Creating the scaffolding for HR transformation

KPMG's Darren H. Burton discusses how we're rethinking our approach to people management processes to help prepare the firm for the future.

By Darren H. Burton

A variety of disruptive forces are influencing how professional services firms like KPMG operate and serve clients. Everything from emerging technologies to the development of new service delivery models to evolving workforce expectations are requiring organizations to reconsider the role of human capital.

Within KPMG’s HR organization, we’re rethinking our approach to people management processes to help prepare the firm for the future. This includes revamping many core functions, including talent acquisition, performance management, career development, and learning. Within each area, we’ve assigned teams to figure out how to address the evolving needs and expectations of the business.

We started with a comprehensive analysis of the present and future needs of the business, and the associated implications for HR’s capabilities and focus areas. This work enabled us to establish clear objectives and resource needs that serve as the “north star” for our long-term journey.

But just like an occupied building under renovation, we can’t simply close our doors until this important work is completed. We also need to continue business as usual. So we’re tapping into several important groups to provide the exoskeleton—the structure and reinforcement—to achieve both objectives. These include:

--Leadership – Senior leaders play a crucial role during the early days of a transformation process. They must help architect the vision of the future and identify the talent needed to support the process and maintain the continuity of service during the transition. Leaders must share the vision with their organizations and build support with their teams, recognizing the challenges these groups may have faced with similar efforts in the past.

--HR project management office – Our transformation efforts involve dozens of teams and hundreds of projects, many with unique dependencies and constraints. Our central project office serves as the nerve center, making sure we can organize and track efforts within teams and coordinate resources and activities across projects. It’s also the primary linkage to the firm’s finance & accounting organization, ensuring that investment funds are utilized effectively. This work frees our project leaders to focus on the transformation activities at hand, rather than on project management tasks that can soak up time, resources, and perhaps most important, attention.

--Information technology – A solid technology infrastructure is a critical component of any future-focused HR organization. We’re migrating toward a cloud-based HCM platform[TJG1]  that will help us reduce the complexity of our legacy infrastructure, improve the user experience for our 31,000+ professionals, and obtain a more unified view of the data we need to make better decisions. Our transformation teams work closely with our HR technology organization to determine requirements, plan releases, and address end-user issues before they occur.

--Reporting and analytics The one thing that all of our HR teams need is data – process data for setting baselines, financial data to understand cost drivers, and headcount data to understand how we are allocating resources. What’s more, they need this data delivered in formats that are easily accessible and understandable. To this end, we have been working to develop a series of HR-specific dashboards that make it easier for our teams and their internal clients to identify trends and drill down into areas that require additional focus.

--Communications Through all of this work, it is critical that we maintain momentum – a collective sense that activity is moving toward a common set of goals and activities. Our HR communications team plays a valuable role in sustaining that momentum by reinforcing our vision, spotlighting key accomplishments and contributors, and keeping the larger HR organization apprised of important developments.

--Partners – With any large-scale undertaking, it is often necessary to tap into individuals from inside and outside the organization for their knowledge and expertise. These may include software providers, technical specialists, financial professionals, and change experts who can bring experience and lessons learned from previous engagements. These individuals can help to speed the process, as well as identify and avoid obstacles before they actually occur.

Transformation of any kind requires an infrastructure that provides reinforcement while the change is taking place. Within our HR team, these areas provide the important scaffolding that enables us to keep the building open while building out our vision for the future.

 Darren H. Burton is Vice Chair of Human Resources for KPMG LLP.