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18 Nov 2019

A Personal and Real World Reflection of ADP’s Transformation

Lawrence Cupido

In February 2018 we kicked off our transformation journey towards a strength-based organization. As a global company we are acutely aware of the rapid evolution of the world of work. As HR Practioners we are constantly bombarded with information regarding change associated with Digital Disruption, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Automation and The Industrial Revolution 4.0. The ubiquity of change, the variety, volatility and volume of information have all impacted upon the traditional HR function.

Over the last decade, in a post-automation environment there has been much talk about the value of HR, our role and the need to transform from transactional function to a more strategic business partnering model. For some time now amidst barrage of information about the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the evolution of the world of work there has been a growing uneasiness and realization that the systems and processes that have served us well in the past were not going to be fit for purpose. Each wave of Digital disruption has resulted in opportunities to innovate, however whilst there has been some great progress regarding the approach, the fundamental tools and processes that HR performs have largely remained unchanged. This is largely the result of perceived success with traditional practices such as Annual Performance Reviews, Nine Box Talent Grid, mechanistic goals that are cascaded across the business.

To facilitate our transformation a paradigm shift in our thinking is required in what we do, what we measure, why and how we measure across organizational culture, connection, engagement, performance, talent and business results.

Our strategy is to be A Leading Provider of Global HCM, and the unique aspect of our approach is that it is underpinned by our practice as a global company with 58,000 Associates and 800,000 Clients in over 140 Countries. A central component of our approach was to define the role of leadership and empower our leaders to get closer to their teams to activate and accelerate performance. In essence our Leaders needed to: Know their People, Focus and Engage them. Our approach is anchored in proven research and provides our Team Leaders with a practical, tactical set of tools that enables them to respond in real-time.

I remember standing in front of 55 Leaders from across Australia and saying, “We need to get our Team Leaders closer to our Associates.” I cautiously shared the Ken Blanchard quote with them – “If you spend 50% of time with your people, most problems will fix themselves.” An awkward silence ensured. I’m too busy” ….” I have too many Projects” ……” I don’t have the time” were common responses. Clearly if we were going to change we needed an honest assessment of what and where our Team Leaders were spending their time. What followed was a frank realization that over the years like most companies, our Team Leaders were engaged in an array of activities such as the Self Reviews, Annual Performance Reviews, Succession Planning, Talent & Potential sessions that resulted in associates being plotted on Performance Bell Curve and Nine Box Grid. These tasks in addition to calibration sessions consumed a considerable amount of a Team Leader’s time and deep down we believed and knew that there had to be a better way.

Given the large scale of our transformation there has been the inevitable resistance, concern and tendency to continue with the status quo. From the outset we were transparent and acknowledged that we were pioneers in the field and adopted an interatative approach based on support and driven by quality data.

The first step (Know Me) involved all team members taking a StandOut Strengths Role Assessment. This provided everyone with an insight into how we instinctively approached work and our unique skill set / strengths. This approach embraces uniqueness and allows Team Leaders to get closer to their teams and provides them with insights regarding how to best support and accelerate performance.

The second step involves a different approach to focus and alignment. Instead of cascading mechanistic annual goals we adopted an approach where we encouraged Team Leaders to talk to their teams about Purpose. Conversations regarding their Team’s Why?, Who their Clients are and how they supported the business. Team members were then supported and encouraged to develop Focus Areas that were aspirational and adaptable as the business changed.

In relation to (Engage Me) instead of an annual aggregated engagement survey we adopted an approach that is agile and empowers teams to identify and respond to engagement at a team level in real-time. In Australia the initial results from three cycles indicates an improvement in engagement in the teams that have consistently adopted the approach.

The final component of our transformation to a strength-based organization is in the way we measure performance. The Annual Self-Review is gone along with the Annual Manager Performance rating and calibration sessions to address subjectivity. The to a 5 point Performance Rating Scale and Nine Box Talent Grid are all gone. Instead performance is measured and differentiated with an easy and efficient tool that uses multiple data points throughout the year. The data-science and algorithm are constantly learning and addresses any rater harness and leniency issues.

The transformation is profound and on-going. We are learning and designing our way forward and heartened by the response from our Teams and Leaders. Instead of being Curators of Checklists and historical data, HR is now provided with a much richer insight based on real time data from tools that Team Leaders want to use. This further enhances our ability to stay relevant and strategically partner with the business. Shift Happens.

About the Author

Lawrence Cupido

Lawrence Cupido is Leadership and Organisational Development Manager, APAC at ADP Australia.

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