10 Guiding Principles for CHROs to Lead the HR Transformation Journey

April 12, 20177:57 am3441 views

Hey! Congratulations! You’ve done it. We mean you’ve started with an idea of HR Transformation. They say well begun is half-done. We totally believe in it, when we’re embarking on such big HR change. And why not? It’s an unique opportunity – the one you won’t have a chance to do over again! But how can you make the most of it?

“Every time you walk down the street,” says Roitman, “there’s a lesson to be learned about how you can improve the way you’re doing things.”

Being in the HR industry for around a decade, we at Rolling Arrays bring you the 10 must-know principles that will take your HR Transformation project to the next level. This absolutely comes from “the voice of experience”

  1. Decoding the Business Problem

You can’t be transforming your HR just for the sake of some newness in your HR function. CHROs must offer a strong foundation to HR Transformation to solve business problem(s). It requires you to clearly answer some questions such as:

  • What key business problem is being encountered and how can going onboard with  transformation roadmap help resolve the same?
  • How will leveraging new technology help decision makers at all levels?
  • What personal and professional benefits can the workforce expect?

Clearly answering such questions will help you get a buy-in from the leaders and an opportunity to share your story and vision. Use this opportunity to the fullest and communicate what’s in ‘it’ to your workforce.

Also, solving a problem isn’t just restricted to the before-phase of HRT (HR Transformation). In an HR transformation journey, problems keep mounting. CHROs must act as the ‘Master of Problem Solvers’. Their goal must be, to look at the totality of the problem i.e., to be patient enough to step back and observe the issue on hand through a circular vision i.e., to see well beyond the obvious.

Problems could take any form (lack of resources, power-plays, silos, competition, workforce, or anything that hinders the smooth transformation) but CHROs must avoid short cuts to drive away the problems temporarily.

Rather, block the possibilities that are contained in a problem, in order to create a momentum for transformation to happen. Don’t fear the negatives. It is obvious to make mistakes. Everyone does. But process enhancement is always iterative. Learn from them, adjust and optimize your process for success. 

  1. Humanize Your Story

This is important. Being a transformational leader, CHROs must take center stage and act as a bridge between the employees and the corporate change, i.e., HR Transformation. And this could be best done by narrating stories – stories that are authentic, honest and those which weave a personal and corporate purpose together.

Remember, people don’t understand your cold goals. They understand your story and ultimately buy it. Also, you must anticipate events and build your story on a compelling “why”. Think about Mahatma Gandhi or Steve Jobs! They were great at building trust. Why? It is because they inspired people, gave them hope by reflecting upon their personal turmoil or experiences.

CHRO’s stories don’t have to be perfect, but human. It doesn’t have to be a made-up speech, but a genuine thought. Storytelling goes a long way in order to wire the workforce and energize them for a common wave of change.

  1. Inspect First and Invest Later

You need to do your homework before you get started with the HR Transformation project. Relying on an ‘obvious expectation’ that there’ll be a network of contacts, support system, tools and the service providers, etc. is a flawed thought.

You must make great efforts in order to develop your market knowledge as soon as possible, so that you can reap dividends later on.

Don’t make a decision to save face. If you don’t know about the HRT project, you’re about to sign, then admit it and postpone the decision until you fill in the gaps. Change is fast and furious in the business environment. Before you get involved with your HR Transformation partner, you must do your research.

You must know:

  • Is your HRT partner reputed? Is the team network big and capable enough to fulfill your needs?
  • What products and services will they provide to solve your business problem?
  • Will the implemented system be able to keep pace with changing business demands?
  • How many system integrations  will they have to choose from? And its efficiency?
  • Is your strategic HRT partner up-to date with the changing trends in the HR function?
  • Will it be able to keep the product floating with changes in the business?
  • Do they have a problem-specific solution or an overall solution to any HR specific issue?

Answering the above questions would require CHROs to be thick-skinned and do rigorous research, because once they sign in for a deal, they will not have time to do the research. They’ll regret it huge deal and their stakeholders will blame them for the “useless system”.

Remember, this is your opportunity to buy-in from the senior management. So, develop a business case, and know the in and out of your HRT initiative and its partner.

Therefore, stay abreast of the current trends and market changes in the HR business, talk to people about HRT, ask them questions, obtain their suggestions and be curious. Being a CHRO, your initiative needs a list of requirements. It needs clarity of mind, brainstorming, numerous discussions, and rigorous research such that the derived product is RFP (Request for Proposal).

Your RFP stage cannot be in the evolution stages. Your discussion and research is what you really require of your HRT partner, and how exactly you want the solution to be implemented and measured. Based on your discussion on this and work backwards to achieve the desired result.

For example, if a company wants to do monthly performance management of its sales team. The approach to achieve it, and the metrics required for the same must be on CHROs discussion list. Only after being satisfied with the discussion, she/he should proceed for RFP. 

  1. Set Forth Penny Plain

Being a CHRO does mean to provide a window of enormous opportunities to build long-term success for your organization. As the old adage goes, “A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step”.

And if you believe HR transformation is your journey, then your “single” step in this direction would be, to assess the current HR capabilities, pain points or high-impact initiatives to achieve long-term success. 

To better understand this, we’ve an example to share:

One of the CHROs wanted to implement Core HR to start with. We asked, what do you want to achieve? Once a CHRO suggested that the CEO doesn’t want to just look at the system, but wants to see its impact on performance of the sales team. Although the business objective was clear, still the CHRO wanted to start with Core HR. After discussion, he realised that with Core HR, he will be able to show any effect of the system to board members in around 9-10 months. Whereas, the performance management system will be giving results in 12 weeks.

The benefit of cloud HRIS products are that, they give flexibility to start with any module. So, CHROs should assess the current business needs, create an inventory of the various transformation initiatives, and determine their impact. This would give you a simple start, before you move on to the difficult part of your strategic implementation.

For this, you could also do a small-scale transformation before you finally roll out the larger transformation system at one-go: Types of HR Transformation

  1. Determine Your Brand Mantra

 “Be clear with yourself regarding the HR Transformation plans to keep your workforce, from being distracted”. For changing the decades old processes and activities, you need to believe yourself, your entire leadership and your HR Team to believe in your story and live it. Use your entire work experience and knowledge (HR/Non-HR) and bring on a different flavour to HR, your own. Show them business results, show all ratios – people, salaries, revenue etc. You have to buy the minds of your HR team.

When you are changing processes and system, it’s not just that, it’s changing the way people work. Each addition and each removal will need a talk with the HR team, and business leaders. So, you will need to tell your story, early and often.

Furthermore, it’s not only about sharing the story, the HR brand you are building for the organisation must reflect on each action and each decision you are taking. Because it is a matter of substance (what you say) and the matter of style (how you say it).

As a CHRO, leverage the importance of expression to your broader workforce, that what must be done and how. This is constructive, while you discuss business, its future plan, as well as the implications for the HR function. Be the strongest ever ambassador of your HR Transformation vision, believe in it and communicate the same. Your workforce will feel your Brand! 

See: 5 Common Mistakes Made When Implementing an HR Transformation Strategy

  1. Construct the Pre-requisites

Again, you identified some gaps in your HR function and want to reap the benefits of HR Transformation. You want to do it. But are you certain where will your ship end? Which road to take that leads you to your goal?

In terms of face level requirements, whether to click on right hand side or left hand side is immaterial. The expected output must be very clear, either in black or white. That is to decipher whether the system can do it or not. A simple yes or no!

Requirements have to be defined through a carefully planned engagement between a CHRO and the HRT partner. Because the conversation with product and implementation team will, therefore, be eventually translated into an effective implementation.

In the course of your discussion sessions, or when your HR team has to deal with the system, you might know certain things all by yourself. But you must be open to frank and transparent discussion and seek suggestions. Pro-actively indulge with the product and system implementation team, in order to create an RFP/RFQ. Such an approach will clearly list down your requirements and your expectations, out of your HRT partner and the HR Transformation initiative.

  1. Boost Synergy with Partners

You have to agree that, it’s the trickiest aspect of HR Transformation. That is, a sync with your internal and external transformation partners. Though both the partners are brought together to help the organization address its business problem, there exists gaps when it comes to taking the project live.

The internal team should always remember that the end solution will be consumed by them and the best approach to get the desired positive result is to co-distribute tasks open-mindedly. This means what? It means there are no internal and external teams, but partners.

Post signing up for the HR Transformation project, partners are in game together and it is imperative for CHROs to make them realize, that their efforts won’t pay off if they keep on pointing fingers at each other. The partners must respect and focus on their common goal of successful HR Transformation.

CHROs must stress upon the fact that the team is trained to believe in each other, because HRT requires for a win-win situation and is best implemented with mutual efforts. How to create harmony between internal and external partners.

  1. Unflinching Focus

Stay focused on the agenda at hand. In order to address other HR initiatives, it is quite tempting to compromise and expand on the scope of your HR Transformation initiatives. This will only derail your efforts. Focus and tightly align your high-impact priorities. This will immensely help CHROs and flip the odds in your favour:

  • Take time to anticipate challenges to avoid the same.
  • Regularly dedicate a healthy percentage of time to engage and motivate the frontline leaders.
  • Make the course corrections based on monthly updates and ensure on-time value delivery.
  • Constantly measure the talent gaps, business leaders and invest accordingly.
  • Repetition of various tasks such as, communication with the stakeholders, workshops, and regular checks should be a routine. Each team member will go through their own journey, while they get accustomed to the plan requirements. So, don’t lose your patience. It is absolutely necessary.
  • Stick to the plan, i.e., have a roadmap with multiple milestones and assigned time frames. But, do have room for flexibility in your strategic HR Transformation plan. This will provide scope for refinement during the transformation journey. 
  1. Forge an ‘A’ Team

Building an A-team requires a holistic strategy for the success of the transformation journey. It is obvious to expect to have the right people with the right skills “on the bus” who can lead from the front. But beyond this obviousness, there are certain imperatives that CHROs must consider in order to build an A-team:

  1. Assess your talent on the basic formula of:

Talent = Competence x Commitment x Contribution


  • Competence skills, knowledge, and values is essential for decision-making.
  • Commitment is readiness to work hard, time, and valuable delivery.
  • And Contribution is finding meaning and purpose in their work i.e., when employees feel that their personal needs are being met by contributing to the HR transformation.
  1. Define your strategic objectives of the transformation and the required roles and capabilities to achieve the same.
  2. Assess each member of your team for the past performance, his/her readiness to adapt and commitment for the change.
  3. Future potential across domains such as ownership-thinking, motivation and leadership traits.
  4. Having the right, friendly, and patient people onboard is essential. HRT journey is like a marathon, running on high intensity. It’s okay for the workforce to be annoyed with each other and feel the fatigue. But the sooner they overcome the ‘dislike’, the better the unity to focus on the given agenda.
  5. Obtain an adequately sized team. Too many people make communication and work-flow complex, while too small a team faces work pressure. 

10. Communicate HOT: Honest, Open-ended and Two-way!

Of tremendous importance is to regularly communicate your HR agenda. This will clearly prioritise your plans, enhance its impact and avoid detractors to pinprick at whim.

CHROs – the change leaders must communicate the risks attached, if the employees choose to cling to the status quo, as well as the potential opportunities if they choose to build a different culture in their HR function.

Therefore, communication is imperative in order to:

  • Furnish abundant relevant information regarding the change.
  • Justify the rationale for the initiative.
  • Address the queries and concerns of the workforce
  • Reflect upon the potential corporate and personal opportunities attached with the initiative.

CHRO has a great opportunity in here, while communicating all of the above to assess the readiness of the workforce, obtain their feedback, weigh arguments and prepare for change management. This will also help CHROs come out as a stronger motivating force, for its employees and enable them to make better decisions.

But… DON’T be a Santa Claus and give away everything downright. Planning your communication approach is as important as planning your HRT plan.

To do so, you need to:

  • Talk about various features of your HR system, step-by-step in separate talk-sessions (in a prioritized manner). This will avoid information overload on your workforce.
  • Plan and schedule the release sessions of various tools concerning the HRT system.
  • Switch to the new update of your tools every few months, to keep the wave of change stimulating. This will give your workforce something new, and cool to work on, thus ensuring their engagement with the system.
  • Every now and then, talk to the end-users, ask for their feedback, and share the same with your team to improvise on your system.

Above are the main guiding principles for successful HR Transformation used by CHROs, we have worked with.

Do let us know if there is anything that we have missed out on, and which has helped you in your HR transformation journey success.

Content credit:

Rolling Arrays is Asia’s premier award winning HR Transformation Company, headquartered in Singapore, with offices in 6 countries. Since its inception in 2009, Rolling Arrays has successfully delivered more than 100 HR transformation projects to more than 50 blue-chip clients across Asia. A consultative approach to HR Processes, HR Functions and HR Software is Rolling Arrays core expertise and the primary catalyst for its’ success.

Also read: HR Transformation: Step-by-Step Guide to Make Change Possible

Image credit: Freepik

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