Embracing digital transformation

Top-level leadership is important for firms that are undergoing a digital biz transformation


THE make or break of any digital transformation begins with the need to manage and change the culture of the business itself, which often is instilled by organisation leaders.

Asian Institute of Finance (AIF) director Rajam Sega said top-level leadership is important for companies that are undergoing a digital business transformation.

“The catalytic role of human resources (HR) and talent management professionals in managing the changes required in employee mindsets, skill, and competencies will be crucial for future growth and success of the company,” she said in her opening remarks at the AIF International Symposium 2018 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The majority of speakers also seemed to agree on one thing — that organisations have to address the necessary cultural changes needed to shift the mindset of workers which will then allow digital transformation to take place.

AirAsia Group Bhd’s chief people and culture officer Varun Bhatia (picture) conceded that changes and adaptation begin from top leaders in any organisation, small or large.

“It always starts from the top, and what sort of leadership that is being reflected.

“Once the leaders begin to embrace the digital wave, like for an example, adapting a newer way of communication among their employees, then it goes on like a chain,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) on the sidelines of the symposium.

Varun said in AirAsia’s case, the group CEO Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes uses an internal platform similar to Facebook to keep in touch with his 23,000 employees within the company.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a 50-year-old or a 20-year-old. Once, you are in an organisation that is tech-savvy, you adapt and that’s how it goes.

“Through that, there will be no generational gap, because we have found ways to bridge it to stay abreast,” Varun added.

Varun said once a strategy within a corporation is set, the digital transformation will take place.

On generational gap, the AIF plenary sessions also touched on how to attract, retain and engage with those who born shortly after the mid-1990s — Generation Z (Gen Z), the youngest set yet.

Nora says an organisation has to be dedicated in teaching Gen Z to be agile and nimble

Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) group chief human capital officer Nora Abdul Manaf said an organisation has to be dedicated in teaching Gen Z, the “digital natives”, to be agile and nimble.

“We have to prepare them to thrive in an environment that is fundamentally altering the way we live, work and relate to one another,” she said.

Nora believes that new jobs have to be created to fit this generation of people into an environment that is rapidly being reshaped by automation and artificial intelligence.

“We are upskilling the previous generations to have the required digital mindset and to be on the same level of digital literacy with this new talent pool,” she said.

As for leading a multi-generational workforce, Nora suggested that insights into the differences among the generations can help Maybank better understand the needs and expectations of the company.

“Imagine the wide range of ideas and knowledge from a diverse group of people and how this can actually serve our organisation well and help employees excel in their work,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ascendance Sdn Bhd CMD Harsha Ravindran said efforts should start while the people of Gen Z is in the middle of completing their secondary education itself.

Being the only Gen Z representative and the youngest speaker, 16-year-old Harsha is part of Ascendance, a group that undertakes small projects in the big and challenging field of education.

“Not long ago, every company was talking about millennials and how to keep them happy. However, now the oldest members of the next generation, Gen Z, are beginning to enter the workforce, and employers will need to adjust their approach yet again.

“This independent, realistic and tech-savvy group of young adults wi ll seek employers whose culture reflects and embraces those viewpoints,” she added.

Harsha said as a Gen Z herself, she understands that people of her generation will likely see companies passionately upholding their principles and stand by what they advocate.

“When millennials first came into the talent sphere, they were derided with negative stereotypes, from their tendency to job-hop to underwhelming communication abilities, many feel their entrance into the workforce spelled its doom.

“Gen Z, like any other generation, is shaped by the culture and the technology that surround them hence, their expectation is everything in abundance and on-demand,” she added.

The team of Ascendance comprises four Gen Z aged between 16 and 22 who collaborated with the Ministry of Education in January this year for the “Ace It Easy” pilot programme.

The programme, involving nine secondary schools in Selangor, was conducted through a peer-to-peer guidance to engage students who were disengaged from being successful in school.

Harsha said the objective of the program the is to engage students who have the potential to succeed via a platform that could discover their passion according to their skills.