Workforce Digital Transformation Summit in Amsterdam – Key Take Aways

Workforce Digital Transformation Summit in Amsterdam

I’ve been participating in the Workforce Digital Transformation Summit taking place for two days in Amsterdam at that just ended. Two intense days of interesting presentations and discussions, covering a variety of topics all focused on Digital Transformation and the effects on companies and HR. 

Day one of the Workforce Digital Transformation Summit

Moderator of the day was Sven Sommerlatte. Besides being VP, Head of Human Resources of Sanofi, he also manages a blog, and a busy Youtube channel focused on Leadership and Management. His introduction covered the four key questions that were also the backbone of the event:

  1. How is Digital transforming our organisations?
  2. What Workforce do we need to respond to the Digital Requirements of the Future?
  3. How is Digital Impacting HR?
  4. How do we need to Transform HR?

He made a very compelling case for the need for reconsidering the entire concept of Digital Transformation. Particularly interesting his point of view on the Workforce Needs, as he referred particularly on the Skills Shift that is happening, with the evolution not just on technical skills, but rather on the increased relative importance of social and emotional skills.

Another critical message he gave is that Digital can become a strategic differentiator for HR as it can enable the HR roadmap of the future. I don’t entirely agree on this (and I have mentioned this later on in my intervention), but it depends on what we intend as Digital. If we think of the technology component, then I believe that it quickly becomes a point of parity, not differentiation. Technology is instantly available to everybody.

It was then my turn to speak, with a presentation focused on Building Strategic Capabilities for HR. I’ve presented my experience at VF, and the complexity of going through this journey, concluding on the vital message of putting Human back in HR.

My presentation at the Workforce Digital Transformation Summit.
Fig.1: My Presentation

After the break, we had a presentation from Monique Hopmans from Ingram. Her focus was on The Future of Workforce. She also reinforced the message that we need to beyond traditional hard skills: we need the right personality with the right mindset. An interesting point she made was around the evolution of the Workplace. As we move to be able to work anywhere, how is this acceptable for all cultures? Not having an office, is it ok for everybody?

We also need to consider the Social Value we create in the work of the future. We cannot just dismantle the traditional employment contracts, without considering alternatives. How do we define the new contracts? How do we redefine the way we work together?

It was then the moment of Meredith Taghi from Deutsche Post DHL. I had already seen a presentation during the HR Congress in Nice, but her point of view added some flavour on the journey they are doing. Her presentation title was Talent Equilibrium – Is achieved via an Experience, not a Process. I loved her definition of how Talent Management is sometimes felt. 

Reasoning on Experience instead of Processes is a key learning. But she also shared some more. The first concept is that Managers should not be in the way of developing experiences. An interesting message as when we think of careers in some organisations, often it’s the (current) manager the biggest blocker. The other important maturity element is to move to a Skills-Based organisation, moving away from roles. If we could have access to “Moments of Skills” we could be much more efficient. Instead, we still have to reason on full roles, with all the side effects.

The model is currently implemented in the workforce segment they identified as “Knowledge Workers”, and has had a quick buy-in both by managers and people fed up for being identified just for the function they belonged to. Interestingly also a note about its implementation: the Skills System has been implemented in conjunction with the Compensation Team, as this built a solid business case.

After lunch, I moderated a Panel Discussion with SvenCamilla Ellehave from Rockwool International and Floor Scheffer from Tata Steel Europe. The title of the session was Navigating the HR Revolution. We chatted about the role of HR, and what the transformation means for our function. Camilla had some powerful points of views on how digitalisation will also affect the more traditional industries: the role of HR should be preparing the organisations to survive the impending transformation. As we looked again at the future of work, Sven even wondered if the entire concept of the organisation as we know it, from Adam Smith, should be put under discussion.

Next was Hanna Summa who presented the case study of HR Transformation for Pöyry, a company that just rebranded as Afry. It was interesting to note how HR Transformation was for them a key component in the entire Business Transformation process of the company, who needed a turnaround after having been almost bankrupt. One critical comment she made was that the company, during the difficult years, had put up more and more controls, process and policies in place, getting into a negative spiral that killed the much needed entrepreneurial spirit.

Camilla came back on stage and talked about HR Analytics. With a compelling presentation, around the concept of analytics as a key asset for HR as a business function.

Marta Olmos from Amadeus presented a very detailed use case on how her company approaches HR Transformation Projects and particularly HRIS Software selection. Interesting her recommendation to move away from the traditional project cycle, as it reflects a sales approach, and move into a process that looks at objectives rather than requirements and is more agile.

Then Floor came back on stage to present how a large steel operator is approaching Digitial Transformation. Interesting to notice its focus on competency mapping of digital and technology roles, as the organisation needs to “pump” its technology muscles.

The last presentation of the day was by Fernando Almeida from TE Connectivity, who spoke about the impact of digital transformation on Workforce Planning. He presented in detail their workforce planning methodology, and how this sits within the organisation business processes. Interesting to note how the widening skills gap is making this more challenging, especially as he suggested that the traditional Build vs Buy model does not work anymore. The proposed solution is a “Six B Model” where together with the conventional Build (train internally) and Buy (i.e. recruit) four more ways to obtain required skills are added. Borrow from an external partner, Bind by focusing on retention of critical talent, Bounce by removing poor performers and Balance by elaborating alternative scenarios. Workforce Planning becomes so the canvas of the entire People Strategy.

Lots of content for the first day!

You can follow the content of Day two on the next page!

  1. […] part in a recent event, one of the speaker at a certain point mentioned a sentence that made me think. We need to […]

  2. Avatar of Massimo Giannini
    Massimo Giannini

    Brief, interesting and straight to some of the key points to building up the future workforce.
    I like your belief that the technology component isn’t a differentiation, especially if access to it is really instantaneous. But is it the case today?

    • Avatar of Sergio Caredda

      Hi Massimo! Issue is that technology can be easily bought now. True in most cases is not immediate, but it is also true that the differentiation points among technologies are not many. HR can differentiate in the way it adapts processes to deliver significant experiences, using tech intelligently

  3. […] reduced as a project with an end date. Big learning that came out for example from the conference I recently attended in Amsterdam, where we learnt that telcos are digitally transforming since at least 11 […]

  4. […] is a crucial element. Also, at a recent event, we discussed what role HR should play. We need to take the lead on the cultural side of the […]

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