Maximising human capital in Asian organisations

September 29, 2003 by SAP News 0

Bangalore, India
Effective management of human capital results in real business value. Rajesh Jagtiani says that an effective and tailored learning system can allow corporations to address regional needs on a country-by-country basis, depending on where their employees and business activities are.

Given that it is people who run businesses, then the smart corporation knows that the game in today’s ever-competitive market environment is all about the return it obtains on its people. Organisations around the world, and in Asia Pacific particularly, have come to realise that it is no longer enough to claim that they seek out and employ the best-qualified staff or that cost-optimised personnel management supports their business strategy. The future of managing employees lies in strategically identifying how to train, reward and deploy the best people.

Most human resources executives know that interest and investment in employees can yield multiple benefits, among them increased productivity. In fact, a 2002 report by Watson Wyatt World-wide titled ‘Human Capital Index-Asia Pacific Survey Report’, found that the better an organisation is doing in terms of managing its human capital, the better the return is to its shareholders. So it is clear that effective management of human capital does result in real business value. This is a powerful conclusion, yet one that rings true when you consider that the strongest companies are those that are built around the customer.

Other findings of the report revealed that within corporations operating in Asia:
* Great people management travels well:
Excellent people practices, including clearly defined total rewards and accountability, excellence in recruiting and retention and creating a congenial, flexible workplace, is similar around the world, but with some important variations.

* Great HR can be Asia-Pacific’s competitive edge:
Returns on investment in an effective HR function are potentially greater in this region than anywhere else in the world. Companies getting those returns have both great people practices and a highly efficient HR function closely aligned to the business’ needs.

Training needs
The challenge for human resource executives however, is the pool of financial resources that they have at their disposal today that they can apply to productivity-increasing activities such as employee training is shrinking.

What’s unique about training or learning management systems is that cost cutting doesn’t affect the availability of training. In fact, learning management systems offer more training options, since their offerings extend beyond the expertise of in-house trainers. In addition, the software allows training managers to customise training pathways to the needs of individuals within the organisation. Companies can track an employee’s progress and better guide him or her toward developing the individual’s talents and skills required to be successful in a particular position.

This becomes all the more relevant when you consider the regional environment that Asian corporations and their employees operate in. The Asia-Pacific market is highly fragmented. It is a set of completely distinct national markets in different states of development, each of which has its own economic and cultural conditions.

Using an example from the Watson Wyatt report, companies in Singapore are the leading investors in Asian countries. Singapore is the eighth largest investor in India and the largest foreign investor in Vietnam. In 2002, it increased its business activities in China by 9 percent over the previous year, and it was also the largest foreign investor in Indonesia.

The report commented that the dominance of Singapore companies in the region made it “a treasure trove to develop human capital practices for Asia, and to manage and motivate a multi-cultural workforce or one of specific cultural background.”

Linking this back in with learning systems, an effective and tailored learning system can allow corporations to address these regional needs on a country-by-country basis, depending on where their employees and business activities are.

Furthermore, employees of a company all have different prior experience, and their future goals differ as well. They need learning management systems that cut out wasteful training that overlaps or is irrelevant. An employee working on new business opportunities in India will require different training when compared to an employee in the same corporation dealing with existing business opportunities in Singapore.

Flexibility and customisability
Learning management solutions provide the flexibility to allow training sessions to be adjusted to cater to the individual’s needs while also tying back into the main business goal of the project or job.

Learning solutions can also be customised for those employees who learn best by doing, as they can be supported with testing throughout the course. Learning management tools make training more efficient and accurate, saving money and time and translating to better productivity and a better bottom line.

Choosing a learning management system

In the heterogeneous Asia-Pacific market, corporations face a plethora of learning systems but the focus needs to be on choosing a system that can prioritise employee needs and seamlessly integrate with what is already available.

1. The first step in choosing the most effective and cost-effective learning management system is to assess the company’s needs and the extent to which training is already part of regular operations. Another factor is the shelf life of the learning or training content that pertains to the specific company. A manufacturing company that deals with semiconductors and ever-evolving technology solutions needs a learning management system that can change with the times. However, for less volatile industries where training sessions tend to remain static, less of an investment in course content functionality is required.
2. Once internal needs regarding infrastructure, maintenance and scalability have been determined, the search for the proper vendor begins. During this process, it is helpful to look to end-users-the customers who benefit from the vendor’s programmes. Besides meeting with vendor salespeople and discussing needs and functions, it’s important to reach out to customers to hear their point of view. This is where the details regarding costs, return on investment, issues and concerns will likely be heard.

3. Another feature that some systems provide is managerial access to review employees’ knowledge sets and educational levels, this is highly relevant if a staff member needs additional linguistic or cultural training pertinent to a particular Asian country. Companies can put this information to good use right away by assigning staff members to specific projects that utilise knowledge recently acquired through learning management system training. This relatively new approach allows employees to get the training they need, when they need it, and also plan their careers based on their skill sets and the needs of their organisation.
4. Many producers of learning management systems are taking training one step further, using it to educate suppliers, customers and partners, as well as employees. Web-based training is now being used as a customer service tool to train partners, suppliers and customers via a walk-through of new product or solution features. This approach can help suppliers, partners or remote workers stay on top of their field.

5. Finally, when considering the adoption of a new learning system, keep in mind that it’s not necessary to completely replace traditional training programmes. It’s possible to blend classroom-oriented sessions with learning management systems if there are parts of the curriculum best shared with a live group.

Companies in Asia Pacific are increasingly using e-learning to create innovative solutions outside of the office. Personalisation of learning management system is an opportunity to send the message that the management is concerned and values each individual’s daily work. Successes come from the ideas, vision and actions of the people who create, design and develop your company’s products.

Empowered, better-trained employees improve the business and are in a better position to understand the environment they are operating in, especially one as diverse as the Asia Pacific. Learning management systems can not only facilitate that, but they can indisputably contribute to the bottom line.

Rajesh Jagtiani – Solution Manager-HCM, SAP India