A study done by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney asserts that although the ASEAN region has still much to do to improve its innovation standing, “it has the potential to enter the top five digital economies in the world by 2025.”

In face of the push for digital transformation, with much of it being catalysed by the global pandemic and a need to increase future business resilience, ASEAN’s main challenge is to overcome “a weak local digital ecosystem.” But rather than be handicapped by this reality, Southeast Asian companies can work around it by accelerating their digital agenda where they empower it’s people with a sense of purpose.

People reforms first

This is something many companies often miss out on—they drive digitisation without looking at how they can empower their workforce. A classic case of putting the cart before the horse, this leads to a type of workforce whose obsolete skills and traditional mindsets only cost the organisations in the long run. Remember: When employees are imbued with a clear sense of purpose, they will have a better idea of how they can adopt agile attributes and enhance their career skills to help drive their company’s transformation.

That said, how can business leaders champion a purpose-driven innovation? How can companies align people agenda with their business strategy to foster a holistic digitisation? Here are ways to consider:

1. Make HR a change enabler.

The foundation of digital transformation involves a mindset reset. However, many companies make the mistake of introducing digital solutions without preparing their workforce for it. What’s needed therefore in today’s workplace is an HR that is far from being reactive—meaning, an HR that feels the urgency of upskilling their employees and that which takes the lead in de-hierarchising their organisations. Once employees realise the importance of digital in improving their career prospects, it becomes easier for them to drive pockets of leadership in the workplace and sustain a company’s digitisation efforts. Take the case of China Datacom, a mobile Internet service provider. Because of its constant push for a data-driven performance management system, it’s now able to see clearly into the career development of the company’s 1,500 employees, allowing its HR to act faster and support better business decisions.

What is needed in today’s workplace is an HR that is far from being reactive.

2. Leverage external partnerships.

There are a good number of small- and medium-sized Asian businesses that are poised to expand. These companies however can’t exactly afford to fund large-scale digital transformation because their resources are set aside to improve the core aspects of its operations. Companies in transition can boost their chances of digital success by seeking external partnerships that will hone a digital-ready workforce. The partnership forged between the ASEAN Foundation and SAP SE provides an enlightening example. Intended to create a positive social impact in Southeast Asia, the partnership seeks to equip youths with the skills they need to thrive in the digital economy, while allowing local enterprises to build their own capabilities. The partnership will also facilitate capacity building and workforce development programmes to build an entrepreneurial culture in Southeast Asia and scale up youth-oriented projects.

3. Create a new employee experience.

HR should cultivate a dynamic and collaborative relationship with its employees. Employees are the heart of every organisation, and it’s important that they aren’t treated as mere numbers. When you have a mobile-ready workforce, your HR is required to provide a smart and connected experience for employees. How can HR do this? By adopting data-driven solutions to improve talent recruitment, onboarding, learning and development, and even career succession. This is key to improving your employees’ loyalty. It also assures them that the company is ready to invest in their future.

Empower today’s workforce

Without a connected workplace, instilling purpose in your employees becomes harder to do. And this only leads to poor business performance. To correct this, HR must start becoming a proponent of change. As the most direct line to the workforce, it must hone employees who welcome digital transformation as an enabling reality.

Start building a digital-ready HR and empower your workforce to build a more resilient business today.