People: The Core of Innovation

Success Stories

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In today’s hyper-competitive industry, organisations are more and more turning to digital solutions to automate their processes and boost their bottom line. In the Frost & Sullivan study entitled “Digital Transformation: Embracing the Journey,” 35 percent of the organisations surveyed in Asia said managing digital transformation is their key growth objective over the next five years.

While this suggests a promising development in digital transformation spending among enterprises, it also prompts us to ask: For what purpose are these companies digitising? And have they been innovating so much to the point of glossing over the needs of their people?

People as digital enablers

What’s needed now to sustain a company’s digital momentum is a strategic HR that looks at people as drivers of—and not just spectators to—business transformation. An HR that inculcates purpose among employees and drives their human potential.

This is almost the same idea SAP Vice President for SuccessFactors (SEA) Megawaty Khie argued for when she opened the Asian Innovators Summit 2017 in Indonesia last August: “The core value of our innovation is because of the people that we have.”

Indeed, to innovate successfully, we need to invest our people with the right resources—not just an arsenal of digital tools that can take them away from manual jobs, but a work ethic that can prime them to consistently enhance their skill set, so they can take on digital challenges better and chart a growth path for their companies.

people transformation
People as drivers of digital transformation

HR in the Asia Pacific

Currently in Asia Pacific, people empowerment is increasingly seen as a critical growth driver among enterprises. And this can never be more apparent than the growing number of HR leaders and practitioners who now see upskilling and multiskilling as requisites to meeting the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

However, there has been a lack of qualified employees in recent years. In Singapore, for instance, 65 percent of employers have reported that they struggle to attract the right employees who can perform critical roles for the job. This trend has grown into the creation of what they call a “gig economy,” or the hiring of contingent or freelance workers to meet a company’s demand for key talent.

Embracing a people-led transformation

How did we get to this point in the first place? A number of factors may be considered—the need to reduce a company’s overhead costs, the need to offer remote workers with greater work flexibility, and the growing preference of gig employees for some level of autonomy.

While it can be a profitable model for companies, gig economy also invites us to ask: How can we use this set-up to build people skills in the long term and make employees more digital ready? How can we use it to foster collaboration that drives business results?

To champion people as the centre of digital transformation, shifts in traditional mindset are needed. We need to break away from the status quo that says work can only happen within the four corners of an office and embrace a digital reality that values dynamism and cross-functional collaboration. To do this, here are some ways you can consider:

    • First, employers should keep in mind that employees are always after career growth. Early on, companies should already recognise the talent and leadership potential of their people, and nurture this potential. If employees see that the company makes a sustained effort in career advancement, then they will not worry about job security and will feel more engaged with their current responsibilities.
    • Second, today’s workforce and the way we work have changed, leading to greater opportunities for autonomy and flexibility. Since work can be done remotely, companies should consider giving their employees flexible hours and alternative work arrangements. By doing this, a company can ensure its people that it is looking after its well-being, which will make employees more invested in a company’s success.
remote work
The rise of gig economy
  • Consider redesigning workplace structure. Most companies operate using a top-down hierarchy, which can turn off some employees, recognising that moving up may take years, if at all. If it is possible to adapt a cross-functional network of teams instead, then the workforce will feel that each contribution to the company is well compensated and acknowledged.
  • When it comes to digital transformation, a company’s HR department must lead the way by big data . Using this fact-based information can enable improvements in the way the workforce does things. Another way HR can facilitate digital transformation for its people is choosing Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools that can help identify and solve skills gap and expedite otherwise time-consuming HR processes.

Driving people agenda

Digital transformation isn’t about forcing employees to adapt to innovation; it is making innovation work for a company’s people, so they can perform more efficiently and enhance business results.

The ideal digital transformation is a people-led transformation. Lest we forget, we must give them first the opportunities to unlock their potential so they can push their organisations to be more agile and competitive, ushering in a more humanised digital experience for all.

To innovate successfully, we need to invest our people with the right resources—not just an arsenal of digital tools but a work ethic that can enhance their skill set.

Want to know how else businesses can empower their workforce to meet the evolving demands of the digital economy? Click here to learn more.

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