[Expert Opinion] Steps for Achieving a Successful HR Transformation

Emmanuelle Abensur
Emmanuelle Abensur
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Temps de lecture : 6 minutes

In recent years, human resources have had to carry out several HR transformation projects to adapt to new organizational needs. Between the waves of lockdowns, the popularization of hybrid working, the return to the office, the quiet-quitting trend and all the related growing recruitment difficulties, HR departments have had to re-examine their priorities to accelerate the digitization of business processes.

For human resources, this HR transformation is an opportunity to boost team productivity, improve the employee experience, and above all, place people at the heart of the company’s strategic priorities. But how do you accomplish all that successfully?

We shared this question with Jérôme Friteau, Director of Human Relations and Transformation at Assurance Retraite (the French government’s agency that provides retirement services). He’s also lecturer in management at Science Po School of Public Affairs, and administrator of Le Lab RH. 

In this article, Friteau shares the challenges of HR transformation—the projects he’s set in his organization, as well as all his best practices for driving change.

The challenges of HR transformation

Transforming HR functions

“The first challenge of any HR transformation is the internal transformation of the HR functions themselves,” Friteau asserts. This requires digitizing all HR processes, from recruitment and onboarding right on to communication and training.

“By upskilling on digital transformation, human resources can position itself as a strategic partner to the business lines, capable of supporting all internal transformations.”

Putting people at the heart of transformation projects

“When we talk about HR transformation, we often think of various technological and organizational aspects, but we forget that the focus is on fellow human beings. The challenge for HR will always be to bring this human side to transformation projects. This can be done, for example, by creating a dedicated transformation unit within the HR department. This component will support the departments in their organizational, business and managerial transformations.”

Anticipating technological trends

When you’re an HR director, “you also have to keep one step ahead of technological trends that could have an impact on business lines or work organization. This is particularly the case with generative artificial intelligence, which is set to revolutionize the way teams work in many professions,” explains Jérôme Friteau.

Tailoring work organization

“Finally, the last challenge is to personalize work organization. Today, more and more employees are leaving large companies because of their lack of flexibility on issues such as location or working hours. To successfully carry out an HR transformation project, it’s important to take these expectations into account and provide an appropriate response.”

9 examples of HR transformation projects 

To personalize and digitize team working methods as much as possible, Assurance Retraite has carried out several HR transformation projects, including: 

  • Introduction of hybrid working. “Deployed as early as 2014, this mode of working has become particularly widespread since the early days of COVID-19. In response to this demand, we now offer telecommuting formulas tailored to employees from a wide variety of backgrounds, such as senior citizens, caregivers, and parents with young children.”
  • Experimentation with a 4-day week. “We’ve been experimenting with this model since 2022 to establish greater equality between our teleworkers and those who can’t work remotely. If tests prove conclusive, we’ll be able to offer this format to those who wish to concentrate their work time over 4 days instead of 5.”
  • Development of flexible working hours. “Today, our employees can carry out their work in the time slots of their choice between 7 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., with only 2.5 hours of mandatory time slots.”
  • Digitization of recruitment and onboarding processes (all of which accelerated during COVID)
  • Rollout of several digital tools, including:
    • an HR chatbot that can automatically answer most of employees’ administrative questions, thereby reducing the workload of HR teams
    • a digital social barometer solution
    • a performance appraisal tool, which provides regular feedback and gives the appraised employee a more active role
    • a digital learning platform, enabling managers to train continuously

HR impact analysis

“As soon as management has confirmed its intent to execute an HR transformation, we carry out an HR impact analysis via an action checklist. And we make this list available to all our regional entities.

We integrate several dimensions into the analysis, including: 

  • real-life teamwork: tasks to execute, workload, and skill sets required
  • organization: work methods and procedures to be implemented, team sizes to be planned
  • managerial practices
  • social environment: relations with colleagues and the general public
  • physical environment: the project’s impact on geographical location, workstation ergonomics

This approach is essential, as it facilitates implementation, social dialogue, and the adoption of new tools and work processes. It also makes it possible to reduce the risks of each project, and thus improve employees’ well-being in the workplace,” says the HR Director.

Key success factors for HR transformation

In addition to the impact analysis approach, a number of best practices can help you successfully carry out your HR transformation. Jérôme Friteau cites 5 of them:

  • “Position yourself well with management so you can be consulted at the right time. At Assurance Retraite, the HR department is well positioned to play a decisive role in managing transformations with a human dimension. By identifying all the impacts the transformation can have on our organization, we can involve employees that are most affected by the change in the project, and avoid the sort of vertical communication that has fallen by the wayside.
  • Involve as many stakeholders as possible—those who’ll have to implement and  bear the brunt of this HR transformation.
Quote from Jérôme Friteau about the role of HR when conducting an HR transformation
  • Reduce the gap between prescribed and actual work. This requires an accurate assessment of the workload, but also a balance between the individual and the collective, and between the operational and the strategic side. In this way, the HR function can stay close to field employees, while maintaining a global vision of the company’s strategic challenges.
  • Strike the right balance between digital and human. “To bring a more human side to your HR transformation, we’ve created an HR function whose role is to physically meet all employees who join the company, encounter difficulties, or leave the company.”
Quote from Jérôme Friteau about the importance of not using too many tools when conducting an HR transformation

Best practices for measuring return on investment

“At Assurance Retraite, we’ve set up two systems to measure HR performance

  • The first system is based on our HR performance framework, which incorporates indicators such as staff turnover, absenteeism, the rate of recruitment of young people, gender equality, and more.
  • The second is based on our digital social barometer, which measures employee feedback at least twice a year. Thanks to onboard AI, we’re able to make the most of the responses and identify the main emerging trends.

By cross-referencing these two measures, we can measure progress effectively,” explains Jérôme Friteau.

To conclude

To succeed in any HR transformation, human resources has to position itself as a strategic partner with the entire organization. The more HR is identified as a player in the transformation process, the more all the other departments are able to consult with it before embarking on their own projects. And the more it can bring a human dimension to the change. The key to successful transformation is then to involve all the stakeholders the transformation affects as well as to collaborate effectively with other departments.

Of course, HR transformation is part of a more global HR strategy that must incorporate concrete actions to attract and retain talent. Find out how to engage your employees and prevent them from quiet quitting in our white paper below: 👇

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