Getting the best out of digitally-empowered employees

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Employees, many of whom are used to top-notch technology experiences in their private lives, are disillusioned with the talent management processes that many companies continue to use.
MARCH 21, 2019 - 2:04 PM

A Manpower Group report has found that 56 per cent of Singaporean employers have trouble filling open positions, the highest figure reported since 2008. A quarter of companies have also commented that filling technical roles became tougher in 2018, with engineers, technicians and IT professionals being in high-demand. This is not just a Singapore phenomenon. 

According to management consultant Korn Ferry, Asia Pacific will potentially see a talent deficit of 47 million workers by 2030, with unrealised output over US$4.2 trillion (S$6.72 trillion). While the research found that 67 per cent of CEOs believe technology will be their chief value generator in the future of work, it’s important to note that companies using advanced technology see a growing need for human talent with advanced skills.

In a tough and ambiguous economy, businesses of the future need to deliver greater value to their customers; solve unforeseen problems; and develop their workforce to meet future challenges. People management is key in this process, and businesses cannot afford to alienate the newest generation of digital employees – the foundation of their workforce in the decade to come.

Evolving workplaces, the gig economy, employee demands of flexibility and other trends are also putting pressure on businesses. Managers have their work cut out for them when it comes to creating positive workplace experiences to engage their digitally empowered employee.

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Here are three areas businesses must address to get the best out of their employees.

Invest in digital change to enhance human performance 

Most people think that digital transformation is solely about technology acquisition. However, it is far more about the behavioural change that delivers enhanced human performance as a result of the partnership between people and technology. For this behavioural change to happen, business leaders need to create leadership around the change and communicate effectively to their employees. This includes investing in upskilling employees to take better advantage of the digital tools at their disposal, as well as ensuring that IT infrastructure and applications facilitate, rather than inhibit, easy access to resources.

A recent Cisco report found that business executives across Asia Pacific are compromising on their IT investment decisions based on initial budget concerns. 49 per cent of businesses were forced to top up their initial investment because these initial upgrades were unreliable and didn’t meet initial expectations. Digital transformation is a long process and requires commitment and perseverance. Businesses must think long-term in their investment and weather through this teething process in order to come out stronger and better geared up for success.

Deliver a technology powered employee experience

Sage’s recent research report “Why Your Workforce isn’t Working” found that positive work experience has a huge impact on productivity, according to 78 per cent of respondents. This jumps to 92 per cent for the younger generations; a demographic that will comprise 50 per cent of the workforce by 2020. 40 per cent of business owners believe games in the office and fringe benefits are important to employees; whereas 53 per cent of employees see this as the biggest distraction in the workplace. Ironically, 50 per cent of employees surveyed have never been asked what would improve their workplace experiences. 

Sadly, HR’s most trusted tool for gleaning employee opinion – the annual survey – can often turn into a bit of tick-box exercise for many. To keep today’s workforce engaged, organisations must be proactive about engaging employees, asking the right questions and understand what would improve the employee experience. This goes far beyond just renovating the office with relaxation corners or scheduling regular team meals together. It is about listening to employees’ opinions and concerns and acting on them to effect positive change.

Additionally, employees, many of whom are used to top-notch technology experiences in their private lives, are disillusioned with the talent management processes that many companies continue to use. These systems, often paper-based, only hinder organisations from empowering their people.

Encourage employee ownership 

Another longstanding practice that has becoming increasingly unnecessary is the locking away of employee information from employees by HR. For today’s employees, many of who bank, track their health and do their shopping whenever and wherever they want on their mobile phones, the idea that they cannot access their own personal information or perform basic tasks because the HR people in charge are not at their desks just doesn’t make sense. 

With the prevalence of mobile and digital technologies, organisations can empower employees to own their workplace experience. Employees can access performance information, work schedules and incentives at their own convenience, without interrupting anyone else’s workflow. This also gives them autonomy to take charge of their own career development paths and seek counsel whenever necessary in their own time, rather than wait for the annual employee appraisal window to think about their futures.

People are the most important asset to any business. Invigorate, energise and inspire them and you will build a People Company. Combining inspired employees with effective processes, organisations can position themselves to ensure satisfaction across the board.

Keeping employees happy will not only be beneficial for them but for the business too. At a time when over a third of employees admit to being productive for less than 30 hours per week, a positive work experience can lead to outstanding business growth.

Everybody wins.

The writer is VP & managing director at Sage Asia.