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Eswaran Nadarajah, human resources director at Club 21, shares how his passion for soccer got him into HR, and how he hopes the HR function will evolve with the help of technology.
What was your first HR job, and why did you choose HR as a profession?
My first HR job was an entry level HR executive role with a leading Malaysian telecommunications company in 1997. I would be lying if I said I chose HR as a profession, as my passion was to actually be a professional footballer, but that did not quite work out.
However, my soccer coach in university also happened to be the associate professor teaching organisational behaviour, so I kind of got influenced by him to join his class. I enjoyed his classes and started to enrol in more HR-related subjects, and the rest is history.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The variety that comes with the job; there is never a dull moment in HR. Engaging with different people every day or the same people with different situational behaviours. The challenge of trying to create a stronger impact on the business – be it revenue generation or cost management through effective HR initiatives – and planning, presenting and attaining management buy-in to change areas of work, roles and organisation structure, so we can stay competitive into the future.
Can you describe a regular workday?
My regular workday has changed since January 12, as we have just gone through a “rethink work” campaign using the full suite of Office 365. The only thing that has not changed is greeting our office security associate in the morning as I walk into the office. So my “new” regular workday is logging into the system to check my meeting schedules for the day and to ensure I have all the necessary information and details for those meetings. Next I check our internal social media feed for company updates and check part of my emails. I speak with my managers on their work progress and review and complete necessary reports.
I have lunch alone (unless I have a scheduled lunch meeting) normally to catch up on my reading, social media chat and online gaming on my phone. I visit one or two of our stores in the Orchard area and then it’s back to the office to complete all document signings for the day. As I am involved in several other ongoing “rethink work” projects, I connect with the various project stakeholders.
Finally, I’ll reply to a few more emails (they never stop!) and in between all these things, I also stay connected on our internal social media network and constantly post on both the public and private groups to keep information and communication flowing all day.
Can you tell us more about the “rethink work” campaign?
It is aimed at engaging everyone within Club 21 to think about their work and find ways to change the way we work to be more productive and improve collaboration for better results.
The first project we worked on and completed was a new performance management and reward programme for all management-level team members. The projects I am currently working on together with members from our MIS, L&D, merchandising and finance teams are various technology centric initiatives to better support collaboration, communication and mobility.
The second thing is integrating a leading visual analytics tool into our business processes and decision making. Finally, we are looking into reviewing and changing some aspects of our store front technology to reflect the growing trend of seamless omni-channel retail transaction, enhanced customer service and improve productivity to better manage the current labour crunch within the industry.
My primary role in these projects is to support the change management process as we change the way we work, and managing individual and team experiences during and after the change.
What is the best career advice you have received?
Job experience helps you navigate similar work situations better, but in this day and age where things change at a click of a button, similar work situations rarely happen and are more complex.
The key is to never stop learning and always ensure your skills and job knowledge are relevant into the future because that ensures better career progression.
How do you think the HR function will evolve in the next five years?
One thing for sure is that mobile technology will be more widely used to deliver all, if not most, HR services such as pre-screening interviews, onboarding, claims, payroll, benefits administration, training content and short videos and performance feedback. There will be less of a need to meet in person to get things done.
With this, the flow of HR information will have less friction, more real time and no location constraints. I can also see technology such as Google Glass or Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets make a change in the way we orientate staff, and things such as Apple’s Siri technology could allow employees to ask anything relating to work, such as employment contracts or benefits, and get answers without having to check in with a HR representative.
In short, I think technology will take away some aspect of the HR function delivered by a physical HR representative. This would mean a future HR leader will actually be an HR plus IT person who is working on technology that delivers the service.
Is there anything you feel HR can do better to play a bigger role in organisations?
I think we need to better equip ourselves with the knowledge to use various analytical tools so we are able to manage, explore and analyse data better. Once we have mastered this, the next step is to use the data to predict various outcomes for an initiative using multiple assumptions and to pick the right initiative with the highest probability to succeed.
As an HR practitioner armed with subject matter expertise, understanding of behaviours and data analytics, business owners and shareholders will seek you out more often to shape the business.