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Stop calling it HR transformation


Every once in a while, and more often that I plan, I find myself at industry conferences, hobnobbing with the best-in-business. These are great days, spent among practitioners who are working in the trenches, taking on with interesting challenges, innovating and creating best practices that are in turn setting in motion a wave of change in HR practices across the globe. Last week saw me at the #HRXLR82018 Summit and the HRM L&D conference, giving me a backstage tour of how HR practices are implemented in various companies.


I came back with some very interesting case studies, that show how companies are rethinking the mundane and evolving at a remarkable pace. Enjoy my insights and let me know your thoughts:


Shift the lens: Traditional HR roles will soon be a thing of the past

Statisticians, data-analysts, programmers – meet the new HR team in your office! Surprised? Well not really, if you ask me. As roles across organisations bring in data, analytics and leverage both to innovate their practices, HR leads from the front. It is time to say goodbye to traditional profiles, according to Pallavi Srivastava from IBM Global Technology Services. She effectively highlighted the stark difference between how we view ourselves as HR professionals as people focused primarily towards recruitment or L&D and how our consumers – the employees – view us as means to learn, work and succeed with the company. Her organization IBM is now enabling its HR teams to make that happen by being more agile and data-centric, using their flagship technologies like Watson.

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Bring ‘trendy’ back: Making Tech work for HR

Yes, gamification is old news. But making it work for you isn’t. And here’s why Rakuten Asia’s example caught my attention. Dawn Wong talked about how the company had gamified its employee onboarding process. While a lot of progressive companies experiment with gaming, I loved how Rakuten had seamlessly integrated the physical and digital world, taking its employees on a journey through a variety of apps (Since I work extensively on corporate storytelling, this example was quite intriguing!). The best part? They were able to achieve this with a lean team. This reiterated my belief that technology can help us scale really quickly, provided we know how to leverage it effectively.

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Let’s not pretend to be perfect: Learning from failures

I had an instant connection with this presentation due to its authenticity and sheer unpretentious approach to the radically evolving role of HR in companies. I admired how Stephane Michaud, Senior Director, Consulting, Human Link Asia (A Mitsubishi Corporation Company) so candidly stated that even though we, as HR professionals put humongous effort in designing different initiatives, several times their implementation does not meet expectations or even fails. I strongly believe that we need more of these genuine, behind-the-stage views to be discussed at HR forums to understand that transitions can be chaotic. The right way to deal with them is to stop pretending that we can always get it right in the first go. So refreshing!

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It is all in the ‘moments’: Starting the conversation around employee experiences

With organisations across the world focusing on improving the overall employee experience and using tools and analytics to measure and refine it, the list of career moments, HR moments, life conditions and everyday touchpoints curated by Standard Chartered, and presented by Laura Cole, I thought was quite useful. Of course, we are just getting started. Technology still rules the roost here, heavily defining how employee experiences are being crafted. While there is still some thought to be given around the emotional aspects and policies around these ‘moments of truth’, defining and highlighting them, is a great start point for all organisations that are looking at crafting better employee experiences.

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Apart from these exceptional speakers, I quite enjoyed the session moderated by Fermin Diez, called Redefining the Value of HR. The crux of this discussion was that if the HR department of any company considered business results as the dependent variable every single time, they would be tending in the right direction. While he reiterated the importance of analytics, he was honest to admit that measurement and usage of data had to go beyond the latest fancy term in use. Surprisingly, the most significant data point could come out of an excel sheet!

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Staying relevant: How to reinvent the Brand of HR

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All these discussions and sessions tie in quite well with the session I had on reinventing the brand of HR, a concept that is core to driving change where we are. I was overwhelmed with the participation at the round table and enthused at the interest HR professionals had in knowing about how they can brand themselves within an organization. A strong brand for HR is tied closely with our ability to transform an organization, our relationship with stakeholders, gaining trust of the employees and even raising our budgets! And internal brand is quite tied with the external brand. Using ‘land of the brand’, the game I had designed for the session, I received some fantastic feedback from people in the room. I am now creating a one-day session on the discussions we had. So if you are looking at more insights on how to brand-build for your internal HR teams, do get in touch.

The sessions I attended, left me convinced that what we are seeing now is a transitionary phase, beckoning a transformative phase that will come later. For some (and fairly so!) this perhaps may seem transformational, as it breaks new ground in a variety of areas. However, much of this could have been done earlier.

I believe the transformation of HR will be beyond the adoption of AI, bots and analytics and we are in the middle of a transition which will ultimately transform us. While we move from being generalists to specialists, true transformation will come in only when we become custodians of talent in our organisations.

So, what do you think? I would love to know your thoughts on this. Are we transiting or transforming?