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Keeping the Human in HR: Five Recommendations for Enabling Transformational Change

By Lisa Buckingham, Executive Vice President, Chief People, Place and Brand Officer, Lincoln Financial Group

Lisa Buckingham, Executive Vice President, Chief People, Place and Brand Officer, Lincoln Financial Group

The world we live in continues to change at an incredible pace. The reality is that most organizations are going through transformation because the world is in transformation. For the workforce, the pace of change can be overwhelming, especially when we’re going through a digital transformation to enhance the customer experience.

However, keep in mind: transformation is dependent on humans. Robots don’t transform companies, leaders do. Achieving the business strategy is dependent on whether the HR strategy is aligned from a culture, leadership, organization structure and talent perspective. As HR professionals, it is very important that we step back and ask ourselves, is the HR strategy properly aligned with the business strategy to make the transformation objectives a reality?

Lincoln Financial has been on a journey of digital transformation, and through that lens, I’ll share five recommendations for how HR can enable transformational change.

Transform Your Mindset

If we want to get different results. HR needs to be proactive with the C-Suite in identifying the people strategies that will enable the company to transform versus waiting for leadership to “ask.”HR is in the perfect driver seat to influence the type of change needed.

Re-envision workplace culture

Culture is at the heart of whether you will get to where you want to go. It is also the foundation of brand building: set the mission, determine what kind of organization you want to be, and then put the right people in place to achieve it. Whether the achievement of your business strategy depends on an increased focus on innovation or the customer, a shift in working norms, or increased trust in technology, what is critical is that you know what that is and you have a plan in place to address it.

"Putting people ahead of process and technology is ultimately how HR will enable transformation at their organizations, and this is something we need to lead given that many transformation initiatives are more focused on process and technology than on their talent strategies"

Invest in leadership development

Corporate culture creation, improvement and change rest with any organization’s top leaders. Leaders are critical to achieving transformational objectives. Their actions, communications and values set the brand leadership example for others to follow, and the overall tone in the organization. Drive culture strategy through the selection, development and expectation-setting of leaders who can represent the brand in everything they say and do. At Lincoln, we are committed to developing leaders at all levels of the organization. We know that selecting, developing and retaining top leaders is critical to our success.

Re-engineer how work gets done

To respond to the pace of change we are all experiencing, organizations need to be redesigned for speed, agility and adaptability. This requires less hierarchy and more networks. It also requires people who know how to represent the brand in everyday interactions. Authority and decision-making need to be decentralized and pushed lower in the organization. We should empower them with knowledge and have confidence that they will represent the brand well. Embracing a broader workforce ecosystem means including robotics, partners, contract labor, crowd-sourcing and more.

Be talent-centric

The most important asset at a company isn’t technology or intellectual property. The most valuable part of your company is your people—their talent—and any plans to move your business forward must start there. They represent the brand and it’s potential. Yet today’s business leaders are often running a full-time sprint just to keep up with the day-to-day demands of business. We can’t forget in the midst of automation and technology advances, that ‘human’ employees are our strongest asset. We need to keep the ‘human’ in HR! Embrace the speed of change, learn more than you think you need to learn, always embrace intellectual curiosity and ask your business partners what they need.  To ask is important.

Bottom line, we need to continue to do more to treat our employees like customers and enhance the employee experience. Next, we need to identify and close skill gaps and invest in the new skilling of our workforce. Skill acquisition and continuous learning are key weapons in the war for talent, but too few organizations are differentiating around development. 

Every organization needs to identify and find creative ways to close their skill gaps. Most importantly, we must ensure every employee has a purpose. Employees have the desire to do something that matters. Find ways to show how each employee’s contributions will be a difference in the achievement of your organization’s vision.

Putting people ahead of process and technology is ultimately how HR will enable transformation at their organizations, and this is something we need to lead given that many transformation initiatives are more focused on process and technology than on their talent strategies. It’s important to remember that people are the heart of your organization, and it is those very same people who will enable the achievement of your transformational objectives. Treat them as important to your mission and I promise the payoffs will be great!

Check This Out: Top Leadership Development Training/Coaching Companies In Europe

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