No matter how seasoned we are, nothing prepares us for this whole COVID-19 episode. This is the time when 80 percent of the workforce is working from home and they don’t get to see each other physically. Technology is playing a key role in this entire journey so much so that even when we are not working from office, work is moving. ‘’For most of the organizations, business is going fine, albeit with challenges. And this is an excellent testimony of how technology can help us in times of crisis to continue to be productive. This is also a testimony to human resilience; with so much of stress, anxiety and fear, employees are delivering their work while taking care of their family,’’ says Peck Kem Low, CHRO & Advisor (Workforce Development), Singapore Public Service Division, Prime Minister’s Office, at TechHR Singapore 2020.
While we have been talking about embracing new age technologies for ages, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of tech innovations at a never before speed, Peck Kem adds. What’s important right now is that we need to focus on humanizing technology. We are surrounded by technology and it has become so normal that we don’t even think that we are exploiting tech. We attend conferences and parties virtually with the help of tech and all of this becomes a part of us. ‘’We can deploy whatever technology we want to deploy, but it’s important to ensure that we don’t lose the people touch,'' says Peck kem. While we leverage technologies for our business as an enabler, we should not forget to take care of our employees’ well-being on a continuous basis, Peck Kem adds. It’s equally critical to equip your employees with right tools and technologies, and right environment so they continue to be productive.
Kulshaan Singh, the Chief People Officer, Minor International, also stressed on the importance of humanizing technology, which he says, is critical to ensure seamless virtual experience for all our stakeholders especially employees at a time like this.
‘’With the onset of the pandemic, we had to revisit our KPIs with changing priorities. We did onboarding virtually but our overall hiring reduced over the last few months. HR had to focus on monitoring government’s rules and SOPs in terms of employee safety and well-being. As a result, we needed to instill new habits and behavior for our employees. The VUCA is real and hence it’s important to have clarity in mind, clear communication strategies, and right skill sets,’’ says Nadiah Tan Abdullah, CHRO, S P Setia Berhad.
Technology can raise our performance and it’s not a generational thing, Nadiah adds. ‘’I see baby boomers and Gen x picking up much faster than Gen Y as far as learning is concerned,’’ Nadiah argues.
The pandemic also presented an opportunity to reshape the workplace culture for a post-COVID-19 reality. Over the last two months, with majority of workers working virtually, we have realized the potential of virtual collaborative platforms and their capability to replace in-person meetings. The employers and workforce are adapting to a new style of work model with technology at the core of making all of this possible.
‘’For us, culture is important and it shapes up everything that we do at work. Digital transformation has always been on our agenda for the last two years and hence we don’t see much change in our work culture agenda. However, COVID-19 did force us to change it partly to be able to catch up with changing times,’’ Nadiah adds.
‘’In Singapore, while a lot of government and private sector companies going digital amid this crisis, I see a lot of reluctance from people in terms of employing technology and they were worried about security implications of technology,’’ says Peck Kem. However, the reality is if you don’t embrace technology in today’s time you will miss out a on a lot of opportunities. Here comes a critical role for HR professionals to ensure that people have right levels of skills to do things they are expected to do and that the workforce is agile enough to adapt to the changing times and better prepared for the future, Peck Kem adds. Given that things may not go back to normal we need to build an agile and adaptable culture where employees readily pick up new skills, says Peck Kem.
While the time is critical for HR professionals to step to help solve business challenges and meet new priorities of organizations, we need to understand that talent leaders are going through tremendous pressure amid this crisis. Hence it’s important for them to stay healthy, take time to de-stress, concludes Peck Kem. It’s also the time to be empathetic toward your employees because everyone is going through turbulent times, concludes Nadiah.