In the first of a three-part series on how to implement a successful e-HR project, our panel of experts explain the importance of developing a shared vision
Over the next three weeks, Martin Reddington, Mark Withers and Mark Williamson authors of Delivering Value from HR Transformation, a guide produced by Roffey Park, will highlight three key areas that should be addressed when embarking on an e-HR transformation project. They are: developing a shared vision for HR transformation; securing stakeholder commitment and driving the benefits. The authors have developed their thinking through practical experience of working with a wide range of organisations through HR transformation. This week the focus is on the first of these areas: developing a shared vision for HR transformation.
Why bother with a shared vision?
Many of the critical issues facing organisations concern people – ie, the domain of HR. Research points to a link between organisational performance and good HR practices. There is a growing sense that HR must become more strategic and help organisations implement strategy. Technology is enabling the automation of transactional activity and the window of opportunity is wide open, yet many in HR are failing to take advantage of this.
One of the characteristics that distinguishes those HR functions that are starting to transform effectively is their ability to develop a shared vision early on.
Where to start?
You need to think of organisations as a system that functions as a whole through the interaction of its parts. With regard to HR we have found it helpful to think of the parts in terms of:
- external environment – you will need to think about what the organisation wants from HR and how HR will help the organisation respond to external changes
- structure – including reporting structure, job and work-group design, role expectations/measures, facilities and organisational integrating mechanisms
- technology – the IT infrastructure
- work processes – HR processes, reflecting both the services that are provided and their delivery channels (eg, HR, line manager, employee, contractor, etc)
- people and culture – including skills and knowledge, core capabilities, values, style and behaviours, people management practices and leadership
- performance outcomes – measures of performance from an external, senior management and functional perspective.
If we look at the organisation in terms of these six parts, then immediately we recognise how a change in one part will have an impact on the others. So, introducing e-HR will affect structure (eg, outsourcing of transactional HR); the organisation external to HR (employee self-service); people and culture (HR capabilities); process (e-enablement) and performance (HR costs).
How will this approach help?
First, organisations can use the six headings outlined above to develop a set of statements that describe the way things currently are in HR. Second, the six headings can also be used to describe what a changed HR environment might look like. And third, the gap between where you are now and where you want to be can be assessed. Considering the size of the gap will enable you to evaluate the impact of the proposals and the readiness of the organisation to tackle this scale of change.
- A global telecoms business had appointed an e-HR programme director but there was no transformation team or a coherent HR transformation vision. One-to-one interviews were held with the HR leadership team and key business stakeholders. These interviews were structured around the framework set out above. This helped us to prepare a set of statements for current and future HR. These statements were then presented for discussion at a workshop involving all the key stakeholders. A shared vision was reached relatively quickly and a framework was developed that shaped HR transformation work-streams reflecting all parts of HR and not just technology.
- A major utility company had made an acquisition in the US and wanted to think through its implications for the HR function. The team worked through a process using the approach set out above to visualise the new world of HR – using pictures to describe/reflect each of the organisational areas. A significant outcome of this work was to focus early on in building HR capability – in capability areas such as change management, client relationship management, consulting skills and project management – so that HR professionals would be able to support the significant business change that was about to hit the organisation.
The benefits of a shared vision
Apart from getting people moving in the same direction, towards the same goal, a major benefit of investing in this work is the ability to identify the key ‘impacts’ of transformation early on. Typically, these impacts are likely to involve:
- Shifting the scope and delivery of HR services – with technology enabling employee and manager self-service and HR professionals focusing more on delivering value to employees, customers and shareholders
- Change in the capabilities required of HR professionals and line managers
- Reshaping the structure of HR. Often implementing a shared services model and reducing the numbers of people employed by HR.
Understanding these impacts will help to inform change implementation and the planning of appropriate interventions to build commitment to the changes.
- Think of HR as a system with six different parts
- Involve key stakeholders early on in envisioning HR transformation
- Ensure transformation addresses change in each of these parts
About the experts
Research Associate at Roffey Park and CEO of Martin Reddington Associates. He was formerly e-HR Transformation Programme Director at Cable & Wireless
Managing director of Mightywaters Consulting and has supported HR transformation projects in a number of large organisations including National Grid Transco, Cable & Wireless and Barclaycard
Member of the leadership team at Partners for Change and has undertaken assignments for a wide variety of organisations including AstraZeneca and the Inland Revenue
The research report Delivering Value from HR Transformation is available from Roffey Park, priced £35, and it can also be purchased online and downloaded from Roffey Park’s website. www.roffeypark.com/reports