Using robots to make Human Resources more human…

Using robots to make Human Resources more human

I know what you’re thinking….surely that doesn’t make sense? How can robots make things more human?

RPA and AI are becoming more and more popular within shared services functions across the world, but countries have very different views on them.

In china, they want to use it for world domination. In America, they believe it will put businesses in the best possible commercial position. And in the UK…well, we still don’t want robots to hurt us or take our jobs.

I have to tell you guys, the least popular purpose for automation is headcount reduction. If your primary goal when automating is to reduce headcount or to save money, then it will more than likely fail.

Automation is used to enable better quality in operations and more workforce agility.

So, what is RPA and what is AI and why should you use it?

RPA and AI often get mistaken for the same thing, or organisations decide to use both. RPA and AI are two different technologies, with two different uses, and quite often you don’t need both!

The Lowdown on RPA and AI

AI is short for Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence replicates the human thought process. It takes the knowledge of a human and builds it into the application. AI deals with unstructured data, meaning that it self improves and continuously thinks and learns. It is the ‘brain and spine’.

RPA is short for Robotic Process Automation. RPA behaves like a person. It deals with high volumes of structured data to carry out repetitive tasks that humans do. The purpose of RPA is to remove those high volume, repetitive tasks that we hate. It is ‘the fingers’.

How do you decide?

Before you chose to adopt RPA or AI, as a business you have some big questions to ask yourself – as the decisions you make will affect the next 10 years of your business operations.

  • What business am I in?
  • How do I want to deliver services?
  • What do I need my operating model to look like?

The cultural impact of automation is significant. It touches every employee and manager within an organisation, so equally, the training and messaging around automation has to be key!

How to make it successful?

  • Choose your areas of automation carefully and then work with humans to identify what can be offloaded to automation and take their knowledge to create the automation.
  • Train your people on RPA and AI. Help them to understand what it is and how they can identify processes that may be suitable for automation.
  • Get your house in order! Automation only works with good, clean data.
  • Continually review your processes to make sure your automation is efficient and user friendly.

Automation is your friend. It isn’t here to take your job or make your life hard. On the contrary, the whole point of automation is to take the robot out of the human. To remove the high volume, menial tasks within your role or your team, freeing people up to contribute more value-add work to your business, so don’t fear it, work with it!

For all things HR Shared Services, change and transformation get in touch with us via the info form below, and if you would like to feature in our ‘Insiders Story’ blog, email me on kate@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about Kate Wass our HR Shared Services specialist here.

Why won’t top performing shared service professionals join your business? And what to do about it. Download our free eBook here.  

Let’s talk about time management

We’ve all heard of it and, although it’s something that comes around like clockwork, whenever it’s time for a performance review, it’s still something that we ironically don’t always have the time to work on, me included.

It’s easy to be ‘busy’ at work, but are we busy in the right context? Or are we all just busy being fools? And how can we make our time at work more productive?

Alleviate pressure

We live in a world where we are always switched ‘on’. Our smartphones constantly alert us to any new messages and emails, our smartwatches vibrate all day long and alert us whenever we make so many steps, and we always seem to be on the computer where there is no shortage of information being directed our way.

There’s pressure from our peers, directors, business owners and employees asking us questions, and there’s no longer an off switch for anyone.

So, how can we implement some simple structure that will help alleviate some of this pressure?

Plan, plan, and then plan a bit more. It’s not the most revolutionary answer I’ll admit, but it works.

Most people don’t plan for the following day, but you’ll be surprised at how effective setting aside time to assess the rest of your week can be.

Get organised

Create your own spreadsheet or write a list of all of your tasks for the week, whichever method works for you, and take a break every hour to assess what you’ve achieved since you last checked over your list. You will either be amazed at how much you’ve done, or surprised at how much you’ve procrastinated!

Treat your time like you would your finances – keep a close eye on them!

The most important thing is to be honest with yourself, and question how you should delegate your time. Doing this will help you identify your biggest waste of time, so you can change it!

To have a chat about your executive search, contact me at carl@refind.co.uk

You can view more about Carl Hinett our Executive search of HR professionals specialist here.

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Mindset vs skillset: redefining retail talent for the digital age

Mindset vs skillset: redefining retail talent for the digital age

Today more than ever, chairs and chief executives are seeking our advice about structuring their organisations to compete in the digital age and creating the right leadership model for the future

Increasingly it’s about behaviours, not just skills and experience. 

Historically, retail has been an industry driven by ruthless efficiency, both at head office and in stores, and typically chief exec succession
candidates came from buying and merchandising or operations.  

Now the most likely contenders are a new breed of data-driven, customer-centric marketeers. 

Disrupt or be disrupted 

Companies need to continuously evolve and structures must be more fluid, moving from functions to centres of excellence, and from siloed departments to collaborative teams working together to fulfil the customer mission. 

In many ways mindset has become more important than skillset; creating a learning organisation which is flexible and responsive and able to deal with ambiguity.  

This is where the leadership style of the chief executive is critical. 

Retail is hardly the career of choice for millennials, unless it’s a sexy pureplay, and the old ‘command and control’ approach has to give way to one that is visionary and strategic.  

Pace and agility are key to success, and empowerment and engagement of the internal as well as the external customer is a must. 

Structures need to be flatter and more inclusive, with a sense of purpose and fulfilment that goes beyond work/life balance to truly win hearts and minds. 

Structure diversity 

If the business model is omnichannel, with the majority of sales through stores, then an understanding of the operational disciplines in the form of a really strong chief operating officer may be needed.  

We will have to take a more open approach to organisation design structures.  

Above all, tomorrow’s chief executive must be a visionary with high EQ, who is really good at putting together a team that is collegiate and includes all the skills and talents to win in an increasingly complex and demanding world. 

The message is clear – the route to the top in retail is changing and so must the leadership style.  

And an increasingly fickle and demanding workforce is more likely to identify with a brand that champions collaboration, inclusion and engagement as its core values.  

 
Click here to read the original article from Retail Week. 

To discuss this article further, you can email me on danny@refind.co.uk

re:find help businesses find the talent they need to deliver transformational change.  Clients call us when they need change to happen quickly and effectively. We are Executive Search and Interim Search specialists. 

Click here to read about what we do specifically in the retail sector. 

Would you fire your child if they underperformed at work?

Accountability at work


In my job, I meet a lot of senior executives and it surprises me that many don’t address negative issues as head on as you might imagine.

I think a large part of this is to do with accountability.

Simon Sinek summed it up for me, when he said, “would you fire one of your children, if they came home from school with a C grade?!”

Well, of course you wouldn’t. You would support them and help them to do better.

So why is it at work when one of your top performers suddenly starts to have a bad quarter that we immediately go to performance management? When all they probably need is some reassurance and support.

Many leaders use accountability as a draconian way of managing people, it suggests that you can blame others for not doing what they should. When in reality leaders should hold themselves accountable in the chain of events that have led to things not going as planned.

Personally, I prefer the word responsibility, which comes from the heart and suggests a more shared way of thinking.

Some tips to think about:

  • Remember that leadership is about nurturing those who work for you and can often mean taking the blame for things that aren’t entirely your fault.
  • Stop making excuses, set clear expectations and direction for your teams.
  • Embrace mistakes and coach people (rather than blame them!).
  • Communicate problems when they happen, don’t store them up for the future when things become bigger than they really are.

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Hiring an Interim Executive? You need to get it right! Discover the 8 step process you should follow, by downloading our free eBook here.

Functions within Shared Service Centres

Functions within a Shared Service Centre

A Shared Service Centre (SSC) is a central hub of an organisation, typically responsible for handling specific operational and administrative tasks.

Shared Service Centres have been around since the mid 1980’s and, more frequently than ever, larger corporates are moving towards SSC’s and business process outsourcing.

Companies use a Shared Services model so they can utilise their people and the processes and technologies within the business. Organisations will open up SSC’s to concentrate their administrative duties into a centralised function, in order to reduce costs, avoid duplication of effort and to allow for greater focus on business strategy.

So, what are the main functions within Shared Service Centres?

The main functions we see across Shared Service Centres, listed in order of popularity are:

  • Finance
  • Human resources
  • Information technology
  • Procurement
  • Customer service/Contact Centres
  • Estates/Facilities
  • Sales and marketing
  • Legal

The key objectives for most SSC’s are reducing business costs, improved efficiency and control, performance/productivity measurement and customer satisfaction.

Finance and accounting, HR, and I.T are the main driving functions behind shared service centres. They bring about improvement in data analytics, process improvement and robotics and automation.

Finance and accounting

Finance and accounting is usually the most popular function within a shared service. It’s estimated that more than 50% of global companies have consolidated their accounting and finance functions into a shared service centre or are planning to do so.

Human Resources

Organisations use shared services as a way of streamlining their HR activities, typically concentrating transactional activities into a centralised and commonly shared function. The shared service model can help businesses reduce costs and increase process efficiency, allowing a greater focus on HR strategy.

Information Technology

IT was not the first function to take up shared services, however, it was quickly adapted to IT in the late 1990s. The objective is the same as with other functions; reaching scale economies through centralised IT activities.

The challenges:

You must bear in mind, as with everything, there are challenges to face within all shared service functions. The main challenges are:

  • Deskilling roles that then become tedious to complete.
  • Future development opportunities for administrative roles.
  • Loss of face to face interaction.
  • Decreasing process visibility from business units or sites.
  • Analytics not being used to measure success, to allow continuous improvement.
  • Heavy investment in information systems.

If you consider all these challenges in the early stages and plan accordingly, you give yourself the best chance to make your shared service function a success.

For more information on why HR Shared Service Centres fail, see Kate’s blog here.  

If you would like to discuss further, email me at sam@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about Sam Perry our Shared Services Executive Search expert here.

You can sign up for more shared services news and updates from Sam here.  

Preparing for the future of retail: getting to know your people

Preparing for the future of retail

HR professionals gathered recently to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by HR reporting and analysis in retail. 
 

Starting point 

The starting point to more effectively understand your people, is to first decide on the data you want to collect, and how the data will be used and analysed. Simply collecting as much data as possible and then attempting to make sense of it is typically a much less successful approach. 

At Travelex, one of the main focuses was on staff retention and the team wanted to better understand how to retain staff. 

Managers were given access to the people data through the Workday system, and Travelex is now seeing changes in behaviours based on a better understanding of that data. If the data highlights an employee is potentially at risk of leaving, managers can now intervene earlier to find out why and potentially take actions to prevent this from happening. 

Implementing new HR technology 

One of the challenges that Travelex faced during implementation was changing the culture across its business in the UK and internationally to adapt to a self-service HR system. To overcome this, the HR team worked closely with the IT department and regional managers to implement the changes. 

The company also focused on local needs, adapting its strategy based on regional and cultural differences internationally. There were also challenges around how the HR system was viewed by employees, and the HR team worked to show employees the value of using the system. 

During the implementation process, it was useful for Travelex to focus on collecting and understanding only a selected set of data points that could be easily analysed and understood, rather than attempting to understand a huge amount of data. The selected data points were easy for managers to dissect and understand in monthly review meetings with their teams. 

The right tools for self-service 

The discussion then moved to giving staff the tools to use the self-service systems in store, and one of the challenges that came up was around connectivity. 

In-store Wi-Fi is as useful for staff to carry out self-service HR functions as it is for consumers to enhance their experience, and definitely something worth investing in for retailers. 

Workday provides extensive self-service capabilities that Travelex staff use on their own mobile devices regardless of their location. 

Valued and effective 

For HR systems to be useful and adopted by employees, they need to be easy to use and not require much training. One of the greatest challenges faced by several retailers in the room was the outdated and difficult-to-use HR systems in place in their businesses. 

Pulling data together manually, having to create reports from scratch and dealing with dissatisfied staff who find the old HR system confusing or difficult to use were common complaints. Aside from changing systems, though, most retailers acknowledged they often needed to do the best they could with what they had available to them. 

Retailers also debate how they can measure the pound value of HR functions for board members, and agreed this is one area where data can help. If people KPIs are agreed at the outset, then showing how those improved and what this means for the business is one way to prove HR’s pound value. It also helps the HR team if they can articulate how using the HR systems will make the life of employees themselves easier – it’s not just about making life easier for HR. 

Looking to the future 

Looking to the future of more effective HCM systems that help HR, employees and managers, the discussion turned again to data and how to use it most effectively. 

Performance reviews online are difficult to get right, as it’s hard to replicate the richness of one-to-one conversations. On a system these conversations become very black and white. It ends up just being a score on a screen. 

Some advice for all retail HR professionals who want to use data to better understand their people: decide what data you’re going to collect and then what you want to understand from that. Unless you’re clear on that, you won’t be able to make better decisions for your employees. 

 
 
Click here to read the original article from Retail Week. 

To discuss this article further, you can email me on danny@refind.co.uk

re:find help businesses find the talent they need to deliver transformational change.  Clients call us when they need change to happen quickly and effectively. We are Executive Search and Interim Search specialists. 

Click here to read about what we do specifically in the retail sector. 

Transformation takes time

Transformation takes time

Retailers should look on today’s tough market as an opportunity.  The current tough trading conditions and the structural changes to the market give retailers a rare opportunity to establish a winning position for many years to come. 

The squeeze on consumer purchasing power will be a fact of life for some time. But of more importance is the growth of the internet, already influencing a high proportion of transactions, whether in store or online. In some product categories, the internet is rapidly taking over from stores as the main sales channel. 

Tougher times encourage customers to look harder for value, whether that be price, service, design, availability or convenience. This accelerates the growth of new distribution channels and changes to the supply chain as the new technology enables better value to be delivered to customers. 

At the same time cost inflation continues to exceed price inflation, intensifying the profit squeeze. Some retailers have already announced space reduction programmes. 

Inevitably, some retailers now considered invincible will be overtaken by rivals, better attuned to today’s customers expectations, meeting them and earning profits. Some will disappear. Others will survive, shadows of their former selves. Some manufacturers are already trying to bypass retailers completely. And some competitors from other countries can supply from abroad. 

To steer the path to the sunny uplands, three parallel paths have to be followed: 

  • Deal with the short term. In tough markets many retailers increase prices, impose cost reductions that damage the brand and increase promotional activity. This might fool investors but not the customer. Far better to focus on the core brand values, reinforce them and deliver on exceptional execution. Then watch your competitors become weaker. 
  • Define a clear vision of what is needed to be a winner in the next decade and communicate it. Ensure this vision encompasses best practice worldwide, including new and non-traditional potential competitors. Invest in the new skills and resources needed to successfully innovate. Act early. 
  • Provide the transformational leadership needed to overcome the natural inertia and resistance to change. Colleagues want certainty and often find change threatening. Investors want short-term profits and need convincing about the investment. And the media will be a voice for the doubters and vested interests. Innovations need to be protected and nurtured while those dealing with the short term need to feel valued and part of the future. 

Successful transformations are challenging and take time. Many more fail than succeed. It is too easy for management to manage short-term profits, talk about tactical innovations and achieve the incentive plan targets, hoping that the tipping point will not incur on their watch. Remain in denial too long and it will be too late. 

The leadership need to have the foresight to see the opportunities early and the motivation, incentive and skill to manage a successful transformation. 

Leading colleagues, investors and other stakeholders through the transition and the associated learning process is a tough challenge but immensely satisfying. 

 
Click here to read the original article from Retail Week. 

To discuss this article further, you can email me on danny@refind.co.uk

re:find help businesses find the talent they need to deliver transformational change.  Clients call us when they need change to happen quickly and effectively. We are Executive Search and Interim Search specialists. 

Click here to read about what we do specifically in the retail sector. 


A store without stock? Yes please.

A store without stock is still a store

You don’t need to have ‘stuff’ in a store for it to be a shop. There are alternatives. 

Imagine this. You’re in shopping mode and heading down to the high street. There are a load of stores with shelves groaning under the weight of all the inventory displayed within their walls. You are spoilt for choice. 

Yet instead of selecting from any of them, you head for the one emporium that appears to have no stock whatsoever. It might sound a curious decision, but it is not without merit. 

You’re a modern person and you know your way around both your laptop and the smartphone to which you are umbilically attached. 

So you know exactly what’s out there and what the price of almost everything is, long before you arrive at the shops. All you have to do is pick up your order and perhaps have a little ‘service’ time. 

That is the underlying premise of Nordstrom Local, an offshoot of the eponymous Seattle-based department store group designed to provide a more convenient option for existing customers, layered with a range of services. 

At present there are two Nordstrom Locals, both in Los Angeles. The first opened at the end of last year and the second, measuring 3,000 sq ft, welcomed its first ‘shoppers’ a couple of months back. 

They do have a very limited amount of fashion stock, but none of it can be taken away and the clothes are really just there as tasters of what Nordstrom is about. 

More to the point, they are not just glorified click-and-collect stations. Instead, visitors can have a coffee at the in-store café (or maybe even a ‘drink’ drink) while they wait for their shoes to be repaired, having handed in their clothes to the dry cleaner, prior to having a manicure. This is service. 

And shoppers appear to like it. Two more Nordstom Locals are scheduled for LA this year and it’s a fair bet that more will follow in other large Nordstrom-friendly conurbations. 

Is this, however, a store? It doesn’t really have anything tangible that you can buy in situ and walk away with, but it does provide something that Amazon at present cannot. 

Shoppers may make purchases online, but they can then enjoy a range of services as they complete the transactional loop when picking up the goods. 

This is an online shop with bells and whistles and seems a good alternative to the mundane click-and-collect counter. There are also reasons to come back. 

Nordstom Local may not be the whole of the future, but it certainly looks like one direction in which things are headed. 

Click here to read the original article from Retail Week. 

To discuss this article further, you can email me on danny@refind.co.uk

re:find help businesses find the talent they need to deliver transformational change.  Clients call us when they need change to happen quickly and effectively. We are Executive Search and Interim Search specialists. 

Click here to read about what we do specifically in the retail sector.