Strategies For An Improved HR Operation

Graziella Modica, HR Director, H&M

1. As a HR director, how has technology helped you in building successful HR campaigns in your organization?

We have the tendency to look at HR tech from bottom to top, meaning as a powerful tool supporting – just – the efficiency of the HR ecosystem. As a consequence of it, we measure the return of investment around efficiency KPIs. However, the role played by HR tech, is much more holistic and I consider it as an enabler of all the processes defining the entire employee life cycle. A strategic and holistic approach to tech, combined and balanced with AI, people analytics and clear business targets, enables HR directors and teams to build competitive recruitment, onboarding and engagement strategies to attract and retain employee, but also to empower people through reward, engagement and L&D programs.

Several example, showing the theory in practice, could be mentioned but if I had to choose only one, I would definitely opt for employee engagement where HR tech plays a crucial counter partner role for Executive and formal leaders in terms of hearing employees voice trough pulses, understanding their professional and individual needs, providing relevant inputs to set winning strategies based on employees inputs and well defined pulses action plans.

2. What according to you are some of the challenges in the HR management space? What are some of the best technologies and processes that HR executives could undertake in hiring and retaining quality employees?

Observing the world with both an inside out but also outside in approach, I see 2 main challenges among others.

When we look into the HR function, both the challenge and the goal to achieve is to turn data into information and information into actions.

The second one (maybe as consequence of the first one?) touches the entire corporate population and it is to connect HR tech to the Company culture and the core business.

HR tech should be seen as an enabler and so a contributor, a part of the whole.

Well aware of challenges and goals to achieve, a successful HR infrastructure cannot prescind from the development of at least 3 tech tools, in my opinion.  

One of the most important, at least in the retail and fashion industry, is an efficient and accurate Workforce Management app or tool to be able to meet efficiency targets, provide a good customer experience and facilitate employees work-life balance with an accurate and proactive scheduling.

Absolutely critical, is to have well- functioning employees Social media Platforms or Apps, to foster internal communication, create sense of belonging and engage new generation of employees by talking the language they are most familiar with. And, definitely to be improved, a Talent Management platforms to keep transparency in the internal development process and definitely to retain the best talents within organizations.

3. How much time do you spend on being an operational leader vs. a transformational leader when it comes to initiating and executing HR strategies?

The role of a HR executive itself is strategic role, implying investment of qualitative time in co-creating strategies,  building tools, defining implementations plan and boosting leaders and teams’ engagements towards the overall HR vision. It is definitely not a matter of quantitative time.

“In our role, it is all about finding the balance between the time we spend looking from the balcony vs the time we spend dancing on the floor.”

I always bring with me what I consider one of the most powerful insight from the Oxford University Master in Leadership for Executive. In our role, it is all about finding the balance between the time we spend looking from the balcony vs the time we spend dancing on the floor.  

With this always in mind I try to keep that balance with the support of a structured process, with clear and well defined steps and a well drafted change management plan.

Having a long term vision, within the team we set a 3 years HR business plan on a yearly base and, learning from our success and opportunities, we steer and adapt the plan on a quarterly base.

It is important not to underestimate that every transformation requires time to be spent in communicating, explaining, involving, engaging and definitely listening to employees’ feedbacks. In the light of it, the perfect plan can only be the agile plan.

4. Can you discuss the latest initiative that you have been working on? What are some of the technological elements that you are leveraging to make the initiative successful?

As head of HR of Eastern Europe, I have the privilege to lead an important and very exciting business transformation where the HR function has the dual role of managing organizational changes and lead people trough cultural changes in a transformative business environment.  In this context, and coherently with the above beliefs, HR tech plays an important role as enabler. The HR tools must support business leaders to enabling the decision making process and take sustainable decisions for the customers and for employees.

Sharing a concrete example of successful initiative recently implemented in East Europe, within the team, I would definitely mention our Internal and External Employer Branding strategy. Being attractive, competitive and retaining employees would not have been possible without a diligent use of social media apps, capturing young generation of talents attention and interest. And of course the secrete and the challenge is to connect the HR infrastructure the whole HR ecosystem by implementing a fully integrated HR System

5. As a thought-leader, what are some of the technology innovations that you would like to see implemented by other HR executives to steer ahead in today’s tech-savvy world?

It is time for HR to go into transformation and evolve (trough digitalization, AI and tech) rapidly enough to support a constant changing business environment in a highly demanding work environment.

A good starting point is to have a specific business case.  It guarantees respect for the company culture, ensures local relevancy and return of investments.

With this I mind I definitely support what was recently shared by a study of PwC about emerging trends in the workplace.

A proper HR transformation can only be successful if the HR infrastructure is rooted into some solid pillars and those are addresses simultaneously:

Apps, SaaS-based HRMS platforms and automation – agile applications on smart devices for organizations and virtual applications taking over what was (still is) processed by people  

Big data & deep learning – algorithms enabling a fast decision making process by predicting powerful insights to support proactively capabilities needs based on macroeconomic trends and their impact on people and business.

Operating model –build platforms to interact with different and independent players, despite physical boarders

Digital culture – develop behaviors and competences enabling Human resources to use the digital environment to the max

6. As an ending note, could you give some advice for other industry veterans or budding HR executives from the industry space?

Prepare culturally the organization.  Start with the why and connect tech and/or HR tech to the company culture and the business.

Assess the organizational culture, have a change management plan. Invest in engaging communication. Have FU training sections and helpdesk system to answer to all the queries.

Last but not least, don’t mix the what (business needs requiring innovations) with the how we get there (processes and tools)