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Shaking Up HR Structures

Hosted by: American Express CBRE IBM

The Chapman Consulting Group recently co-hosted three highly successful and interactive HR Leader Networking Sessions in Sydney with AMEX, CB Richard Ellis, and IBM. Over fifty representatives from a broad range of industries and organisations were in attendance including Accenture, Bankwest, BNP Paribas, British American Tobacco, Cisco, CitiGroup, Clorox, Colgate Palmolive, Commonwealth Bank, Kimberly Clark, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, Unisys, Yum Restaurants and more. With a broad topic of ‘Transformation and Change in HR Structures’ brought to life through presentations and case studies from our hosts, as well as a number of attendees, the following three themes emerged from the discussion.

HR Goes Tech

In the words of Bill Gates, “We’re changing the world with technology,” and HR is no exception to this rule. Never before has it been more true that organisations must adapt to the rapidly changing commercial and social landscape, and the effects these influences have on the workplace. It is important to consider the speed and frequency with which we connect to work through increased mobile technology and even social media. It was noted that in a world where we are ‘always on,’ HR needs to be in sync with this and should assess continually, as opposed to annually, when it comes to recognition and reward.

Another prominent thinker who had a bit of foresight, Albert Einstein, once said, “…our technology has exceeded our humanity.” One global technology firm in attendance operates a virtual culture of systemised and streamlined HR processes with high levels of self-service online. The potential dangers of this approach in terms of losing the human touch, as well as a lack of visibility to the organisational community were highlighted.

HR Goes Off-shore

A highly fragmented business shared their quest to globalise and the resulting challenges this can create. This organisation has outsourced their business services operations to Manila in the Philippines, a popular choice due to low cost coupled with quality resources. The company found that offering shifts starting at 6am, as opposed to the significant number of 24/7 operations, was a significant draw with local talent.

The group agreed, though, that shifting the typical ‘Tier 1’ transactional HR activity to an offshore location can result in challenges for local HR teams in ensuring their teams increase their strategic business capability. One business cited success in keeping focused on key metrics with HR Business Partners needing to remain close to reporting and analytics, along with a ‘keep it simple’ approach with regard to goals. Another organisation had actually moved Sales and Marketing resources into the HR team as a way to increase business understanding.

Horses for Courses

A contrast was highlighted between two organisations and the structures of their particular HR models. One company was in the early stages of an HR transformation to globalise, with the model still to be announced and rolled out. They discussed the importance of communication and process management, ensuring that the HR community at all levels within the organisation feel involved as much as possible in how the new model will look.

The other organisation operates with a very localised model with accountability sitting at the country head level and all functions within HR sitting locally. It was agreed that this seems to work well for the more conservative and traditional global organisation with a simple and efficient approach to delivering HR services to the business. It was clear that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to the question of HR — every business will have to work out for them what will work best with their existing culture and structure.

Many thanks go to our hosts, AMEX, CB Richard Ellis and IBM for these insightful sessions.

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