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Why HR Is Your Company's Greatest Asset During Transformation With so many approaches to business transformation available, here's where HR should direct its effort

By Ahmad Waarie

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Here in the MENA region, transformation is something almost every company will have to go through– sooner, rather than later. And to succeed, every employee at every level of your company must be fully on board with the change. As the department that unites all aspects of a business, HR is well-placed to spearhead this mission. But, with so many approaches to business transformation available, where should HR direct its efforts?

What can HR contribute for successful business transformation?

Culture is key, so HR must first drive the creation of a cohesive company culture in which employees are fully aligned with the vision of the company. Sustaining the desired culture requires highly effective leaders to oversee the company through transformation and retain top-performing non-management staff members.

And, of course, the well-being of your workforce: a company can only remain financially healthy, if its employees feel good physically and emotionally, and are happy with their finances. Therefore, offering the right rewards will keep you ahead of competitors in the battle for securing top talent.

As a multi-faceted department, your HR team is already poised to achieve all of this.So, here's how HR can further fine-tune its current activities in all of these areas.

1. Develop a winning culture

A company culture in which employees understand and believe in the business' new goals is vital for transformative success. A major focus during times of such transformation should be on creating a winning culture– one in which your workforce is aligned and fully engaged with your business goals, as well as with each other.

Data from Willis Towers Watson suggests that this winning culture leads to a highly productive, effective and competitive company. This, in turn, can reduce the risk of poor retention by 41%, reduce days lost, and raise your company's operating margin threefold. Establishing the right culture clearly pays off, so how can HR achieve this? Engage your employees to win together. Vision and values lie at the heart of a winning company culture. It's important to constantly communicate this with your employees.

The goal is to let them know how and why the company has amended its vision, and how the change impacts their role. It's also vital to seek their input as doing so, will help them feel included in the decision-making process and more engaged with the upcoming change.

HR is perfectly placed to repeatedly communicate this message and can do so through strategies such as: workshops, digital educational materials, and team building away days.

2. Attract and retain the best talent

Effective leaders and managers are key to an engaged and productive workforce. Tailor the hiring and development process to identify and nurture effective leaders. According to Willis Towers Watson's 2018 Global Workforce Study, employees with effective senior leaders and managers are much more likely to be highly engaged.

Harvard Business Publishing's 2018 State of Leadership Development Report showed that organizations that focus on leadership development are 29 times more likely to have a successful transformation than those that view leadership as unimportant. But having the "right' talent isn't just about leaders. Retaining your best performing staff at all levels is key to the success of your company's transformation.

How can HR attract and develop the right talent?

A winning culture and desirable rewards package are invaluable to attracting top performing employees. To keep them engaged and inspired, HR can complete the picture by making talent development central to corporate culture. Combining tools such as assessment centres, development centres, and 360-degree employee feedback provides invaluable insights when hiring, onboarding and developing talent. By employing these methods, HR can help create a culture of opportunity and progression in which high performers are able to spread their wings.

Related: How To Keep Big Corporations From Poaching Your Startup's Best Talent

3. Put together the right rewards package

Having rewards that employees want and value is key for attracting top talent in a competitive labour market. Research by Willis Towers Watson has shown that while all companies have difficulty in attracting the employees they want, leading organizations have fewer struggles than the rest when it comes to attracting critical-skill employees, high-potential employees, diverse employee populations, and non-employee talent.

There's no denying that benefits matter to employees and form a crucial part of a company's value proposition. However, to ensure your company's rewards are attractive enough to appeal to and retain vital employees, they must be well-tailored to their needs and offer exemplary value.

How can HR deliver the right rewards?

Understanding the specific wants of existing and incoming staff members is key for determining the "right' rewards. This is even more important for regions like the Gulf which attract overseas talent with unique needs. Data gathering during and after the recruitment process is the best approach.

Furthermore, if HR segments employees by job category, you will be able to identify the specific rewards valued by different types of employees. HR should also look at incorporating all total rewards components into employee packages. From well-being offerings to flexible work options, all rewards that guarantee overall employee satisfaction are necessary.

4. Employee well-being

Focusing on the physical, emotional and financial well-being of employees is vital for improving productivity and efficiency. At a basic level, unhealthy employees can impact your profitability through the financial burden of absenteeism, presenteeism, increased use of health benefits and stress-related illness. However, unhealthy employees can also jeopardize the success of your business transformation because of poor engagement, poor productivity and high staff turnover.

Aim to minimize the risks an unhealthy workforce brings to your company by prioritizing their health.

What role can HR play in employee well-being?

Your HR team can bolster employee well-being in three ways. Firstly, they can introduce measures to protect the physical, emotional and financial well-being of staff. This varies from providing emotional support services (such as stress management) and promoting healthy habits (through healthy eating and cycle-to-work schemes), to financial literacy training. Next up, is supporting staff who have experienced well-being struggles. Strategies such as phased return-to-work can be invaluable here.

The final approach should focus on the workplace itself. If HR can lead the way in creating a culture in which well-being is championed from the top down, employees will most likely feel supported and able to ask for help as needed.

Why HR is your secret weapon for business transformation success?

When faced with a need for big transformational change, it can be easy to look for new solutions, instead of making use of the strengths your company already has. Your HR team is one such strength.

Related: Six Reasons Why GCC Employers Are Losing Their Best Employees

Ahmad Waarie

Managing Consultant and Head of Talent, CEEMEA

Ahmad is an expert in Strategic Human Resources development and implementation and has 30 years’ experience in this field. Prior to joining Willis Towers Watson, Ahmad was the Director of Strategic Human Resources at The Executive Office/Council of Dubai , where he championed the strategic transformation of the Dubai Government through the introduction of high-profile and complex projects and initiatives. Ahmad also served as the HR Advisor for the UAE Prime Minister’s Office and assisted in the development of high profile strategic projects.  Ahmad has worked in multinational organizations across four continents and has a vast experience in all the areas and challenges in the HR field. He has developed and implemented many high-level HR projects across public and private sector organisations.

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