Jan 26 2021

Future of HR: Embracing Digitization and Disruptions

“Today, HR functions are tasked with the challenge of supporting their organisation in times of uncertainty & unpredictability. This new reality requires that the C-suite lean in to enable the reinvention of the workforce and workplace.”

by  Swechha Mohapatra, Head Consulting and Delivery-Digital HR, Hrtech.sg

It begins with “Purpose” ...but it is sealed in “Trust.”

2020 was an unprecedented & challenging year. As companies dealt with plunging demand, anxious employees, and unstable costs, it highlighted the important leadership priorities, trust & resilience, in the ‘new normal’ (ok so we may start calling it the NORMAL now as we have lived-and survived almost a whole year with what 2020 had to throw at us).

In the recently held WOWHR Global Conference where hrtech.sg was an event partner, Stephen Tjoa (Acclaimed Chief Talent Officer, ex-KPMG and Senior Advisor, Influence Solutions) spoke about how the pandemic has affected work, workers, and working life and what it means for HR in his session titled "Future of HR: Dignity, Diversity, and Development in terms of Digitization and Disruptions".

2020 is the dawn of ‘Trust Economy.’

Stephen emphasized that 2020 is the dawn of ‘Trust Economy’ (World Economic Forum) as remote working demands a greater level of trust and in the long-term organizations that cultivate greater levels of trust will be in a better place to thrive in this new era where trust becomes the differentiator to achieving success in business, in the people and community at large.

“Organizations today have put trust at the top of the board room agenda, it has become a C-Suite reality. People are demanding higher purpose visions to what they are doing whether it is about the environment or humanity. “added Stephen.

Aligning Culture and Purpose

Quoting Jacqueline Welch(Freddie Mac) he said “Culture is a living breathing organism. HR should endeavor to position itself as a thought leader, a guardian, and enabler of culture”. Citing the KPMG research, he added that over 61 percent of HR executives globally are currently in the process of changing their organizations’ culture to align with their organizations’ purpose. “This could also explain why, for what seems to be the first time, culture has risen to the top of the C-suite agenda (per 2019 Global CEO Outlook)” noted Stephen.

Source: KPMG Report “Future of HR 2020: Which path are you taking?”

Pathfinding HR organizations

As we move into 2021, Stephen highlighted the pivotal role HR must play by acting as a catalyst for defining the future of organisation in a changing landscape. As Covid 19 has tossed us into a pool of uncertainty, managing change has become an everyday grind and not just an operational consideration.

Source: Stephen Tjoa

HR must step up to be more strategic, data-driven, and become true pathfinders. Pathfinding HR organizations seem to show a pattern of addressing four discrete areas (shaping the workforce of the future, shaping a purpose-led culture, shaping the employee experience, and using data& insights to take people and workforce decisions) of priority and actions in this respect.

HR Driving Value in the New Reality

As most HR functions are struggling with uncertainty and complexity- to successfully navigate the crisis and shape the future of their companies- HR leaders need to create a cohesive employee experience in a remote working environment; encourage productivity and engagement among employees facing unprecedented personal and professional disruption and lastly, rebuild and reskill the workforce for a changing and uncertain future. This will ultimately enable HR functions to create business value not only for the people of the organisations but also help build the culture and overall purpose the organisation is striving for.

Source: Stephen Tjoa

hrtech.sg caught up with Stephen in an exclusive interview where we asked him about his thoughts and insights on the role of HR in the digital adoption of HRTech, the challenges faced by Organisations to invest in HRTech, and the trends that will be shaping in HR & HRTech landscape.

What is the role of HR will play in accelerating the digital adoption of HR Technologies?

Stephen Tjoa: It is clear we are at the forefront of change. We are at the crest of the gig economy. Work demands that we implement the future of work faster than we thought necessary, pre-COVID19. The management of the workforce will need to change.

The idea of the workplace has already changed with remote working being almost a norm overnight. Digital solutions will help the organization to better integrate people, processes, training, and other aspects in the employee life cycle. The only way we can meet the needs of these touchpoints is through technology.

 In addition, we will need to invest heavily in technology as productivity tools in the absence of physical engagement and management of our most vital assets – our human capital. The plus point is that we have a generation of digital natives now given that the next-gen worker would be completely agile and tech-savvy.

Why do organisations hesitate to invest in HR Tech?

Stephen Tjoa: Like in any investment, a clear ROI needs to be properly articulated. The leadership of any organization, for a start, must agree that technology is at the core of bringing about the New Normal in HR management. As in any change or transformation, there is always general inertia when it comes to understanding how technology would improve lives, predict success, and most importantly, impact the bottom-line. Given that most businesses have been negatively impacted by the Pandemic, the immediate reaction is to save costs. Apart from a company’s payroll, and possibly rental costs, the other biggest spend for many companies is on technology investments. I believe much of the hesitation comes from a delicate balancing act of managing needs and controlling costs at the end of the day.

How has the HR Tech landscape changed post Covid-19?

Stephen Tjoa: Post COVID19, the landscape would have changed permanently. I predict that the idea of the traditional office environment, physical staff engagement, and even, business travel will never go back to what we knew before. HR needs to continually find ways to recruit, onboard, empower, engage, develop, support work-life issues and promote retention innovatively. The part technology plays is in facilitating all these touchpoints in a typical employee lifecycle effectively, seamlessly, and quickly.

Technology will free up the HR professional to do what he/she does best – facilitating the human interface, solve mental well-being issues and bring about a culture of purpose and trust.

Workforce management, I believe, will be the single largest item that will be adopted by HR. Along with big data, self-service capabilities, and data-tracking technologies, companies will benefit greatly from HR insights which in the past would have been too tedious to extract, analyse and recommend.

How do we encourage HR teams to be more data-driven?

Stephen Tjoa: One thing we have learned from the Pandemic is having robust contingency planning. HR functions all over the world have been confronted with challenges on ensuring a safe and secure workplace. That transformation can only be supported if we are technologically prepared to navigate through the challenges.

Business and people challenges will remain central for organizations to succeed even when things return to some semblance of normality. HR will be key in driving change and behaviour. We need to continue HR professionals that their roles have enhanced greatly and that they are expected to do the following things:

  • Have all your HR data in one place including internal networks that are aligned to business outcomes and various KPIs
  • HR can help impact and optimize business planning, strategy, and execution
  • HR will need to leverage relevant benchmarking data to facilitate better objective and unbiased decision-making
  • Employ predictive analytics to effectively make insights more proactive than reactive

In short, if we had wanted to build a compelling proposition for data-driven HR, we simply need to move from operational to strategic HR inspire value.

How do you think HR tech will catalyse the quest for greater diversity & inclusion in organizations?

Stephen Tjoa: Firstly, building awareness of why diversity and inclusion is good business sense is the starting point. Secondly, there should be leadership sponsorship and support for a culture of diversity and inclusion. Finally, you can then identify the type of HR technology that needs to be incorporated to support this important agenda. Many experts believe that HR Tech can enrich the following for example:

  • Job distribution and candidate sourcing to cast a wider and more diverse talent pool.
  • Rewards and recognition tools that promote transparency of your entire workforce.

A “voice of employee (VoE)” platform which allows for richer or more diverse conversations around topical issues (it is especially important for companies who have prioritized purpose and trust on the top of their people agenda; speaking-up campaigns allow for greater engagement, sharing of views and generally, having a pulse on the organization).


We are in an era where HR functions are tasked with the challenge of supporting their organisation in times of uncertainty & unpredictability. This may seem a daunting task, as the new reality requires that the C-suite lean in to enable the reinvention of the workforce and workplace, but it also presents an opportunity for HR to prove its value beyond any doubt. To do that, HR leaders must move beyond just reacting to existing needs and start addressing future goals. Pathfinding HR teams & organisations are already leading the way through their ambitious approach to rethinking the future of work. These HR leaders are adapting to an ambiguous and unpredictable future by exploiting data and analytics to answer questions about future talent needs, adopting agile solutions to test new approaches, and rapidly course-correcting based on observed outcomes.

Stephen Tjoa is an Acclaimed Chief Talent Officer with 30+ years with KPMG, advocate for human Potential optimization, Senior Advisor with Influence Solutions. Connect with Stephen on LinkedIn

Technology vector created by Vectorjuice - www.freepik.com | Cover Designed in Canva

Swechha Mohapatra (IHRP-CP, Associate CIPD) is a Head Consulting and Delivery-Digital HR at hrtech.sg and has over 8 years of global experience in various Talent functions. She is a passionate HRTech evangelist, a member of the IHRP HRTech CoP Taskforce, and an avid learner who is certified Six Sigma-Green Belt with a background of MBA (Specialization in HR and IT) and Masters in Labor Laws and Labor Welfare. 


Shows only hrtech.sg recommended products

Subscribe to the preferred newsletter of HR Technology enthusiasts.


Ikigai Enablers Pte. Ltd.
#05-95, 18 Boon Lay Way,
Singapore - 609966

Follow hrtech.sg