New technologies to assist SMEs with HR solutions
With a background in technology and data, Tho Kit Hoong wants to help humanise and simplify the HR experience and empower employees who he sees as a company’s greatest asset. As a result, he co-founded Swingvy, an all-in-one cloud-based HR platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
In this exclusive interview, Tho discusses the impact of new technologies on human resources (HR) in Malaysia. He also discusses some of the biggest HR challenges faced by companies today and things businesses can do to improve their HR processes and capabilities.
Digital technologies have changed the business landscape for everyone. Can you outline at least one major impact you’ve seen that new technologies have had on human resources in Malaysia?
Tho: Traditional job boards were ubiquitous to the job hunting and recruitment scene prior to the launch of our business. I won’t name the obvious players in the market, but essentially there was one major online job postings board for recruiters and candidates en masse and another that was and still is a more sophisticated social media platform, similarly for recruiters and candidates that tend to attract more experienced candidates and more established recruiters.
Essentially these are platforms to connect, but they’re not human resources platforms.
Historically, candidates went into a room and saw physical advertisements on a wall. While recruiting resources online have their place, there is a trend towards creating more holistic offerings that marry up the recruitment side of HR with all the other components synonymous with a human resources department. It was my frustrations – and the frustrations of my partners – that inspired us to create a one-stop-shop business for all things HR. For SMEs, in particular, it’s about convenience, expediency and cost-saving.
What are the two biggest HR challenges faced by companies today and do those challenges apply to all companies equally?
Tho: Change has become the biggest challenge affecting most companies today and it’s often the speed and the ferocity of that change that less nimble companies struggle to adjust to. We work very closely with Malaysian SMEs which make up around 97- 98 percent of all Malaysian businesses.
It’s the rapid uptake of new technologies that is a major challenge. I think that where HR is concerned, we’re usually not dealing with a product or service, but people – people are complex and come in many different shapes and sizes, with different motivations.
A second challenge is that SMEs that have say 10-20 people (even up to 50 people) often don’t see the value of having proper HR systems and processes, let alone a functioning HR department. Often, it’s pushed down the priority list, with business growth and other drivers taking precedence.
What are two things businesses can do to improve their HR processes and capabilities?
Tho: Always adopt policies and put them in place. Make rules clear to employees. Ultimately, this serves the employee in a guided way, helping to avoid bias and office politics. It’s when those policies are absent that issues start.
In developing our business model, we found that there was a direct correlation between actual business success for companies that had implemented and carried out properly communicated rules and procedures and those that didn’t. As harshly as it is to say, my observation is that SMEs sometimes don’t put their people first, but sadly by doing so, they can’t put their business first.
A well-oiled machine delivers the best results; if you fail to recognise your people and it will hit your profits. In today’s workplace, it’s no longer about how much he or she can make, it’s about how much we as a collective unit can make and grow together.
Companies are at their strongest, most competitive and most dynamic when their workforce works with synergy and efficacy – HR is the conduit that pulls everything and everyone together.
Secondly, SMEs haven’t adopted new technologies at the rate they should. Companies that use WhatsApp, for example, as their primary form of communicating may as well revert to the 80s with post-it notes, telegrams and other physical communique.
Technologies are readily available, but there’s a misconception that new technology is expensive and that’s why many back off. The prudent business manager would see that the initial investment in the right technologies will pay for itself many times over.
Early in my career, I worked with one of the largest companies in Malaysia. There was a massive HR department, but the lack of technology meant that most of the processes were ineffective, open to abuse, or more commonly, were twisted into obscurity. The spoken word and written note so effective in our personal lives need to be reinforced with something far more robust in our professional lives.
The ever-present ‘m’ word isn’t the only fly in the ointment.
There’s also the issue of familiarity — human nature prefers familiarity, but a changing workplace and the rapidly developing economies of the world demand that business leaders come out of their comfort zone and install the best and most effective HR apparatus for their company or risk being leapfrogged by an increasingly competitive business environment
Do you believe businesses are doing enough? Why?
Tho: HR personnel are not typically entrepreneurial by nature.
That is in no way a criticism; it is natural that what motivates them to take that career path is different from what motivated the business owner to start up the enterprise from the ground up.
It is incumbent on business leaders to introduce HR leaders to the technologies that are shaping tomorrow’s workplace and not the other way around. There are approximately one million SMEs in Malaysia — from micro family businesses to businesses on the cusp of exceeding their SME status.
What they mostly have in common is their hesitancy to accept new technologies. Paradoxically, over 7,000 SMEs use our HR services, but this isn’t a contradiction. If we look at the other economies of Southeast Asia, the adoption of new technologies – particularly HR technologies – has been stronger with a natural uptake rather than one that needs to be hard sold.
What I’ve found in my role as a public speaker and in the many roadshows I’ve been involved with is that there’s an assumption that the best talent will ultimately be lost to multinationals, and so an investment in people can feel like one of diminishing returns.
Our findings disprove this commonly held myth.
Moreover, we’re finding that employees are amongst the biggest advocates for their employers adopting new technologies. This is particularly true of a more tech-savvy younger workforce, keen to inject their energy and creativity into organisations that overly rely on antiquated legacy processes.
I think what’s sometimes surprising from a new employee’s perspective is that small companies of 5 – 10 people can have far more advanced technologies that their multinational rivals. Even if they don’t, being nimble is their greatest weapon in adopting new technologies without cumbersome paperwork and bureaucracy.
Employees can make a real impact on SMEs with their direction of travel, influencing the uptake of new technologies, and receive the recognition they rightly deserve as an outcome.
What next for the HR sector? Do you anticipate a rapid uptake of new technologies and digital processes?
Tho: Put simply, it’s about adapting HR processes for implementation across markets, keeping within the rules and regulations of those markets, without diluting the efficacy of the HR model. So, at Swingvy, we have developed processes that are bespoke to the markets they serve, adopting the best practices from each.
The challenge for HR practitioners isn’t in what’s next for the industry, but whether or not systems are in place to allow the industry to evolve seamlessly and unobstructed. We’re motivated by a passion to help SMEs save money and develop a more effective and expedient HR structure, and the future of our success lies in understanding the changing HR trends across geographies.
What tips and advice would you give to SMEs, in Malaysia and beyond, to help them develop cost-effective HR processes?
Tho: Don’t be timid about adopting new technologies that are designed to help simplify the organisation’s HR processes, because it will be worth every cent in time saved!
I don’t just mean my own organisation, but more broadly the investment in any technologies that have a quantifiable benefit to a company’s bottom line is always an investment worth making.
People are still at the heart of human resources and they are more complex than ever before in what motivates them, promotes them, manages them and progresses their careers. It is more important than ever before that HR personnel focus on the individuals that make up an organisation and spend less time on the things that can be managed by technology.
Tho Kit Hoong is the co-founder of Swingvy, an all-in-one, cloud-based HR platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). At Swingvy, Tho is responsible for business development, formulating business and sales strategies that drive revenue growth and further Swingvy’s overall business goals. Before Swingvy, Tho founded CSP Global Technologies in 2008, an award-winning distributor that focuses on cybersecurity products, solutions and consultations.
Swingvy provides a full suite of HR features on a mobile-optimised cloud interface, like managing leave requests, payroll, claims, and employee benefits. Swingvy serves over 8,000 companies and has offices in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Taipei and Seoul. Swingvy was founded by Jin Choeh, Tho Kit Hoong, Hyojun Lee and Jahun Koo in late 2016 with a mission to create a workplace where work empowers people.
Photo by Fox from Pexels
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