forward strategically into the future of collaborative, outcome-focused work and workspaces.
Rowan has spent the last 23 years working in HR/OD roles, including 15 years as a CHRO/HR Director/GMHR leading HR functions for Australian and New Zealand organizations. He is a Fellow of both New Zealand and Australian HR Institutes and was the NZ HR Person of the year in 2011. Rowan has also been a CIO and most recently was responsible for leading the ANZ Bank’s HR systems, technology, payroll, analytics, and channel management teams delivering to 50,000+ employees in 30 countries. His passion is HR, technology, and digitalizing HR services that maximize new technologies and improve the employee experience.
Joey is a Director with Deloitte’s Human Capital Consulting Team in Southeast Asia. She is an established Human Capital consulting leader with experience in HR transformation, HR operating model definition, HR shared service delivery, and large HCM technology transformation. With over 20 years of experience across Asia Pacific and Europe, having accumulated a successful track record in delivering outstanding results in both technical and business capacities. Joey has been partnering with organizations to transform their HR from an administrative focus to one focused on strategic value and employee-centricity, through various opportunities from digital initiatives, way of working, policy and process optimization, and shared services delivery.
Focus Network facilitates a data-driven information hub for senior-level executives to leverage their learnings, while at the same time assisting businesses in connecting with the most relevant partners to frame new relationships. With a cohort of knowledge-hungry and growth-minded delegates, these sessions have seen imparting great value for participants. With the advent of new ways of working remotely, Focus Network continues to collaborate with the best thought leaders from the industry to still come together to share and navigate the ever-changing landscapes that are barrelling into the neo-industrial revolution.
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