Our roundup of experts provides a critical look at what’s to come in 2017.
By Debbie Bolla
Attracting and retaining top talent. Becoming an employer of choice. Engaging millennials. Leveraging technology and data for informed decision-making. These are just a few of the challenges that HR and talent acquisition leaders report they are currently facing. The pressure on HR to spearhead strategic business solutions has never been greater. In fact, according to a recent Visier survey, 79 per cent report their organisation can’t succeed without a strategic CHRO and 78 per cent agree that company success is driven by a CHRO who contributes to business performance.
What else does 2017 have in store? HRO Today Global had the opportunity to speak with some of the top leaders in their field at and after the HRO Today Forum EMEA about how HR can succeed in the new year.
HRO Today Global: What are the main challenges facing HR in 2017, and what are some strategies to overcome them?
Arne-Christian van der Tang: At TomTom, we believe that the main challenge facing HR and the workforce in 2017 is the not a new challenge—it’s the ongoing war for talent. Our organisation needs to stay competitive in order to attract and retain top talent.
For us, competitors are not just in our industry— they are all around us. So we aim to be the tech employer of choice by being ahead of the game with solutions that are truly innovative. It’s important for potential new candidates and employees to know exactly what your organisation stands for and what your offering is. Our promise as an employer is that at TomTom, you can achieve more in less time than at other companies.
This year we are working on a number of programmes aimed at attracting and retaining top talent. Technology is strategically important for driving this. From the first point of contact, to the onboarding process,s all the way through the employee centric experience, having the right HR management systems in place is critical. This year we will be launching Workday throughout TomTom globally.
Jo Sullivan: For our organisation, we need to build leaders and strong talent pipelines in order to manage through change effectively. HR is key to driving this change, but it can only be accomplished by working closely with the business. Taking ownership and accountability is also very important. At Guide Dogs, we are increasing the localised ownership of engagement. We are doing this by having managers work with their teams on localised engagement plans that they take accountability for delivering. In order for this to work, HR is providing local managers greater access to people analytics. This will allow leaders to easily identify trends and issues within their own teams. Monthly calls will act as brainstorming sessions to actively prevent issues from becoming potential problems.
Leatham Green: HR will need to have higher levels of creativity and productivity than ever before to help find new ways of managing complex and rapid change. Technology’s rapid emergence means we need our leaders not only to manage fast-changing business models, but also to create them. Often the best ideas on how to embrace and apply new technology come from the younger generation. It’s HR’s responsibility to ensure that these employees are managed in a way that inspires and excites them.
Part of the complex change is the shift in workforce demographics. In today’s multi-generational workforce, there are up to five generations in the workplace. This means we need to recognise the different needs of employees during the various stages in their lives. We strive to treat employees as individuals and create an environment where people are able to move freely: upwards, sideways, and downwards. Taking a holistic view of teams as well as individuals helps us provide opportunities that enable employees to work in other parts of the business on a temporary basis. But this is a shared responsibility: employees need to be proactive in developing their own careers whilst HR needs to support them. A culture that supports openness and honesty about the length of time the employee expects to work in a job will encourage an atmosphere of respect and integrity.
Nigel Sullivan: We need to take into account the preferences of younger generations. Millennial want a consumer-grade experience—they demand it now, and we need to respond to that. There are many good processes, [like] when you order a book from Amazon, and we need to take those into account for the employee and candidate experience.
Rajita Singh: The challenges will remain the same, but the priorities will vary depending on [howjthe ecosystem changes. HR teams will need to redesign the HR experience and deploy a mindset change for the conceptual age. How can this be done? HR can leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to understand patterns and redefine the experience. For a mindset change, we must not assume that HR will be redundant as technology invades everything we do. Technology is not a choice but human touch is a choice and how we work on that is key.
HRO Today Global: What are some ways HR and talent acquisition teams can maintain and execute a strategic focus?
Van der Tang: HR departments must adopt a highly strategic approach to ensure alignment with the business for organisational effectiveness. At TomTom, our way of working is to be fully aligned to the needs of the business, which requires being flexible at all times. We operate and structure ourselves like the overall business does. For example, our organisation works in small teams with a completely flat structure so we follow suit—there is no hierarchy within our project teams.
We view HR as we would a product the business is bringing to market. We make sure we have research and insights, our projects are mapped out in a roadmap format, and our teams are built around a variety of skill sets, which as a result makes us more agile.
Sullivan: As a HR team, we are providing the business with greater insights through data and analytics. This is not just a review of status quo, but projections to get Guide Dogs to where we want to be. Developing our employee brand and culture to ensure they align with our values will also help us with talent management. Having these tools helps us recruit, retain, and develop a highly engaged, values-based staff that will set us apart from other organisations as a great place to work.
Mark Smith: The business environment is changing and talent acquisition needs to follow suit. Candidates and employees are becoming more focused on flexibility, and are more exposed to evolving consumer technologies. These will change how organisations operate. Traditional organisations need to think more non-traditionally about how workers are engaged, develop more high-trust cultures, and embrace remote working models. Technology needs to be adapted so that it is user friendly, mobile, and simple to ensure that any data that is produced is adding value.
Sullivan: Getting the operational processes sorted is critical to being able to move to a strategic focus. Implementing HR technology—Workday—has helped us achieve this as well. With the tactical pieces of HR being lined up, we can dedicate more of our time thinking about strategic processes. The demands are on HR are more than ever before, but the quality of people we are hiring is better too.
Charlotte Sword: Getting the day-to-day process right is important. Executives need to be able to trust you with the basics of the business so they can trust you with the strategic direction. Talking the same language as the business can also make a big difference. Being in a design practice, I am always being told: Don’t be too corporate. This means communicating at the same level, and communicating through stories can be really powerful for strategic initiatives.
Tara Benton: We need to move away from transactional and tactical elements, and we need to consider innovation and how we can inspire people. It starts with “what’s the end state?” At Vodofone, we always ask ourselves: what do we want to achieve? From a strategic talent perspective, we want to create an environment where people love to work. So this means talking to key stakeholders about what we are doing to achieve this and the benefits of what we are doing. This helps with getting buy-in and securing investment from executives.
HRO Today Global: What impact does leadership have during a tight talent market?
Van der Tang: We believe that the right kind of leadership is critical to nurturing] a work culture that helps drive success. At TomTom, our leadership programme is build to protect and strengthen this culture through leadership.
Sullivan: Leadership is essential to managing through change. We executed 360-degree feedback reviews with all senior staff and created individual development plans. In 2017, the same process will be extended to those individuals identified as highpotentials. Coaching is critical—we highly encourage, as a culture, of a manager as coach. This is a key element of development but also a great way of managing through change.
Meet Our Experts
This roundup of experts is a prestigious group: Each is a winner of either our annual CHRO of the Year and Talent Acquisition Leader of the Year awards. The awards acknowledge the impressive achievements of executives who have made it their mission to help their organisation grow through innovation in the global HR space. This mission involves not only outstanding leadership capabilities and resultsoriented HR strategy, but also a demonstrated ability to adapt to the ever-changing talent landscape.
2016 CHRO of the Year winners:
• For-profit: Nigel Sullivan, Group HR Director, TalkTalk
• Non-profit: Leatham Green, Programme Director – People and Change, Orbis
• Sustainable Workforce: Charlotte Sword, Global HR Director, Foster + Partners
• Lifetime Achievement: Arne-Christian van der Tang, SVP of Human Resources, TomTom International
• Change Management: Rajita Singh, Head of Human Resources, Broadridge Financial Solutions India Pvt Ltd
2016 Talent Acquisition Leader of the Year winners:
• Innovation: Tara Benton, Head of Resourcing, Vodafone U.K.
• For-profit: Mark E. Smith, Head of EMEA Recruitment, Caterpillar Inc.
• Non-profit: Jo Sullivan, Head of People, Deputy Director of People & Business Services, Guide Dogs for the Blind