10 ways to level-up your tech expertise

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Digitalisation is not an issue impacting specific functions; it’s a company-wide challenge. Learn the essentials from leaders at Tokopedia, GovTech, and SEEK Asia to future-proof your business.

With COVID-19 battering bottom lines last year, a silver lining appeared in the form of enterprises, big and small, across Southeast Asia being pushed to improve their business recovery and growth. And the number one way to achieve this was, and remains, digitalisation.

Digitalisation is not an issue impacting specific functions; it’s a company-wide challenge. Given that the digitalisation journey will impact every function and employee, SME leaders, CHROs and change champions have an opportunity to lead this conversation and help organisations accelerate growth through digitalisation.

And that’s exactly what leaders at Tokopedia, GovTech and SEEK Asia are doing – introducing digitalisation to business problems, running pilots to show early successes, and leading the change for the rest of the organisation.

In a recent HRO webinar, where we partnered with employment marketplace, SEEK Asia, there are 10 things we identified as critical for HR leaders and change champions to be mindful of in their digital transformation journey. Read on to find out what your digitalisation checklist could look like.

1. Prioritise: Identify business problems that will benefit from digitalisation

Not everything that can be digitalised needs to be digitalised.

Some of the most successful companies have started out small – by adopting digitalisation to start off with smaller proofs of concept (POCs) instead of going big or all in.

“What helps is to identify the core problems in your business that need to be solved, and then ask yourself – how can you use technology to solve these? From there, pick your most important problem and focus on optimising that,” advises Peter Bithos, CEO, SEEK Asia.

Eg, for a rapidly-growing company receiving thousands of resumes a day, it may help to implement AI in the applicant tracking process, given that you need to make recruitment scalable rather simple hiring more headcount to process the CVs.

2. Co-create: Nothing is possible without involving the business

Digitalisation could be rolled out in a matter of weeks, months or years, depending on how complex or wide-ranging your implementation is. But what you need to keep in mind is that this is not an imperative owned solely by HR.

Before starting your journey, you need to speak with the business and try to find out what the right formula is for your company, i.e. the sweet spot that will benefit the organisation and the most people within. Involve as many people as possible to rally around the process.

“When you’re getting into the digital mindset, you always need to think about the ecosystem. The magic happens when people start to own this vision, and come up with their own ideas to improve or add on to the changes,” says Nanang Ery Sujarwo Chalid, VP of People, Tokopedia.

3. The biggest challenge is changing mindsets

For any change to stick, changing mindset comes before anything else and is often the biggest challenge.

What do we want to do as a digital-first organisation?

“We wanted to be digital-first in designing solutions; we wanted to be cloud-first in developing applications; and we wanted to be agile-first in delivering business value. These were the values we wanted to anchor in our mindsets,” explains DN Prasad, Senior Director, Strategy, People & Organisation, GovTech.

Then comes another important part – workforce reskilling and building capability around those mindsets. At GovTech, this was done by introducing a robust technical competency framework in which all HR processes (from hiring to succession planning, and more) are anchored.

What this whole-of-HR approach does is create a framework that incentivises the development of the new mindsets, giving a chance to gain buy-in from technology detractors or naysayers in the workforce.

4. Ecosystems: Technology must help you run a scalable operation

To truly benefit from digital initiatives, these are four questions that every HR professional should be asking themselves:

  1. Do you have the right talent to grow your company?
  2. Do you have the right organisation that meets your ambition?
  3. Do you have the right capabilities? (Capability here could mean both new skill sets you need to acquire or it could include technology investment)
  4. Do you have the right culture to do that?

Once you and your peers are aligned on answers to these questions, you have the opportunity to really scale your efforts to solve a series of business problems.

5. Influence: Play to the needs of your stakeholders

Being able to influence is one of the top skills that HR leaders need to imbibe if they are to gain buy-in from across the organisation, and there are three principles involved in this.

The first is ‘time to say goodbye’ – as the panelists shared, it’s really important to challenge ourselves and bid goodbye to our comfort zone.

The second is to ‘get back to basics’, i.e. how to create a solid digital foundation by building a multi-disciplinary team. And the third is about ‘the vision’ – the reason behind all of this, in terms of the impact we need to create and being able to answer “what’s in it for me” for everyone who is benefitting.

As change champions, we need to be able to showcase evidence that technology can be a great enabler in solving business problems. And that includes capturing small wins, implementing pilot programmes, and any low-hanging fruit that doesn’t require a large amount of investment of time or resources to show early value.

6. Move aside old skill sets, say hello to data-based conversations and decision making

With the foundation in place, it is time to get ready and build the dashboard of your dreams for data-driven decisions. Think attrition and retention data, skills mapping, career conversations, and all people metrics that enable people managers to have more knowledgeable conversations.

Discussions no longer need to be ad hoc. People partnering skills don’t need to rely on the old notion of how well you build relationships, but instead what data & analysis you bring to the table. And it is then that decision making becomes more of a democratic process than ever before.

7. But remember: Not everything can be done by technology

The leaders take pains to remind us that technology, at the end of the day, is an enabler and it simply cannot replace the human touch that HR is most valued for. When undertaking digital transformation, remember to maintain human touchpoints in every step of the journey.

To take an example, despite being able to automate a large part of the talent acquisition process, the interview to assess culture-fit with a candidate is always a process requiring human intervention. Similarly, mental health interventions are best left to the hands of specialised experts who can give the employees the care and attention they need.

To affirm, technology cannot replace humans, but instead it is best suited to work alongside humans to aid and guide informed decision making.

8. Boost adoption and participation

Hiring the right people and retaining the right people who matter, who are not only a culture-fit but a culture-add, is key to adoption of technology or any change initiative. When you have more ambassadors within your ecosystem, influencing becomes a lot easier, irrespective of which generation they belong to.

In boosting participation. the experts caution against resorting to corporate stereotypes such as forming a steering committee, conducting several presentations, etc. – this, in most cases, is actually counter-productive to the task at hand, as compared to getting people involved and inviting them to sign up themselves to know more.

And finally, the most critical piece of adoption? Set the tone from the top. If the leaders themselves aren’t committed to the journey, it will be hard for the organisation to change. Every leader has an important role to play in setting the tone – and this includes, allocating the budgets, setting OKRs, driving experimentation, and how you personally use technology.

9. Maintain the momentum, measure success

Measurement, according to SEEK’s Bithos, is the most important question to ask right in the beginning of the process – what we are trying to achieve and how are we going to measure that?

Once you’ve defined what the parameters for success looks like, the next step would be keep the pace. Evidently, digital transformation needs to be an intentional effort. Companies need to not only measure what matters, but also keep the momentum by starting small, acting fast.

10. There is no such thing as finished

“Even when you’re a digital-first company, you always continue to go through waves of digital transformation,” Bithos affirms. In fact, Tokopedia’s Nanang rated his organisation’s current digital capability an eight out of 10 – and the beauty is that, if you turn the eight 90-degrees, it is a symbol of infinity, demonstrating that going digital is really an infinite game.

As Prasad from GovTech shares in closing: “There are several who are digital starters, there are some who are digital literates, and some who are digital track performers. No matter where you currently stand, remember to bring and uplift the whole ecosystem along with you.”


Human Resources Online and SEEK Asia would like to thank the speakers for being a part of this webinar:

  1. Nanang Ery Sujarwo Chalid, VP of People, Tokopedia
  2. DN Prasad (PCC; IHRP-MP), Senior Director, Strategy, People & Organisation, GovTech
  3. Peter Bithos, CEO, SEEK Asia

This conversation was moderated by Freda Liu.

Lead image / Webinar screenshot featuring (in clockwise order): Freda Liu, Peter Bithos, DN Prasad, and Nanang Ery Sujarwo Chalid

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