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SMEs need HR tech to thrive in the new normal

SMEs need HR tech to thrive in the new normal

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HR departments need to embrace and recognise the benefits of optimising and enhancing internal process, said Ayman Kattan, Chief People Officer at Bayzat. He explains how digitally transforming HR processes is a business imperative.

Between chasing every prospect and opportunity, extracting the maximum ROI on every dollar invested and simply ‘keeping the lights on’, SMEs have typically had precious little time to prioritise employee experiences. Even through the current phase of accelerated Digital Transformation, HR departments find themselves left behind as sales, product development and marketing continue to enjoy the lion’s share of innovation investment. As a case in point, the average company spends only 6% of their technology budget on HR, and 76% of HR leaders claim their departments are overlooked in Digital Transformation projects.

This should come as no surprise as even today, it is external, customer-focused services that tend to get prioritised during Digital Transformation undertakings. UAE SMEs often fail to recognise the benefits of optimising and enhancing internal processes which is why Excel spreadsheets, lengthy email-based communications and archaic approval processes remain the tools of the trade for their HR professionals. Given that most organisations will concede that employees are their greatest asset, this does appear a bit ironic.

The perfect storm

All this is set to change as a convergence of major workforce trends makes digitally transforming HR processes a business imperative. First, there has been a steady influx of millennials into the workforce and data from the Bayzat platform shows that today, this demographic accounts for over three quarters (77%) of the UAE’s working population. These tech-savvy professionals are accustomed to instant service and expect the same high-quality experiences from their employers – whether applying for leave or utilising their insurance policies – as they do from the apps they use to stream content or order food.

The traditional HR approach has left most SMEs incapable of meeting these expectations, and the past 15 months have only magnified these shortcomings. Among the many challenges brought on by the onset of the pandemic have been the sweeping changes to how employees work, consume leave and more. Added to this, COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on employee health and wellbeing, and this once overlooked area is fast becoming a key factor in guiding decisions on whether or not individuals would choose to work for a company. As a case in point, according to a recent Aetna International survey, 76% of UAE employees are calling for more comprehensive coverage in light of the pandemic and 71% of UAE-based HR professionals note that COVID-19 has heightened employee expectations around the range and scale of health and wellness benefits provided by employers.

Now squarely in the eye of this storm, SMEs that have thus far been content to simply maintain the status quo are faced with a myriad of productivity and compliance issues, and most importantly, the inability to optimise their employees’ experiences. The writing has been on the wall for a while now, so it is time for the country’s SMEs to shed their fear of change and embrace the Digital Transformation of HR processes.

Employee benefits platforms pave the way

Luckily, advances in HR tech in recent years allow for this to not only be a seamless transformation, but one that can create a work environment that serves employees and consequently drives gains in productivity and the all-important bottom line.

In the era of experience, perhaps the greatest value that the new breed of cloud-based HR management platforms offers is the level of personalisation and self service they facilitate. Being digital-natives, millennials especially value the convenience and ease of access that an app-based approach to HR provides. With the ability to access information – everything from benefits to outstanding leave – on their personal devices, employees no longer perceive HR to be an intimidating black box and are therefore better able to utilise the benefits that they are entitled to. With 46% of employees stating that COVID-19 has made them reappraise the value of the benefits available to them when deciding to stay with or join a new employer, this can prove decisive in attracting and retaining talent in the highly competitive landscape.

In addition, employee benefits platforms offer the ability to streamline laborious, and largely repetitive tasks such as claims reimbursement, or leave applications. This has the twofold benefit of further enhancing the experience for employees, while winning back time for HR professionals who can then refocus on what’s truly important, their people.

Furthermore, these platforms work silently in the background, collecting and analysing data on everything from expenses and payroll trends to benefits utilisation. HR teams can leverage this invaluable insight to address areas to enhance employee experiences while at the same time driving down operating costs – arguably one of the top KPIs for SMEs. For example, data captured by the Bayzat platform found that even through 2020, fuel (27%) and travel (20%) expenses were among the top three most requested reimbursements. Given countless reports which have highlighted that more time at home and reduced travel time have been some of the most valued consequences of the remote working paradigm, organisations can use this payroll data to redirect funds into digital collaboration tools such as Zoom and Slack. These have proven their ability to drastically reduce employee travel requirements, which in turn leads to greater productivity and enhanced job satisfaction.

Because of the rapid advancement of cloud computing, powerful solutions that were once only available to the largest of enterprises are today just as accessible to smaller businesses. Employee benefits platforms enable SMEs to effectively enhance employee experiences, enabling them to recruit the best talent, drive efficiencies across the business and gains in the bottom line. It is time for SMEs to break the HR status quo and set themselves up for long term success.

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