At GE’s CityLight offices, ChapmanCG and our host Paolo Codazzi, HR Integration Leader & HR for HR at GE Power, were joined by international HR leaders from all nationalities, representing diverse industries and organisations such as Apple, AbbVie, Criteo, Faurecia, Orange S.A., QuintilesIMS, amongst others.

HR Leaders discussed effective HR transformations, digitalisation, integration (both cultural and organisational), identifying talent and skillsets, and retention of top talent. But a key theme that arose—and has come up in other HR Leader meetings—was around how can HR adapt to the new style of coaching that’s required given the state of continuous reorganisation, rapidly changing environments and the surplice of new technologies that are constantly being unveiled?

Several mentioned that HR’s identity needed to change from a more traditional to a more agile mindset. With uncertainty, change and risk, organisations have no choice but to adapt. HR needs to have new skills to effectively coach—not necessarily ‘technical’ coaching skills, but the softer ones like simply staying close and helping to facilitate continuous conversations and feedback. However, it’s equally important that there are systems in place to support this model. A number of organisations have already moved away from performance ratings and instead rely on constant daily feedback initiatives between teams and managers to provide instantaneous development insights. Some felt perhaps it is more effective to develop through a system of coaching rather than one of measuring.

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Coaching

One major telco organisation looked at the agile methodology used in their Marketing department and decided to introduce it into their HR function. They cut through the hierarchy by mixing leaders from both the business and HR, and brought in digital and agility coaches. They also introduced consultant training for HR in order to teach them to ask the right questions around how, why, and what the final result would mean, which in turn enabled them to balance the needs of the business, the needs of HR and the right solution. This was hugely successful and led to a more participative project management mindset that helped convince the business that HR are not just there to fix issues, but can be real enablers of transformation.

Coaching is more than just something for the leadership team. Coaching people leaders is important, but so is creating a coaching attitude, earning the right to coach, and coaching HR to have new skills to effectively coach. Not everyone is willing to be a coach, or necessarily has the ability so it’s about assessing people, creating partnerships and coaching leaders to have difficult conversations that conclude in a positive way.

New HR Model

After many years of asking, it’s clear that HR finally has a seat at the Leadership table and now it is time to lead and help people understand how HR impacts the business. HR needs to lead from the front as intrinsically as the business. One organisation feels it is impossible for HR to do it all – to be a business partner AND coach – so they have split their HRBPs to focus only on the business, and HR Managers to focus on Employee HR. Another major consumer company is looking at the value-add of HR as a function in this time of rapid change and innovation. It can be both exciting and overwhelming, and as such, HR is trying to bring in concept that encourage people to “slow down to go faster” – slowing down its leaders to take a step back so they can assess the bigger picture rather than making a decision under an ever-increasing pace and pressure. Some companies are moving away from the term “Human Resources” and leaning towards “People & Culture” to show HR is evolving to be more about individuals rather than commodities.

Culture

Changing any cultural mindset is difficult and can’t be done overnight as people are naturally drawn to the familiar. In times of transformation and integration, it is impossible to try and impose a new culture without considerations around flexibility, agility and diversity and inclusion. Some argued that change initiatives take a minimum of 3 – 5 years to be implemented and then fully accepted. There was also a strong consensus that transformation is never be finished, it is, in fact, continuous. It is here that HR can really help as facilitators and enablers of change.

The session’s dialogue was progressive, inspiring and thought-provoking. Our host, Paolo, summed up by sharing one of his key messages to his leaders on how they can be most effective in a changing organisation: Lead by example; walk the walk, inspire and be consistent in your messaging.

A big thank you to all of the senior HR Leaders who joined us, and we look forward to bringing our Paris based HR friends together again in early 2018.