Solving our client’s pain points

If you’re looking to fill a challenging role, we fall between recruitment agencies and executive search – we offer the service of a search firm, with the agility of an agency, which means we move quickly, but we get it right.

Our fill rate is almost 100% and that’s because we only work a few briefs at one time. It’s far more important to us to do a great job and fill the role, whilst giving a good candidate and client experience at the same time.

Businesses choose to work with us because we work in shades of grey to help them fill the toughest roles including:

  • Not fully defined roles
  • A role that is new to the company
  • Confidential roles
  •  A role that requires a discreet search

Our clients enjoy working with us because we’re approachable and easy to work with, but there is still a robust process at the backend, which enables us to find the best talent in the market.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. If you’ve got a hard-to-fill role and need some help, get in touch.

Landing your dream job without leaving the house

We understand how tough the market is at the moment and if you find yourself out of work and looking for a job, we want to help you as much as we can.

We’ve teamed up with propulsion.life to offer 5 webinars that cover everything a candidate needs to be successful in today’s job market.

They are both strategic and practical with planning and wellbeing elements, as well as hands-on units giving real experience to candidates.

While the usual program starts at 40 interactive hours these 5 webinars will give you some amazing insight and a real head start in their search:

  • Resilience or ‘Put your own oxygen mask on first’.

How do you make sure you not only stay sane in these mad times but how do you move forward, grow and be positive?

  • Career strategies.

Know yourself and know your market.

If you’re changing direction – how best to do it.

  • Knowledge.

Your CV, LinkedIn profile, social media, job boards and how it really works.

  • Creating curiosity.

Creating a ‘Personal Brand’ that will make people come looking for you and how to build a supportive & productive network.

  • Execution.

How to really impress at every stage of the process.

If this is of interest to you, or anyone you know, you can register for your place here.

An introduction to the two fantastic people who will be leading these webinars:

Symon Hughes is a phenomenally experienced recruitment specialist:

He spent 5 years with Michael Page, the next few years working in European Search before moving in-house as one of the first Talent Acquisition Specialists. His career spans numerous brands and companies, from Disney to Vodafone, Barclays to Aviva and numerous tech & consumer start-ups.

  • 25 years’ experience getting people jobs
  • Read over 100,000 CV’s
  • Conducted over 10,000 interviews
  • 1000’s of LinkedIn searches looking for the perfect candidate
  • Managed 1000’s of hours of feedback to candidates & recruiters
  • Has an extensive network of recruiters and hiring managers in all industries
  • Has worked inside major global brands and really knows what happens to your CV.
  • Spent 18 years looking for jobs himself!


Simon North: one of the countries most respected career coaches

Simon is a Fellow of the CIPD, ex CEO, career progression specialist, and business coach. He has a background in HR and in general management. His corporate background includes working for:

  • PwC
  • KPMG
  • IBM
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Shell International

He speaks at some of the UK’s top business schools including Ashridge, Henley, Warwick and Durham Business Schools and is often asked to speak to various networks and alumni groups abroad. Simon features in the HR industry’s leading publications such as HR Director, HR Magazine, OnRec and HR Zone. He also regularly contributes to the national and business press including Management Today, Director Magazine, Recruiter Magazine, The Financial Times, The Sunday Times, Forbes and The Guardian.

If this is of interest to you, or anyone you know, you can register for your place here.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist.

Experimentation: innovation has to work in the real world

Our latest featured blog is a series of videos from Gavin Russell, with his tips on how HR practitioners can improve their ability to be innovative. With over 20 years in talent transformation, Gavin has helped businesses ranging from small start-ups to multinational corporations rapidly evolve their approach to talent.

He has led major talent change programmes at Skype, Microsoft, Foxtel and DTZ and is the author of ‘Transformation Timebomb’, a business guidebook for the digital age. He holds certifications in Mastering Business Models, Value Propositions and Business Testing, as well as Design Thinking. 

Gavin has given us his top 5 tips for HR practitioners on improving their ability to be innovative.

5. Experimentation:

Innovation has to work in the real world.

‘Making’ is a fundamental part of innovation, as it creates a tangible feedback loop to drive quick and continuous improvements.

Experiments reduce risks and uncertainty of innovation by producing evidence.

Try ideas out and invite others to respond. Testing your ideas early leads to creating happy accidents when you discover new things.

Communicate. Tell others what your innovation actually is and use their feedback to validate or invalidate your hypotheses.

Remember to show not tell.  This helps your audience to understand, so you can get good quality feedback and uncover missing details.

Develop a suite of experiments to test ideas in the real world – it doesn’t need to be big and complicated.

You can find out more about what Gavin does on his website here.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

Embrace absurdity: accelerate creativity

Our latest featured blog is a series of videos from Gavin Russell, with his tips on how HR practitioners can improve their ability to be innovative. With over 20 years in talent transformation, Gavin has helped businesses ranging from small start-ups to multinational corporations rapidly evolve their approach to talent.

He has led major talent change programmes at Skype, Microsoft, Foxtel and DTZ and is the author of ‘Transformation Timebomb’, a business guidebook for the digital age. He holds certifications in Mastering Business Models, Value Propositions and Business Testing, as well as Design Thinking. 

Gavin has given us his top 5 tips for HR practitioners on improving their ability to be innovative.

4. Embrace absurdity:

Einstein said, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it”.

Absurdity accelerates creativity.

It’s a team sport – creativity is not a linear process. Some people’s crazy ideas will prompt other crazy ideas.

Include a variety of perspectives – working in silos will give you a limited viewpoint, which in turn limits your output.  

Truly share all your work with each other. You cannot afford to be shy or judgemental, just let the ideas flow.

You must prioritise quantity over quality: generate lots of ideas, some of them will be awful, some excellent. You’ve got to push through: It’s hard to break that habit but it’s well worth it.

You can find out more about what Gavin does on his website here.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

Design thinking principles

Our latest featured blog is a series of videos from Gavin Russell, with his tips on how HR practitioners can improve their ability to be innovative. With over 20 years in talent transformation, Gavin has helped businesses ranging from small start-ups to multinational corporations rapidly evolve their approach to talent.

He has led major talent change programmes at Skype, Microsoft, Foxtel and DTZ and is the author of ‘Transformation Timebomb’, a business guidebook for the digital age. He holds certifications in Mastering Business Models, Value Propositions and Business Testing, as well as Design Thinking. 

Gavin has given us his top 5 tips for HR practitioners on improving their ability to be innovative.

3. Design thinking principles:

Enterprise innovation comes from a deep understanding of your users real-world problems.

Don’t start with how to improve your current products/services – you’ve already narrowed your objective, which stifles creativity. 

You should start at the other end – your users experience of their jobs/pains/risks/gains.

Immerse yourself in their problem – soak it up without judgement, developing fresh perspectives.

Understanding your user’s problem/opportunity, from their point of view, creates a completely different framework within which to be creative.

Embrace the ‘small, quick and dirty’.

Solution often doesn’t need to be big, expensive and complicated. In fact, the best innovations are often small, fast, simple, focussed and frequent.

Don’t wait till it’s perfect – no solution is perfect. And remember, you don’t need to know everything to get moving.

You can find out more about what Gavin does on his website here.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

Make time to practise

Our latest featured blog is a series of videos from Gavin Russell, with his tips on how HR practitioners can improve their ability to be innovative. With over 20 years in talent transformation, Gavin has helped businesses ranging from small start-ups to multinational corporations rapidly evolve their approach to talent.

He has led major talent change programmes at Skype, Microsoft, Foxtel and DTZ and is the author of ‘Transformation Timebomb’, a business guidebook for the digital age. He holds certifications in Mastering Business Models, Value Propositions and Business Testing, as well as Design Thinking. 

Gavin has given us his top 5 tips for HR practitioners on improving their ability to be innovative.

2. Make time to practice:

Skills can be learned – like training a muscle – you get better with practice.

But you wouldn’t attempt to run a marathon without training. And innovation is the new marathon for HR, you need to deliberately train your brain to improve creativity.

Things to remember:

Do it regularly and don’t worry about whether your ideas are good or bad, it’s about getting comfortable with a new skill.

Create the right environment and find what works for you.

Always carry a notebook/digital device to record inspiration.

Be aware of unconscious bias: let go of preconceptions, judgments and long-held beliefs. You need to recognise when assumptions stop your creativity.

You can find out more about what Gavin does on his website here.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

Cultivate divergent thinking

Our latest featured blog is a series of videos from Gavin Russell, with his tips on how HR practitioners can improve their ability to be innovative. With over 20 years in talent transformation, Gavin has helped businesses ranging from small start-ups to multinational corporations rapidly evolve their approach to talent.

He has led major talent change programmes at Skype, Microsoft, Foxtel and DTZ and is the author of ‘Transformation Timebomb’, a business guidebook for the digital age. He holds certifications in Mastering Business Models, Value Propositions and Business Testing, as well as Design Thinking. 

Gavin has given us his top 5 tips for HR practitioners on improving their ability to be innovative.

Number 1: Cultivate divergent thinking:

Innovation is not some sort of hereditary gift; it’s actually the skilled application of knowledge in new and exciting ways.

Research shows that creative thinking is actually about making new connections between different regions of the brain, creating large scale neural networks.

That means anyone can evolve their creativity by changing their normal routine, stepping outside of their comfort zones and challenging themselves in new ways.

It’s accomplished by cultivating divergent thinking skills and deliberately exposing oneself to new experiences and to new learning.

Divergent thinking is not the same as creativity, it’s the capacity for creativity – what Edward de Bono called ‘lateral thinking’.

We all have the capacity for it – we just have to challenge belief systems built up that stifle it – it’s about breaking habits.

It’s also about exposing yourself to completely new experiences and learning. And I’m not talking about training courses, I’m talking about completely new situations/people/environments that you’re not used to.

The key here is to put yourself in a new space and be open to discovery.

You can find out more about what Gavin does on his website here.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

Demystifying automation

Our featured blog this week is from Francesca Valli – enterprise transformation delivery expert. She owns and runs a management consultancy called Chrys, helping organisations to change – without all the complexity. She has helped organisations deliver the transformation and secure multi-£m returns on IT investment. In this article we discuss automation change projects and specifically demystifying it.

So, tell us about your expertise in automation?

Recently, I have obtained certification from the London School of Economics and Political Science on ‘automation: implementation in business’. The course of studies explored the strategic deployment of automation technologies in order to secure business value. What I have learnt on the course aligns with my experience and two of the key teachings are – the implementation of automation must be aligned to business strategy and change management is essential for implementation and adoption. Both messages were supported, in the course, by a theoretical framework punctuated by the interventions of business leaders whose automation experience warned of the perils of disregarding both.

What do you mean when you say, ‘demystify automation’?

Automation technology is beneficial and inevitable, as digital increasingly drives economic growth and societal transformation – but in the final analysis, it is just that… technology. I will describe its key features in a simple way. Change is brought about by the collaboration between people, in projects, IT, business operations, with a common objective, supported by shared tools and practices that drive alignment and delivery. I will point, here, to those tools and practices that foster the collaboration making the path to change infinitely smoother. We make change so difficult. It isn’t and it shouldn’t be. Automation does not change this.

The automation technology world

The ‘automation of knowledge work’ is a technological development gathering speed under our eyes. It refers to the use of computers to perform tasks that require expertise previously belonging exclusively to humans.

Whilst we are familiar with the automation of assembly lines, with its futuristic robots populating manufacturing plants, what I describe here is not the automation of production but the automation of services

There are two service automation technologiesavailable to the enterprise:

  1. Robotic Process Automation
  2. Cognitive Automation.

Artificial intelligence, specifically the so-called ‘strong’ AI, a technology aimed at achieving parity with humans, in all its complexity of awareness, understanding, reasoning, decision, action, is not present in the enterprise and we may be decades away from it – if we were ever to get there. This is not just a theoretical debate. Amongst other things, knowing the difference between RPA, CA, AI brings the CXO to a level playing discussion-field with software vendors – and it enables them to support leadership and teams along the automation journey.

Robotic Process Automation (PRA)

RPA is the use of software to automate processes and tasks, in the enterprise, previously performed by employees. It is suited to high volumes of transactions of a low complexity calibre. It is the most appropriate – and fastest – at repetitive tasks.

‘Desktop’, ‘Enterprise’ ‘Cloud’ are the various types of RPA deployed according to enterprise scale and requirements. A ‘desktop’ RPA can be configured by an able user, its technology non-invasive and easily mastered. ‘Enterprise’ RPA needs to be configured and installed by IT professionals, given its likely interfacing within an existing IT infrastructure. ‘Cloud’ RPA is easier to deploy, maintain and scale, in line with cloud technology, plus, it can ‘learn’ from the other robots in the cloud.

From a data perspective, RPA uses, as input, ‘structured’, ‘labelled’, data (think data in a spreadsheet) and, according to pre-set rules, processes that data to produce an expected outcome (‘given A, then B’).

RPA is typically deployed in a back-office context. Think accounts departments’ employees checking payable or receivable balances and transferring the information thus retrieved to a different application. Think insurance employees processing premium renewals. All these repetitive activities, when not complicated by exceptions, can be processed by RPA. An RPA ‘robot’ then is nothing other than the software license needed to carry out these activities, nothing fanciful – or intelligent, in a human sense, there. Seen in this light, RPA technology frees employees to carry out added-value activities, whilst the robot carries out the repetitive, mindless ones, effectively ‘taking the robot out of the human’).

Cognitive Automation (CA)

 CA is the use of software to automate complex processes and tasks also previously performed exclusively by employees. Unlike RPA, CA is more appropriately suited to complex, low volume transactions.

From a technology perspective, CA uses algorithms, intelligent instructions to process both ‘structured’ or ‘unstructured’ data (images, voice) to produce probabilistic outcomes (‘B is more likely given A’). The main CA tools are computer vision (including image processing), natural language processing (NLP) – and more, by the day, digital development and imagination knowing very few boundaries. CA is suited to finding patterns among large volumes of data. Because of ‘machine learning’ capabilities built into the software, CA can ‘learn’ by comparing expectations to results, improving performance over time. However, whilst CA does interact, intelligently, with rules in order to interpret data and complete tasks, CA is still not an artificial intelligence system.

CA typical deployment context is the front-office. Think chatbot assistants deployed in those customer-facing environments we are familiar with, from our own online retail – or banking – experience, all underpinned by CA. Think the virtual agents, such as IBM Watson, Expert System Cogito, IPsoft Amelia, used to engage with customers and employees and that can respond to chats, adapt to detected emotions and execute tasks identified during the chat itself, thanks to memory capabilities (unlike Siri, our phone-residing assistant, who can only respond to simple requests (input) with simple responses (outputs), having no memory or understanding of context).

Where is automation in business heading?

In 2018, the combined service automation market was estimated at US$ 4.1bn, with a predicted rise to US$ 46.5bn in 2024 (8). In a Sep 2020 press release, Gartner predicts that, despite the economic pressures due to COVID-19, the RPA market is expected to grow at double-digit rates through 2024. Indeed, COVID-19 and the ensuing global recession have increased interest in RPA with 90% of large organisations having adopted RPA by 2022, as they look to ‘digitally empower critical processes through resilience and scalability while recalibrating human labour and manual effort’. CA is still a somewhat new technology, with organisations needing to make relatively novel decisions as to its applicability and role within the enterprise. A positive outlook on CA investment comes from IPsoft Amelia’s AI-Powered Telco report on how the telecom industry is using automation to transform operations, forecasting a market size of US$ 36.7bn, annually, by 2025.

And how do you avoid costly mistakes?

For an organisation to prosper in digital times, a CEO must put in place the two success elements for the implementation of automation, namely, strategy alignment and change management.

It is my profound belief, developed in two decades at the coalface, that change – of the extensive type brought about by a new target operating model, a new ERP, a new enterprise architecture – is ultimately about the collaboration between people, in projects, IT, business operations, aimed at a common objective, supported by common tools and practices that form a coherent structure aimed at achieving the transformation.

Out of the universe of change methodologies, I have come up with a combination of business-focused tools and practices, based on my best work. These tools and practices, practical, scalable, easily embedded in a project delivery structure, give the business operations teams a voice and create a collaborative, dynamic culture which, not least, will facilitate the understanding of the benefits and the useful application of automation. It is within this collaborative culture that people can be educated to operate in an environment where automation may be the norm and where people’s fears of losing their jobs to machines can be addressed.

Francesca helps organisations navigate change – she believes projects of transformation fail because business change practices are inexistent, governance is weak and the mechanics of the delivery malfunctioning. She has many years’ experience in transformation, so if you’d like to speak to her, contact her here.

For a deeper exploration of tools and practices for effective business transformation, download the playbook Demystifying Change.

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

Is business acumen critical for HR professionals as well as the HR functions they lead?

Our featured blog this week is from Ian Williams – Founder & Director InFocus HR Consulting. Ian has held senior HR positions in retail, financial services and 3rd sector organisations and has had the opportunity to live and work overseas.  His passion has been on improving operational delivery of HR through Shared Services, Technology, Analytics and Business Mgt. In this article we discuss – is business acumen critical for HR?

 

How often have we – as a function – talked about HR needing to be more business savvy? It’s certainly a conversation I’ve heard a lot over the last 10 to 15 years, as we’ve made the transition from traditional HR roles into the Ulrich model i.e. HR Business Partners, Centres of Excellence and HR Shared Services. The fact that the CIPD’s professional map has an entire (and new) knowledge area on Business acumen – which covers topics such as financial literacy, business planning and supplier management – would suggest that we are finally taking this seriously.  The view of the CIPD is that as HR professionals we should understand our organisation’s purpose, future direction, priorities and performance, as well as understanding the external influences and trends that will impact the organisation[1].

 

I would fully agree that as a professional HR person, understanding what my organisation is trying to achieve and its performance against goals is critical, as it supports my engagement with stakeholders and therefore the successful delivery of my role.  As an HR function, the question we need to ask is whether we run ourselves in the way that we expect our organisational managers to operate?

 

A report from Deloitte[2] as long ago as 2010, argued that there was a gap in the newly emerging HR structures, one that could be filled by a distinct role, that of HR Chief Operating Officer.  Their rationale was that chief executives wanted more from HR than they were currently providing – within an on-going climate of organisations needing to be ‘better, faster, cheaper and more agile’ – HR teams were not keeping pace and being able to deliver ‘better, faster and more compliant HR services at a lower cost’, so needed someone with greater business acumen to bridge the gap.

 

The Deloitte research argued that HR would often struggle to deliver value when a wider need was identified, for example, an acquisition or organisational wide efficiency programme and that it was HR’s inability to coordinate across the function or across multiple units outside the function like Finance and Procurement that often led to failure.

 

So, is an HR COO the answer?

 

Before we look at the title, it’s worth considering what’s actually required.  As highlighted in paragraph two, an HRBP would rightly support an organisational head, who challenged their managers on their ability to manage budgets, plans, suppliers and risk. Therefore, my challenge to heads of HR departments is that we (as an HR function) also have budgets – for HR resource and expenses – people plans, suppliers and potential areas of risk (payroll and service delivery).

 

Research commissioned in 2015 by Bersin by Deloitte[3] highlighted the following stats from HR leaders:

  • 90% felt they had a handle on their budgets
  • 20% felt they were adequately planning for their company’s future need

 

The Bersin-Deloitte data would suggest that when it comes to budgeting, HR generally believes it is doing a good job, but when it comes to planning, our own function is not in the same place we expect our organisational managers to be.

 

So, is this about business management within and for the function?

 

I’ve had the privilege of working with some talented HR heads in organisations of all sizes, who have all seen the benefits of creating a role (and appointing me into it) to take a cross HR perspective on areas such as budgets, measuring and improving operational HR delivery and planning for the future.  The scope and remit have varied significantly depending on location, organisational need, the maturity of the HR function, the focus of the HR lead (i.e. having to focus upwards to board and needing a role to ‘run’ the function) however they have all generally had a need for a role to focus on:

 

  • Budgets – working across the function to determine budgets, working with finance to secure any uplift and then working with the HR leadership team to track progress against budget. This building of financial credibility with finance teams is critical if HR wants to invest in areas such as technology or new services, as it shows we can control and manage finances.

 

  • Planning – working with the organisations planning process to ensure an aligned HR/People plan, that is realistic, joins up across the parts of HR, is delivered, monitored and reviewed on an on-going basis.

 

  • Risk – working with internal risk, supporting the wider HR team on risk identification and management. When done well, risk management can support requests for investment in technology and services.

 

  • Supplier Management – ensuring that HR suppliers are managed to contract, to ensure service delivery and cost control and/or reduction.

 

An HR Business Management / HR COO / HR Operations role (see, the title isn’t important) can also provide the focus for a range of additional areas that are important to our organisations and HR, but don’t easily fit within the Ulrich model – HR Process Management & Continuous Improvement, HR Technology (if not in HR Shared Services), HR Analytics/Metrics, HR Key Performance Indicators, Project Management.

 

In summary, the research and my personal experience would suggest that every HR function would benefit from taking a business management perspective. Whether that’s having someone focused on people planning and having the budget in place to deliver the agreed plan, through to a full suite role that acts as the ‘number two’ to the HR head and effectively runs the function.  The options are endless and may only be limited by organisational constraints around HR budget, headcount and appetite. However, solutions can still be defined for any organisation taking those limiting factors into account.

 

So, to answer the question, yes business acumen is critical for HR – both us as professionals but also the HR functions we lead – and, as the old adage goes, we really should practice what we preach…

 

You can find more about what Ian’s company does on his website here.

 

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.

 

[1] CIPD web site (profession of the future)

[2] Deloitte – The emerging role of the HR COO

[3] Bersin by Deloitte, High-Impact HR

Top Ten Tips for Transformation Go-Live Success

Our featured blog this week is from Simon Brown, of Simon Brown Associates. He has 20 years of experience in transformation and has been involved in six end to end transformation programs, including the merger planning to create the new GlaxoSmithKline company, which was the world’s largest merger at the time and set a trend for the Pharma sector to follow. Here he gives his top 10 tips to make sure your transformation project is a success.

 

As a veteran of six end to end Transformation and Shared Services Programs since 1996, together with consulting for numerous other clients since 2010, I often get asked: what works best, what are your key learnings, what advice would you give?

Whilst there is no single “cut and paste” solution since each company has its own culture, its own spend budget and change readiness agility, there are certainly some common factors which, if applied with the correct level of dedication and follow-through, can make a great difference to the speed of implementation and effectiveness of your transformation.

 

My own experience to date is with these 6 global companies:

  • SmithKline Beecham 1996-2000,
  • GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 2001-2,
  • The Coca-Cola Company 2007- 2010,
  • NCR Corporation 2011-13,
  • Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) 2014-2016,
  • Becton Dickinson (BD) 2016-2018

*My views below are based on my personal experience and personal views over 20 years and are not specifically assigned to as representing or reflecting the above organisations.

 

My primary focus has been with Human Resources Transformation, plus a dose of Global Business Services (integrating IT, Finance and HR back-office functions), and yet the journey to ‘go-live’ success is a similar one whichever function you are transforming.  So where I have referenced HR in this article please substitute the name of your own function in transformation as needed to suit.

Go-Live is that high profile moment when you turn all the thinking, planning, blood, sweat and tears of knowledge transfer including the processes which you lift and shift or lift and transform, into a new operational model. A model which the customers can see, feel, touch and truly experience. It’s exactly like when you open your store or restaurant and suddenly your customers are ready to consume your products and services and give you feedback on what they did or didn’t like.

So here are my 10 top tips for Transformation Go-Live Success:

 

  1. Begin with the end in mind.

    One of Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits!
    Think future state. Know your goals.

Establish a visual blueprint of your future organisation, your Target Operating Model. Be clear on the deliverables, and desired outcomes: the measures of success in terms of operational effectiveness, customer satisfaction and cost-efficiency. Define and agree on these upfront and together with your key stakeholders. Plan ahead and get answers to these points before you get sucked into the doing mode.

 

  1. Create a Compelling Vision to move forward

    Draw your own ‘Big Picture’.

By working together on the design and actually articulating the vision by physically drawing a tableau (“Big Picture”) to describe your future state (and at the same time to confirm why the current state is unsatisfactory) you are creating something which you can show and share with others to get them involved and engaged.  A picture is worth a thousand words: it draws people in, starts a conversation, creates meaning and dialogue for change. Like in a good art gallery, it provokes a response, creates an emotional reaction.

So to gain momentum to move forward we need to create a compelling vision, a good story, something to believe in, to follow, to become part of.  It is a kind of journey map with key milestones worth reaching, and a pot of gold or treasured place to be on the horizon, at the sun-rise, on the other side of the mountain. The compelling vision and the story that goes with it will particularly for senior managers have both a clear business case and like all good stories be capable to win hearts and minds, especially when good things come to those who take up and stay true to the journey. We all remember story-books where there are challenges to overcome, tangible outcomes and people as role models we can relate to.

Do share real stories from other companies who have already had successful journeys: they survived and thrived after all!  Provide real case studies, real people with real roles in the new model. Describe “A day in the life of…” for each of the key roles in your future state organisation.

 

  1. Engage your key stakeholders early

    Enlist business “change champions”.
    Obtain the voice of the customer.

Before you start to implement your new ways of working, be sure to get real supporters from the business on your side. Convert spectators into participants of your team, on the pitch, helping you to win.  Identify and enlist “change champions” who can talk positively about the benefits of self-service, portal and system technology, freeing up true HR business partners to actually spend more time supporting the business agenda and less time as a pair of hands-on administration.

Change champions are leaders, role models (walking the talk), who are well respected by other managers and thus engender and enable peer and cascade credibility to the transformation story. Their enthusiasm, business savvy and effective communication style will help the transformation to become a business transformation, a new way of working, not just something for and on behalf of HR (or another back-office function).

The line manager then becomes a People Manager who has more ownership of hiring, onboarding, managing performance and engagement of their team. They become responsible also for initiating system transactions for and on behalf of their teams. Good People Managers will show by example to their colleagues and direct reports on what to do.

 

  1.  Align

    Systems with Processes, Projects with work-streams, Portal with People, to ensure the most frequently asked employee questions = content answers.

Generally, alignment is the keyword. Alignment of activities, sub-projects, work-streams etc. are key to the successful implementation and end-user digestion of the transformation and changes to the ways of working. Having a clearly coordinated and well-structured Project Management Office with a well bundled Communications plan can really help to present the transformation as one initiative, not a thousand unrelated busy tasks. Just like the air traffic controller the role is to ensure that planes take off and land safely at the right time in the right place.

Align Process & System. System design and implementation and process design and implementation need to happen in parallel, to be aligned. You can’t implement a system without a clear and consistent set of global processes, and global processes will only work if the system enables the necessary transactions.

Roles and workflows must be defined and aligned. One without the other = an unholy and costly mess and lots of re-work.

Align Portal with People. Think about what is relevant for the end-user when designing your intranet portal. Ensure navigation and access to information is simple and easy. Use a search engine with keyword enquiry. The most frequently asked questions that employees normally ask (have you got five minutes…?) are the ones to ensure you have written good content answers for on the portal. Keep these answers up to date, relevant and fresh and you will save everyone time.

 

  1. Hire an HR Shared Services Team Director and Team Leader * early.

Sadly, all too often companies make the mistake of leaving it until their new HR Service Centre is up and running before hiring the HR Service Director, and team leaders (for spans of 12 people +). The mistaken belief is that it is costly to hire these roles early. Particularly if they are an additional cost to a headcount not yet saved elsewhere in the organisation. My counter-proposal is to hire these pivotal roles early. Select those who are change agents, good at stakeholder engagement and employee relations, and particularly strong on delivery of customer service satisfaction: the most important metric there is!

Make them part of your pre-go live project team, conducting knowledge transfer, engaging early with key stakeholders, hiring the team. If they are involved in this it will build a stronger psychological contract and a vested interest to build the best team, the best processes, lay the best foundations for the new house right from the start. That’s actually cost-effective!

 

 

  1. Be clear on HR roles for the new HR Model

Answer the “what’s in it for me” (w-i-i-f-m) question honestly.
Have a clear, transparent, and fair selection process.
Give guidance on the transition and the project opportunities.
Be honest about the exit process and financial and career support for leavers. 

The HR Community will have one question on their mind as you announce your HR Transformation program: What’s in it for me? Behind that question lies their hierarchy of needs:

  • What happens to me – and when, what are the opportunities/options for me, and what if there are no opportunities for me?

Don’t pretend that these questions can remain unanswered. Don’t leave the elephant in the room unannounced. Don’t lose trust. Acknowledge that their questions are relevant and real. Be honest. You may not have all the answers yet but do your best to outline the road map and the 3 routes to be taken:

a – you can be selected for a role in the new model,

b –  you can grow your CV in change and project management,

c – there is no clear role yet defined that we can see for you, however, if you stay and help with knowledge transfer a fair and respectful package and support will be there for you if ultimately no suitable roles match for you.

 

  1. Change Management is key – win over HR

From all my transformation experiences in the last 20 years this is the one common theme for them all:  

HR is often more resistant to letting go of the current state than managers or employees are.

Take time to get HR on-board with change – actively listen to their hopes, fears, and concerns.
With them on-board you have a salesforce for the new way of working!

 

Don’t underestimate change management or the time it takes. Give quality time to this.
Behaviours don’t change on paper or after a single slide deck presentation. You are promoting a new concept (well not that new since Dave Ulrich first promoted the new HR Model back in the mid 1990s) and at first it seems just a concept, a rather uncomfortable concept. Until people see how it works for them.

  • There is a change for line-managers to become more empowered and empowering as People Managers.
  • There is some change for employees – to do some of their own self-service system transactions.
  • There is even more change for HR -changing roles, changing organisation structure, headcount, new skills to learn, old skills to let go.

Of all the stakeholders in the change mix, my experience is that HR is often more resistant to letting go of the current state than managers or employees are. They have more skin in the game and they perceive they have more to lose. Have the courage to spend time with HR to help them through their personal transition. First, they need to accept that the change must come from them.

 

  1. Rule of 8: communicate, communicate, communicate

In times of significant change, research shows the same messages need to be repeated up to 8 times before they are heard, understood, and internalised.

(Price Pritchett: Business as Unusual).

I attended a seminar back in 2000 and read the book. At that time, I was involved in the merger planning to create the new GlaxoSmithKline company. It was the world’s largest merger at the time and set a trend for the Pharma sector to follow. A huge change was taking place and Price Pritchett taught us the “rule of 8 “for communications. In turbulent times of change, you can never over-communicate. As we have all experienced in 2020 with the Covid19 pandemic.

When the game is changing, and the old rules and framework is not the same any more you have to help the team to take it all in and to adjust to the changing environment. People often don’t hear, and sometimes don’t want to hear, the first message of change. They just don’t take it in.  So say it again, and again and again eight times like a beat in slightly different ways but actually with the same core message. At 8 times or more nearly everyone hears it, internalises it and recognises it as their new terms of reference.

 

  1. Do knowledge transfer as a Joint Project Team:

Country HR working together with the HR Shared Services Centre.
Aim for a “one team together” mindset. HR Services team and Country HR team working together. Transferring knowledge of process, policy and transaction and legislation from each country to the new HR Service Centre is a big full-on project, not just a short task.

Create a project management team mindset with a clear charter and purpose: we are doing this together and we will do it well. It’s about collaboration, it’s about not wanting to let employees in that country down. This approach sets up conditions for success.

Spend time and budget to do as much face to face/voice to voice knowledge transfer and training as you can. It’s about giving and receiving the gift of knowledge and can actually be a reward for an employee to get the opportunity go to another country to do this.

Steer clear of any connotations of “taking over”, “raiding their brains”, “us and them” – these set an unhealthy atmosphere for the project and must be confronted early if they arise.

 

 

  1. Go-Live is just the start!

When you “go live” it is not the end of the project – it is just the tangible beginning of the new way of working.
Stay close for the first 3-6 months to create habits for the Service Delivery Model.
Keep the score to record early successes, and encourage improvements.

 

Don’t disband the project team just yet. Check first that the new roles, systems and processes are working and working underneath the surface. Ensure that people are trained for their new roles and that they have actually made the behavioural transition from the old state model to new state new model and new actions. Invest time to institutionalise the new ways of working.

Actions are everything. Read also the signs -verbal and non-verbal. Praise adoption and good examples of new ways of working. Encourage customer feedback on the service and be quick to improve the service where needed. Nip in the bud the bad habits and signs of old ways of working via firm, constructive feedback with SMART examples.

Do take time to positively celebrate Go-Live day with a drink and a cake as a milestone achieved.      It marks the end of the beginning; the start of a new life-cycle of continuous operational excellence.

 

Simon offers bespoke HR solutions to match your business needs, to deliver effective Human Resources outcomes. You can find more about what his company does on his website.

 

James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. Please get in contact with him directly to discuss any of these topics further.