“Human Resources isn’t just payroll processing. A digitally enabled HR department enhances employee wellness and develops people-based analytics that any CEO would find valuable.” These are the forward-thinking words of Shanthini Subramaniam, Head of Organizational Design, Development, and Talent Management at UEM Edgenta.
Based in Malaysia, UEM Edgenta is a regional leader in asset management and infrastructure solutions. Part of the UEM Group, UEM Edgenta employs a workforce of nearly 17,000 in locations that include Singapore, Indonesia, India, and the United Arab Emirates. These employees are responsible for creating and maintaining solutions for the healthcare, infrastructure, and property and facility solutions sectors.
Because of the nature of the company’s work, UEM Edgenta is constantly vetting and hiring new talent for numerous diverse roles. For the employees working in Human Resources (HR) at the company’s Kuala Lumpur headquarters, the result has been steady, time-sensitive work.
Over the years, established systems within HR had become inefficient. Departmental information was decentralized, and it was difficult to track document processing. To compensate, employees frequently worked overtime to meet deadlines.
“We have a lot of well-qualified people in HR,” says Shanthini, “but they were working without the aid of a mature platform.” As Shanthini stepped into her role, she outlined the improvements needed to optimize operations within HR. Her priorities included a unified departmental source of information, the development of a collaboration platform capable of cross-team knowledge sharing, increased productivity, and—most important—an improved employee experience within her organization.
Complicating matters, the size of the UEM Group meant that each department was run as its own entity. Collaboration with IT took time, and HR needed solutions fast. Shanthini needed to appoint a leader within her department who could identify key pain points and quickly develop fixes, armed only with the solutions HR already had access to.
Shanthini found her champion in the form of digital advocate and thought leader Dr. Esther Loo. Shortly after joining the team, Dr. Loo toured the HR department and took notes when she found an opportunity for digital transformation. “What I found,” says Dr. Loo, now Digital Advocate and Knowledge Management Head at UEM Edgenta, “was a lot of people working very hard to manually enter massive amounts of operational data. These were well-qualified people, but without a certain level of technology to back them up, they were always going to be limited.”
Next, Shanthini and Dr. Loo looked into the existing array of solutions implemented in HR and discovered that the company’s instance of Microsoft Office 365 was being underutilized. Excel, PowerPoint, and Word documents were being generated, but very few of the Office 365 advanced collaboration and automation tools were in use. Empowered by this discovery, Dr. Loo began working on a number of small digital transformations across the department, often using a mix of SharePoint Online, Power BI, and PowerApps. “I enjoy this kind of work,” says Dr. Loo, “because I get to go to the ground. I get to meet people, I get to hear their pain, and I get to do something about it.”
To date, 15 of these projects have been completed, resulting in immediate sweeping change for directly affected employees and a gradual yet palpable transformation for the department as a whole. This decision saved UEM Edgenta USD10,600 by preventing the need to buy an off-the-shelf third-party platform.
People data as insights
During the course of tackling digitization for individual areas of the department, Dr. Loo began to see just how much data HR was generating. This data, with proper analysis, would be of tremendous benefit to the company as a whole. However, the employees responsible for generating reports were barely able to complete their work on time, let alone deliver insightful analysis.
Data for HR analytical reports, delivered weekly, took employees four working days to clean, compile, and collate. “I felt like I needed to be doing analysis,” says Ahmad Marwan Abral, Human Resource Analyst at UEM Edgenta, “but I didn’t have any tools that allowed for analysis, and all my time was taken up with cleaning and validating data anyway.” These reports then needed to be delivered in multiple manually generated formats. In her first week on the job, Dr. Loo took Marwan and the other analysts under her wing. In an afternoon, she built a custom Power BI dashboard and then began training her team on the use of both SharePoint and Power BI.
Power BI now delivers reports directly to stakeholders in real time, customized by Marwan to the needs of each department. The transformation has reduced the hours Marwan dedicates to generating the reports by 80 percent. ”Office 365 has given me back days of manual working time, each week,” says Marwan. “Now I can refocus on analytics, strategy, and planning. I can work with our stakeholders to enact change within specific business units and create results. It has really saved my life.”
“My north star is our ability to change peoples’ lives faster,“ says Dr. Loo. “We can anticipate which individual is potentially experiencing a problem, and then we get to go and help that person, empowered by information that can cure their woes.“ One of Dr. Loo’s many modernization initiatives has been the implementation of a digital exit interview feedback form. Because this data lives in the cloud, Marwan was able to create a Power BI dashboard that pulls data and insights directly from employee exit interviews. Marwan can now analyze these insights and report his findings directly to leadership.
“I’m so happy that today I can share reports effectively and properly,” says Marwan. “I used to stress over data cleaning, repeating the cycle each month. These days I get to experience presenting my findings to top management, which has made me more confident in interacting with people, especially when talking about analysis and data.”
Seeing Marwan come alive as he adopted his new platform was a powerful experience for Dr. Loo. “I believe that’s what digitalization is all about: the human factor,“ says Dr. Loo. “It’s about supporting people to grow and keeping them happy. Because I enjoy my work, I really want everyone to enjoy their work as well. So if you can make a difference for someone, it’s a fantastic thing.“