Enabling HR, laid on by the Strategic HR Network, addressed the key theme of how technology is changing, helping and challenging HR, and what the effect of technology will be for HR in the future. There were three keynote speakers, and a couple of break out sessions during the middle of the day. The engagement in the questioning and round-table discussions demonstrated how important this area is to HR practitioners and that there is a real drive and belief in technology as a means of getting HR that “seat at the table”.
Technology enables strategy, it does not define it
A key message throughout the day was that technology and strategy need to be aligned. However, there is a very clear order in which they come. First, define the strategy. Second, work out which system, or in most cases systems, will deliver that strategy most effectively. As Simon Lanham put it, who spoke about Grant Thornton’s implementation of WorkDay, “don’t let the system drive where you should be”.
Technology systems are about conversation
It is easy to see how easy it would be to fall into the trap of thinking that putting a system in place will get results automatically. What emerged from the speakers was that you need to think about what the system is there to do, what it is going to do in practice, how the people in your organisation will react to it, and how they will use it. At the end of the day, as David Condor, from KPMG put it, when putting in place a new system “it isn’t just a systems change, it’s a behavioural change”. Ian Marson, from Leaseplan in his talk on “Cost to Serve” demonstrated this approach by outlining how they gave team managers ownership of their data. This allowed managers to feel in control, and gave an opportunity to discuss and change their data before it moved up higher within the organisation.
There is no one system
It was pretty clear from every speaker that there is never one system which is going to solve all your problems at once. Instead, it is about integration. Each area of your organisation has different needs, and drivers. The best way of addressing those needs is to get the right system in place for each one. The key is then making sure they work together, sharing and collaborating results to get that holistic view and move towards the overall intended goals. David Condor, and James Clarke, from KPMG spoke about how they had implemented a shift globally from performance management, to performance development. The challenge for them was moving forward into a future where different areas of the organisation could feed seamlessly into one another. For instance, linking talent management to drive training, and vice versa.
Data is the key
All the conversations came back to having the data, ensuring you have your baseline. However, there is no point simply collecting data, you need to align data with strategy. Why are you collecting data? What is it driving? Tom Holmes, from Veran Performance, conducted a workshop on strategic workforce planning which demonstrated this. There were four perceived levels to get to a long term strategic work force plan, and the first was collecting as is data from the organisation. For each level up it was key to not only have this data, but then collect more in terms of external factors which could influence a strategic workforce plan in the long term, all the way up to the fourth step where the focus would need to be on much broader trends and demographic shifts to direct long term strategy.
The future is exciting:
The day was finished with a really exceptional talk by Dr Nicola Millard, BT futurologist, on the skills needed for the digital age. Technology is moving fast! And with that brings new challenges – what is the future of the work place? How do we address a multi generation workforce? However, a message throughout the day is that technology is also driving exciting new opportunities from mapping and visualising data, to enhancing collaboration in the work place.
It was a day full of passion, insight and story sharing which provoked a lot of food for thought. Real credit should go to the Strategic HR Network for delivering the platform on which to have these discussions. Having had the conference do reflect, it’s now time to get back to doing, using some of these learnings to drive change in the workplace.
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