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Lessons on Preparing for Change and Digital Transformation

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How can HR leaders implement the strategies needed to effect cultural, operational and structural change as well as the engagement that brings this to life in the age of digital transformation? This ChapmanCG HR leaders roundtable event in Amsterdam was hosted by Yvonne Agyei, Chief People Officer at

It was clear from our discussions that many companies – regardless of their industry focus – are currently grappling with how to effectively prepare for the digital consumer-focused revolution that is on our doorstep.

Becoming More Tech Focused

Talent in the global marketplace has become more technology focused. This means companies need to understand whether the value proposition for these candidates is the same as for existing employees, or how it differs for those with specialised skills. When specialised talent is brought on, an organisation needs to ask itself what impact an individual joining will have on the entire company and how they will contribute to the purpose of that company.

In determining how to attract the right talent for the future (see our article Four Essential Tips to Attracting and Retaining Quality Digital Talent), leaders need to ask themselves where the business is going, what the purpose of the future talent will be, what their ‘story line’ within the company will be, and how the company and the talent will adapt to that story line.

Maintaining Culture in Times of Change

How do you sustain and shape culture as a company grows? Supporting leaders to establish future-fit behaviours can play a critical role in helping culture change programs. A key to success is working with the existing company culture, and to evolve people practices without becoming too corporate and prescribed. (See our article on Viral Culture Change and Future-Fit Leadership).

Giving Employees a Voice

One of the fundamental principles of’s culture is to ensure that every employee feels that they have a voice. Everyone is encouraged to talk about what they like, what they don’t like, and have an opinion. Whilst it’s unachievable to do everything that people suggest, listening to their thoughts is key to encouraging a sense of company belonging and generating an inclusive culture.

The performance of the company also benefits because if everyone is in a position to offer constructive feedback to one another, then it helps to inspire self-improvement and collaborative working.
To aid communication, holds town halls and Q&A sessions. Most of the time the people speaking at town halls are not senior executives, but rather individuals speaking about a topic or a project they want to run, or something they have observed in the market. This is a multi-faceted way of getting people to feel that they belong but also grow at the same time.

Organisation and Employee Success to Drive Retention has learnt that in the same way businesses need to remain agile in their offerings, so too do employees and their skillsets. As an example, recognises that the travel landscape is constantly evolving and so has shifted from just booking hotel rooms to booking experiences and associated services. Their mission statement is ‘Empower People to Experience the World’ – which applies both to their employees and their business proposition.

What Drives Retention in Today’s Market?

Employees may leave their organisations for better lifestyle mobility and flexibility, more opportunities for role rotation, better career path opportunities and the need to experience the broader job ‘market place’.

The HR leaders present observed that the changing profile of employees is adding to a rise in retention issues. For example, more creative and entrepreneurial types of talent may by nature need change and variety as an incentive to stay. ChapmanCG recently wrote an article on attracting digital talent, which provides insights into the challenges recruiters face in a highly competitive market.

A company’s innovation and the ability for employees to move around the organisation were identified as key desirable qualities to attract employees. The way in which a company manages transformation, and moves from a traditional platform to a different organisational ‘architecture’ using critical thinking and process optimisation, are some of the key areas that HR leaders can really have an impact on.

How can HR Leaders Break Down the Silos?

Great team work relies on trust. Sometimes silos prove to work to a company’s advantage and help to facilitate talent retention, since employees develop a sense of loyalty towards their group. The members of the silos continue to stay since they get along well, however may encounter difficulties when they have to collaborate with people outside their group.

The roundtable identified that there has been a shift in the way in which people collaborate with each other and how they feel valued. Their sense of belonging is challenged in virtual teams and with new technologies. As outlined in this HR News article, there are ways to break down the silos. These can include promoting organisational values, creating the same ‘enemy’ (fostering a friendly competitive spirit), encouraging interdepartmental collaboration and conducting more company events.

It was proposed that everyone needs face-to-face time a few days of the week. A global company could invest in travel of its talent to head office or to different team locations to facilitate these face-to-face connections. It was suggested that an on-boarding process could include six months to a year spent at a company HQ (with family) to establish connections and relationships, before heading back to the country where the employee is stationed.

Case Studies 

The following case studies were discussed with great interest.

Danone has set 2030 goals for long-term sustainable value creation, supported by an innovative governance and employee engagement model. As a founding act for its goals, Danone is launching ‘One Person, One Voice, One Share’. This is an  employee engagement program and governance model for its 100,000 employees to co-own the company agenda, actively participate in defining roadmaps to bring the goals to life, and deepen their ownership mindset. Read more here

IBM Garage
The IBM Garage is a new way of working where IBM experts co-create with clients in a customisable space. It’s a place where you can experiment with big ideas, acquire new expertise and build new enterprise-grade solutions with modern and emerging technologies for immediate market impact.
IBM Garage is a place where customers can participate in an AI employee experience, a great example of the shift in chat box technology. IBM participants in the round table said that “just because it’s an automated chat box doesn’t mean it’s not personal”, and liked that within 24 hours a customer’s questions would be addressed. The takeout is that trust and transparency in AI is key – in other words, we don’t need to pretend that a human rather than a robot is vetting the questions especially as AI is becoming more familiar. Check out IBM’s Garage here.

Tailoring to Your Talent Pool

Whilst there are a lot of commonalities in the ways companies tackle organisational culture and engagement, everybody is looking at the challenge through different lenses and using varying tools to suit their specific company needs.

Companies are using everything from surveys, feedback tools, ongoing and continued change management strategies, through to dedicated multi-skilled project teams to measure engagement. What is critical to all organisations is understanding your core talent pool, your business objectives, and the tools with which you can manage change and engagement.

For further reading, please see this mycustomer article Five employee engagement lessons from award-winning is owned and operated by United States-based Booking Holdings and headquartered in Amsterdam. It is a travel fare aggregator website and travel metasearch engine for lodging reservations. A mere start up in 1996, it is now a world leader in the travel sector with 117,000 employees spread over 198 offices in over 70 countries.

Culture, Change and Engagement


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Key Contributors:

Graham Tollit
Graham Tollit

Senior Director

Consulting Team
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Graham Tollit
Consulting Team

Graham Tollit

Senior Director

Graham is a Senior Director with ChapmanCG based in the United Kingdom. He is passionate about building long-term partnerships and his current focus is on European and global search mandates, working with the team to identify high-calibre HR talent across EMEA and internationally.

With over 20 years in executive search, Graham has a successful track record delivering across multiple industry sectors and specialist functions with many of the top global multinationals. He has a deep interest and knowledge of the HR profession, future of work, and is a big advocate of the importance of mental health and wellness in the workplace. Before a return to the UK in 2017, Graham spent seven years based in Singapore.

Graham’s personal interests revolve around his family, and you could find him either on the golf course or exploring a new city or coastline somewhere.