Valuing and Harnessing the Power of Human Connections with Edward Senju, Regional CEO at Sansan

April 1, 20209:32 am1014 views
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Organisations should keep in mind that keeping people at the heart of business transformation and even day-to-day operations is a necessity. Considering this, driving employee collaboration and maintaining human connections, internally and externally, is truly a business imperative. Communication and collaboration instil stronger commitment within a team, while a human connection leads to higher engagement with colleagues or customers, especially in times of crisis. All of this forms the core of the performance and productivity matrices. Edward Senju, Regional CEO at Sansan Inc., sat together with HR in Asia team, to share his insights and strategies on how strengthening ‘people connections’ within a company can positively impact the business.

Edward, please share with us your experience on how you manage workplace collaboration and how do you plan to scale the business in the new region?

Whether you are a product company or a service provider, internal collaboration tools can equip your workforce to support your customers seamlessly, and very importantly, expand their business network. For business managers, meeting new people is a vital corporate need, since they need to consistently make new connections and alliances. At Sansan, we endeavour to enhance collaboration amongst our customer’s employees, through our cloud-based contact management platform. With this platform, company’s stakeholders can visualise connections and get real-time updates on meaningful, established relationships, and use these as an opportunity to kindle new business opportunities.

Meanwhile, Singapore has served as an ideal launchpad for our regional expansion. As we fire up our new customer acquisition engine across ASEAN, we are equally focused on continually delighting our current clientele through a customised and valuable experience. In 2020, we are committed to partnering enterprise and SME businesses in helping them boost their productivity and foster stronger internal collaboration. We intend to replicate the growth we’ve had in Japan, in Singapore and other Asian markets including Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, by staying focused on customer needs and revenue growth.

What is Sansan’s secret sauce for enhancing human connections within the company and how can it help business success?

Organisations need to understand what kind of connections they have, and only by working their network more smartly, can productivity increase. Often teams and employees tend to work in their silos and have their separate business connections and network. Imagine a situation where all these connections meet each other, which is possible through the power of the cloud. From an organisational standpoint, this widens their business ecosystem and as an employee, you can reach out to other people from your colleague’s network quickly and effectively for business purposes. Not only does this save the business managers time and effort, enhancing productivity, more importantly, it uncovers new sales opportunities.

According to Sansan Survey 2020, most Singapore businesses are still missing productivity and suffering from collaboration gaps. How do you see this issue and what’s your advice?

We commissioned the survey to understand the behaviour of business professionals in Singapore after they receive new business cards. The survey uncovered three gaps.

Firstly, even in this digitised era, 90% of respondents are not digitising all their cards. Secondly, more than half (52%) of respondents are still manually keying data into spreadsheets which is a massive productivity loss. Companies must certainly not overlook these losses.

The third gap is the lack of internal collaboration for business. Of those surveyed, only 18% are talking to their colleagues and exchanging business contacts. Interestingly, respondents who shared contacts within the company did more than twice the referral business than those who did not.

As companies look to explore newer avenues to optimise business, they must look to automate the way business connections are being handled within the company. By digitising business cards and putting all internal connections on the cloud, the company can potentially harness every business connection and employees can make use of each other’s network strength.

See also: Managing Communication Frequency with Remote Team

Businesses keep embracing digital communication as it is simpler, easier, and more effective. But the survey mentioned that “traditional business cards” are still necessary in the new world of work. Why and how is this possible? 

Research indicates that even in today’s digital age, the number of business cards in circulation is going up, not down, with 10 billion cards printed each year according to CreditDonkey. The significance of business cards as a networking tool is evident in the present day and age – we see them being exchanged as a conversation starter or an introduction, every day. It remains a norm since it represents a trusted connection made through a face to face meeting. According to our survey in Singapore, an average of 864 business cards were collected throughout a professional’s career, further cementing their status as an important networking tool in the new world of work.

In your article, you wrote that businesses are defining a new ethos of communication and collaboration. What do you mean by “new ethos” here? What and how effective are they to develop successful communication and collaboration in workplaces?  

The current business and economic environment are giving rise to a new breed of agile businesses in ASEAN and pushing the existing establishments to change. These agile businesses are defining a new ethos of working as they seek growth. They are looking for newer ways of collaboration, faster ways of working and constantly optimising work performance.

All of this has brought about a shift in workplaces and work styles, due to which the ways of communication and collaboration are evolving. Mobile and remote working is the new norm, and so is the emergence of integrated teams that work together across geographical borders and different time zones. Technology is enabling different generations of the workforce to work from wherever they are, whenever they want, and still be connected. This has led to a more productive workforce and higher performance.

As a leader who values a people-oriented approach, how do you measure the success of a collaboration with your team?

To enhance collaboration, companies bringing on a new tool or technology, need to understand what problem they are trying to solve and not just hop on the digital transformation bandwagon just for technology’s sake. Employees today have tools to help with everything from communication to engagement, but with the increase in workplace technology, comes the question of return on investment. Companies can implement productivity surveys before and after a rollout, especially among managers, to see whether the digital workplace initiative had a positive impact.

Face-to-face meetings remain important and can help instil a stronger relationship within a team. However, what is your advice for a busy remote team or leaders who have difficulty matching their timeline to have in-person meetings?

Regardless of the industry, you work in, we are all in the ‘people’ business. If you do not nurture strong relationships with your co-workers and interact with them often, you might end up working in a silo.  It is important to break down these silos for greater productivity.

For remote employees, video conferencing and data sharing are ideal ways for companies to improve collaboration. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, remote work has assumed an even higher importance. In these extraordinary times, the use of the right tools to facilitate communication and collaboration is a must.

As leaders, you must carve out time in your monthly schedule to meet internal and external stakeholders. Planning ahead of time will ensure you can do so. Ensuring that the leaders leverage best practices to personally engage, is a big way in which companies can facilitate effective interactions without relying on technology alone.

Read also: Achieving Success through Collaborative Communication in Large Team: Q&A with Arturo Arrarte, Head of Growth at Slack, Asia Pacific

Sansan Team

About Edward Senju: 

Edward Senju is the Regional Chief Executive Officer at Sansan Inc., a Japanese provider of cloud-based contact management solutions for corporations. Senju has also been a key contributor in the company’s growth and expansion from Japan to other parts of Asia. He is responsible for driving Sansan’s growth in the region, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

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