Planning Your HR Transformation


My career started as a high school teacher and then a college instructor. Some of my class lessons were ones I could do in my sleep. When I started to teach, I would occasionally skip the detailed lesson planning because I could discuss the topics with ease. Surprisingly, though, at the end of those lessons, I felt inadequate because I had not planned out the learning experiences or potential questions the students would have. The classes were chaotic and ineffective. I quickly learned that detailed planning was essential to my success as a teacher and my students’ success in learning and applying the information taught.

In an HR transformation, many leaders shortcut their planning and move right to action. They take comfort in remembering previous changes they led, yet they overlook the importance of aligning on the uniqueness of this transformation initiative. Planning must remain a required step of all transformations and needs to cover purpose, stakeholders, success criteria and then deliverables.

HR Transformation
The first part of the plan clarifies the purpose for the transformation because this dictates all other aspects. Is the purpose to focus on increasing resourcing in one area of HR (e.g., learning and development), to move to a more strategic emphasis or to reduce staff and increase affordability? That purpose will be the “true north” for all other discussions.

REPORT: The State of HR

The future of HR is requiring HR teams to move from predominantly administrative tasks to a more strategic business driver model. In 2019, I helped lead our HR transformation with this purpose in mind. We initially were 70% administrative/30% strategic and needed to move to a minimum of 50% strategic intentionality. That shift impacted all of our internal stakeholders (our HR team) and their future impact on our external stakeholders (all business functions in the system).

The second planning discussion targets the stakeholders. In my previous article, I discussed getting input from the voice of our customers—the other functional areas in the system (e.g., Finance, Nursing, Operations). Those are the external stakeholders we hoped to impact in a positive way through our HR transformation. Our purpose of becoming more strategic as a business driver required us to list each of the external areas we needed to impact and then to determine ways to engage them throughout the process and through a changed HR structure. One key external stakeholder we leveraged was our legal team to ensure we were reducing any organizational risk as we finalized our severance policy and determined which teammates we might impact through reductions or reorganizations. Another external stakeholder was the executive team, and we consistently kept them abreast of the plan, the timing and the expected results. That cross-functional partnership garnered support and provided us with that continued connection to the voice of the customer, a key focus to ensure the change we were initiating would truly provide positive business impact.

The next stakeholder group was the internal one—our HR team itself. Transformation will fail if leaders view it as an opportunity to enact change on its internal group instead of building change within its internal group. For instance, initially we as the HR leaders met and planned out the process for transformation and soon realized that we were missing a few key internal stakeholders who could help guide our plans toward success. One of those was our HR communications leader who had more historical understanding of the organization and past HR changes. She also provided superior guidance on the timing and details of communications we would need to deliver to ensure appropriate transparency and clarity through each stage of the process.

Another internal stakeholder was our CHRO. As an HR leadership team, we met repeatedly to gain alignment on the approach and expected outcome. Then we presented our plan to the CHRO who provided feedback that helped ensure we executed with proficiency and the right degree of urgency.

Success Criteria
The third focus of our planning documented our expected success criteria. One obvious one is the move toward at least a 50% strategic focus as HR team. Another success metric is the increase in our customer satisfaction score. If pre-transformation feedback stated that HR was too compliance-focused, slow to respond and complex, our post-transformation feedback needed to include recognition for purposeful policies, clearly met Service Level Agreements and ease of interaction with HR. That feedback can come through an annual Voice of the HR Customer survey, through executive 1:1s and through functional focus groups.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Analytics of the HR Digital Transformation

To take the success metrics to a sustainable level, we also adopted an HR scorecard with metrics that matter from an HR perspective (e.g., diversity, internal promotions, engagement scores) and from a business bottom-line perspective (affordability targets, vacancy rates especially in hard-to-fill units, , first-year retention). Those metrics will then be tracked quarterly and reported through HR Quarterly Business Reviews for increased transparency of the transformation’s impact on the enterprise.

One key deliverable for HR transformation is the future-state organizational structure. The purpose (drive toward more strategic impact), stakeholders (internal and external) and success criteria (HR-related and operational) required us to adopt a three-pillared organizational structure that placed the appropriate amount of teammate resources and budget for strategic focus. The predominantly strategic business driver teams fit under the pillars of Strategic Business Partners and Centers of Excellence. Centers of Excellence groups include Learning & Organizational Development, Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, Teammate Relations, etc. They provide the superior-quality solutions that align with the organization’s strategic direction and operational excellence needs. We also looked at the actual work each team would do and then determined the number of teammates needed in each team to complete that strategic work.

The third pillar (Shared Services) focuses on more administrative tasks. This group includes an HR call center for handling low-level HR questions regarding benefits, HR forms, learning requests, etc. That group enables our Strategic Business Partners and Centers of Excellence teams to spend their main focus on that strategic business driver work needed to move the organization in a proactive way instead of taking so much of their time handling administrative, low-level HR items. All three HR pillars are equally essential to HR’s success in transforming to become the true strategic business driver the enterprise needs as it seeks to become the industry leader.

A second deliverable is the implementation plan for informing HR of the changes, the severance plan for impacted teammates and the communication plan through each step of the process (initial announcement, periodic updates during the transformation and post-transformation calibration with all stakeholders). Each of those deliverables (and others not discussed here) need to be tracked in a project plan with milestone timelines so the project leadership team can communicate the progress, potential pitfalls and risk-mitigation tactics. Those three pillars must also work closely together and hand off work interchangeably between the Shared Services, COEs and Business Partners so that HR is providing an aligned, consistent, sustainable solution and not a disjointed, siloed, reactive response.

Putting It All Together
Without proactive planning, the HR transformation will likely fail. Even with detailed planning, alterations will occur as the transformation is implemented; so the leadership team needs to continually align on the pre-determined purpose, stakeholders and success criteria to ensure that all deliverables will help reach sustainable success without adding complexity or confusion. The planning ahead will reap long-term results that other functional areas can use a best-practice model for their own strategic transformation.

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