The job market and workforce makeup are changing rapidly across Asia Pacific

A chat with Yazad Dalal, Head of HCM Cloud Applications, Oracle Asia Pacific on emerging trends in Human Resource Management, particularly challenges in employee engagement.


What are the main employee engagement challenges or trends affecting businesses in Asia Pacific?

The job market and workforce makeup are changing rapidly across Asia Pacific. Today’s HR leaders are tasked to create the future workforce by attracting digital-savvy, diverse talent who can fulfil the jobs of today and tomorrow. And yet, attracting and retaining top talent is tough; particularly in Asia, where more than 60% of employers are experiencing difficulty attracting critical-skill employees (63%), top performers (73%) and high-potential employees (72%), according to the Willis Towers Watson 2016 Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey[1].

In a tough recruiting environment, there’s immense pressure to retain high-value employees by keeping them engaged at work. Unfortunately, employee engagement is failing worldwide. Asia is a driving force behind this decline with 62% engagement rate in 2017, according to the 2017 Trends in Global Employee Engagement from Aon Hewitt, which also reports over 10% employee turnover rates in APAC excluding only Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

As employee recruitment and engagement continue to challenge businesses in Asia Pacific, especially when it comes to high-value tech and millennial talent, businesses can boost the employee experience by making HR processes more closely match the experience of social media – from newsfeed-style interfaces that use AI to serve up personalised updates; to proactive alerts about training opportunities tailored to individual job skill needs; to automated chatbots which instantly answer routine HR questions.

How does an HR experience that’s more similar to social media boost employee engagement?

Social media is omnipresent in Asia Pacific, a region that’s home to 1.8 billion social media users or more than half of all social users around the globe. Social media isn’t just technology – it’s transformed how we connect to each other and the world around us. What’s enabled social to reach this level of ubiquity? Social networks are exceedingly fun and easy to use. They leverage AI and other emerging technologies to serve up content that’s relevant to each individual’s needs and interests; and social networks are now a quick, simple, seamless way to access shopping, entertainment, travel bookings and more.

There’s no reason that HR and career path tools can’t be as engaging as social media. Imagine a redefined employee interface that calls attention to upcoming tasks in an easy-to-read, scrolling format that’s more like a newsfeed. That’s a lot more fun and user-friendly than digging through hundreds of emails! Social media users click on proactive alerts about opportunities to join an event or wish friends a happy birthday, so why not offer proactive alerts on new training opportunities at work? This can empower employees to take more control over their career development, which is essential when Deloitte reports in its 2016 Millennial Survey that 63% of millennials feel that skills like leadership aren’t being fully developed.

We also can’t underestimate the importance of leveraging emerging technologies to reduce busywork. Social media isn’t complicated, and workplace processes should be as simple as scrolling, chatting, liking and posting. Automated chatbots, for example, can answer routine questions around leave time, office policies and more; getting new joiners up to speed more quickly, and freeing up everyone’s time to engage with their work rather than slogging through admin.

Indeed, Ron Stuart, Adjunct Advisor of IDC has noted, in reference to the firm’s
Workforce of the Future report, that: “Bringing the social media experience to workplace processes is the future of HR in Asia. This is the region where people live and breathe social, and they are no longer content to clock in and leave behind that fast, intuitive, seamless experience. Social-inspired HR technology, backed by artificial intelligence, will redefine what it means to engage employees. Innovative APAC businesses are ready to take their place at the forefront of the trend.”

What elements of social media are you incorporating into your HR technology?

Firstly, there’s AI-backed personalisation. Imagine, for example, a redesigned user interface for employees that calls attention to upcoming tasks in an easy-to-read, newsfeed-style format. With AI capabilities that learn and determine what’s most important to each individual user, relevant company news and business insights can be added to the feed in real-time – giving workers a personalised snapshot of everything they need to know, without having to dig through hundreds of emails.

Next, we’re looking at proactive alerts and recommendations; for training, for example. Again based in artificial intelligence, these tools help to collect a broad range of data and learn from the information, to offer employees development opportunities which are most relevant to their general role and specific upcoming tasks; their burgeoning skills or stubborn challenge areas; and short- and long-term goals. Just like on social media, the alerts will come direct to each employee, so there’s no need to go hunting for a training opportunity – it will come to you.

Another element is chatbots. Automated bots have transformed the world of customer service on social media, and new HR solutions are likewise leveraging automated bots to make life easier for HR managers and employees. With an office chatbot, workers can get their basic questions answered instantly. How do I file a health insurance claim? How many days of leave do I have left this year? The right bot can provide quick answers to routine questions, so everyone can focus on the higher value work they’ve been hired to do.

Why is Oracle confident that these features will help solve employee engagement problems?

First, we need to recognise that people in Asia Pacific are voracious social media users. The region is home to 1.8 billion social media users, according to the 2018 Global Digital suite of reports from We Are Social and Hoot suite, representing more than half of all social media users around the globe[4]. And, users in Asia Pacific are among the most voracious in the world in terms of hours per day spend on social.

[Stats for each local market to select from, according to their market – source: The 2018 Global Digital suite of reports from We Are Social and Hootsuite]:

In Australia, for example, users are spending nearly 1.5 hours per day on social media.

In China, for example, users are spending more than 2 hours per day on social media.

In Hong Kong, for example, users are spending more than 2 hours per day on social media.

In India, for example, users are spending nearly 2.5 hours per day on social media.

In Indonesia, for example, users are spending approximately 3.5 hours per day on social media.

In Japan, for example, users are spending nearly an hour per day on social media.

In Malaysia, for example, users are spending 3 hours per day on social media.

In Pakistan, for example, nearly 80% of internet users are on social media.

In Singapore, for example, users are spending more than 2 hours per day on social media.

In South Korea, for example, users are spending over an hour per day on social media.

In Taiwan, for example, users are spending more than 2 hours per day on social media.

In Thailand, for example, users are spending more than 3 hours per day on social media.

In The Philippines, for example, users are spending approximately four hours per day on social media.

In Vietnam, for example, users are spending approximately 2.5 hours per day on social media. ‘

When thinking about social media, it’s important to look at why this form of media has become so ubiquitous in Asia Pacific and around the world. Social media doesn’t just show us pictures and updates from friends – it leverages emerging technologies in a very specific way to keep users scrolling, clicking, liking and posting. That deep level of engagement is something which the world of HR can learn from.

We don’t want people to walk into work, set down their mobile phone and step back in time. We don’t want them using workplace tools that offer an outdated, complicated, inefficient experience. Spending three hours searching spreadsheets and emails to figure out how many days of leave you have remaining won’t make an employee feel engaged – it will just make them feel frustrated! On the other hand, HR tools which are personalised, proactive and automated create the same fast and intuitive experience we all love on social media; revolutionising workplace processes and driving significant improvements in employee engagement.

Do HR solutions inspired by social media only appeal to millennials?

Millennials comprise approximately one quarter of the working population in Asia Pacific, and while this generation does in many senses represent the workforce of the future, of course businesses must consider how to build the best employee experience for all demographics. Luckily, the same things that appeal to millennials about social media will also increase engagement and satisfaction for every generation of worker.

Everyone wants a quicker, easier way to search for information. Everyone wants more training and development opportunities which are tailored to their specific needs. Everyone wants a better way to manage tasks, connect with colleagues and get the job done. Social media is a lens through which we can understand what’s great about the next generation of HCM solutions, but in the end, the features that make this technology so revolutionary stand on their own; whether end users are on social media or not.

As stated by Mark Maclean, Human Capital Leader, Deloitte South East Asia: “Transformation is top-of-mind for every organisation in Asia Pacific, but too few are examining how HR processes in particular can be revolutionised for the future. Therefore, organisations that are taking steps today to integrate AI-based technologies to make the employee experience more like social media have a unique opportunity to stand out when it comes to attracting and retaining and developing high value talent.”

How does AI power addictive features in both social media and HR?

AI-based technologies learn from data, in order to provide deep insight or adjust their own function. On social media, AI is the reason that if you frequently comment on a certain friend’s posts, you’ll see more status updates from that friend in the future. AI helps social networks understand your likes and dislikes, and serve you relevant content to match. Increasingly, it’s also supporting automated functions such as chatbots, which have revolutionised customer service, most commonly through the platform of social media.

In HR, the underlying capabilities of AI are likewise enabling a more intuitive and engaging experience. Imagine a user interface for employees that collates a broad scope of data to learn what’s most important to each person, and serve up relevant company news and task updates based on that information. Workers get a personalised snapshot of everything they need to know! Or, AI could leverage that same data to provide tailored training and development recommendations based on each individual employee’s performance objectives and noted challenges. And, the same AI-based chatbots enabling quicker customer service on social media can also be used within the office environment to answer routine HR questions – about company policy, leave days remaining and so on – so that everyone can spend less time on busywork and more time getting deeply engaged with the work they’ve been hired to do.

Any examples of work you are doing with customers in Asia Pacific that have already started to embrace this mindset and are implementing organisational changes against this?

Already, we’ve seen a number of customers in Asia Pacific embrace emerging HR technologies in order to make workplace processes easier, more fun and more intuitive, and drive deeper employee engagement. PVR Cinemas, the largest chain of multiplexes in India, is using Oracle HCM Cloud technology to create a seamless and connected HR experience, leading to employee-centric processes and a marked change in customer experience. For example, the business previously used Excel files for the employee lifecycle process; but with Oracle, all that data has been migrated to a single source on the cloud for instant visibility into employee performance.

In the Philippines, Union Bank is modernising HR practices with Oracle HCM Cloud. With automated processes, employees now have more autonomy over managing their own development and performance in alignment with the business’s goals. The result has been more engaged and enthusiastic employees who are capable of delivering better service to customers.

UST Global, which provides technology and innovation services to businesses across 25 different countries, has improved process efficiency by 30-40% since working with Oracle. Employees can now perform the same tasks with 20-40% less time, leading to a significant shift in employees’ customer satisfaction, and reducing on-boarding time by half.

To help businesses attract, engage and retain employees, Oracle is driving new innovations within its Oracle HCM Cloud that make the HR experience even more akin to everything people love about social media. Employees can choose a “newsfeed” style interface for easy access to relevant updates; enjoy personalised and proactive training recommendations; and use automated chatbots to get quick answers to routine questions.

These updates are coming soon to Oracle’s HCM Cloud, and existing customers will have automatic access to our updated suite of AI-driven HR tools as soon as they’re in place. We developed these features to meet customer needs, and we’ll be the first cloud HCM vendor to offer this social media like experience backed by AI.

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