Accelerating Change – HR Supporting Digital Business Transformation [Session Summary]


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The following is a short summary of a presentation by Siobhan McHale, Executive General Manager HR, Dulux Group at The CHRO Virtual Summit 2018.

Kicking off the Summit, Siobhan’s presentation addressed one of the most pressing contemporary challenges facing many organizations – HR’s role in the (seemingly) ubiquitous digital transformation process. Dulux Group is based in Australia and has over 4500 employees, it provides a range of paint, coating, and manufacturing products and services throughout Australasia. Over the last few years, the company had been generally performing well, recording growth of 226% in comparison to other top 200 Australian companies. However, there were some serious challenges facing digital transformation projects within individual lines that were threatening to lower the competitiveness of parts of the business. According to a report from McKinsey, up to 70% of change programs fail or under-deliver upon their stated objectives. There are a number of potential factors that could lead to transformation under performance, but according to Siobhan, HR first needs to improve its ability to act as a change enabler, by providing objective oversight and analysis to the business. She suggests that HR’s two main contemporary challenges; running the business, and helping the business to change and grow are now the most fundamental elements of HR’s business leadership role. It’s the latter she suggests is often more of an issue because it’s often not so clear why change initiatives stall.

“The most effective HR practitioners see and take up their commercial role, they do not see themselves on the sidelines of the business, but view themselves as part of the business”

In light of this challenge, Siobhan introduces an internal case study that demonstrated how HR in Dulux Group assisted in accelerating change in a digital project. As the Executive General Manager for HR based in the head office, it was Siobhan’s responsibility to diagnose why the Cabinet Hardware business line had not made any progress on its planned digital roll-out, while major competitors had already begun to implement more technologically advanced service systems. The Cabinet Hardware business had about 350 employees and a market share of 17%, but there was a delay in the digital transformation for which senior line managers had no answer for. How would central HR help this issue? Siobhan quickly discovered that there was a fundamental systemic issue existing between the head office and line team leaders. What she found was that line managers (seen as the adaptive receivers of change) were waiting for the head office digital team (seen as the technical deliverers of change) to implement the project – and vice versa. No real changes were happening – as both parties were perfectly aligned in their viewpoints to ensure no significant actual changes took place.

“Organizations don’t change; it’s the people who choose to change”

After speaking with the relevant line leaders, this stalemate was effectively lifted when the leadership in the Cabinet Hardware line team were given equal responsibility for the transformation. Through assessing the reasons why change became stagnant, each line of the business was given the responsibility and expectation to lead change in conjunction with other necessary lines. This re-framing therefore allowed both the technical (systems, programs, processes) and adaptive (skills, employees, leadership) aspects of the change process to be properly accounted for by each relevant line leadership group. The key take-away from this case is that communication between all parts of the business can (and should) be facilitated by HR leaders, who have a unique position of oversight. Accelerating change occurs when leadership issues are re-framed to provide line leaders a clear view of both the technical and adaptive responsibilities required to deliver the project.

If you missed Siobhan’s presentation (or indeed any others), you can sign up on The CHRO Virtual Summit website for free and view it until June 30th!


The 3rd HR Congress Brussels, November 27-28 will feature a selection of sessions that will explore this topic and much more! Make sure you follow The HR Congress Blog and #HRCongress18 to stay posted on all the latest news, updates and content from the world of work!

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