Susana Garcia Bernal, HR VP, APAC, NBCUniversal and ChapmanCG co-hosted an energised session this week with a technology, media and consumer group, to discuss progress on the digitalisation of HR and what to expect in the future. Attendees were present from J&J, Microsoft, Nokia Networks, Vodafone, Expedia, P&G, MullenLowe, Progress Software, PayPal and Zebra Technologies.

Whilst many organisations are in the process of ‘digitising’ - developing and implementing HR technologies such as workday and success factors and building analytics capability - the key challenge remains how to embed more of a digital culture and mindset organically. A good starting point is to utilise digital platforms to communicate and engage with employees. It is not only about how organisations run processes and how employees access the suite of HR services, but how mobile enabled and mobile friendly services are. In today's climate, organisations can easily find what employees are looking for and what interests them. A true digital HR strategy will be a good combination of HR systems, analytics, social media and mobile.

Top down or bottom up

Engaging employees at the grassroots level is a fruitful way of truly changing their mindset and behaviours rather than relying too heavily on a top down approach. Lizzie Runham, HR VP, APAC Consumer, Johnson & Johnson spoke about the ‘democratisation of ideas’ at J&J, through the organisations ‘ideas big and small’ app. Piloted in Australia the business is now rolling out the app globally and they have had several real tangible business success stories from this initiative. The idea was based around creating a movement and encouraging employees to bring their whole selves to work and getting people talking about products. By fuelling this type of collaborative dialogue all employees could have a say in new product ideas and other innovations. If their ideas received 40 likes or more they would be taken up to an ‘ideas council’ where they would be reviewed and potentially rolled out. As Lizzie emphasised, “we wanted to reframe our understanding from ‘owning’ the conversation and ‘managing’ change to going where the energy is to let the dialogue flow. We needed to light some fires in the organisation”. Furthermore, the ideas council was a fluid group, diverse and voluntary in mix across all levels that changed each year.

Not only was this both an effective way to drive innovation and engage employees from the grassroots up, it provided a wealth of analytics around the current sentiment in the organisation, far more powerful than any employee survey. They were able to capture how people really felt and where they as an organisation could improve. The lesson here was: stop trying to be too structured and go where the insight is. This is always a challenge when there are many ideas generated and speed is paramount, but the key here is to drive a shift in culture and actually educate people on how to have better ideas. J&J encouraged more ‘design thinking’ and created some new initiatives such as ‘TED Fridays’ where employees could collaborate in an informal setting and watch TED talks to gain inspiration.

From a rewards perspective, if an idea gained momentum and was rolled out, that employee was rewarded through non-monetary means. Not only did they receive the recognition and kudos amongst peers and senior colleagues, they were also given the opportunity to contribute to charities such as Operation Smile or the ‘plant a tree today foundation’

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Consumerisation of HR

The group discussion then moved onto the consumerisation of HR. As JPS Choudhary, Regional HR Director, Vodafone, summed up “the digital revolution has cut across all consumer areas, HR too, has arrived on the scene, but the challenge is how to provide a consumer grade employee experience”. HR is beginning to converge with marketing in terms of how we segment and analyse behaviours and we are seeing organisations starting to build workforces for today’s digital demands. It’s more of a liquid workforce no longer in specific locations with a deep skillset but more of an agile group of employees who are change ready, can adapt skillsets and competencies based on what the organisation needs. If we can better engage all groups like we can in today’s world with consumers, we will be best placed to engage and optimise output. One tech firm sends out a ‘global pulse’ every day and the data is captured in real-time and analysed while another company is segmenting employees as they do consumers to be more targeted. Both companies are better equipped to understand their employees needs and future aspirations and connect back to all learning and engagement initiatives.

The future

Digital is fundamentally becoming more prevalent in shaping the employee experience. It is not the sole enabler and there has to be a supporting cultural shift to change mindsets, but like marketers to consumers HR will find technology becomes an essential way of galvanising the workforce. Susana Garcia Bernal also discussed the topic of Design Thinking as a key foundation for Innovation in the future, not only to broaden the ideas generation by thinking from a human centric perspective but to follow the methodology to connect with the consumer and resolve needs in the market we operate in. Social leadership, crowd sourcing, gamification, flexible working, learning on the go and the convergence of marketing and HR to build a stronger EVP can all contribute but ultimately it needs to be both a bottom up and a top down approach to get the best results. In the future, we may see the CHRO role rebranded to the Chief Employee Experience Officer - a blend of HR, marketing, internal comms, analytics and real estate. It’s certainly an energising discussion when we consider the direction the HR function is going in.

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Here’s what participants had to say

Although the event was only 2.5 hours I got tremendous value from it. The format worked well- short presentations stimulating some great sharing of best practice from HR leaders across Tech & Media. I left feeling inspired with new ideas, on a topic that was very relevant to all of us

Steven Filby, Global OD & Talent Director, PayPal

The roundtable was a valuable networking opportunity, and provided a forum for rich discussions about timely topics.

Alice Sieger, Regional HR Director, APAC, Expedia

I enjoyed the meeting which gave a broader view of the differing expectations in HR as markets develop in Asia. It is common that all MNCs are investing more resources in technologies for culture transition, such as making innovations in enterprise DNA via tools, processes and governance instead of value on paper. It was valuable to learn how other industry leaders bring strategies to reality via creative ways. I appreciated the opportunity.

Barbara Zhang, HR Director, APAC, Zebra Technologies

I found the session really valuable, a fantastic opportunity for industry professionals to get together to share ideas and innovations in a relaxed and collaborative environment. It’s certainly worth the time invested.

Sarah Pruscino, Regional HR Director, APAC, Mullenlowe Group