View From The Top: Michael Tan Kian Yen

Author Ian Gerard Koh
June 30, 2022

In the latest edition of our View From The Top series, we sit down with Michael Tan Kian Yen, Human Resources Director at ServiceNow to find out his views on the evolving role of HR especially over the last few years during the pandemic. 

How have you had to adapt your leadership throughout the pandemic?

No one ever expected how much time we would spend on Zoom at the height of the pandemic. But regardless of location, ServiceNow continued to build on it’s culture and bring people together by balancing the impersonal confines of conference calls with personalised employee experiences like celebrating moments that matter – from work anniversaries to project successes and more.

We also check in regularly with our people and ask how we can practically support employees, no matter the challenge they may be facing: Many said “I need to find ways to balance screen time with health and wellbeing” and so we established a Perk Allowance to access products and services like gym equipment or online cooking sessions, to help foster a strong, healthy work-life balance. Workspace feedback came through, too – such as “my living space makes it hard to do my work” and so ServiceNow provided an office set up allowance to help every employee setup their own workspace to do their best work. In addition, we’ve also curated different programs throughout the year to support the mental well-being of our employees. Our employees’ families at home are also welcome to join the online activities such as fitness classes or other fun activities. We also have workshops for managers on how to support their employees in times of stress.

As a leadership team, we’re committed to hybrid work – work is done better when people have the resources, tools and support to collaborate, no matter where they are. In fact, 76% of employees say they’re better supported, no matter where they work, when given digital collaboration and communication tools, according to the 2021 Employee Experience Imperative. Our technology is built with this in mind.

What are the major business disruptors currently affecting the work of your organisation and how are they affecting HR specifically?

Every business leader in the world is looking to the future of work – how work is done and ways to help people thrive. I joined ServiceNow in July of 2021 and virtually onboarded virtually so many people. What I valued about ServiceNow’s onboarding experience is that many of the processes were self-service, just like ordering takeaway from a food service app – intuitive, mobile-first and fast. I could do the work I signed up to do from day one, rather than being overwhelmed with paperwork and administration.  There is also a good balance where we can continue to focus on the “human touch/connection” – areas that matters most, such as networking with colleagues and connecting with new joiners. The quality growth conversations with managers also help to ensure that our employees are able to experience the ServiceNow culture through its people while still working remotely at home. It’s the ability to find the right balance between leveraging both technology and human connection that will ensure success in the new way of working.

Our technology has enabled ServiceNow to support changing work requirements for a network of more than 6,900 global customers. Digital workflows have freed up time for people to focus on more meaningful work rather than directing traffic to connect departments and breakdown silos. Technology is put to work, where it assists best.  

Many of the worlds’ biggest market disruptors are also fueling innovation at ServiceNow. We responded quickly to our customer needs when the pandemic started and delivered new workplace innovations – a suite of Emergency Response Apps to help leaders ensure health and safety. As some organisations looked forward to hybrid models of work, we launched Return to Workplace apps to help employees and their manages navigate the different requirements of working in the COVID-era.

Can you share more about ServiceNow’s diversity & inclusion agenda and how you’re implementing it across the organization? What is your advice to your peers (other CHROs) around meeting inclusion and diversity objectives even during these uncertain times?

The last two years has shown organisations that diversity and inclusion are table stakes, belonging is the breakthrough – regardless of where you do your work. ServiceNow will continue to take the best of what we’ve learned to create an unmatched employee experience that enables everyone to achieve their full potential and to belong.

We’ve devoted attention to a 5-point plan that will see continued improvement surrounding all aspects of our business.

Workforce training: We run DIBs (Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging) programs to educate and train employees with the goal of getting stronger together.

Equity for all: To attain systematic pay equity, ServiceNow regularly adjusts and reviews pay equity, and find ways to enforce them on a company-wide level.

Giving employees a voice: The pandemic has presented uncertainty, immense isolation and confusion, and yet it brought us closer together. We created a space for dialogue to understand what our employees needed, from financial support to mental health aid, by conducting surveys regularly.

Lobbying for good: In 2020, we saw the launch of the NextGen Professionals Program dedicated to help our talents with non-traditional backgrounds to get access to fulfilling and sustainable careers in the digital workforce.

Recruiting and career advancement: We continue to grow stronger together by expanding recruitment efforts in traditionally underserved communities.

How are you currently using technology within HR in your organisation? To what extent is digitisation/implementation of new tech a priority for your HR division, and are there any barriers to its adoption?

With hybrid work arrangements progressively becoming a permanent thing of the future, ServiceNow has made its commitment to deliver compelling employee experiences – wherever work is done, across all devices. To create a great experience for our employees, we use our Now platform to provide ease and peace of mind as they return to the office. The platform enables employees to get the help they need at their fingertips, be it knowledge-based articles, requests for different services. It also  brings ServiceNow culture to life through collaboration tools by providing access to our online workplace community and recognition platforms. Having access to all these options enables our employees to spend more quality time on where it matters most – i.e. interacting & collaborating with colleagues, quality growth conversations with their managers, etc. In fact, technology has enabled us to reach out to more colleagues faster virtually in areas such as learning and development, regardless of where they’re located.

With our Now platform, we were able to propel HRSD (HR Service Delivery) which was designed intuitively for all organisational needs; to give our employees a single place to find answers or request for items and services, and more. Since then, our HR team has seen a reduction in their workload as cases were only raised when employees were unable to find the answers on their own.

What is your advice to other CHROs (your peers) how can they ensure they are fit to anticipate the future of work in a climate of constant change and disruption? 

A resilient culture is a marker of success for 21st century organisations. At the beginning of the pandemic, Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) were instrumental in navigating workplace disruptions. But now, CHROs and their focus on people, guide the C-suite to ensure companies are resilient to endure whatever the future holds.

A big part of this effort relies on strong workplace communication – it could be training and support in business continuity measures or how to guide employees toward continuous learning and upskilling. Resilient companies have been able to quickly communicate with employees and staff on changes to workplace, products, services, skills, health and safety measures, and more.

Connecting data to outcomes is the biggest opportunity for HR leaders in the future to improve employee experience. From hiring, onboarding, and training right through to the moments that matter most, leaders have an opportunity to build more resilient, productive and engaged teams.

Employees are now able to work either in the office, home or remote, based on their different work personas – thus giving even more flexibility to our employees and ensuring we get the best out from our people.

Please note that all commentary and opinions provided are those of the individual, and not the organisation/company.

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