Lifting the lid on HR transformation

Published on the 12/04/2016 | Written by Donovan Jackson

From transactional processes to increased value-adding activities…

On the occasion of Oracle announcing enhancements to its human capital management solutions at a recent US conference, iStart took the opportunity to have a chat with Andrew Lafontaine, Oracle APAC HCM senior director. Our mission, after spending much time unpacking digital transformation, was to understand more about HR transformation – and figure out if businesses should care about it.

Asked to explain just exactly what HR transformation is, Lafontaine chuckled and said, “Given that I ran the HR transformation practice for Accenture in Australia for four years, I’m probably well placed to answer the question.”

Which was, he added, a good one.

That’s because, he said, ‘transformation’ is probably one of the most misunderstood questions going around HR circles at present (the same might be said for the broader IT industry). “The traditional notion [of HR] is that these functions are focused on delivering effective processes to organisations at the lowest cost possible. They have done that and are by now pretty good at it. However, most have around 30 to 60 percent of their activity in ‘transactional’ activities, with maybe 20 to 30 percent in ‘value adding’ activities. Transformation is about looking at how to flip that around with the value add going to 60 to 70 percent.”

‘Transactional’ activities are those which revolve around onboarding people, handling leave and pay, and other standard processes. Value adding activities include moving HR up the strategic ladder, for example, by actively finding and recruiting the talent required to fuel business growth. Simply put, it’s a move away from pushing paper.

Or as a man with a consulting background explained, transformation means, in part, looking at systems and processes underpinned by better technology and operating models to deliver against those higher value adding activities.

Which begs the question – how much of that shift resides in technology, and how much depends on a shift in approach? “Most organisations are going to technology to solve their current problems, but haven’t, at the highest level, adjusted the business strategy. Instead, [before ‘technology’] it is necessary for the HR strategy to deliver on the business model first. If you don’t do that, you’re not going to get the right value from implementing new technology,” said Lafontaine.

Above all, he made a point which resonates throughout the ages where technology systems are concerned. “Any implementation has to be linked to a business problem you’re looking to solve. If you have a great function [from a system] but it doesn’t solve a business problem, it’s just a cool thing to have.”

He said social platforms are the best example of that. “When we ask organisations why they implemented social media at work, they’ll say ‘to facilitate better collaboration’. Ask what ‘better collaboration’ is expected to deliver, and there often isn’t an answer.”

While agreeing that the release of new enterprise software isn’t quite like the release of a new iPhone (no queues here) Lafontaine said what clients are looking for is solutions fit for purpose today, but which are also future proof.

“That means delivering against the traditional HR functions, while simultaneously providing for the extended boundaries of what HR can and is doing today. For example, the inclusion of features such as wellness programmes [which leverage off FitBits and the like], social networking built into business processes, volunteering, engagement applications – things that most companies are already doing in an informal way. It means providing software which helps organisations take care of those functions in a better way.”

Oh, and about those enhancements to Oracle’s HCM solutions. It has added HR Help Desk (HRHD) Cloud and My Volunteering to its ‘Work Life Applications’. HRHD Cloud, it said, helps employees gain information they require through self-service. It also offers case management and escalation capabilities. My Volunteering identifies those projects supported by the company, so employees can enrol. Furthermore, it has added support for e-learning standards and provides for embedded learning content into business processes for the Oracle Learning Cloud, and made content available offline with Offline Mobile Learning.

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