Sim Cher Whee, Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition and Talent Mobility at semiconductor giant Micron, is passionate about the power of technology and how it goes beyond the simple use of tools to influence broader outcomes and organisational goals. An engineer by profession before she pivoted into people management, she sees talent acquisition as an endeavour of empathy, one which is today powered by technological tools that help people managers improve their human touch.
People Matters asked Sim for her thoughts about how the use of technology is changing in the workplace, and also changing the workplace. Here's what she shared.
Could you share a bit about the way HR tech and worktech is used in Micron's talent acquisition process?
From the lens of talent acquisition, we recognise that the world has been transformed by the virtual setting, and at the same time there is an increasing need for expertise. We need a deeper understanding of our talent pool and must apply this to how we communicate our career opportunities, how we engage in the recruiting process, and of course how we eventually onboard and integrate them into our culture. And we are finding ways, through technology, to make this possible across the organisation.
We call this 'hiring with empathy, empowered by technology'.
To share a broad example, let's look at job descriptions. Today, we have cloud systems and machine learning tools that allow managers to input their job description. The system will then analyse it for words that might affect the description's ability to attract the candidates we want. For example, on the gender diversity front, we discovered that some types of wording make a job description more attractive to men than to women.
Of course, sometimes we can be so used to a certain way of doing things that we have blind spots, and the system will pick up on these. So it can be offputting to some hiring managers when they run their job description through the system and it gives them a low effectiveness score. But that's the opportunity for us to recognise how we can enhance what we're doing, add more clarity, and ultimately bring in the candidates we want.
There are often a lot of adoption challenges with bringing in technology. What's your change management strategy like?
Don't underestimate the importance of a good change management process. Any change journey is painful, and it must lead to benefits. At every point, we need to articulate and commit to the benefit of the change—we need to take ownership and responsibility for the change, we have to be accountable for the benefits, and we have to celebrate.
Change management is also individual. On the one hand you will have early adopters, and their success stories will motivate the majority of the team to follow along. But you will always have a last five to ten percent of team members who take much longer to catch up, and you never want to leave them behind. Yes, it might seem easier to just let them be, but we are talking about recruiters and hiring managers here, who will affect candidates' experience with the whole process.
So you have to build partnerships with them, bearing in mind that everyone is at a different stage of the change cycle. You have to build awareness, build the desire to learn, and build education and training, and you have to monitor that whole cycle of individual change management.
Of course, the last resort is to shut down the old system so that the remaining team members have no alternative. But you must first be sure that when they get into the new system, they will immediately be able to see and realise the benefits.
How do you and your colleagues generally approach the selection and implementation of new digital tools? When you make the decision to invest in tech, what are the top factors you consider?
At an overarching level, it's firstly about understanding the business. Business, in our language, includes not just the finances and the product, but the people. People are such a critical part of our ecosystem, and it is very important to understand the pain points in the employee life cycle.
It is especially important to bring the business perspective to attraction and retention. In terms of employer branding, for example, we must pay a great deal of attention to how we are perceived in the next few years. The semiconductor industry is facing huge competition for talent now, with the chip shortage and the growth in wafer fab plants making it even more challenging. So when we invest, we have to link it very tightly to the business case.
The second thing is about engaging people—not just HR, but the business leaders, the managers, and also the team members.
Traditionally, one or two people would make all the decisions, select and design the tools, and then roll them out. But we have realised that with the pace of the business, this is not viable.
To realise our investment, we need to engage our team members as part of the design. With recruitment tools, for example, the end users are our recruiters and hiring managers, and so we involve them from early on, taking in their feedback and insights, and we continually engage them along the way.
What do you consider a good "return on investment" for digital tools? Is it a quantifiable measure at all, or do you find a "soft" assessment more appropriate?
Most of the time, return on investment is associated with quantitative factors such as user numbers and utilisation rate, which I don't disagree with. I think it's important to have tangible data that gives you insights into the opportunities and gaps.
But my vision of the qualitative factors is not about justifying the investment. It is about continuing to seize the opportunities. KPIs such as utilisation are really just scratching the surface. The real measurement is the net impact in terms of the tool's effectiveness. For example, a tool might allow you to expand your outreach, and that's great. But at the same time, does that increased outreach lead to increased gender representation in our talent pool? Because our end goal is to increase representation within the organisation, and if the tool is not leading to that, we are still missing something.
It is really about holding ourselves accountable for what we are doing: going past the outcome-based measurements such as utilisation, and looking at the broader impact in the big picture.
Could you share a few thoughts about how technology is driving change in today's workplace?
Firstly, even without any push from our end, people naturally internalise that today's world is about digital transformation—that we are living in this world, and therefore it is our responsibility to be future-ready.
Secondly, people are searching, on their own initiative, for ways to use technology to improve what they are doing. In one case last year, our campus recruitment team in Singapore had a major recruitment drive cancelled right before it was due to start, because of the pandemic and lockdowns. Rather than wait for the schools to sort things out, one of the recruiters took the initiative to implement an automation tool that let the team reach out to students and duplicate the event virtually.
Thirdly, once people have intuitively moved into that growth mindset, they begin to build not just towards the present, but to the future—they start investing in making themselves, their tools, their work future-ready.