The Future of Work
With the COVID-19 pandemic still at large and the Malaysian Movement Control Order (MCO) implemented recently in various states to curb the rising numbers of infections this year, work-from-home (WFH) arrangements are here to stay
When the pandemic hit last year, many companies were caught off guard as the movement restrictions and lockdowns were unprecedented. For Sunway Group, it was the first time introducing WFH arrangements to employees on a large scale across its 13 business divisions.
Being a diverse conglomerate with many different industries under its portfolio, each division would require its own unique working arrangement that would best serve both the business’ and employees’ needs, said Sunway Group chief human resources officer Foo Shiang Wyne.
“The inevitability of WFH due to the pandemic has allowed us to test our flexibility and adaptability. During a crisis, it is vital for employees to be able to adapt, have the capability to adjust and cope with the changing external environment or situation to ensure business continuity,” said Foo.
Apart from business divisions that required employees to be on site – healthcare, leisure, hospitality, construction, and retail – it was “business as usual” for other Sunway employees, as they worked remotely from home.
“Amidst the MCO, we had a large number of employees in the essential and critical services who needed to continue carrying out their duties – our frontline healthcare workers; zookeepers at Sunway Lagoon and Sunway Lost World of Tambun; hotel staff attending to Malaysian returnees under the mandatory quarantine at Sunway hotels; security personnel at our townships nationwide,” she said.
While Sunway is embracing the new norm of WFH, there are factors to consider, as not everyone is suited for such work arrangements and not all positions are effective with the WFH approach.
“To effectively implement WFH, employees must firstly possess the right tools and capabilities. We are hearing from many employees, some who were previously strong advocates for WFH, that they cannot wait to return to office to work. Other aspects to be considered before implementing WFH include self-discipline, self-motivation, home distractions as well as the need for professional and social interactions,” said Foo.
Besides company policies and procedures that need to be reviewed, investing in secured digital tools, technologies, and infrastructure to enabled staff to work efficiently remotely is important in making WFH a reality, she said.
Streamlining communications and data for mobility
Fortunately for Sunway, digital transformation had already been underway when the pandemic hit, making the transition to WFH a seamless one.
According to Sunway Group chief information officer Kevin Khoo, the company has been working with Google Cloud and Deloitte to consolidate the data across its business units and using predictive analytics to better understand customers. “With our information in Google Cloud, we’re becoming a data-driven organisation and gaining better insight into new opportunities,” said Khoo.
In 2019, Sunway begun migrating data to the Microsoft Office 365 online productivity cloud across the group, allowing employees across the different businesses to collaborate and work from anywhere, anytime and on any device.
The decision to adopt Microsoft 365 came as the previous business communication platform no longer supported Sunway’s growth in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, and complex business environment, Khoo said.
Drawbacks of the previous platform included high cost of video conferencing tools with limited usage, which led to key decision makers being unable to attend physical discussions and meetings – delaying the decision-making process.
Other limitations of the previous systems were remote working being restricted to cloud-based web emails, limited number of users with access to mobile email app and many restrictions to file sharing as well.
It took over six months to complete the migration of files and archives from the last two decades and to move employees’ emails to Microsoft Outlook. Digital tools such as Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams enabled secure file sharing and video calls between internal and external stakeholders.
“As Sunway expands its presence across Asia and diversifies into new ventures, effective IT systems and productivity platforms are deployed to enable and support continuous growth. We wanted to change how we collaborate as we grow bigger and more diverse – bridge our communication gaps and make information more available to all,” he said.
Enabling greater access, efficiency, and collaboration
Embracing the new normal of the pandemic, Sunway made good use of Microsoft Teams in various capacities. Sunway Crisis Management, Group HR and business divisions conducted discussions and briefings on business continuity plans while Sunway Property held live broadcast tender briefings with tender parties concurrently – maintaining anonymity while allowing Q&As for clarification. Sunway Property estimates that this approach could potentially save up to 75% of time spent in traditional briefings, which adds up to cost savings of approximately RM100,000 a year.
For the first time since its inception, the Sunway Leaders Conference 2019 was streamed live via Microsoft Teams, with 413 attendees from 10 countries tuning in via their mobile devices. Meanwhile, Group IT and Shared Services co-authored their annual business plans on a shared PowerPoint document, allowing consolidated input from different parties and tracked changes.
Sunway iLabs and Group IT also launched the Sunway Innovation Matching Fund (IMF), which involved speakers from multiple locations and 140 attendees.
For internal communications, Sunway Group IT and IT Shared Services adopted Microsoft Yammer to replace email blasts via dedicated email addresses. Having a private Yammer group facilitated for more interaction between stakeholders and increased employee engagement.
Using Microsoft One Drive was also a game changer, allowing the whole Sunway Group to access files while working remotely, instead of relying on shared drives accessible via the Sunway network.
Going forward, Sunway plans to increase the adoption of digital tools across the organisation.
“This is in line with our mission to attract and nurture a talented and progressive workforce for the digital era, empowering our people to deliver enhanced value to all stakeholders, innovating to enrich lives for a better tomorrow,” said Khoo.
This article first appeared in Berita Sunway Issue 71