What must be on HR’s essential to-do list today? What must HR be mindful of? Alison Sibree, Senior VP of HR for Oracle’s Asia Pacific & Japan region shares seven key insights.
1. HR’s role: Helping employees cope with change
Many businesses are transforming themselves. For instance, in the Asia Pacific region, there is growing demand for cloud solutions. This is particularly so for markets in Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Not locked in by existing IT infrastructure, they are ready to embrace cloud solutions immediately. As a result, a key priority for computer technology company, Oracle is to provide cloud solutions for clients – and re-train and re-purpose employees to do so ably.
It is here that HR plays a huge role: helping employees across the whole organisation feel comfortable with change, especially when most are more comfortable with habits instead.
While making training available is par for course, HR needs to do more of helping leaders and managers have conversations with their employees. It needs to support these leaders and managers to be real coaches and mentors, such that employees are equipped to be successful.
Key to supporting others through change is to listen. And listen.
Through listening, Oracle’s HR discovered that millennial employees want to be coached, but did not want to sit down formally with a coach every month. Instead, they preferred a channel by which they can pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone on how to deal with a situation – in quick time. Through listening to such employee preferences, Oracle’s HR launched an online ‘coaching pod’. Employees can now pick up the phone and get into the coaching pod, where they will have access to a leader or manager who is a certified coach and available to have that conversation with them.
What is the danger of not listening? At the beginning of Oracle’s transition to cloud solutions, there was certainly a lot of talk. However, no one was listening enough to understand the complexity that some employees struggled with. As a consequence, the degree of training, development, and support provided to colleagues in the sales teams was underestimated. Fortunately, support was stepped up after a few months when employee needs were eventually heard.
3. Have you provided data on demand?
Today, people expect data – immediately. Imagine the scenario of a manager in a meeting with a direct report who is complaining that he or she is not paid enough. How can HR ensure that this manager is prepped immediately with this employee’s salary, in relation to his or her peers?
Furthermore, managers and leaders want to know a lot about what is happening. And it is not a historical analysis they are after, but predictive analysis about the future. At Oracle globally, there is a whole team in HR doing nothing else but predictive analytics for two years now. Why are people leaving? At what job grade and from which age group? Were they below the corporate ratio in terms of their salaries? Looking at others of a similar profile, who are the people who are at risk of leaving too? How are managers alerted on potential attrition?
In your organisation, is HR equipped to analyse and suggest answers to the above?
4. But beware of analysis paralysis
The problem with having too much data is that people can get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’. Many struggle with making decisions because they have so much information at their hands that they get bamboozled by it. They stop short of making a decision because they keep hoping that the next bit of analysis will give them a solution. But solutions do not just appear and hit people in the head, unfortunately. At some point, decision-makers have to make a decision.
Ultimately, a bad decision is still better than no decision. A bad decision can usually be addressed and fixed. However, a lack of decision holds up many things in the organisation, be it events or colleagues. Procrastination has a significant negative impact. Remember to not be a practitioner of it.
5. The immediacy of social media
A company’s image can be made or broken by the immediacy of social pressure. Put yourself in the shoes of the recruitment function. Potential employees know a lot more about the company today, and have opinions and expectations about it. Hence, how the company lives up to expectations, treat people, and onboard new employees is critically important. If someone perceives a bad experience, this perception can be made known immediately on social media platforms. So, HR is under pressure to make the experience from Day One the best that it possibly can.
It is so important to focus on employees, even if it means teaching them how to write good resumes! End of last year, Oracle held a two-day learning festival. Two days when employees just had fun, and learnt all about careers. External experts came in to give advice to employees on how to understand their career, write good resumes, and present themselves well. The upside? The social media buzz on Facebook and LinkedIn was fabulous.
6. Building bicycles, building culture
As part of Oracle’s onboarding process for new employees, they have to build bicycles in teams. In the beginning, the activity is framed as a competition between teams. But part of the way through, participants learn that the bicycles will go to disadvantaged children. The principal of the children’s home comes to talk about the purpose of these bicycles and who the children are.
Why does Oracle have such an activity? To begin with, it is to emphasise that having a competitive mind-set is important. Oracle is in a competitive, aggressive environment. It is important that people understand that is the company’s DNA and the reason for the company’s success. However, knowing the customer is so important as well. It is key to focus on ensuring customer satisfaction through the strength and robustness of the product. Employees need to be able to toggle between competitive aggression and nurturing care.
Interestingly, once participants found out that the bicycles would be going to little kids, they started working together and complementing one another with their different strengths. It is a fantastic object lesson in working better, together.
7. Flexible benefits for a diverse workforce
Flexible benefits for a multi-generational workforce There are four generations in the workforce now. Organisations need to embrace flexible benefits. What will suit a baby boomer (pension plans and hospital insurance) can be entirely different to what will suit a millennial believing “I will go on forever”! Organisations need to give employees the flex to use money where they want to.
Aside from generational differences, mind the cultural differences. In Asia, having benefits that cover Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment is welcomed.
Finally, mind the difference in beliefs and practices. For instance, some colleagues will really advocate for and practise mindfulness at work. Others prefer other ways of relaxing and focusing, be it yoga or just vegetating in front of the television. Ultimately, it is to allow for variety. Be flexible, and leave it up to the individual employee to choose what suits them best.