7 Secrets to HR Transformation

What does it mean to transform HR? Ask me. Or, better yet, let’s talk. Because it’s not a system you can plug in, a program you can execute, or a capability for which you can be trained.

For several years now, I have been writing about this precise topic, educating professionals through Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG), and collaborating on forward-looking concepts with experts both in technology and in Human Resources. In 2015 I designed and launched an HR transformation education platform called Recharge HR. It became the epitome of a forward-looking community among the SAP user groups out there. No longer were we simply telling people how to better manage day-to-day. Rather, we began telling users how to simplify the day-to-day so that they could move towards the nirvana of HR as true leaders in the organization.

Forget the seat at the table. We want HR to be the voice at the table.

In the last few months, the term “HR transformation” seems to have taken on more steam – pushing forward with new life, new meaning, power and influence as you look across the web and across Linked In profiles. At first, there was just “Digital Transformation.” Now there is recognition of the criticality of people in the transformation. In 2017 was happy to see SAP SuccessFactors’ announcement of a management team who will be leading [insert drum roll here] HR digital transformation: Amy Wilson and James Harvey added SAP SuccessFactors senior leadership team, enthusiasts who have been eagerly counting on the rise of this cloud.

Still, what does HR digital transformation mean? It begins with HR transformation. And that begins with changing the way you think and forgetting everything you thought you knew about managing human resources.

Management is not in control. The hierarchy that most of us still rely upon to cascade communications and to manage results is ineffective. Communication actually happens more like the visual in this SAP slide.


Employee engagement is fleeting. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – is no longer an absolute. Most people entering the workforce are already looking for satisfaction at the top of the pyramid. From the very outset, our recruiting strategies may be flawed.

How we work, how we live has fundamentally changed. We have progressed into afourth industrial revolution. At the dawn of the first industrial revolution, people flocked to industrial areas, happy to work and earn a paycheck. Today’s generation is more likely to work to be happy. Balance, wellness, sleep, leisure, free time are more important than ever. It may be more helpful – at least in the United States – to look at Maslow’s diagram as more of a balanced scale than a hierarchy.

Excerpt from: Organization Growth, Change and Maturity by Sherryanne Meyer

Creativity is the pivotal skill – and, hence, diversity is imperative. What you studied, where you went to school, even your GPA may be less important than divergent thinking. “Knowledge alone is not useful unless we can make connections between what we know [or experience].” (Belle Beth Cooper, Fast Company, The Secret to Creativity, Intelligence and Scientific Thinking, June 18, 2014) Creative people tend to be able to see distinct concepts and visualize the links between these to get to solutions faster. Unfortunately – because creative people see the world through their own lens – they are often misunderstood and, therefore, not included.

Culture is – and should be – a moving target. When I started my career, I knew I was joining a company of Type A high achievers. Excellence and precision dominated and were a relied-upon formula for success. But those same characteristics can get in the way of the type of rapid decision making required in a highly connected world. Alan Mulally, the now-retired CEO of Ford, led a successful turnaround of the automaker by moving leaders from a command-and-control culture to a supportive teamwork culture.

The future is in our children’s hands. No – seriously. It really is. When I showed the below slide at a recent presentation, and asked who thought they would be using these virtual reality glasses in work some day, only one hand went up. Imagine the unimaginable. Who could have envisioned that we would have a personal computer in our pocket or in our hands every single day in every single place we go? And yet, today, 95% of U.S. Adults own a cell phone – and 77% of those are smart phones (aka mini- computers). (Pew Internet Mobile Fact Sheet).

HR is not just the responsibility of HR. We need to be all in. Josh Bersin described the “simply irresistible organization” in writing for Deloitte University Press. These characteristics of an irresistible workplace should not be driven by HR alone. Everyone of us must be accountable for the people in our workplace. A model for this might be the chemical industry’s response to catastrophes in the workplace. Companies who launched Responsible Care programs held every single employee accountable for the safety of fellow employees, conducted regular safety training and raised awareness thru active identification of potential hazards.

“The future of HR is no HR” was a popular marketing phrase a few years ago. The concept was that HR would be unrecognizable in the future as the HR discipline transforms from tactical to strategic. The truth is that HR will transform when the intention to attract, retain and engage workers is fully absorbed by the entire business. Technology is an enabler of that transformation.

HR needs more than a seat at the table. And, in fact, we need more than a voice at the table. The ultimate outcome – the nirvana, so to speak – will be when HR is represented by every voice at the table.

More from Sherryanne Meyer, SHRM-SCP –  See LinkedIn

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