Chantal had recently joined Research International as the Head of People and Culture (P&C) Business Partner. Chantal was excited about working in the Australian market again following the completion of her Masters in Organisational Development and working overseas for two years. She was excited about this role as it was a promotion for her in an area that she is passionate about, data and research. This move into Research International presented the right opportunity for Chantal to step up into a Head of role and further her career. Chantal had undertaken a 6-month secondment into the Lead BP role at her pervious organisation, so she felt comfortable but positively nervous as she commenced her new role.
The first 30 days
Chantal’s first job was to get to know her team and her clients; the leaders in the organisation. Chantal was impressed with the capability in her team. As she became familiar with her clients, she felt that most were progressive leaders, with some likely to be more challenging than others. When Chantal asked her clients about their impressions of her team, she was surprised by the mixed reviews she heard. The feedback she received was that the Business Partners were not tuned into broad business issues. The Business Partners would advise on P&C matters but wouldn’t contribute to broader issues that leadership teams would discuss. The leaders also lamented that some of the Business Partners were not as responsive as they would like. Straight forward requests such as recruitment or advice on performance coaching and development initiatives were not occurring in a timely manner. To complicate matters, the previous P&C Director implemented a P&C Advice team with P&C Advisors, so now the business was confused about who to contact for various issues. Some leaders continued to try and use their BP for all their P&C needs, despite the implementation of the new P&C Advice team.
Chantal had spoken to her entire team and all the leaders and she felt she had a handle on the issues. It was clear that the P&C team had made a change to the service model by introducing the P&C Advice line and this was designed to reduce the bottleneck that was occurring at the BP level, however several factors seemed to be impacting the introduction of this new service and team.
- The P&C Advice team was introduced but not promoted. The previous P&C Director went with a soft launch approach so the optics around P&C spending money and creating new teams was managed.
- There had been very limited consultation with the Business about this change, so they really didn’t know why the team had been introduced or what it was there to do.
- The BP’s had not changed the way they worked, so despite some new processes being designed for more operational issues, such as recruitment, professional development, and performance coaching, they continued to operate in the way they had
- Other teams in P&C, such as Capability, Remuneration and Benefits, Workplace Well-Being and Workplace Relations had not been very involved in the change process. They thought that the introduction of the P&C Advice line would take the administration components of their roles, to free them up to engage relevant strategies that could support the growth of the Business
What Chantal did
The problems were apparent. Chantal had drawn her conclusions from speaking directly with Business Leaders, and her team. The intended Service Model consisting of a P&C Advice line, Business Partners and Specialist P&C teams was not novel across other organisations, but it was at Research International. Chantal knew that she had to go back to the start. She needed to test the service model with the business, engaging them in the change. She also had to engage her P&C team at all levels. Not only did the model need to be understood and well resourced but it needed to work effectively in the team. The model was underpinned by people, process and systems working together to ensure it worked.
Chantal went to the Business leaders and asked them how P&C could assist them to undertake their work. What processes were broken? What were Business leaders’ expectations of the P&C team? What would great look like? Chantal was careful not to overpromise. She ensured she listened intently. She had to balance the business needs for limited change to what they had previously where the BP played quite an operational role to exposing the business leaders to what could be with a robust service model to support it. Business Leaders appreciated Chantal’s transparency, willingness to engage and listen. They knew that their previous engagement with P&C was not sustainable or efficient, and the trust that Chantal had built with them demonstrated through her investment of time with them and her willingness to engage them in the change, provided the confidence that she knew what had to be done and how to do it.
Getting the team on board
The team felt defeated. They described feeling disregarded and irrelevant by the Business. They knew they weren’t necessarily meeting stakeholder needs, but they were doing their best. Their best was a great input, but not enough to change the Business leader’s perception of the P&C team.
Chantal brought the team together and shared her vision with them.
P&C’s service model would be reviewed to consider the business need and best practice. It would include Centres of Excellence (specialist teams), Business Partners and an Advice Team.
But before all this, the team had to work on their processes so they could effectively work in the new service model. The team were onboard with this, and with some specialist assistance Chantal and the team were able to design the processes with the client front of mind. The team even brought some of the clients in to provide the “voice of the customer” through the design process.
Chantal provided opportunities for the team to engage with stakeholders, particularly the Business leaders throughout the change process. This step was vital to ensuring the team heard it directly from their clients, and not just Chantal. It also provided the team with an opportunity to build their relationships with their clients which deepened the trust in the relationships. Before full implementation, the team was able to pilot the change in the service model for a month. At the end of this stage the Business leaders and the P&C team were able to provide feedback. With only slight tinkering, the new service model accompanied by a robust change plan was able to be launched.
6 months on
Chantal could see the pride and engagement lift among her P&C team. Business Partners felt more aligned to the business leaders and the unit they supported, trust was developing, and higher quality advice was being provided. The Business leaders could see the integral role that the Business Partners played. The Business leaders had experienced the smoothness in the service delivery model that P&C had implemented. They knew who to contact and they knew that their query would be managed promptly, accurately, and effectively. It felt like a well-oiled machine.
Chantal could see that a successful change process included consideration of the vision and stakeholders needs and expectations. Consultation played a significant role in developing trust which underpinned all relationships. Increased trust meant that Business Leaders and the P&C team felt heard, considered, and valued. The service delivery model now met the needs of all stakeholders because they had been considered in the design process. The Business Partners were well regarded and an integral part of leadership teams across the Business. They P&C Advice line was well serviced and organised to be able to mitigate bottlenecks created by single point dependencies. The specialist P&C teams had a greater opportunity to be looking outside for best practices that would enable Research International to bring on the best people in the world to help meet its strategy.
The lessons learned were hard, but worth it in realising the benefits of a well-designed service delivery model.