Is this the key to collaborative HR?

Successful transformation starts at the top

Is this the key to collaborative HR?

The road to HR transformation success is hardly a straight one. The good: KPMG found that three out of four global organisations that went through it were actually successful, for example in moving to a cloud-based HR technology.

About 72% of those companies managed to change operating models alongside their implementation, with 89% of companies making HR a strategic part of the business. What’s more, over half of organisations had plans to invest in a HRM system, and another 38% in people analytics.

Overall, close to half of organisations say they’ve been “meeting expectations” with their HR transformation initiatives, while 32% were confident they “exceeded expectations”.

The bad: 59% of organisations still lacked a sound business case for it or the metrics to measure results. Some of the efforts have been failing due to an inability to identify measures of success (90%), the organisation’s failure to change roles or company structure in line with transformation (85%), or simply because they had weak change management capabilities (75%).

That’s a lot of statistics to digest but as one HR leader said, above all else, digital transformation is mostly about people and change management. While managing change for leadership and employees are a priority to be successful, regrouping and focusing on your HR team is crucial if you want to build a solid front.

HRD spoke to CheeWei Tan, global head of HR at Shell Energy, to find out how to successfully lead cultural change and encourage the team to embrace new tech.

From local to global
CheeWei told us Shell had made their first major change when they moved to a global HR system in 2002. Since then, there has been several improvements. Currently, they’re focused on optimising their HR model by driving digitalisation within the HR function and are progressively working on a rollout plan for its offices across the world.

“Some of the challenges have been around the different capabilities that we have,” she said. “When we move to a new optimised HR model, the ways of working become different. To truly leverage the new model and a new tech, it requires a different mindset and much stronger collaboration. The various parts of the HR model need to work in a very targeted and more focused way.”

For instance, HRBPs now have to work even closer with the business to really understand how to best meet their needs in the most cost-effective way. Besides that, teammates in HR operations need to be a lot more responsive and provide service that keeps pace with the business.

“They need to be able to anticipate what some of the needs are, rather than remain in a reactionary and transaction-led mindset,” she said.

This meant a major shift in behaviour for everyone on the HR team, regardless of role or geography.

“It’s about different parts of the HR mode working in a collaborative way to deliver the business needs seamlessly,” she said. “Not about pointing fingers and saying, ‘oh I’m a HRBP but this is a systems issue, so you need to ask HR operations’. A lot of that collaboration has to happen behind the curtains.”

The key to success
Moving past differences in roles and locations is not an easy feat, but CheeWei shared that achieving “seamless” collaboration is possible.

“It starts with having a clear purpose and direction as a company,” she said. “We started the change journey being very clear about Shell’s overall strategy and it brought a focus to key areas that were fundamental to the company’s success.

“It also then helps us highlight how HR as a function can contribute to that success.”

The team had to figure out the kind of workplace and employees they need to help develop to enable the success. CheeWei added that HR needs to be able to provide the thought leadership that businesses look to them for to help drive organisational and individual performance.

Basically, she believes the HR team needs to be able to focus on the ultimate outcome of making sure people can “be their best” and contribute to the company’s success.

“If it’s about people, then it’s about HR being able to provide a great employee experience because that will make them want to go the extra mile,” she said. “Then we will be able to move away from being a function-centred HR, just thinking about HR processes, to being employee-centric and thinking how we can enable the business to grow and transform.”

Besides being clear about the company’s purpose and direction and aligning HR’s role as the people expert, CheeWei shared that the HR team invested heavily in ensuring everyone remained engaged throughout the change journey.

They took a consultative approach with the organisation and provided a platform for employees to tell HR how they could see the company move in the direction of their ambitions, and taking the suggestions seriously.

HR also formed cross-functional work streams to look at various pieces around Shell’s people strategy and the HR model, working out what need to be done to improve performance and leadership. There was also a “full-fledged” change program that provided support to the larger organisation as well as HR staff to manage with any uncertainties.

The company invested in capabilities-building while also having a “period of hyper-care” where they made sure that there was a closed loop on any feedback.

“In our traditional ways of working, sometimes we think we are one team only if we report to the same person, or sit in the same office,” she said.

“To drive HR as one team, as a starting point you should adopt a new mindset in which things like reporting lines, organisational boundaries and location become less significant, and we all take individual ownership of HR as a function that helps to enable the business.

“It’s about not being fragmented in our thinking. In fact, when everybody starts owning whatever needs to be solved by HR, [the team will become] collaborative and helping where we can – all the time focusing on the right outcomes for the business and employees.”

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