Trends and Perspectives on how Technology is Reshaping Industries & the Workplace

Innovation in technology and computing has brought about tremendous shifts in the way organizations and their industries are run. Today businesses no longer operate as standalone entities but are dictated by commercial pressure to either disrupt themselves or get disrupted in the process. Smart technology has evolved consumer behaviour in many ways, from orchestrating the way companies are built and sustained to acquiring talent, enabling mobility, communication, e-commerce, lifestyle and even entertainment.

The scale of industrial growth and digitalization is pushing for greater convergence among industries, a development that is likely to continue in the long run and engage multiple sectors. Today, online applications support multi-businesses on single user interface platforms and are cross-connected to portals and payment gateways that were previously independent. Technology and companies are modeling themselves to adapt better to this new ‘user-centric’ universe by rethinking talent management, leadership and key corporate goals.

The Propay Partners-Arvato Systems Malaysia panel discussion on ‘Convergence or Collision: Technology Reshaping Industries & the Workplace’ was a definitive take on how leadership and organizational models can embrace disruption across industries and support futuristic market trends. Organized by payroll and employee mobility solutions company Propay Partners, the panel was hosted by Arvato Systems Malaysia at their office in Jalan Tun Razak on 6th September 2019. 

In his key note as moderator for the event, P Raj Kumar, Managing Partner, IRC Global Executive Search Partners/CnetG Asia noted how technology was pushing the envelope on everything that used to be business as usual. “A successful business model is one that is targeted at what customers want. And that’s the reason why most organisations are having inverted pyramid hierarchies with frontline employees engaging customers. If you want to be an innovative company, you must first be self-disruptive, whether it’s your thoughts, behaviour or practice,” he said.

The Art of Thinking from ‘Outside In’
Panelist Dr. Sekar Jaganathan, Digital Strategy Director at Kenanga Group, Malaysia’s largest independent investment bank, opened the panel discussion by encouraging corporations to “think from outside in” if they were serious about serving customers the way they liked to be served. “Your processes at work have no bearing to customer expectation. You have to talk about what the customer wants.”
Rakuten Trade, the company’s online equities business platform with Japanese-based Rakuten Securities Inc. is the first broking firm of its kind to go fully virtual. Customers can start trading within two hours of signing up. The whole world is moving towards a self-directed business model, one that is non-negotiated and non-intermediary based,” he said. 

Dr Jaganathan, who also holds office as Honorary Advisor at Centre of Excellence for Artificial Intelligence in Kuala Lumpur, noted that insulating businesses from rigid structures, policies and processes was key to transforming organisations. “If you can’t engage with the people in your company then they are not going to champion your values to the customers,” he stressed. He also noted how empowering teams to make right customer choices, holding interactive sessions and prioritising service-oriented models could reflect positively for the company’s growth.
Leadership, he summarised, was always a job well done if one knew the kind of people one led. “Know what people’s passions are – not their academic qualifications or job experiences but where their talents lie. We have to nurture it. Sometimes talents outside your team understand your business better; it’s just that they don’t get an opportunity,” he added. A mindfulness practitioner and a meditation guru for the last ten years, Dr Jaganathan says mindfulness to people and their commitment enables them take ownership of their organisation. “It takes a good leader to really understand his/her people. It’s true that some youngsters don’t have leadership skills, but the real problem is when senior leaders don’t have it.”

Super Apps & Real-Time Problems
As Global People & Organisation Development Partner at Grab Holdings Inc., Priyadarshini Thillainathan upholds the same credo that 7000-odd Grabbers across 8 countries and 300 plus cities live by. “We solve real-time problems. Our approach to disruption was to change the face of technology and embed disruption both in our personal & professional lives,” she said.

Grab’s matrix environment and pace of growth has made it one of the most inspirational startups stories in Asia. Like other competitors, Grab, traditionally a ride-hailing app has now worked its way into groceries, food & express delivery, ticketing, credit, cash transfers, insurance, and most recently, healthcare. “At Grab, we are constantly thinking of disrupting ourselves before someone else tries to do it to us,” she pointed out. 

In the wake of expansion within the company and outside, the way the organisation deals with talents, performance and learning seems to be as innovative as its some of its popular on-demand services. Grab360, an in-house platform is a tool where Grabbers ask peers or direct reports or feedback thereby crowdsourcing performance reviews. “Like many fast moving companies, we don’t use KPIs as we work in a dynamic environment where we work towards achieving stretched goals. We instead, use Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) to set shorter goals that help us become more agile and learn continuously,” she added.

Grab’s learning opportunities focus on peer coaching and group coaching rather than long classroom sessions. “We use micro learning, workshops that are just half day and have bots that push out facts and nuggets in a timely fashion. That’s how we replace the ‘push’ approach in learning with the ‘pull’,” Thillainathan explained. With a good number of Millenials and Gen Z Grabbers at hand, traditional learning does not always apply at Grab. “We are currently exploring how we can help Grabbers to think about careers, like the GPS mode of travel - where can I go from here with the skillsets that I have? And what else can I develop to enable me to grow? Grab looks more at driving these forces,” said Thillainathan, who also designs Lego Serious Play workshops & is a certified NLP practitioner.

Challenging Traditional Ecosystems
Rahul Chawla regards innovation to be driven by changing consumer behaviour and organisational transformation. Industries are converging against the backdrop of an increasing desire to have everything under a single point of touch. As Director, SEA & Head - Malaysia, Human Capital Solutions, Chawla draws experience from human capital consulting for financial services and general industry. where his specialization centers on Performance, Rewards & Governance.

“From a technology standpoint, as well as a business model standpoint, there is complete convergence of industries. Companies like Grab and Alibaba value proposition is not in disrupting businesses but making lives easier for customers. Today, banks and retailers are coming together to work on a single platform enabled by a technology company that is built by product developers or specialists. This is an example of convergence. One would ask where collision happens. These platforms need cyber security and product delivery talent on a consistent basis. And where do they get them from? From the likes of Grab, Rakuten etc. bringing about collision and frequent talent shortage. Industrial ecosystems are being increasingly challenged and developed because customers want it,” he explained. 

Financial regulation, he added, also accounts for tension, which makes it a collision factor. The emergence of disruptive companies has resulted in tougher PDPA, GDPR, KYC compliances for tech companies now. Still, financial services are way more tightly regulated and have to comply with a range of regulations impacting their business and talent strategies. He also underscored the reason why digital companies were structuring its departments differently. “These companies structure their roles on people who are core to the business – those who bring in revenue, jobs innovation, support and ideas to their businesses. There are no pyramids; companies are disrupting their hierarchies. Compensation is still attached to the person and the value of the job. It is becoming increasingly dependent on market forces and what the customer demands. These products have short development life cycle. They just make products and move on to the next one,” he observed.

As a specialist in Rewards, Chawla also pointed out why rewards are an important factor especially in the Asia Pacific context where it’s one of the 3 or 4 key engagement drivers. “Rewards are an important process, and should not be mistaken as a business objective. It’s a consequence to an action, mostly KPIs. To satisfy shareholders’ concerns on making the business viable, companies need to have a scorecard on stretch goals that details, for instance, ways on how to make revenue from digital sources. In short, having a scorecard with respective models in place, and agile teams will help digital companies survive. Stretch goals require a big leap of faith and also require more payment to the people who perform them,” he concluded.

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