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Interview: Shauna O'Handley, Head of Talent Value Proposition & Performance, Misys

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14th Oct 2014
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Shauna O'Handley in 15 seconds

Shauna O'Handley is Head of Talent Value Proposition & Performance at financial risk management and banking software company Misys.

Misys has over 4500 employees around the globe.

She was previously Head of HR Transformation for Transport for London, where she Designed and delivered a comprehensive HR transformation programme that delivered cost savings in excess of £40m over a five year period.

She has also worked as a management consultant for Deloitte, as an HR Advice Manager for Lambeth Council and an HR Business Partner at Cape Breton District Health Authority in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Shauna will be appearing at HR Tech Europe in Amsterdam on October 23rd and 24th.

1) You've been both a consultant and a practitioner. What advantages do you think this gives you and what have you learned from being on both sides of the fence?

For me, the insight and experiences have been ideal in providing a solid perspective of what is important for me. My top five are outlined below:    

  1. BAU needs to be continuous improvement. Unattended ‘BAU’ keep consultants in business.  BAU needs to be owned and managed as a continuous improvement, never ending project. It’s not static and shouldn’t be treated that way. Maybe not the most sexy of projects it’s critical. When it unravels it impacts productivity, credibility and scalability which slows down growth and effectiveness; 
  2. Simon Sinek is right:  “It’s not what you do it’s why you do it”. I always found as a practitioner, for me,  it was more about being part of something big: connecting with values and the culture.  It’s the reason why I joined organisations and the reason why I left.  I count myself for where I am now. At Misys, the ‘why’ became so strong that I transitioned from an independent consultant to an in house practitioner. I wanted to be part of something and I was unable to  feel 100 percent part of that while sitting on the side-lines of organisational processes and events as a consultant. It’s been one of my best career decision. The spirit at Misys is indescribable;  
  3. Find the white space & fill it. When I was at Deloitte one of the Directors said to me: “the best change managers fill white space”. In a nutshell: take a step back, take a good hard look at everything that is going on and find the gap. White space has provided opportunities for me to exercise innovation, creativity, and delivery better solutions;
  4. Collective Power:  My ‘silver lining playbook’. Consulting provides some pretty intense experience. At the end of the day, people are what make these experiences great.  When I left Transport for London I  left a small, close group of people.  We lived out of each other’s pockets for over a year and it was fantastic.  It made the challenge fun, the memories cherished and the outcomes amazing. People are always a silver lining for me – they can turn the most difficult of circumstances around in a heartbeat;   
  5. You are responsible for … YOU. Own your career, your experiences, your development and your relationships. Make the most of it! 

2) What's the secret to creating a global value proposition that takes into account local subtleties and nuances?

The first thing is to have a clear plan of where the organisation is going, and a clear definition of principles that underpin your EVP. How competitive is your position? How affordable or cost effective is it? How simple is it for people to understand and for it to be administered and how flexible is it in order to promote, change and improve. These four, concise questions drive the EVP strategic direction for the long term and also the tactical agenda to ensure that the EVP is appropriate and is something people believe in:  both internally and externally. They shape the agenda for gaining insight and high value collaboration on a number of levels that help balance that global approach without compromising the local solution:

  1. Your global vendors relationships. Move it from a transaction/needs based relationship to a true strategic partnership and see them as an extended member of your team. The insight that global vendors have when tapped into is invaluable;
  2. Your HR community. Everyone talks about being more ‘strategic’ in HR and without a strategic infrastructure in place, it isn’t possible to unleash the strategic capabilities of the function. If the global HR community (those in regions) can’t tap into shaping the strategic direction then you aren’t taking the local requirements into account and your EVP is nothing but a concept. Take the four principles:  talk to your regional HR teams, create the agenda, review your analytics, define the pain points, start working out solutions.  Understand what your HR operations people are experiencing, the recruiters, the business partners. This is part of getting the basics right and this contributes to solidifying a consistent understanding around the company wide EVP yet ensures it continues to evolve;  
  3. Your management community. Your global management stakeholders have the most complex insight to digest and it provides an opportunity to test your competitiveness and simplicity. They are looking at things from a functional, global and local perspective which provides a mixed bag of insight (internal and external).  All of this needs shapes what is needed to make the difference for our people, how it shapes the people strategy and how it empowers our managers to be organisational champions of the EVP;
  4. Your employees. If you don’t know the answer to a question – then ask. There are three big ones for me that gain great insight from employees: 1. Top three things they love about where they work; 2. Top three things they would like to see improved about where they work; 3; What would it take to recommend their organisation to a valued member of their network. They test what is important to everyone and everywhere.

3) At TfL you did a lot of work on business transformation. What lessons did you learn there about what works and what doesn't?

Most of my work at TfL was responding to the 2010 Government Spending Review which led to a transformation of the back office. My role was leading the HR Transformation Programme: evaluating what was in place, defining the required solution (synergies and increased effectiveness) and the plan to get there. I’ve summed up the wins and opportunities below:

Things that worked well:

  • The collaborative working within the project team was fantastic – it was hard, but it was fun;
  • We grew talent.  The project team was predominantly made up of internal SMEs and graduates with additional support from Deloitte. It provided a great balance of organisation awareness and established networks, objectivity and thought leadership. It was a highly energised environment with fresh insights, open challenges and ideas;
  • Benefits realisation in the true sense helped provide a great structure to focus on outcomes and use this in order to drive the change management plan (a success due to the expertise from one of the SMEs in the team);
  • We spend a lot of time defining, communicating, and training about why the change was happening, what it was going to look like and how it was going to happen – making it real for people;
  • We believed in what we were doing and were passionate about helping people understand, even though not everyone was going to be happy. It was a different way of operating and in some areas a different capability. We shared, we listened and we adjusted when it was appropriate to do so. We were not afraid to put ourselves out there to answer the difficult questions and give the challenging answers. We treated people like adults, directly and with dignity and respect.

Some lessons learned:

  • Test and challenge the appetite for change and the end state outcomes. Don’t facilitate your stakeholders to get the answer you want, facilitate to get the answer you need;
  • Pick your battles. It helps you save energy to invest in higher value activities;
  • Deal with people that are working to their own agenda immediately and swiftly. If the behaviour goes unchallenged they’ll have a real negative impact on the team and the outcomes;
  • Get out and about.  Be seen outside of formal meetings and engagement events – outside of the line by line engagement and change management plan. Be appropriately casual, accessible and visible;
  • Build an early understanding on the differences between communications, engagement and change management. It is remarkable and scary how many people see these as the same thing;

4) Collaboration is a key factor in success in your current role. What rules do you follow in order to make this collaboration productive, progressive and successful?

The first and most important part is that collaboration can’t feel like a task. It’s how you do things and your ways of working. This starts with working as part of a team that is clear on what is needed, the direction of travel and understanding the consequences of it not happening.

Charlotte de Metz, Global HR Director at Misys creates an environment and opportunity that really sets that agenda – involving people to shape the direction, to own the outcomes and to start articulating what it is going to feel like when we get there. This ‘involve to evolve’ approach creates an excitement and enthusiasm before we even start getting anything off the ground. It’s great, because it means that everyone’s wheels are turning early on and they are in turn committing to the things that they are particularly interested in contributing towards.

Taking the time upfront to invest in taking people on that journey really helps us remain lean and deliver at pace.  

As far as my role: I don’t achieve anything on my own so collaboration is actually what my job has become. I lead what used to be the ‘Centre of Excellence’ areas of HR – effectively the design of the solutions and the readiness plans for execution. This sits with me and my team and we take the shared agenda and tap into those who are passionate about particular problems that we are solving and those that complement our own skills to drive it forward (and sometimes these are very, very different!). This alignment of need, will and expertise is the ideal combination.  It results in the motivation and the capability to drive it home. It gives me a great depth of insight and perspectives which creates that continuous learning environment, building and reinforcing the need to collaborate and extend that net wider in terms of who gets involved. And don’t think this means we are always agreeing on everything. We’re not – what we are doing is shaping and testing solutions and then retesting and reshaping until we get the best fit outcome at the right time. If I am not collaborating to get this, then I cannot be effective at what I do. Neither can my team and neither can the HR function as a whole. 

5) Does the value proposition for Generation Y employees need to be different?

I’ll go back to what I talked about earlier and ensuring the EVP is underpinned by four key principles that shape your definition:  competitiveness, cost effectiveness, simplicity and flexibility. The challenge with an EVP in every organisation is articulating it in a way that helps someone connect and for this to be achievable it needs to be comfortably flexible so it appeals to your employee mix.

Take Misys for example – over 4,500 employees across 50 locations – the diversity of our talent profile is vast from age, gender, culture, skills and experience.

We have a proposition that needs to be positioned to a very mixed target market – which is why it is no surprise why we are seeing so much information about HR having increased marketing capabilities and working closely with the CMO. With the war on talent we need to campaign managing our EVP.  I like the analogy of a political candidate race: they are out there with their party platform and their agenda about the difference they are going to make for people and the meaning they will bring to their constituents. They are out talking to any number of different groups to raise their profile and secure votes. They don’t change or compromise their whole platform based on who they are talking to – instead, they pull a lever from their broad and inclusive offering in order to talk about what is most relevant for their particular audience at any given time.

They are out there to win! HR needs to take the same approach:  who are we, what does it mean, what’s in it for you. 

6) You're a fan of an 'integrated' approach to HR. Can you explain what this means to you and give an example of how this approach has worked for you in the past?

I am really passionate about effective HR and I don’t feel HR can be effective unless it is integrated end to end. It’s not a design or a role definition thing as much as it is a way of working.  It’s an approach where the planned outcomes for HR are clear and the function understands the direction of travel. It’s a place where there is continuous learning takes place and process, content and technical leaders within HR engage with the rest of the function to grow their capabilities and understanding. In turn process, content and technical leaders are provided with candid and real time insight on the impact of interventions, customer and candidate experiences and predicted pain points that if resolved yield a better solution – especially if you are solving a problem before the business even realises it has one.

It’s a team who work together and win together;  who are not afraid of conflict and use that to drive the right discussions to get the best outcome. It’s a function that has a broad set of capabilities, that embrace a culture of collaboration and that have the processes, technology and people that drive the best level of value for the organisation.

My first experience of positive integrated working in HR was when I was working in J.D. Irving Ltd in Canada (a woodlands and sawmill operation … so yes, I fit that Canadian stereotype to a T!). I was in the field as an HR generalist working with a heavy weight centre of excellence team based in HQ. That centre was so focussed on making sure we had the tools to deliver and I truly felt respected and seen as a conduit for successful HR delivery with my customer group. I felt part of a team – a great team.

I felt empowered by the pace and the involvement. I felt supported in providing a better service. This was my first role in HR and honestly it was the last time that I worked in a truly integrated HR function like that and I a missed it. That is why I was so excited to take on the challenge that was offered to me at Misys last November: to grow an integrated HR centre that supported a continuous transformation in service delivery for Misys.  Feedback to date has been positive and I know we have already reach the ‘we’re all in this together’. It’s a good feeling. We’re moving in one direction, together.   

7) As a function, what does HR need to do to enhance its connections, collaboration and relationship with the business as a whole?

There is quite a lot of this topic that has been discussed for years. For me I think the first thing is about HR’s ability network and influence. The way you develop your people strategy is based on the influence of the people within HR – so what are they doing to build that meaningful relationship with key stakeholders in the business, what are they doing to build trust with the executive team, what are they doing to fill the white space – seizing opportunities and defining how an ‘HR’ solution is actually a business solution.

For HR, those relationships aren’t an entitlement, it’s a product of knowing how to build and influence a meaningful relationship with your customers because without it the HR function is strategically impotent.  Couple your approach with analytics and tell your customer group a story that you’ve built for them, the next chapters of that story becomes your plan and the key people interventions that are going to make the difference to the business. I remember when I was at Network Rail, Mike Newby (now ER Director for Royal Mail) set an objective for his leadership team. It was that over the course of the financial year, the value I add will be quantifiable in financial terms. I was given a specific target (stretch) that I needed to hit – how I achieved that target was totally up to me.

That created a great way of thinking: is it the right idea, is there a better way to do it, what’s the best way to impact the bottom line, who do I need to talk to understand more about where the opportunities are.  It is about demonstrating the value around the things that keep your VP up at night – customers, people and the bottom line.

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