Cultural change drives decades of adaptation and efficiency at LITE-ON
LITE-ON is a highly distributed major player in the APAC manufacturing sector. While the industry tends to have a reputation for an aversion to change, LITE-ON identified key market factors as an opportunity to change not only what it produces but how the company operates. Adopting Microsoft Workplace Analytics, the company increased internal agility, freed up time to focus on customers, and garnered companywide buy-in from employees.
We opted to use Workplace Analytics because we wanted to increase team agility and efficient collaboration. What we got was the perfect tool to strengthen our group CEO’s vision of digital transformation during a particularly opportune time for us to increase our foothold in the global technology sector.
—Crystal Liu, corporate vice president of Human Resources, LITE-ON
In 1975, LITE-ON opened its doors, instantly becoming Taiwan’s first large-scale manufacturer of LEDs. Operating out of 334 locations across Asia, Europe, and the United States, the LITE-ON of today credits much of its success to its core business strategy of steadily improving resource utilization and automation to streamline production, increase productivity, and optimize efficiency. As technology has progressed, LITE-ON has adapted, changing its manufacturing workloads in accordance with each decade’s state-of-the-art needs. Over the years, these workloads have included computer components, consumer and automotive electronics, 5G, and AIoT applications.
Recently, as LITE-ON once more shifted its manufacturing capacity, this time from IT and communications components to popular modern workloads like cloud computing hardware and IoT devices, the company identified an opportunity in the global technology sector. “Industry periodically goes through phases that allow for new waves of change,” says Crystal Liu, corporate vice president of Human Resources at LITE-ON. “The technology sector is said to be experiencing one such phase, and our leaders at LITE-ON aim to seize that opportunity to develop an industry-leading advantage as a world-class manufacturing partner.”
With its goal of becoming the partner of choice for global technology companies, LITE-ON began looking for new ways to reduce production costs and increase productivity. With a highly efficient fabrication pipeline already in place, the company opted to focus its efforts around another important element of its success: its people. By investing in employees, their practices, and their ownership of their work, LITE-ON is also empowering itself through increased innovation, competition, and quality of work. Warren Chen, vice chairman and group CEO of LITE-ON, began a digital transformation initiative focused on Microsoft 365. Along with new productivity and collaboration solutions, the initiative made new analytical tools available to departmental leadership. Of particular interest to LITE-ON was Microsoft Workplace Analytics, a powerful solution that uses aggregated and deidentified data from everyday work done in Microsoft 365 to identify collaboration patterns that influence productivity, workforce effectiveness, and employee engagement. “The culture of the traditional manufacturing sector can sometimes be seen as conservative,” says Liu. “That’s why a solution like Workplace Analytics that backs up our drive to promote team agility through digital transformation with metrics, both from before we begin an initiative and afterward, is so important.”
Showing the transformative power of analysis
Because the move to Microsoft 365 at LITE-ON has a people-first focus, the company’s Human Resources department has taken on a leadership role in its implementation. This placed Liu, a relative newcomer to the company, in a pivotal role. With experience as a human resources leader in a number of world-leading high-tech and consumer goods companies, Liu was already well aware of the power that can be derived from focused internal analytics and insights like those that can be surfaced through Workplace Analytics. “In my experience working for large, multinational entities, whenever you spend a dollar, even on payroll, you want to be able to tie that spending to a gross profit as ROI,” says Liu. “That’s why we used Workplace Analytics to look at frequently held, highly attended meetings. We wanted to identify how much those practices cost us.”
With the backing of senior leadership, Liu and HIS HR manager Joseph Sun at LITE-ON joined with a Microsoft consultant to lead a Workplace Analytics adoption workshop. During the workshop, LITE-ON analysts completed baseline analysis for a busy manufacturing business unit. This became the solution’s pilot, aimed at showing the benefits of Workplace Analytics to the entire business. Key findings of this initial round of analysis included opportunities to optimize email hours, which at the time accounted for an average of more than 60 percent of available collaboration time across the company’s total population. The pilot also uncovered opportunities to level up manager effectiveness, as director-level employees were found to spend 70 percent of their work week on collaboration—twice the average load among the company’s global workforce. Large, frequent meetings could also be optimized, as 50 percent of meeting hours were found to be spent in meetings that lasted over an hour, with 19 or more participants. “We had solid metrics supporting the changes we wanted to guide the business group toward,” says Sun. “Those numbers made it easy for departmental leaders to see where our guidance was coming from and to grant their approval of our plans.”
The culture of the traditional manufacturing sector can sometimes be seen as conservative. That’s why a solution like Workplace Analytics that backs up our drive to promote team agility through digital transformation with metrics, both from before we begin an initiative and afterward, is so important.
—Crystal Liu, corporate vice president of Human Resources, LITE-ON
After getting the go-ahead from leadership, the team quickly set out to drive change. In the Human Input Solution Business Unit, email hours are down, and external collaboration hours are up. Collaboration and communication activities, including staffing updates, coediting of documents, and the communication of meeting details, are now done through Microsoft Teams. A regular review of the departmental meeting schedule is held, with the intent to reduce excess attendance or over-scheduling. Other departments, including Power Conversion and Smart Life and Applications, have applied similar guidance. Also, by reducing the collaboration hours of director-level employees, more employees have been empowered to make independent decisions, ultimately increasing engagement and growing experience at a number of employment levels. Directors themselves are able to refocus their working hours around strategic initiatives and leadership responsibilities.
“We saw the evidence of cultural change very quickly,” says Sun. “Teams has reduced our reliance on sending attachments and mass communications via email. Also, instead of sending daily reports as attachments, we transferred reporting to a Microsoft Power BI dashboard, reducing busywork.”
Maintaining a human approach
During the course of the four-month pilot, Liu and her team also discovered a number of employee groups whose working habits broke with tradition in unexpectedly positive ways. In one business group, for example, a weekly, four-hour meeting with 40 regular participants substantially aided productivity.
“It’s important to understand where employees are coming from, to respect their work culture and rationale,” says Liu. “This was a top-performing work group, so we took our data to them and asked them to explain how they had achieved such good results.” Liu found that the lengthy meeting was being held between all of the working group’s top executives and was used for simultaneous knowledge transfer, coaching, and making important business decisions. “In the case of those executives, we discovered the discipline and cultural mindset to turn what is normally a low-productivity activity into something powerful,” continues Liu. “Having analytical data that unearths outliers like that gives you the knowledge you need to know when to allow exceptions to your new best practices, for the good of the company.”
The human touch that Liu and her team have taken in implementing the findings of their analysis is just as important as the numbers are. Without forging these personal connections and understanding how a business unit functions, well-intentioned leaders run the risk of over-homogenization, which can eliminate the bright spots Workplace Analytics is designed to surface.
A company willing to transform
Since adopting Workplace Analytics, LITE-ON has seen cumbersome internal collaboration times reduced, allowing employees to spend more time with key customers and external collaborators. Through engaging employees, LITE-ON has experienced rapid adoption of the new solutions, and Liu and her team have suggested replacements for traditional communication and productivity channels like email and meetings. The company now uses Microsoft Teams and SharePoint to share and coauthor documents, and group chats have replaced the convoluted email chains. The use of email to share announcements to a broad audience has dwindled, and Power BI dashboards are replacing daily and weekly reports.
“Changing the cultural DNA of a major player in the traditional manufacturing sector is no small task,” says Liu. “Where once leadership might have adopted a wait-and-see approach to suggested changes and where employees might have been skeptical of our intentions, using Workplace Analytics we have shared key indicators while maintaining a high standard of confidentiality. Our employees feel respected, our leadership understands how we make our decisions, and ultimately we create the opportunity for increased effectiveness.”
“We opted to use Workplace Analytics because we wanted to increase team agility and efficient collaboration,” concludes Liu. “What we got was the perfect tool to strengthen our group CEO’s vision of digital transformation during a particularly opportune time for us to increase our foothold in the global technology sector.”
We saw the evidence of cultural change very quickly. Teams has reduced our reliance on sending attachments and mass communications via email. Also, instead of sending daily reports as attachments, we transferred reporting to a Microsoft Power BI dashboard, reducing busywork.
—Joseph Sun, Human Resources manager, LITE-ON