Insights from People Matters' Tech HR SEA Conference
Summarized by Dr. Nattavut Kulnides
In the world of divided opinion esp. about the future of work, there is still an ongoing debate whether we will see the good old they of our office life. Rushing through the traffic, squeezing in the elevator to make it to your desk by 8 AM, having lunch at the same time with hundreds or thousands of people in the same building, and making it to the after-work commune to go home on time. Or we will see the hybrid model of work where we can choose how many days we want to work from home and how many days that we decide to go to the office. I am base in Bangkok and just a thought give me a neightmair and hope that there should be a better world.
Since the name of the conference is TechHR, it seems the majority vote goes to the hybrid or full-digital model. Nevertheless, deep down, I still feel that people still cling to what they use to know. For some, the concept of work is where we work is something that you can associate with 30-40 years of your adult life and it’s hard to let go. CEO of JP Morgan made an unintentional headline when he expected all of his employees will return to an office very soon for a sake of business and economic prosperity and had been bombarded with another side of the opinion of the camp who believes the new way of work has emerged. Instead, I do agree with one of the speakers who says
‘work should be what we do rather than where we do it.’
While speakers in the conferences provide enough convincing data to prove the point of the new way of work is emerging, like Brian Sommer, he quoted that
‘a whopping 58% of workers say they would absolutely look for a new job if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely in their current position.’
This message also is strongly supported by Tech Companies who rewrite their employee handbook and allow Work From Home indefinitely like Google or Facebook. On the last day of the conference, one speaker provides one quote that captures the whole topics that we have spent over the past 3 years which is ‘nothing is worse than return to normality without learning anything.
As an author squad of Tech HR SEA event 2021, here I am, trying to capture trends, thoughts, and ideas that I capture over the past 3 days of the Tech HR Conference. I hope it comes as a very useful wrap-up for you.
1. Future is Perpetual Change and Agility
Work is always changing in case we haven’t noticed.
Perhaps, it takes great courage to admit that ‘we don’t know what the future of work will be’.
However, we do know that all of us have learned to innovate and adapt continually, and everyone has crafted your work to meet the unprecedented opportunities and challenges of the pandemic. So, instead of one policy applied to everyone, the future employee’s policy should be to invite and equip the workforce to design their work through agile innovation and experimentation.
We need to rethink how we can optimize human and automated work and leaderships need to play a crucial role to make it happens.
The obvious choices are either we: replace humans – substitutes and removes the human, augment Humans – automation enables humans to do the work better and Reinvent Humans – automation creates new work for humans that was not possible with the automation.
Since, the future is now, together we can create the way, why, and how of work for the next generation.
2. Future is Hybrid Collaboration
The challenge of Hybrid Collaboration where employees can work online and on-site simultaneously or as you wish are many such as accessibility to a different resource, imbalance in interaction, or even harder to get equal participation and seen as a different power and influence level to the organization. Nonetheless, with the advance of technology that comes at a cheaper price and more accessible to many.
Hybrid collaboration should be rethanked as location-independent with digital-first imperative.
In the end, organizations need to take time to connect as people and revisualize how digital platforms can further enhance hybrid collaboration and strengthen an organization’s identity further. Instead of trying to search for the perfect model, organizations need to try things out and find a sweet spot as well as think digital-first for fluid collaboration. In the end, the speaker puts it very nicely that
‘digital collaboration is not a burden, it’s an opportunity.
It is the journey that organizations can’t refuse to take not to mention the new generation who have spent a year and a half learning online. They will challenge the assumption on why we have to physically meet while we can accomplish work online.
3. Future is Digital as EX (Employee Experience) Enhancement Platform
The fundamental of Digital is data. When it comes to employee experience, we also need to quantify those experiences into data where possible. Tech HR Conference through the business vendors provides a wide variety of technology possibilities supported by the client success case studies. While generating employee data is not new, however, we have seen vendors and organizations start to generate employee data in other areas like personality and soft skills assessment to match with jobs, positions, or even potentially in the organization. Perhaps, this approach is not a new concept also and we have seen a similar attempt in the past.
Nevertheless, the way that technology plays role in making the whole employee experience journey is more fun, engaging, and less intimidating is more than welcome from employees, organizations and HRs.
With the availability of technology platforms, employee data assessment, people analytics to generate insights, the future organization can not shy away from using a similar platform to enhance and tailor-made employee experience and align with organizational priorities.
4. Future is People Technology that Creates Value
There is one keynote speaking on the topic of ‘the New World of Work’ that mentions
‘there won’t be a return to normal’
that I totally agree. Therefore, the ‘next new normal’ will be quite fluid and dynamic’. HR technology must evolve to be relevant esp. in the area of the supply chain for a table is going to be a huge concern area. Even more so, HR also needs to identify ‘core’ HR technology and reimagine HR with a lot of unknown. HR needs to acquire technology with flexibility built a strong mentality to treat process reimaginations as experiments and needs to try many things first. More importantly, it is okay to make some early failures and to drop some early tech tools. In the end, Brain Sommer challenges us that
‘are we replicating the old office into a digital clone or radically reimagining work?’.
In short, we might love to stick to the incremental change but in reality, what we should focus on is the fundamental change and have the gut and courage to do what right and learn along the way as well.
5. Future is Rethinking our Business Values (Purpose-Planet-Profit)
Amid pandemic, we have seen a divided voice. While a business might ask their workforce to focus on business to survive, however, in employees’ minds, they are occupied with thoughts, hopes, and fears for many reasons: healthy and safety concerns, job stability, future wellness, and family issues. Puneet Swani from Mercer summarized the path to a sustainable business every neatly in the simple analogy of ‘cause and effect’.
Organizations need to justify their ‘purpose’ to start their transformational journey, which leads to functional (effect) and given the organization starts with the two pieces correctly. Now, the final piece of impact (further effect) will come along.
At this stage, organizations are dealing with operational practices with the main concern not only on ‘profit’ and ‘people’ but also ‘planet’ which a framework of environmental sustainability and social sustainability as well.
There is one speak from UPS who referred to their organization practice that UPS needs to rethink its purpose amid business growth, disruption in the marketplace, and archaic HR processes and outdated technologies. Their new UPS purpose is ‘moving our world forward by delivering what matters.’ By using technology, UPS enables Mobile APP to communicate their Vision Map, create engagement, track progress. While this journey is yet to be known the outcomes, we have seen the use of technology to enable the change and transformation process and connect purpose-planet-people, and profit together.
I wish to conclude my article with one of the quotes from the conference that
‘we are improvising as we progress into the future’.
Instead of aiming for perfection, organizations need to search for their courage to embrace the future (you have no choice anyway), learn and adapt. The beauty of technology today is not that required a big investment anymore. Therefore, it all comes down to a simple understanding of customers, employees, and businesses to crafting out the delivery model with agility and speed to stay relevant in the marketplace. Let me end my article with
my favorite quote from Nelson Mandela ‘Don’t waste the crisis.’
Whether we like it or not, we will come out from this crisis as a different person and there is no point to hold on to the past. I hope everyone good luck and stay safe.
Dr. Nattavut Kulnides - Founder & CEO, ADGES