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Esquel’s journey to digitalisation

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Technology is impacting the workplace in every aspect, presenting a challenge for human resources professionals to keep their workforce up to date in today’s technology-driven business environment.

Bessie Chong, director of group training and talent management at Esquel Group, believes making use of technology to enhance the work process is more than just an enhancement in skills. A change in mindset is just as important.

Esquel employs a 56,000-strong diversified workforce and is united under the corporate 5E culture – ethics, environment, exploration, excellence and education. With exploration as one of the five key values, Esquel encourages employees across functions to make use of technology in their work and daily lives.

The “You Can Code” campaign was initiated two years ago as the first step for the organisation to encourage employees to embrace technology.

“The ‘You Can Code’ campaign is a good example to show how training and development is able to support organisational development and drive changes,” Chong said.

The initiative was recognised by the company winning three awards at the HR Innovations Awards 2017 organised by Human Resources for the following categories: Excellence in Employee Engagement – gold; Excellence in Organisational Development – gold; and Excellence in Change Management – silver.

Esquel is moving to Industry 4.0 and the digitalisation era. With manufacturing as its core business, the company is making use of technology to enhance work processes and increase productivity.

“We are not replacing manpower with technology, in fact we are encouraging workers to leverage on technology to become more productive. We want to transform sewing workers into skillful technicians.”

With this in mind, the “You Can Code” campaign was developed. Making use of App Inventor, an open source software developed by the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), employees at Esquel are trained as app developers.

“We are the first commercial firm to make use of the App Inventor software, a programme initially built to engage school children in coding.”

Knowing older generation workers, who are less tech-savvy, might have hesitation in learning the program, senior members of staff were among the first to receive training on App Inventor. They then became master trainers, demonstrating to other colleagues on how to use the app.

The slogan of the campaign is “If I can code, you can code too”. Chong said it was important for colleagues to have a change in mindset that resolving technological issues was not the IT department’s job.“We would like our colleagues to be the innovators of technology,” she said.

Two years after the campaign was launched, it has inspired Esquel employees to make use of technology to enhance their work and life. One of the most iconic apps, Esquel Carpool was developed by a fabric mill colleague in Mainland China.

The colleague, who is not from an IT background, would like to help colleagues get to work with greater convenience while reducing carbon emissions.

The app allows users to choose to be either passengers or drivers. Passengers can publish their needs to the drivers, where and when they want to go, or select the available seats the driver has offered. Using the carpool app, colleagues have saved time on commuting to work.

Within one year and a half year, the app recorded 24000 carpools, saving more than 18000 litres of petrol. More importantly, it has provided a platform to make a connection with colleagues from different departments and foster a caring culture as workers from different functions to get to know one another on their way to work.

“This is an example of how we empower our colleagues to be creative and innovative. This is a signal to the colleagues that they can come up with great initiatives to make Esquel as an employer of choice.”

The article was brought to you by Esquel Group.

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