We live in a digital age, where data is stored and sourced for just about anything under the sun. From airline tickets, restaurant reservations, shopping, bank transactions, everything is just a click away, at our digital fingertips, completely pervading our lives.
The corporate setting is no exception to this phenomenon. And one department, among many others, that is ripe for the digital shift is Human Resources (HR). But how can a corporate unit such as HR be datafied?
This was the question posed by Dr. Reina Reyes, data scientist consultant and lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University, during the recent E-Talk session by First Pacific Leadership Academy, or FPLA.
First Pacific Leadership Academy (FPLA) is a corporate university that offers need-specific corporate programs focusing on Executive and Management Development, Human Resource & Organizational Development and Skills Development Programs. To enhance its programs, FPLA holds regular Executive Talks (E-Talk), a regular forum for corporate executives of the MVP Group.
On this particular E-Talk, the discussion focused on the digitalization of HR. At the event dubbed “CHRO: The Digital Workplace”, Dr. Reyes, was joined by chief HR officers Ramon Segismundo from Meralco, Ana Maureen Martinez from United Laboratories (Unilab), and Carla Lanza of Voyager Innovations, Inc., the digital innovation unit of the PLDT Group, who shared their companies’ distinct journeys to digitalization
With over 30 years of HR experience, Ramon Segismundo has witnessed how HR processes have evolved globally through the decades. The multi-awarded HR professional recounts how Meralco’s digitization was prompted by the company’s objective “to serve customers better.” In 2010, they recognized the timely need to transform the company and reach social media. Efforts to this end were jumpstarted with the introduction of the company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, which made them more accessible to their customers.
Dovetailing digitization with its vision projected for 2021: Bukas, Higit na Magliliwanag ang Pilipinas, Meralco embarked on its digital roadmap, which involved employee-initiated requests (using My HR Express, E-Recruit, and e-Wellness), HR analytics and dashboard (like HR Metr-O), elimination of manual transactions, online and real time transactions, data integrity and accuracy, end to end tracking of employee life cycle, and mobility (mobile workforce management). Performance assessments were streamlined through Gains Online, which set measurable standards for employees’ path to success.
As Meralco continues on this digital path, Segismundo recommends that other HR practitioners “not only go digital, but transform and disrupt like there’s no tomorrow.” He speaks of a disruption that welcomes the digital shift for easier management, measurable systems, completely transparent processes, and data that is readily available. And because HR people are known to start with a vision, HR should be the pioneering force to go digital.
“Be a digital champion,” he emphasizes in his presentation. “It starts with you. Sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.”
By way of introduction, Ana Maureen Martinez began by describing Unilab as a 100% Filipino owned private organization, which “exists to uplift the Filipino family’s quality of life, animated by the spirit that is uniquely Filipino.”
In managing human resources of such a heritage pharmaceutical company, Martinez positions the HR team to be strategic business partners by building a robust talent pipeline, advocating leadership development, implementing an effective performance management system, and championing a strong employer brand.
Even in the ‘90s, Unilab was already set to position themselves for digitizing data. HR analytics soon followed, and since then, HR has been a contributor of data for people who drive the business.
“Back then,” Martinez recalls, “a third of Unilab’s employees were resistant to digitalization. But now, with the employee population getting younger, more Gen Y, there is more acceptance of digitalization.”
Unilab’s digital journey actually began in 2001 with the launch of ULearn, Unilab’s online learning facility. This was followed in 2002 by HR Online, Unilab’s HR Information system. By 2014, the Online Performance Alignment and Management System (PAMS) was operational. And in 2015, Unilab’s Talent Acquisition portal was launched.
The journey, however, does not stop there. Martinez reiterates that for Unilab to fully reap the benefits of digitization, it needs to “pmprove work efficiencies through continuous process improvements, drive transformative learning through an integrated, multi-method approach, as well as enable data driven decision making on talent management through HR analytics.”
Martinez also remarks that as the corporate landscape changes, HR has to adapt. And in order to adapt, HR has to accurately analyze the landscape, embracing its role to improve work efficiencies while utilizing data analytics to guide the organization.
Datafication seemed to flow quite naturally for Voyager. After all, as Carla Lanza explains, “Voyager was already the digital arm of PLDT/Smart.”
Lanza continues that as such, all they needed was “to adapt and disrupt from inside and transform ourselves into digital.”
It was only a matter of refining the digital processes in order to enhance products and services. Thus, its vision was for the digital unit (which evolved into Voyager) “to be the preferred partner in digital life innovations.”
Tasked with delivering new income streams from local and global businesses, while being a center of disruptive innovation, at the same time enabling the PLDT/MVP Group with relevant digital services, Voyager launched products that rocked the digital landscape in many ways: PayMaya, Lock by Mobile, Lendr, G2P, PowerApp, Safezone, Talk 2, and Tack This.
Because Voyager wanted to be known as a great place for millennials to work in, its core values were streamlined to resonate with the pulse of Gen Y. Summarized as I CREATE, it stands for:
I – Imagine: We imagine the unimaginable
C – Customer POV: We solve real problems
R – Responsible risk-taking: We do not fear failure
E – Engagement: We are always on the ball
A – Agility: We are very quick to act
T – Teamwork: We win together
E – Excellence: We keep raising the bar
Having this context in mind, Lanza says the company’s digital systems focused on Talent Acquisition, Talent Rewards, Talent Engagement, and Talent Development.
High Tech vs High Touch
Picking up the thread of her discussion, Dr. Reyes says that there are now a great number of tools that can revolutionize digitization of HR, particularly in the areas of professional networks, skills assessment, decision making, talent analytics, and promotion and career path facilitation.
Yet on the other end of the spectrum, quite opposite from all these tools and processes, HR is known to be a department that holds “gut feel” as equally valuable as scientific data. How, then, will HR maintain a balance between high tech and their high touch qualities? Does datafication complement HR subjectivity and vice versa?
All the HR professionals pause to ponder. For Segismundo, “You look at the data but check your intuition.” Martinez expounds, “Data gives you figures. But when asking why, better with asking questions in order to get all the info.” Lanza states, “Data confirms gut feel; each should support the other.”
And Dr. Reyes concludes: “Gut feel is developed from years of experience, and this is actually data.”