"A key element of our success was ensuring that every employee was brought on this transformation journey," said Tan Lee Choo, VP, People Operations, Singtel.

At the Employee Experience Awards 2021, Singapore, Singtel received the gold award for Best HR Digital Transformation Strategy.

In this interview, Tan Lee Choo, VP, People Operations, Singtel shares the secrets behind this win - how the firm leverages technology to enhance its workflow and business strategies across all departments, and to better understand and support its employees - providing an employee experience that's one to remember.

Q Congratulations on bagging this award! What is your award-winning employee experience strategy that led to this win?

In Singtel, we are guided by the 'Amazing People, Awesome Impact' approach to shape employee experiences. Technology is a great enabler, and, in 2018, we set out to digitally transform the way our employees work, collaborate, and acquire future-ready digital skills.

We integrated technology seamlessly with our existing workflows to deliver our HR initiatives, such as harnessing data analytics to make the right people decisions and using a mix of digital learning and classroom sessions to equip employees with new skills. This way, we empower our staff to perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively so that they can focus on people relationships and other higher-value activities.

We also recognised that with constantly changing employee needs and expectations, the traditional annual employee engagement survey alone would not be sufficient to equip us with the insights needed to deliver a world-class employee experience.

As speed and responsiveness are key, we needed to rethink and redesign the way we captured and acted on feedback to better support our teams in this new environment.

Thus, in late 2019, we launched EXperience, a new internal employee experience programme with the aim of having an integrated feedback platform that can generate real-time insights to deliver outstanding experiences for our teams.

Q How did you and your team conceptualise and adapt this strategy to suit evolving workforce needs in the past year?

When the pandemic hit, we had already done quite a bit of work on EXperience and were well-placed to accelerate initiatives that enabled us to constantly listen, understand, and act on the changing needs of our teams.

First, we shifted from a static listening approach (a once-a-year employee engagement survey) to launching frequent pulse check surveys of no more than five questions to quickly understand our employee experience at a point in time. We also introduced continuous listening at key moments of the employee lifecycle, such as workplace anniversaries, onboarding, exit, and integrated feedback from third-party sites like GlassDoor in the platform.

With the insights we had gleaned, we were able to quickly act on the feedback to launch new services that resulted in positive improvements to our employee experiences. This was also made possible with the in-house data and digitalisation capabilities that we had developed over the years with our Future of Work initiatives.

Some examples of digital transformation in our processes include empowering leaders to understand how to best support their teams through data-driven insights on employee needs and well-being from regular surveys and data analytics and enhancing efficiency and simplifying processes by using digital technologies to make HR transactions frictionless for employees.

We are also engaging our remote workforce through collaboration tools and defining new ways of working to give them greater flexibility to balance their work and personal commitments.

Recently, we improved the onboarding experience for new hires by streamlining and automating processes, and providing greater support so that they can get off to a good start, and even launched an app just for onboarding!

Q What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

With the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote working, most organisations would have to rethink and redesign employee experience. We were able to quickly make the transition as robust digital platforms were already in place, coupled with a willingness to embrace greater agility within the HR function.

A key element of our success was ensuring that every employee was brought on this transformation journey. This was done by communicating insights to people managers, providing them with the resources to address feedback immediately, and sharing results with our workforce so everyone knew their voice had been heard.

For example, results from our first pulse engagement during the pandemic revealed that employees working remotely were facing many IT-related challenges. As soon as the HR team and management heard their feedback, actions were taken immediately to address their needs.

Later, pulse surveys told us our employees wanted to learn more about how to stay healthy, active, and positive. This led us to introduce health and wellness programmes such as fitness classes and mindfulness talks.

The transformation we have undertaken ensures Singtel can overcome the next big challenge facing HR teams and people leaders – building return-to-work strategies post-pandemic. The capabilities and skills that we have gained will help us to make data-driven decisions with confidence.

Q How did the strategy add to the overall employee experience in your organisation, in terms of ROI? Any achievements you’d like to show off?

Singtel’s HR digital transformation helped us to record our highest levels of employee engagement since we started measuring in 1998.

Positive results were achieved across the board, from an uplift in employee experience, reduced employee churn, and greater manager effectiveness scores.

It is an even more impressive result viewed in the context of a very challenging 2020 for everyone, and the fact we had just adopted an entirely new employee listening approach.

Q What is the most exciting and valuable thing about being part of (and winning at!) the debut Employee Experience Awards?

While a lot of the change and disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic caused has fallen on the shoulders of HR teams to manage, we have stepped up to deliver meaningful business value to our company. Our win is a testament to the positive impact that we delivered in the employee experience journey.

There will be more changes, challenges, and opportunities ahead as we press ahead with our employee experience strategy post-pandemic, and this awards event helps provide a forum for us all to share learnings and best practices.

Q Looking ahead, what else do you have planned as you continue to enhance the overall employee experience?

Singtel’s EXperience platform will continue to play a critical role as we design and improve our Future of Work initiatives. One key focus will be using employee insights to ensure our workplace policies in a post-pandemic world address our teams’ needs and expectations – from where and when they work through to our company culture.

Finding ways to improve employee mental health and well-being is another priority. Over the last year, creating a culture of belonging has risen to become the top driver of employee engagement based on our 2021 employee experience survey, and also greatly influences employee wellbeing and how long they remain at the organisation, so it is important we provide the right support and services.

As we hire new employees over the next year, we are also committed to delivering a great recruitment experience to everyone involved – from candidates through to hiring managers.

Q Do share some tips to inspire your peers who are working on their EX strategies and would love to participate in the awards next year.

For fellow HR practitioners rethinking how they approach employee listening to create positive employee experiences, we would suggest prioritising these four critical areas:

  • Ensure all feedback is acknowledged to reinforce that you are constantly listening to employees’ needs.
  • Be transparent and share results with employees, from leaders to frontline workers, to emphasise that their voices are heard.
  • Keep engagements short, simple, and visually appealing to encourage participation and better quality responses.
  • Involve all levels of employees in your transformation to drive meaningful and lasting change.

Q Lastly, to end on a fun note – if you could describe the employee experience at your organisation in one sentence, what would that be?

We have embarked on an exciting new chapter with effect from July 2021, and are now known as Group People and Sustainability (instead of Group Human Resources). We hope to work with our employees to RE-invent their experiences and REset for growth in this new normal.

Image / 123RF

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!