Business Service Excellence begins with people!

For a long time now, leaders of business service functions such as Finance, HR, Procurement, and IT have asked themselves; How might they become an even better strategic partner to the business?

Many organizations have implemented business transformation programs to create reliable shared services and reduce costs. However, many such programs have failed to deliver on promises due to overreliance on structures, processes, systems, and service level agreements. In addition, there is usually too little emphasis on developing the people who will deliver in the new setup. As a result, they struggle to provide the desired impact and retain critical talent.

If real impact is to be achieved, support function transformation programs must focus on process efficiency and effectiveness, i.e., the actual outcome produced and the business impact delivered. This implies balancing short-term service delivery with strategic vision and developing a continuous improvement culture.

Furthermore, it requires embedding agile principles such as strong product ownership, increased transparency, reflection, continuous learning, and developing ways of working and collaborating with the business.

Finally, it requires a strong emphasis on skills development, functional leadership, employee self-leadership, team and individual collaboration, and performance management.

A case study

A leader in the mining industry in South Africa decided to start an HR and Finance excellence program to reduce costs and improve quality.

After an initial feasibility study, the organization decided to launch a pilot program and the first rollout across the entire country, building the first of more regional Centres of Excellence in Africa.

The pilot program generated an 18% cost reduction through process efficiencies, digitization, and organizational alignment, and a significant upgrade of competencies and skills for all critical roles within the new organization.

After the successful implementation of the pilot program, the company continued transforming the remaining operations in Africa towards the model, using the same co-creation-based approach with broad involvement of stakeholders, leaders, and employees. In parallel, the company has invested in competence development for its functional leaders to enable them to go beyond business partnering towards becoming strategic and transformational advisers to the business.

Ensuring a holistic and sustainable support function transformation

Talanta.co has developed six components that provide a holistic and sustainable support function transformation with a strong emphasis on people development. The transformation components apply to service functions and other business functions such as Marketing and Sales.

The components are:

  • One sustainable organizational blueprint
  • One set of processes with clear roles and responsibilities
  • Intelligent digitization and automation, making the most of technology investments
  • One set of impact-centric metrics agreed on with key business stakeholders
  • One way of leading and managing that supports impact, agility, and collaboration
  • One common improvement culture that ensures continuous improvement

Organizations that embed these components in their functional transformation are likelier to deliver real business value because they are designed with a people-centric mindset.

These organizations are better at recruiting, developing, and retaining highly skilled functional talents. This is because they have a better employee experience with more development opportunities, higher intrinsic motivation, and therefore higher employee engagement.

With more focus on people, the journey towards true business service excellence can be achieved at an accelerated pace.

Ready to start your journey of business transformation? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at info@talanta.co.


Agile Transformations in Organizations

Society is constantly changing, and production processes are optimized to make the road from idea to product launch as short as possible. For this reason, the agile management style is gaining ground and spreading to areas far beyond digital development. It allows businesses to make quick decisions and transformations, matching a rapidly changing marketplace and giving them a competitive edge.

But what does the agile restructuring entail for HR when parts of the company suddenly switch to working with a high degree of professionalism in autonomous teams in flat management structures?

This article will address challenges for HR during an agile transformation and how these are solved. We will examine how the rapid transition impacts HR and changes its traditional perception of HR.

Agile transformations in organizations

The agile leadership approach is popular, but often the demands on support functions such as HR and Finance are overlooked when the time comes to implement the changes. Because what exactly does it mean that an organization becomes more agile, and what impact does this have on the way you structure your governance processes?

When we talk about adapting to the agile organization structure, we can speak of a “hyper-awareness” where all departments must have a 360-degree orientation about internal and external factors to follow up on what is happening in the marketplace. In the past, the annual wheel mapped out the course for a company. Now, the focus is on a new work approach that can change from one month to the next, depending on what is happening in the industry. Previously, companies had rigid decision-making procedures in a visible leadership hierarchy. However, in an agile setup, the decision-making process is in the hands of individual teams, and decisions are often reached in decision-making forums.

Adaptability is, therefore, the keyword for the agile organization – across all departments. However, choosing to only transform parts of the value chain in the company to agile is not an option. To establish a successful agile transformation, a new business-wide collaboration model must be supported to expose all opportunities and risks.

An agile transformation in the organization means that the organization is gradually transformed to accommodate and thrive in a more flexible, self-organized, and changing environment. Therefore, it is essential that the entire organization – every manager and employee – understands and knows the definition and value of an agile transformation.

The same goes for HR. It can be challenging to figure out how HR should adapt to and support the requirements of a new and successful agile organization. The agile management style disrupts the traditional approach to HR. Naturally, this has consequences for the entire work procedure because it demands new internal cooperation in the company. But what are the implications? And does it even make sense for HR to facilitate annual appraisals and KPIs for team members whose team plan only extends three months into the future?

The importance of the traditional organizational structure

To identify how HR should adapt its structure to the agile approach, it is essential to look at the characteristics of a traditional organization and HR department. We need to know the starting point when discussing adapting and transforming HR practices.

Most organizations are built around a solid manager-employee relationship where the manager is fully responsible for their team’s performance. The manager is in charge of personnel, can hire and dismiss employees, and ensures adequate professional competencies in the team. The manager is financially responsible and signs off on departmental expenditure. The manager is responsible for the professional standard of work and is thus the top guarantor of the quality of the team’s performance. In short, the manager is responsible for leading and distributing the work in all aspects. In HR, the team leader is responsible for recruitment, approval, development, and performance.

HR’s workflows and practices are similarly built around the manager-employee relationship in the traditional organizational structure. In this way, the entire HR organization and processes are often constructed around the managerial hierarchy. When the leadership hierarchy is disrupted during an agile transformation, it pulls the rug from under the HR function. As a result, HR can effectively hinder the agile transformation if the department refuses or is unable to adapt.

The agile disruption and new talent definitions
When a company undergoes an agile transformation, the individual employee will typically no longer be assigned to just one manager. Instead, employees work in cross-functional and more or less self-managed teams. As a result, the classic employee-manager relationship is no longer so rigid and allows for new roles to come in and significantly impacts the managerial functions in the teams.

Thus, the employee can have many roles, each covering some of the traditional managerial relationships. Below is an example of agile roles adapted from the “Spotify model”:

  • The Chapter Lead is responsible for the team’s professional development and for setting the bar for professionalism. Talent development, onboarding, and the general well-being of the employees are part of the role. In addition, the Chapter Lead will be responsible for the employees in a given professional area.
  • The Product Owner is the customers’ representative in the team and ensures that the customers’ needs are met, e.g., by prioritizing the team’s deliverables.
  • The Scrum Master coordinates the team’s deliverables and facilitates the allocation of employees to each task. In addition, the Scrum Master is an expert in agile processes and ensures that the goal is successfully achieved.
  • Finally, the Agile Coach assists the Scrum Master and facilitates the processes by aligning the team with the agile practices, values, and mindset.

In addition to the above-mentioned agile roles, employees collaborate daily with peers and teammates on the products.

The talent definition also usually broadens within companies working agile. Previously, many companies focused on developing tomorrow’s leaders – typically generalists with solid business understanding and highly developed skills for leading and distributing. Some knowledge-intensive companies had a parallel specialist track to nurture future specialists.

In an agile company, future success mainly depends on the power of innovation. Here, talent is recognized as the potential to become an innovator of the future – usually with a high degree of specialist knowledge combined with a profound understanding of consumers and their needs. Traditional personnel development, career, and remuneration models based on a hierarchical organization are thus entirely inadequate.

How should HR respond to the agile transformation?

New work structures call for new processes and a new HR organization. We have spoken to several agile teams, managers, and HR departments in agile organizations, and they all point to the same questions that they need to find new answers to:

  • “Who is now in charge of hiring and firing people?”
  • “Who heads up development and personal KPIs, and are they even relevant now?”
  • “How do we meet employees’ personal development and career progression requirements in a flat organization?”
  • “How should HR regroup to support all these new needs, roles, and relationships in our organization?”

There are three areas where HR should respond to the agile transformation to achieve a structure that caters to all departments in the company:

  1. The workflows in the organization
    In an agile organization, there is no longer one leader with the power to make all decisions in all areas. So it would be best if you defined new decision models and decision-making forums encompassing all relevant roles and stakeholders in the organization. It is essential to ensure that the right people make decisions on talent.As far as HR goes, we have identified several ways of achieving this goal:
    Decisions on talents still rest with one person. Still, that person may vary depending on the area, e.g., the Chapter Lead may be overall responsible for personnel development while task management and daily management are in the hands of someone in the agile team. This pattern is usually evident in organizations that have taken the first tentative steps on their agile journey but are still very much bound by the traditional leadership relationship.There is an increased tendency to have talent decision-making forums, where hiring decisions, pay, and careers are handled by teams of colleagues with a combined 360-degree perspective on an employee. In this scenario, employees are calibrated concerning each other. As a result, you get a transparent talent development process and a fair assessment, which benefits all employees. This approach is evident in organizations far along their agile journey. For example, Google and Spotify are organizations that practice this very transparent approach and offer optimal conditions for increasing the talent pool in their teams.
  2. The organization of HR
    It would help if you also looked at how your HR department is structured. It no longer makes sense for HR to focus on supporting management and individual employees’ needs. On the contrary, HR can benefit from shifting its focus to the teams of employees and supporting the different areas of expertise instead of the departments, thus gaining an in-depth knowledge of the teams. In the future, recruitment, salary, and career counseling may be carried out by a professionally oriented HR employee who knows the different talent markets, the competition, and the dominant motivators in the different talent segments. Such a professionally oriented HR function supports the increased focus on professionalism and innovation and allows the company to retain its highly skilled employees long term.You need to develop an HR organization that can continue to provide strategic sparring at the top level, provide managerial and personnel nurturing of the various teams and tribes and continue to help the individual employee with their specific employment needs.Agile Coaches are involved in this process in some HR departments. Their role is to facilitate agile workflows in the teams, including sparring on personnel management, motivation, high-performing teams, etc. It is a natural extension of HR’s traditional domain in leadership development.
  3. The HR work method
    You also need to adjust your work method. For example, an agile work structure is not conducive to having a “center of expertise” that develops your organization’s policies and processes based on an analysis-design-build-implement-model. The downside to this center of expertise is that it allows only a small and very late involvement of the rest of the HR organization and other key stakeholders. On the contrary, HR should implement more agile workflows with high user involvement from the start, continuously tweaking and adjusting as the organization evolves and changes.It varies greatly how each HR department approaches this issue. For example, in some companies, HR continues to develop and adjust staff issues in the department, although in an agile flow with increased business involvement.Other companies take a more drastic approach and set up HR partners in a kind of Scrum Master role where they facilitate a team working on a particular personnel-related topic such as employee engagement. Such a team then goes on to involve experts in, e.g., motivation and engagement, experts in incentive programs as well as customers or clients, IT experts, and anyone else who may be relevant to include in the cross-departmental team on employee engagement. Thus, HR can operate in its field and develop solutions tailored to suit the challenges in business conditions. It still relies on its employees’ unique knowledge and expertise in psychology.

The future HR organization

In the future, regardless of which model you choose, your HR department’s solutions should not be designed to fit long-term projects but should be introduced through development processes that develop MVPs (minimum viable products) that can be tested in smaller groups. Then, when solutions are finally launched, you can still make several adjustments, improvements, and new releases along the way. This is the only way your HR department can support your business and remain up to date and abreast of a constantly evolving marketplace.

These are all just examples of how you can organize the management structure and workflows in HR to be more adapted to the agile process. However, if management asks you to take a helicopter view and a strategic perspective, then one thing is sure: the old ways are not agile and no longer represent a solution. Instead, HR should embrace a transparent organization and way of working consistent with the workflow required from the employees, allowing the department to support the agile management structure to the best of its ability.

We would love to chat more with you and help transform your organization. So please reach out to us at info@talanta.co.


The key to building future-fit organizations

The future of work is hybrid collaboration. When done right, it has substantial unexplored benefits and opportunities for business leaders who want to build organizations that are fit for humans and the future.

Our work at Talanta.co involves enabling organizations to utilize hybrid collaboration opportunities fully. Therefore, we have built a framework to provide a holistic approach.

Working successfully with hybrid collaboration, we have identified three dimensions that should be addressed: people, processes, and structure. This includes some essential prerequisites for good hybrid collaboration; however, as people are different, so are organizations. Therefore, the right way for one company might not be the same for others.

Overall, the framework can be used for looking at the hybrid collaboration culture at your company – in its current state and the one you are aspiring for.

Our definition of hybrid collaboration

“Some people work mostly in person at the same location, whereas others in the same company are remote. Or most people work some days in the central office and some days from home or another remote location. In essence, hybrid collaboration is collaborating across physical and virtual boundaries.”

Hybrid collaboration – the new normal?

We see that hybrid collaboration is growing exponentially in organizations as more and more people work remotely while others are back at the office.

Upon close examination, it becomes evident that hybrid collaboration is more than the location you work from. Instead, it affects an array of elements in the way we run our business, ranging from the formal regulations of a home office, the lack of coffee machine talks when we do not meet at the office, work processes and competencies that foster collaboration on virtual platforms and leadership at a distance.

The concept

…of hybrid collaboration tends to have many names such as “future way of working,” “hybrid work,” “hybrid collaboration,” and “new ways of working.” Regardless of which name tag you put on it, hybrid collaboration is essentially collaborating across physical and virtual boundaries.

We believe that hybrid collaboration is here to stay or even increase due to several factors:

  • Increased globalization of the companies we work at or the supply chains and ecosystems the business is part of, and our increased focus on a more sustainable world drive us towards being more virtual.
  • Increased efficiency and reduced costs due to less time and money spent traveling.
  • The market for technologies supporting a more sustainable, hybrid work life is increasing tremendously.
  • In the war for talent, the hybrid collaboration will expand the possibilities of getting the best people on board with less focus on where they live physically.

Several recent studies support the tendency towards a more hybrid work life. Havard Business Review finds that 70-80% of organizations already consider themselves hybrid. In a recent survey from Microsoft involving more than 30,000 people from 31 different countries, 70% of workers want the flexible, remote work options to continue. But the new hybrid world also demands something from the organization, as 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams. We must bridge this dilemma with how we create our organizations and culture around hybrid collaboration.

In this article, we will unpack our framework to improve hybrid collaboration by focusing on the three overall dimensions of the framework: people, processes, and structure.

Before you continue reading, take a moment to reflect on:

  • How would you, in general, rate hybrid collaboration in your organization?
  • What are the main challenges of hybrid collaboration?
  • “How do we stay connected when we do not see each other randomly by the coffee machine?”
  • “How do we as leaders lead from a distance?”
  • “How do we keep ourselves and our colleagues engaged and motivated for work?”
  • “How do we know if people are feeling okay?”
  • “How do we design our workplace to cater to this new way of collaborating?”
  • “What should the formal agreements be concerning working from home vs. the office?”
  • “When and where do we expect people to work?”
  • “How do we ensure we have the right processes and technological setup for virtual collaboration?”

Structures enabling hybrid work

The structure dimension contains the infrastructural elements needed to make hybrid work possible and successful. This has to do with questions like: “Do we have the necessary technical setup for hybrid collaboration?”, “Does the workspace cater to hybrid collaboration?” and “Do we provide employment terms that deal with hybrid work?”

The elements are employment terms, the workplace, and technology.

Employment terms cover the legal perspectives of making hybrid collaboration possible. Which terms need to be changed in the employment contracts? Which remuneration aspect needs to be revised (fees, bonus terms, driving costs, etc.)? Is there a need to change the insurance policies of the individual and the company to cater to working more from home? And then comes policies on the home office environment, which also varies depending on the agreement between the employee and the employer. How many days is the individual working from home vs. from the office? Are the working hours from home on specific days flexible and fluid?

All these questions and considerations determine to which degree the employer is responsible for providing the right home office equipment, such as ergonomic chairs, adjustable desks, etc. Moreover, the questions might have different answers in different countries, which means that each company will have to go through it in detail and might also need to communicate and handle significant differences in the workforce of the same department in a global organization.

The physical workplace covers where people work at the office and remote offices, as both can support hybrid collaboration. Imagine employees working some days at the office, going in and out of physical and virtual meetings. Meeting rooms are still as they were back when we primarily met face to face. We do not want to take up a meeting room for our 1:1 virtual touchpoints with colleagues from other geographical sites. Still, the canteen or open office spaces do not fit the purpose of this type of meeting either because of poor sound quality or because we disturb each other. So what do we do?

The physical workplace needs to be (re)designed to support the new working methods based on an analysis of the organization’s needs. These could be “phone booths” for virtual meetings, fewer but better workstations, smaller rooms, and different areas supporting the new ways of working.

Technology is key to supporting hybrid collaboration. Most organizations have solid technology supporting virtual meetings but need to improve the technical setup to meet the need for hybrid collaboration.

Hybrid collaboration adds to the technological complexity which must be in place to leverage the potential of this way of working fully. The technical equipment, e.g., computers, cameras, microphones, and sound setup, must function well at the office and from remote workstations. Bad sound quality is disturbing in the long run. Enabling Wi-Fi and remote access to your desk and files requires proper bandwidth, VPN, and robust security solutions. Software to support synchronous and asynchronous work must also be in place to support efficient hybrid work. And finally comes, the question of whether the individual must ensure a minimum standard for their home office to allow for working from home without slowing down the collaboration with others.

Depending on the setup, this might also be a question we deal with under the employment terms.

Processes that cater to hybrid collaboration

As we add the virtual dimension to our work life, we add opportunities and complexities to how we work and govern our organizations. This might call for adapted or new workflows and governance, awareness of our communication and touchpoints, and an eye for learning and development. Where should we adapt our workflows or governance to make hybrid work possible and even more rewarding? How do we ensure a sufficient level of communication and quality? What capabilities are needed to change behavior and for everyone in the organization to be able to adapt to these new ways of working?

Workflows and governance

We need to adapt our workflow in the organization to the new ways of working. The new opportunities and requirements for hybrid collaboration might be relevant to include in a project model. It could be looking into questions such as:

  • Do we need to revise how we make decisions?
  • Is our project model aligned with how we work with projects?
  • Are the effective workflows in our administrative part of the business adjusted to hybrid work?
  • How do we settle the question of worktime and workplace?

Communication and touchpoints

Physical and technological distance challenges many traditional ways of communicating and having touchpoints. Therefore, focusing on communication and touchpoints is crucial in hybrid collaboration.

Touchpoints

Touchpoints, meetings, and workshops are critical elements in our ongoing communication. To perform with high engagement and impact, we need to be able to host engaging and productive meetings in a virtual or hybrid format where we create exciting and meaningful interactions. Many organizations have experienced challenges with keeping people engaged in virtual sessions, and it seems even more difficult if you need a high degree of creativity in your session. A new key question when organizing meetings and workshops could be: Does this require physical presence, or will it work if we go virtual?

Communication

Company-wide communication must aim at sharing critical information across the entire organization to maintain engagement, a shared direction, and a sense of belonging to something bigger. This could also be to highlight elements of governance to set a direction. When the workplace gets dispatched, communication becomes an even more robust way of nurturing the culture we want to live in.

Learning and development

Hybrid collaboration requires some basic virtual skills to work for all – all employees need to know the essential functions in Teams, Zoom, or your preferred communication program to engage. On top of this, Teams has many more features to use. Several virtual collaboration tools are developed to support various kinds of work in a virtual world with visualization, planning, and documentation, e.g., Miro, SessionLab, etc.

In short, the better the employees know how to use collaboration tools, the smoother it can run – but it might take some training to get everybody there.

Another element is how an organization ensures continuous learning and development in general in a hybrid setup where we might get less inspiration or help to grow from the colleagues sitting next to us. Hence, knowledge sharing and onboarding will be important areas to plan for in this dimension.

People – making hybrid collaboration more human
Hybrid collaboration involves significant changes to the way many people work – and work together.

Working virtually and out of the home office can be flexible and is attractive to many. But, at the same time, remote work involves a range of barriers to collaboration, ranging from physical, technological, and emotional distance that we need to deal with. Finally, studies show that we miss face-to-face relations with colleagues and leaders, and many employees cannot wait to return to the office (at least some days a week).

As with all significant transformations, we must pay careful attention to the people involved in the change needed to do hybrid collaboration, both in the transition phase and in the long run.

The people dimension highlights the individual’s engagement, how they can stay connected and engaged, the team as a place of belonging with a high degree of trust, and the leadership required to lead at a distance.

Individual engagement (at work)

Hybrid work has been a godsend for some employees for whom work has become more flexible and easier to combine with family logistics or has created space for introvert preferences and profound work. On the other hand, remote collaboration and the many hours alone at the home office can be mentally exhausting. In addition, the lack of face-to-face interactions with colleagues might cause less engagement at work.

Therefore, it is imperative to help the individual design their work in a way that fosters energy and engagement by focusing on equipping individuals to manage their engagement.

Leadership

Leadership at a distance is an integrated part of the hybrid collaboration, as we are not together at the office every day. Therefore, mastering this discipline is key to success.

Successful leadership at a distance involves staying connected to employees, creating motivation, keeping an overview of performance, and setting the direction of a team. It requires something different than if we meet daily.

Teaming

For most people, it is essential to have a sense of belonging to someone, a workplace you are proud of, a team that supports you, or a group of colleagues that you share a professional passion with. This is why teaming is the third element of the people dimension.

A strong team can perform together and maintain a high level of engagement. They typically have a high degree of trust, a clear purpose and goal, commitment, and hold each other accountable. Some things can be handled in virtual or hybrid meetings or through an informal Slack, Yammer, or WhatsApp channel. At other times, we need to meet; to succeed, we must know when to do what.

Finally, an area of awareness is the informal touchpoints that, to some extent, have disappeared. They no longer happen by accident, as the shared coffee machine as a natural trigger of random meetings is gone. Yet, these spontaneous meetings help us stay connected, share relevant knowledge, and are aware of each other’s well-being, and we know that many people miss them.

This calls for alternative ways to connect informally. We have seen many examples, from informal weekly team check-ins, a note with names to call while driving, and Excel sheets that randomly choose a name or a walk and talk with a colleague on the phone – all ideas for how to stay connected and energized.

In conclusion

We hope that this article has provided you with a better understanding of which dimensions you and your organization should focus on if you want to start fully utilizing the benefits of hybrid collaboration.

If you are curious about how we work with the different dimensions, or if you want to run a more thorough assessment of your organization, please do not hesitate to reach us at info@talanta.co.