Exclusive Interview: Timothy Darton’s Take on Creating a Rewarding Workplace Culture – “It All Comes Down to Putting People at the Centre of the Business”

March 4, 20168:13 am1408 views

With HR moving to the cloud and HCM tools taking centre stage to influence workplace dynamics and culture, the role of HR has evolved through time. Also the growth of new business models in the gig economy that offer non-traditional terms of employment, have presented new challenges to organizations to adapt, retain and engage key talent.

Through an exclusive interview with Timothy Darton, General Manager, Workday Southeast Asia, we at HR in Asia seek to understand how people-focused data can address complex business and talent needs.

For we know as Timothy rightly said, “With the explosion of data combined with the changing definition of a ‘worker’ and millennials entering the workforce at a rapid rate, there is a greater need for businesses to take a hard look at real data and understand who their employees truly are.” Read on…

  • Tell us more about the key trends that have influenced workplace dynamics in the recent times and how does this impact HR working? (Impact vs Action)

Three key trends are impacting the role of HR leaders in Asia. First, we are witnessing a growing demand for flexible work arrangements. Today’s workforce is increasingly comprised of the millennial demographic, many of whom insist on the freedom to work at flexible times rather than being limited to standard office hours.

Together with the growth of new business models in the gig economy that offer non-traditional terms of employment, this is posing significant challenges for many companies struggling to adapt to this new norm.

Savvy companies will adopt technology systems that can provide one view of the entire workforce – be it contingent or permanent, those who work standard hours or those preferring flexi-hours – and deliver insights to help keep employees motivated and engaged, regardless of geography or nature of employment.

Second, as businesses in Asia look to grow, retaining and engaging top talent is paramount. This is particularly pertinent today as companies face a skills shortage and talent crunch that’s especially pronounced in emerging markets.

As such, just as customer-obsessed marketing leaders leverage data to optimize the brand experience for individual consumers, HR leaders should apply personalized strategies for employees to create a more engaging and rewarding workplace.

Based on the vast amounts of data collected through advanced analytics, businesses can deliver personalized insights and recommendations directly to employees to help them choose their next career move or connect with others within the organization.

Lastly, in today’s highly connected world where it is getting easier to create and distribute content, employees are becoming a rich source of ideas and information. We will continue to see a massive focus on User Generated Content (UGC) in the workforce, signaling a radical shift from traditional command and control HR processes.

This content, from videos to online surveys, will take centre stage in HCM and learning systems, with a particular focus on sharing and greater engagement across the organization. It requires businesses to experiment with ways to help employees create and share quality content and insights in order to continually fuel collaboration and productivity.

Obviously, in places where many people don’t have an internet connection at home and rely mainly on their phone, the mobile experience is the key.

  • What are the challenges posed to companies with the changing definition of worker, flexi-work arrangements and new employment contracts coming to place?

The idea of a contingent workforce and flexi-work arrangements is beginning to gain traction in the region—in some countries more than others—forcing businesses to adapt their processes to continue to attract and retain the best talent.

Challenges include managing an increasingly diverse workforce, ensuring new HR policies are in line with other business processes, and most importantly, that business objectives are still achieved.

To effectively tackle these challenges, businesses will need to employ technology that delivers one complete view of the workforce, such that leaders can quickly identify areas for growth and investment – and assemble the best teams to seize new opportunities.

  • What are the challenges faced by businesses in Singapore and HR professionals in APAC to acquire and retain top talent, since the recent Randstad WorkMonitor findings reveal “optimistic job market outlook for 2016”?

One of the biggest challenges is the transformation happening in the workforce. With millennials making up a larger percentage of that workforce, businesses need to better understand what motivates them. What are their aspirations and goals?

Businesses need to understand that their ability to attract and retain top talent does not depend solely on compensation, but also on creating a sense of belonging to the organization, professional development opportunities and an overall rewarding experience that encourages work-life balance.

Yet, while millennials strive for work-life balance, what it means to them differs across Southeast Asia. A study by INSEAD’s Emerging Markets Institute, Universum, and the HEAD Foundation found that more millennials in Singapore tend to define work-life balance through the lens of how much leisure time they have to themselves in comparison to millennials in Thailand.

While in Vietnam, how many cultural and sporting activities a company offers determines work-life balance. As you can see, although millennials around the world share similarities, there are also regional differences to be aware of.

See: Are Global Corporations Making Enough Efforts to Foster a Culture of Well-Being at Workplace?

  • What are the personalised business strategies you suggest for employers to create a more rewarding workplace culture for employees?

Recognizing each employee as a distinct individual is important in creating a more rewarding workplace culture. We believe it all comes down to putting people at the centre of the business, starting with understanding their specific needs and motivations, and highlighting their unique talents.

Employers can begin with simple things such as acknowledging birthdays or work anniversaries. Another effective approach is to outline a personalized performance development plan. Identifying individual strengths and providing personalized feedback can speedup employee’s professional development.

Timothy Darton, General Manager, Workday Southeast Asia

Timothy Darton, General Manager, Workday Southeast Asia

Technology can help to drive many of these strategies. Workday HCM, for example, can enable employers to send direct feedback to their people, so that great work gets recognized in real-time.

  • Define “democratization of content” and how will this help effective HR management of key personnels?

Democratization of content is helping employees create and share their own knowledge with others in the organization. For example, there might be an everyday procedure that’s unique to your department.

Writing up a quick-help guide could take someone few hours, but it might only take a few minutes for a knowledgeable employee to record the procedure on her or his screen, and create a walk-through video for a colleague.

Embracing this kind of learning and sharing experiences, will help organizations support continued growth – thus ensuring best practices and key learnings are transferred to new employees, the company or the role.

  • With HCM tools taking the centre stage to manage large workforce, how do you think this can be harnessed to boost engagement levels within an organisation?

HCM tools can be harnessed to boost engagement levels in an organisation when they are able to provide real-time insights. Businesses and HR professionals need to be able to use their HCM tools not just to find out how many employees are working in the company, but to see the full view of the workforce from the profile and cost of every worker to their goals and performance.

With right people insights, businesses can have a better understanding on where the talent gaps are and, in return, better engage with their employees. Workday HCM, for instance, is designed as a single, unified system that covers all processes along the HR spectrum. It’s an intuitive system that unites all workforce intelligence such that HR professionals can get holistic view of their people-related activities.

  • With HR moving to the cloud and the ongoing debate, if private employee data should migrate to the cloud, what are your views?

Protecting and securing customers’ data is fundamentally important for every organization and yes for us at Workday. Privacy and security at Workday are not add-on features; they are embedded in our service and business model.

It’s important to note that our customers own and control their data. We only use customer data to operate our service and don’t monetize the data.

Each customer determines what data to enter and configures the applications to best safeguard their data, and can configure business processes to further safeguard the privacy of personal data.

  • With new generation of workforce soon leading the game and presenting new challenges to HR professionals, how can HR technology be utilised to manage multi-generational workforces to measure productivity and evaluate performance of employees?

With more millennials joining the workforce earlier and the older demographic remaining employed for longer, companies have to be adept at managing an increasingly multi-generational, and in some places, greying workforce.

By employing HR technologies that capture data relating to each employee, leaders can view employees as unique individuals, each with their own set of needs, challenges and even performance indicators. After all, what is a good measure of performance or productivity for one employee may not necessarily be as relevant for another.

With the flexibility to accommodate this distinctiveness, HR solutions enable leaders to manage their labour pool like never before. They can craft personalized strategies for each employee, to attract, retain and engage each worker differently, however effectively, by displaying a highly sophisticated HCM process that is need of the hour for organizations of today.

  • Explain the role of HR analytics as a key enabler for better decision making at the top.

HR analytics plays a critical role in helping organizations to make more informed decisions. Just as marketers are leveraging data to better understand the consumers’ behaviour, businesses also need to be able to read their HR data to determine what is actually happening in the organization and make better workforce decisions.

Whether it’s the case of finding out the potential costs of losing a top employee or who needs to be promoted, analytics can help to determine the best course of action.

Predictive analytics can provide even greater insights. Applications such as Workday Talent Insights have the ability to pull in both historical and external data, and with the help of data science and machine learning algorithms, produce predictive insights that are incredibly useful to the organization.

One example is having access to insights into who is at risk of leaving the company, which can help leaders take corrective actions to retain a key employee before it’s too late.

  • What is the future of HR going forward till 2020? What are the key predictions for workforce of the future in Singapore?

As Singapore continues its transformation into a Smart Nation, we will see more and more people and businesses empowered through increased access to data. For HR, this means looking at how people-focused data can address complex business and talent needs.

We believe data analytics will shape the future of HR. With the explosion of data combined with the changing definition of a ‘worker’ and millennials entering the workforce at a rapid rate, there is a greater need for business to take a hard look at real data and understand who their employees truly are.

Data analytics can help provide an in-depth overview of a workforce, from actual headcount to salary data to the trends that are causing people to leave the company.

Leaders can also use data analytics for more effective workforce planning – pulling in both internal and external data to understand employee movement and forecast future headcount needs. Companies that are able look at data in a holistic manner are best positioned to succeed in a Smart Nation era.

Also read: Fluff vs. Reality – Challenges to Establishing Healthy Workplace Culture in APAC: Exclusive learnings from Steve Melhuish

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