In recent years, digital transformation has been one of the game changers in the commercial world. A few years down the path of digitalization race, it is right about time for companies to take a pause and reflect on the learnings.

There could be a full range of people functions that a company can digitalize. Ranging from core HR system to talent management system, further up to applicant tracking system, learning management system and employee engagement app, and more. Prioritizing needs and knowing what solutions are available in the market is a prerequisite. I recall the time when such race began, much effort was spent shoulder to shoulder with vendors exploring potential options encompassing tailor-built, off-the-shelf, web-based, cloud-based, mobile app, etc as a digitalization solution.

Choosing the right solutions is not an easy decision, as we often faced with the dilemma of having too many platforms and systems to study and evaluate. On top of that, balancing the cost and return on investment, chasing and adapting to the latest and fast-obsoleting technology comes as another challenge by our team. We bear in mind at the end of the day, people are the heart and soul of Swire Hotels brand, therefore the ultimate objective of digitalization is to enhance team experience.

“We believe a combination of face-to-face and virtual team experience is an effective way to engage everyone and sustainable for the long run”

Pilot run is a good move

Imagine coming across an all-dimensional felicitous platform with robust functions that could potentially address your organisational needs. Now comes the question - how can you be sure that it will work for your organization in the long run? One way to take that trial is to start small with a “pilot” run in a specific point of a company, in our case a single hotel or a particular department. Take this as an example, we were looking for an e-learning solution for our team members recently. During the search from an array of e-learning solutions out there, we shortlisted two apps: one that allows self-created content, and the other that offers hospitality-specific content. We piloted the first app in one of our Chinese Mainland hotels and the second app with the food and beverage teams across our collection of hotels according to the learning needs of our teams and the features of the app. The pilot run serves as an extensive User Acceptance Testing (UAT) where we receive valuable feedbacks from our teams. It is also a good way to gain buy-in through testimonials from the team and potentially pave a smoother adaptation for the wider audience. In making sure the pilot run is effective, it is not sensible to just throw the app to our team and expect them to get excited about it. Instead it is a well thought process to raise awareness and interest through internal communication and fun campaigns, such as setting up games and competition. Monitoring progress and collecting feedbacks from time to time is also an important step to evaluate the app. The app may not turn out to be as magical as we thought, but staying objective, being open-minded and listening to feedbacks will help us make better decisions.

Why not utilize existing technology

Cost saving is often a common performance indicator of any organisation. While it makes sense for companies to go after the latest technology, why not utilize an existing technology that is already well-liked by the team. To make this happen, we need to think differently on how to make use of the technology to serve our purpose and how not to limit the work it can do for us. In a recent encounter, we piloted a new platform to enhance pre-on boarding experience for our new joiners. While users and stakeholders reckoned that the content was great and engaging, they also commented that introducing another new platform may create more effort to manage it and was costly to operate. Eventually, we decided to consolidate the pre-on boarding function onto our existing internal communication app which is familiar to our teams across all locations where they were able to roll out the enhanced pre-on boarding efficiently. We also introduced some e-learning tools and materials via the app by utilising ready-to-use post and video features. Thinking differently can start from making small changes, but we are confident it will definitely lead to better outcomes.

A combination of face-to-face and virtuality might do the magic

From what we experienced, technology is crucial in digital transformation but it cannot do the magic by itself. During the pandemic, technology has made meetings, conferences and training activities possible in virtual forms. The fact is, a number of companies have decided continue moving forward with virtual forms while others are longing to resume to the face-to-face norm. From a team experience perspective, a blended approach of online and offline components would complement each other. Our pre-on boarding experience for new joiners is a perfect example on how we have adapted the blended approach to engage our new joiners in both virtually as well as in person experiences. It starts with creating a memorable first day of work, welcoming them with a personalised gift based on the information we collected from the online survey that they fill in beforehand on the app. More personal touch includes the computer wallpaper changed to the new team member’s favourite idol or cartoon character and a handwritten welcome note from the team. Once onboard, they will go through a blended orientation with self-paced online modules in the first month and a face-to-face experiential learning workshop in the second month. Team members will meet our senior management in person or virtually depending on their locations and we make sure we work closely with the line managers to present new joiners with a fun and engaging on boarding experience. We believe a combination of face-to-face and virtual team experience is an effective way to engage everyone and sustainable for the long run.

Our digital transformation journey is up and running, and surely will continue. There are inevitably new challenges and opportunities ahead, yet by persistently reflecting, learning and thinking differently helps us keep going towards our ultimate goals – hopefully including some unexpected ones as a bonus.