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Business transformation: there’s more to HR’s role than meets the eye

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We’re at a pivotal point for organisational development, and HR teams have a critical role to play in ensuring the success of business transformation.

14th Jan 2021
Chief People Officer (CHRO) orgvue
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Organisations across the globe are experiencing change at a quicker pace than ever before. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for many businesses to accelerate transformations that were already on the cards, while others have been forced into dramatic changes of course.

With HR leaders in the driver’s seat, they can set an agenda that translates the business strategy into operational delivery.

On the face of it, the remit for transformation seems to sit solely with senior business leaders – after all, they are the people ultimately responsible for success. Within this context, you could be forgiven for thinking that HR’s role within transformation is a small one, or one that’s only involved behind the scenes in how to communicate change. That perception would be an understatement at best, and plain wrong at worst.

Successful business transformation requires more. It requires an understanding that HR’s role is integral, not only to ensuring transformation takes place across the workforce, but to help define the mandate for change, influence key stakeholders and lay the foundations that change is built upon.

A positive catalyst for change

The impact of Covid-19 has permeated every part of how we work, our culture, and how we manage high performing teams. In the process, it's given HR a platform to take control of it as a positive catalyst for change. This starts with HR being truly confident in what they are putting on the agenda.

For most businesses, there’s a lot to be determined with regards to the workplace set-up and post-Covid workforce of the future. How will work be done and how can teams collaborate effectively in a hybrid world of work? How is engagement and wellbeing monitored and managed? Instead of addressing these issues in isolation based on the current situation, what really needs to be considered is the longer-term plan and design of the organisation, even modelling different location strategies and exploring new sourcing options.  

With HR leaders in the driver’s seat, they can set an agenda that translates the business strategy into operational delivery. By taking on a coordination role, leveraging their unique cross-functional view of the whole business, HR can empower organisations to hit the accelerator in the long term.

Building credibility through data

HR’s ability to get a seat at the table early and have a strategic role in designing any type of workforce transformation hinges upon its ability to have the right level of conversation, which must be rooted in evidence and data.

Data without context won’t get the job done, however. Not only do HR teams need to make their data organised and easy to handle, but they also need to ensure they can demonstrate its practical relevance to disciplines across the business. It’s this distinction that allows HR to show confidently and in concrete terms, via modelling scenarios and identifying opportunities, what the case for change is.

External data points to show the ‘outside-in’ perspective are also key. These allow HR leaders to understand and monitor the changes other companies are implementing to remain competitive in the marketplace. Without this grounding, HR leaders cannot hope to influence stakeholders or change perceptions.

The key to this happening is collaboration. We already know that silos between departments only put a damper on overall productivity and performance. By acting as a central hub that connects the different areas of the business, HR, and operations teams can ensure all the relevant workforce data is being seen in context - allowing leadership teams to make smarter, data-driven decisions.

This is what will deliver credibility and grow recognition of the value HR brings to the table for the business and its overall performance.

Making it an operational reality

It’s one thing to come up with a strategic plan for a workforce transformation, but it is another to turn this into an operational reality. HR has the potential to drive the latter by influencing senior leadership and stakeholders to communicate the transformations well and roll them out, pulling on all relevant organisational levers across the business. These should include performance objectives, compensation plans, governance, and organisational structures.

To deliver against the needs of the business when it comes to performance and growth, HR should take on an important role, that of a disruptor. Whether it’s pausing bigger picture activity to review and analyse how certain working practices are faring, or building a case for a new kind of workforce transformation, HR can approach disruption from a positive standpoint to drive meaningful change.

What’s crucial is that this planning cycle, from data and evidence through to implementing a change programme, cannot be a one-off. The onus is on HR leaders to make sure that they’re continually analysing, modelling, planning and influencing to ensure they are a core part of workforce transformation.

Changing perceptions of HR

The pandemic has given HR leaders a lot to think about, particularly when it comes to workforce transformation and how the rest of the business perceives their role.

HR has so much more to offer businesses in periods of flux than just acting as the voice of the workforce. As a business unit, it has an essential role to play in ensuring transformation is successful, by helping define the mandate for change in the first place. Once this happens, there’s no going back, and for HR teams that can only be a positive.

Interested in this topic? Read Why HR’s place is in the boardroom.

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