New approaches to people oriented human resource management


People-centric logo: The Chinese character for ‘people’, rén, dominates the entrance to its office.

 

The growing usage of technology can help human resource achieve better performance

IT IS often said that managing people is a combination of art and science. But the increasing dominance of technology in workplaces opens up a new perspective and opportunities in how organisations most valuable resource – its human capital – is being employed.

One of the most obvious changes that can be observed among employers, says Accendo HR Solutions group chief executive officer Sharma KSK Lachu, is the realisation that maintaining the traditional functions of the human resource (HR) department – such as processing payroll and employees’ rosters – is not the way forward to excel in the digital age.

New approaches emphasising efficiencies and talent development are needed to excel in people management, he adds.

“The process of recruiting, retaining and developing talents within organisations has to be changed to meet the expectation of both employers and employees, which in turn could help translate into outstanding performance standards,” he says.

Sharma notes that rich data insights are the best tool to help organisations deliver more engaging content and meet growing customer expectations for highly relevant and targeted information in the workplace. He calls it the democratisation of data and information to help workplaces function more efficiently. This could also help employees lead a more satisfactory work life as functions and responsibilities can be streamlined with the help of data, enabling them to focus on higher-level work.

Bigger reach: Sharma says the company is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries.

Bigger reach: Sharma says the company is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries.

Today’s workforce is different. There needs to be more incentive for employees to stay on in their jobs.

Citing the example of his own father, who stayed with a single company throughout his entire working life, Sharma says it would be a wonder for organisations today to have employees who would dedicate their entire working life to a single entity without asking much in return.

“He never complains about the lack of a pay raise, promotion or other perks from the management. But today’s working adults, especially the gen-Y and -Z, don’t share such values anymore,” he says.

Accendo relies heavily on technology, data and behavioural sciences in its approach to providing the right HR solutions for its clients to manage their manpower. The consultancy company is currently developing several tools, including artificial intelligence (AI) and HR management systems, for its corporate clients.

However, Accendo, which specialises in services such as talent acquisition, performance management, talent analytic and secession planning, puts the human element on the forefront of how organisations’ HR should function.

Technologies and people form the backbone of Accendo. A walk into its corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire. But a reminder that people comes before technology is apparent in the form of a corporate logo, Rén – the Chinese character for ‘people’ – which dominates the entrance to its office.

Talent development: Accendo’s team consists of people with various skills to support client’s human resource needs.
 Talent development: Accendo’s team consists of people with various skills to support client’s human resource needs.

New HR challenges

There is a need for a sharper and faster decision-making process, and the HR department has to be equipped to handle this. The aim is to help them to understand and grow their employees. This includes helping people who are pursuing career development opportunities at every age and are working longer than ever before.

Individual business leaders as well as business units should be looking at HR to provide support and strategic advice on everything from upskilling, motivating employees and future workforce planning to managing multiple generations of employees under one roof.

Therefore, specific solutions that are tailor-made and offer personalised learning opportunities for employees of all types will become the norm.

“Many organisations today still view manpower as a tool to maximise profit. But our mission is to promote a culture where companies develop the talents of their employees to contribute towards the growth of the company.

“We have turned down projects worth millions of ringgit because of the different viewpoint on how to develop and maximise the potential of employees. For us, our clients have to share our values, which is about organisations allowing their employees to own their career. We developed processes that would enable organisations to understand their people, and help develop their skills,” says Sharma.

Casual space: Accendos corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire.
Casual space: Accendos corporate office gives you the feel of a tech startup with open spaces and programmers in casual attire.

Prior to his return from Sydney, Australia, where he had his start in the HR industry, Sharma was exposed to how technology and data science could help in efficient decision-making processes.

One of his motivations to move back home 10 years ago to start his own business here was partly to prove a point that developing technology-based HR solutions using data science can be done successfully in Malaysia.

Founded in 2009, Accendo is majority-owned by Sharma, while his two other co-founders have minority interests in the company. The company has morphed from being a HR solutions provider to an integrated HR consulting company with their own their technology solutions.

It has since recorded an impressive growth rate and is now considering strategic partnership with either a financial or strategic investor as it seeks to scale up its operations internationally and fund its technology research and development.

Sharma says it is also looking at expanding into other Asean countries, as this region could benefit from data science.

As the profile and success of Accendo increase, the company has been attracting potential investors and is receiving an average of about one investor approach per month. It has held talks with one potential strategic investor but has not reached any agreement as yet, he says.

Accendo, however, will only consider an investor who shares the company’s values, in which human capital is considered as an asset to be developed and not as a commodity to be used in achieving corporate financial goals, Sharma adds.

A help mate: Amid concerns over the rise of technological unemployment, machines can help people work better. – Bloomberg
A help mate: Amid concerns over the rise of technological unemployment, machines can help people work better. – Bloomberg

It has not seriously engaged with any party currently, but will do so if the right strategic or financial investor comes along.

The timing of a potential listing will also depend on the company’s capital requirements. Sharma says the company has been preparing for a possible listing by 2020, including making sure its financial reporting standards and company’s organisation structures are in line with that of a public company.

The majority of the company’s tech talents are local, but the company will not shy away from hiring foreign talents if necessary. Accendo currently has around 35 full-time staff members, but this will grow to over 50 by year-end as the company plans to hire more AI and other tech-related personnel, says Sharma.

Accendo is expected to record more than RM20mil of revenue this year. It has recorded an annual growth rate of 40% to 45% since it restructured its business model four years ago.

Its corporate clients include some of the most recognisable brand names in the market such as Astro

image: https://cdn.thestar.com.my/Themes/img/chart.png
, Maybank, KPMG, Nestlé, Bursa Malaysia and other financial institutions and large multinational corporations in Malaysia.

In the longer term, Sharma says Accendo aims to be the platform for all things related to work technologies and solutions, from HR staffing technologies to meeting specific needs and reinventing performance in the workplace for optimum efficacy and maximum success. – by C. H.Goh, The Star
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Jack Ma’s Alibaba to take on Kuala Lumpur’s traffic Artificial Intellligence project


Alibaba Cloud, which set up a datacentre in Malaysia last year, is considering a second one to further develop a local ecosystem, its president Simon Hu said. — Reuters

 

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KUALA LUMPUR: Alibaba Group will set up a traffic control system harnessing artificial intelligence for Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, its first such service outside China, as the e-commerce giant pushes to grow its cloud computing business.

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, said on Monday it plans to make live traffic predictions and recommendations to increase traffic efficiency in Kuala Lumpur by crunching data gathered from video footage, traffic bureaus, public transportation systems and mapping apps.

It is partnering with state agency Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and the Kuala Lumpur city council to roll out the technology, which would be localised and integrated with 500 inner city cameras by May.

The partnership comes after Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak launched an “e-hub” facility last year, part of an initiative aimed at removing trade barriers for smaller firms and emerging nations.

Alibaba Cloud, which set up a data centre in Malaysia last year, is considering a second one to further develop a local ecosystem, its president Simon Hu said on Jan 29.

He declined to elaborate on the company’s total investments made and planned for in Malaysia, but said it was “no small amount” and that the investments would continue if there was demand for cloud computing technologies.

MDEC’s chief executive officer Yasmin Mahmood said there was no estimate of City Brain’s impact on traffic in Kuala Lumpur yet. The traffic management system in the Chinese city of Hangzhou had resulted in reports of traffic violations with up to 92% accuracy, emergency vehicles reaching their destinations in half the time and overall increase in traffic speed by 15%.

Najib has forged close ties with China in recent years. Last year, the Malaysian leader announced a slew of infrastructure projects, many funded by China, as he worked up momentum towards a general election he must call by the middle of this year. — Reuters

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Goodbye, Silicon Valley


Greener pastures: Wang at his company’s headquarters in Shanghai. The successful Silicon Valley alumni was lured
back to China by the promise of a brighter future.

Chinese-born talents are abandoning California for riches back home with the rise of China’s new titans.

A FEW years ago, Wang Yi was living the American dream. He had graduated from Princeton, landed a job at Google and bought a spacious condo in Silicon Valley.

But one day in 2011, he sat his wife down at the kitchen table and told her he wanted to move back to China. He was bored working as a product manager for the search giant and felt the pull of starting his own company in their homeland.

It wasn’t easy persuading her to abandon balmy California for smog-choked Shanghai.

“We’d just discovered she was pregnant,” said Wang, now 37, recalling hours spent pacing their apartment. “It was a very uneasy few weeks before we made our decision, but in the end she came around.”

His bet paid off: his popular English teaching app Liulishuo or LingoChamp raised US$100mil (RM397mil) in July, putting him in the growing ranks of successful Silicon Valley alumni lured back to China by the promise of a brighter future. His decision is emblematic of an unprecedented trend with disquieting implications for Valley stalwarts from Facebook Inc to Alphabet Inc’s Google.

US-trained Chinese-born talent is becoming a key force in driving Chinese companies’ global expansion and the country’s efforts to dominate next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. Where college graduates once coveted a prestigious overseas job and foreign citizenship, many today gravitate towards career opportunities at home, where venture capital is now plentiful and the government dangles financial incentives for cutting-edge research.

“More and more talent is moving over because China is really getting momentum in the innovation area,” said Ken Qi, a headhunter for Spencer Stuart and leader of its technology practice.

“This is only the beginning.” Chinese have worked or studied abroad and then returned home long enough that there’s a term for them – “sea turtles”. But while a job at a US tech giant once conferred near-unparalleled status, homegrown companies – from giants like Tencent Holdings Ltd to up-and-comers like news giant Toutiao – are now often just as prestigious. Baidu Inc – a search giant little-known outside of China – convinced ex-Microsoft standout Qi Lu to helm its efforts in AI, making him one of the highest-profile returnees of recent years.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s coming-out party was a catalyst. The e-commerce giant pulled off the world’s largest initial public offering in 2014 – a record that stands – to drive home the scale and inventiveness of the country’s corporations.

Alibaba and Tencent now count among the 10 most valuable companies in the world, in the ranks of Amazon.com Inc and Facebook.

Chinese venture capital rivals the United States: three of the world’s five most valuable startups are based in Beijing, not California.

Tech has supplanted finance as the biggest draw for overseas Chinese returnees, accounting for 15.5% of all who go home, according to a 2017 survey of 1,821 people conducted by think-tank Centre for China & Globalisation and jobs site Zhaopin.com. That’s up 10% from their last poll, in 2015.

Not all choose to abandon the Valley. Of the more than 850,000 AI engineers across America, 7.9% are Chinese, according to a 2017 report from LinkedIn.

That naturally includes plenty of ethnic Chinese without strong ties to the mainland or any interest in working there. However, there are more AI engineers of Chinese descent in the United States than there are in China, even though they make up less than 1.6% of the American population.

Yet the search for returnees has spurred a thriving cottage industry.

In WeChat and Facebook cliques, headhunters and engineers from the diaspora exchange banter and animated gifs.

Qi watches for certain markers: if you’ve scored permanent residency, are childless or the kids are prepping for college, expect a knock on your digital door.

Jay Wu has poached over 100 engineers for Chinese companies over the past three years. The co-founder of Global Career Path ran online communities for students before turning it into a career. The San Francisco resident now trawls more than a dozen WeChat groups for leads.

“WeChat is a good channel to keep tabs on what’s going on in the circle and also broadcast our offline events,” he said.

Ditching Cupertino or Mountain View for Beijing can be a tough sell when China’s undergoing its harshest Internet crackdown in history. But its tech giants hold three drawcards: faster growth in salaries, opportunity and a sense of home.

China’s Internet space is enjoying bubbly times, with compensation sometimes exceeding American peers’. One startup was said to have hired an AI engineer for cash and shares worth as much as US$30mil (RM119mil) over four years.

For engineers reluctant to relinquish American comforts, Chinese companies are going to them. Alibaba, Tencent, Uber-slayer Didi Chuxing and Baidu are among those who have built or are expanding labs in Silicon Valley.

Career opportunities, however, are regarded as more abundant back home. While Chinese engineers are well represented in the Valley, the perception is that comparatively fewer advance to the top rungs, a phenomenon labelled the “Bamboo Ceiling”.

“More and more Chinese engineers who have worked in Silicon Valley for an extended period of time end up finding it’s much more lucrative for them career-wise to join a fast-rising Chinese company,”

says Hans Tung, a managing partner at venture firm GGV who’s organised events to poach talent.

“At Google, at LinkedIn, at Uber, at AirBnB, they all have Chinese engineers who are trying to figure out ‘should I stay, or should I go back’.”

More interesting than prospects for some may be the sheer volume of intimate data available and leeway to experiment in China.

Tencent’s WeChat, built by a small team in months, has become a poster-child for in-house creative licence.

Modern computing is driven by crunching enormous amounts of data, and generations of state surveillance has conditioned the public to be less concerned about sharing information than Westerners.

Local startup SenseTime for instance has teamed with dozens of police departments to track everything from visages to races, helping the country develop one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance machines.

China’s 751 million Internet users have thus become a massive petri dish.

Big money and bigger data can be irresistible to those itching to turn theory into reality.

Xu Wanhong left Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science PhD programme in 2010 to work on Facebook’s news feed.

A chance meeting with a visiting team from Chinese startup UCAR Technology led to online friendships and in 2015, an offer to jump ship. Today he works at Kuaishou, a video service said to be valued at more than US$3bil (RM12bil), and commutes from 20km outside Beijing. It’s a far cry from the breakfast bar and lush spaces of Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters.

“I didn’t go to the US for a big house. I went for the interesting problems,” he said.

Then there are those for whom it’s about human connection: no amount of tech can erase the fact that Shanghai and San Francisco are separated by an 11-hour flight and an even wider cultural chasm.

Chongqing native Yang Shuishi grew up deifying the West, adopting the name Seth and landing a dream job as a software engineer on Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

But suburban America didn’t suit a single man whose hometown has about 40 times Seattle’s population.

While he climbed the ranks during subsequent stints at Google and Facebook, life in America remained a lonely experience and he landed back in China.

“You’re just working as a cog in the huge machine and you never get to see the big picture.

“My friends back in China were thinking about the economy and vast social trends,” he said.

“Even if I get killed by the air and live shorter for 10 years, it’ll still be better.” – Bloomberg

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Chinese workers abandon Silicon Valley for riches back home …

China’s Baidu taps Partners for Driverless Car Project


Growth strategy: A fleet of vehicles equipped with Baidu’s autonomous driving technologies conduct road testing in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province. Widely considered the Google of China, Baidu is hoping research into artificial intelligence will create a new generation of products to help revive revenue growth.

https://www.bloomberg.com/api/embed/iframe?id=bf6ae8a1-432c-4499-a8aa-47932c408ae0

  • Partners include Bosch, Continental, Chinese automakers
    Company also showed off a voice-activated speaker device
  • Partners include Bosch, Continental, Chinese automakers
    Company also showed off a voice-activated speaker device

Baidu Inc has enlisted more than 50 partners for its Apollo driverless project, signing up major players in areas from mapping and ride-sharing to automaking to aid the Chinese search giant’s foray into AI-powered vehicles.

The program aims to open up part of Baidu’s autonomous car software in the same way that Google released its Android operating system for smartphones. By encouraging more companies to build products using them, Baidu hopes to fine-tune its nascent systems and overtake rival research efforts by the likes of Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo.

Baidu listed four Chinese carmakers, suppliers Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental AG and technology companies including Microsoft Corp. as part of the Apollo alliance. Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab and mapping systems company TomTom NV are also joining the program, which aims to get fully autonomous vehicles on city streets as early as in 2018.

Widely considered the Google of China, Baidu is hoping research into artificial intelligence will create a new generation of products to help revive revenue growth. It has a stated goal of releasing a driverless car by 2018 with mass production to begin by 2021, but some analysts believe its technology still lags that of competitors like Waymo. At a Baidu conference Wednesday, developers showed off the Chinese search provider’s personal assistant, DuerOS.

Baidu’s shares traded in New York rose 2.7 percent to $184.76 at 10:14 a.m. The stock has risen 12 percent so far this year.

The raft of Apollo agreements unveiled Wednesday at Baidu Create cover virtually every automotive field. Dutch company TomTom said in a statement it will help Baidu with high-definition mapping in the U.S. and Western Europe. Several of Apollo’s members already have separate cooperation agreements in place with Waymo and other driverless car providers.

“As we and our partners contribute to the platform in our areas of specialty, we all gain more, with the results far greater than just our own,” Baidu group president Qi Lu said in a statement.

— Bloomberg News With assistance by David Ramli

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