Managing manpower in the new normal

  • SME
  • Saturday, 20 Jun 2020

“With the new normal, the challenges that SMEs face will include managing work schedule changes that arise from work from home arrangements and job rotations." --- Khoo Siew Ling

WHETHER or not they were ready for work-from-home arrangements, companies were compelled to be flexible with their employees when the economic sector started shutting down back in March.

Those who did not have the tools to work remotely scrambled to find service providers who could help them as they made do with haphazard measures.

Post-Covid, Khoo Siew Ling, chief executive officer of Mywave Sdn Bhd, believes SMEs will need to be more versatile and agile in their manpower planning.

“With the new normal, the challenges that SMEs face will include managing work schedule changes that arise from work from home arrangements and job rotations.

“It will also include coming up with ways to quickly bring the existing team up to speed and in the handling of possible redundancy to meet business needs.

“Areas such as change in job functions, employee evaluation methodology and compensation schemes may need to be looked into to fit the new normal, ” she says.

With the business environment changing, Khoo expects a better adoption rate for human resource (HR) solutions moving forward as more small businesses turn to technology for help, especially the mid-sized to larger SMEs.

However, cost remains a key factor for most companies. Many had previously hesitated to use HR solutions due to the cost viability given their low margins.

“Majority of the cloud-based solutions charge based on a subscription or pay-per-use basis. This gives SMEs the perception that this is a long-term cost which will be more expensive than an upfront one-off cost.

“However, the advantages of subscription or pay-per-use cloud-based solutions is that they allow SMEs to scale up and down on their costs easily as it is operationally driven.

“For example, during such pandemic times, many SMEs will look into cost cutting measures. They may want to reduce their number of outlets or headcount.

“If they are using cloud-based solutions which charge per outlet or per user, then they can scale down easily instead of having to continue to pay for the same amount every month.

“When times are better, they can increase their subscription without having to invest in a whole new set of software, ” Khoo explains.

Another cost advantage that cloud-based solutions offer is that SMEs do not need to pay to upgrade or maintain their software as the software will automatically be upgraded online.

Additionally, many providers have extended their initial free sign-up offer or given heavy discounts to SMEs in the current months, which Khoo thinks will further incentivise SMEs to consider cloud solutions.

Understandably, though, adoption rate among micro-SMEs will still be a challenge as they may have fewer than five staff and will not see a need to use a HR software.

“But in times like these, when there are ongoing changes to statutory compliance and contribution, using a cloud-based software that has all the features pre-set to comply with government regulations will free up their time so they do not need to find out themselves what those changes are, ” she states.

She also points out that there are various grants offered by the government and private corporations for SMEs to adopt cloud technology, which should bring down their cost of adoption.

Khoo also thinks that as SMEs look to hire more young talents, technology may play a role in attracting new workers as cloud technology adds a certain “coolness” and “modernity” to a company’s image.

But customer expectations are also changing. And as SMEs become more acquainted with technology, Khoo says companies are no longer just focusing on operational efficiency but also want solutions that offer more mobility and configurability, and which would enable them to have real-time interactions apart from being cost effective.

As such, HR tech providers will also need to step up their game.

“HR tech providers need to offer flexible and configurable solutions to meet the frequent changing needs of their customers. HR tech such as Mywave’s HR cloud solutions will help give them the ability to ensure efficiency and staff performance even with the new normal work arrangements.

“For example, our mobile attendance management system is useful for work from home and off-site project arrangements as it can be configured to manage performance-based reward instead of an annual performance review system. It also comes with an easy-to-use feature to track and manage employee flexible benefits, ” she says.

Notably, Mywave’s business has also been impacted by Covid-19 as the company saw slower customer sign-ups and faced the risk of cancellations.

Many companies were taking the wait-and-see approach and Khoo expects business to remain slow for the next six months.

To adapt to the current situation, Mywave has started offering free education to SMEs on HR knowledge, best practices, compliance and interpretation of latest regulatory changes to help them understand how to apply these into their current business situation.

“We see this period as an important time for us to build more awareness among our existing and future customers on the need to have a knowledgeable and budget-friendly HR partner and not just a HR software vendor.

“The pandemic has also taught us the importance of pivoting our offerings faster and making it relevant for our customers.

“For example, we recently introduced the Employee Health Self-declare mobile app and web module, to help companies get their employees to self-declare and submit their daily health condition before entering the office.

“We also started offering a DIY ready-to-use HR system for micro SMEs, that comes incorporated with policies that are in accordance with the Employment Act, ” she says.

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