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29 - 31 May 2024
Singapore Expo

Is Tech The Cause of Workforce Problems?

11 October 2022

Working from home helped employees to become more efficient than before, with reduction in commute times and better work/ life balance. But is technology helping people work better together or become increasingly disconnected?

At Asia Tech x Singapore 2022 we heard from Girish Ramachandran, President, Asia Pacific for Tata Consultancy Services, Anna Gong, Founder and CEO, Perx Technologies, Frank Koo, Head of Asia, Talent and Learning Solutions, LinkedIn.  They spoke at the ATxEnterprise Headliners, sharing their insights on the new dynamic of talent in Asia.

Two years ago, workplaces were overturned as pandemic disruptions set-in. Almost overnight, businesses scrambled to transition from on-site to remote and flexible ways of working. It also led to rapid adoption of cloud technologies to support remote working as well as safeguard business resilience.

However, over this time we’ve also seen other workforce trends set-in including The Great Resignation, a global talent shortage, and hybrid work becoming mainstream.  It has also become clear that employees are firmly in the driving seat when choosing who they want to work for, how they want to work, and where they want to be located. Forward-thinking businesses have had to respond to these evolving behavioural shifts by changing organisational models and retain key talent. For instance, companies like Airbnb have adopted a permanent remote working policy and warned that those who don’t embrace this change are at a disadvantage, particularly when it comes to talent sourcing.

“The world has faced a talent shortage for a number of reasons, including constricted mobility of talent due to border closures,” says Girish. “But I truly don’t believe that recruitment should be restricted to one location. We can have far greater access if we look at talent as a global market, not just local.”

Frank says that although there’s been three times more outreach to jobseekers on LinkedIn, there are fewer jobseekers applying for roles. “For jobs with very specific skills, there are plenty of job offers currently, but there is continuous disruption in the marketplace. As a result, huge premiums are attached to top talent with very special skills sets but jobseekers are still more choosy. They want jobs in organisations with values aligned to their own.”

He adds that a common thread among organisations across the globe is that leaders increasingly have a  sense of humility and authenticity, and are willing to experiment with agile practices amid  changing workforce expectations. “Even though there can be holdback by some management cultures, most are taking this approach to disrupt themselves and survive long-term.”

Anna agrees, saying that in the face of a tech crunch, it’s particularly essential to repurpose talent. “As a startup, we went from having an office to fully remote. As a diverse organisation, we had to look beyond borders for a bigger talent team.”

Fostering inclusivity in a remote work environment 

While working from home has become standard practice, there are also concerns that it doesn’t help create a sense of inclusivity or belonging. This can be particularly true for employees who are new to an established organisation, or were hired during pandemic lockdowns and never been on-site, and not physically participated in team building activities. Operating remotely has also brought challenges for roles that were customer-facing. Can the same experience ever be replicated in a hybrid workplace?

The speakers concurred that leadership sets the stage for what inclusivity means in every organisation. Is the leader open to having a best-in-class hybrid meeting experience? Is it inclusive for everyone dialling in as it is for everyone in this room? They highlight that with evolving employee requirements, experimenting with new and agile ways of working is the future.

Anna explains: “Digital transformation is not just about mapping the UI / UX journey or creating mobile-first experiences. It’s about pivoting from a leadership perspective and redefining your culture and core values to shift and lift that whole legacy mindset.”

Girish agrees, “Gone are the days of working only in an office. Tata Consultancy Services is moving towards a ’25 by 25’ hybrid work model, where by 2025 no more than 25% of our employees will need to work from the office at any given point,” he says. “But communication and collaboration are very important and require work. We have to remain connected to the workforce.”

And what about customer experience? Girish says that the company has developed a ‘talent cloud’ for its 600,000 employees worldwide. “This way we can harness the right skills at the right time for a particular job or time period. What this means is that if a customer in the UK requires a specialist for a particular job and we have one based in Singapore, we can call upon them to help at that time. We need to tap into talent wherever it is, rather than forcing people to move to a ‘hub’.”

Empowering a hybrid workforce 

Operating in a digital-first, hybrid world also means that employees require continuous upskilling, learning, and development for both hard and soft skills. Opportunities to learn and nurture personal growth are invaluable to employee experience and company success.

“We have seen companies provide more learning opportunities for employees to be a part of the company’s transformation needs,” says Frank. “On LinkedIn Learning for instance, we have seen a triple jump in people accessing digital content and will continue helping people improve economic opportunity.”

Anna points out that despite digital tools enabling teams to come together, in-person connections are also crucial. She highlights that at Perx Technologies, teams are encouraged to come together for quarterly and annual retreats. “We find that when we do this, our time together is so collaborative and so meaningful.”

Girish has a similar view, adding that communicating company culture to new employees cannot wholly be done through technology. He says that companies need to be cognisant of its boundaries, particularly for critical interactions like internships and mentorships. “Technology helps a lot with inclusivity and connection across distances, but it can’t do everything.”  

This conversation took place in June 2022, at Asia Tech x Singapore, Asia’s annual flagship tech event. The ATxEnterprise Headliners convened the biggest names in technology, innovation and investment to understand how they are shaping the industries of the future, from green tech and genetics to cybersecurity and the metaverse. This session is available on-demand till 30 November 2022, and can be accessed by registering here: