'I try to spend time on always keeping up with what's new'

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Many HR practitioners may be ready to embrace new technology, but given limited knowledge and infinite choices of solutions they may end up holding back for fear of wasting valuable resources.

Indeed, at least 45% of employers are definitely keen to adapt new technologies, but are often unable to due to a number of factors, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.

Dow Chemical Pacific provides wholesale and distribution of chemicals and allied products for various industries such as construction, energy, packing and healthcare.

Butch Clas, HR director for SEA and ANZ at Dow Chemical, told HRD that there are multiple challenges he has seen/encountered in dealing with HR tech.

“One of the challenges that we’ve had is – it’s interesting, because I haven’t heard of many companies doing this – we tried to go to a global payroll solution. We’ve had a few stumbles, [and] we’re still not where we want to be on that,” said Clas.

“We have a range of payroll providers and solutions right now. We’d like to think that HR tech should be an enabler, to make things simpler and easier. But sometimes when you implement large ERP systems, what you find out is, there’s a lot of work that goes behind the scenes.”

Another challenge they’ve found is around being a chemical company that has complicated shift patterns, because plants are running 24/7.

Clas said there are a lot of rules around things like, when do people work, how do you pay them overtime, what kind of allowances they get, etc.

“We’ve been trying to automate more, to have a time and attendance management system that would do all that, and that’s part of our HR Next Gen project,” said Clas.

“But sometimes the solutions I’ve seen really aren’t there yet. Even though we’re ready for the next step and we’re ready to define what the rules are, sometimes the technology is not quite where it needs to be right now.

Clas added that sometimes it’s because of the complexity of the business, or certain things that make it difficult to take it to the next level in digitalisation and become more automated and user-friendly.

“The problem is if you’re working in 70-80 countries, it could be you have even more than 70 to 80 potential solutions; sometimes it’s site-driven, sometimes it’s country-driven, and sometimes, the solutions out there aren’t really set up for that, even though they’re trying to get there.”

Clas provides three essential tips for those starting out on their digital journey.

Embrace the change. “It depends on the size of the organisation – if I’m looking at big organisations, I don’t think the HR folks have a choice. Practitioners are going to have to get ready for the change, because the fact is analytics and new platforms are becoming the norm, and I think if you don’t keep up with that, you’re going to become obsolete.”

Step back and assess what you can do better. “Even for an SME with limited resources, you’re trying to look at how you can do things better and more effectively, and that’s just a matter of surviving and keeping up. There are a lot of tools out there on productivity, and I do think with cloud-based solutions, we’re going to see more and more of that as time goes on.”

Networking pays dividends. “Networking with other HR practitioners is a good way to try and be aware of the current environment. One thing I try to spend time on is always to keep up with what’s new, keep my HR skillset up to date, [and consider] what kind of things should I be thinking about. Sometimes you may have to sell it to the owner or to the business, and you’ve got to be proactive in doing that, because if you don’t, somebody else will come along, and you can become obsolete.

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