Change Management WalkMe TeamUpdated June 12, 2023

How to start a HR transformation: a complete guide

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<strong>How to start a HR transformation: a complete guide</strong>

The best practices of HR 20 years ago are almost unrecognizable today. 

The latest trends seem to have come from nowhere. In 2023, Forbes noted that the latest trends included well-being, hybrid learning, and ESG reporting. These issues were much less important even five years ago. 

So if your HR department hasn’t kept up with best practices in the field, it’s likely that you’re lagging. Streamlined processes, employee experience, recruitment, and decision-making have undergone major changes in the past decade. 

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If you’re not keeping up, it’s time to introduce a wide-reaching HR transformation project. In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know. 

It will start by explaining what a HR transformation is and why you need it in 2023. We’ll then discuss the four fundamental elements of HR transformation – Leadership, operating model, HR capabilities, and technological enablement. In the final two sections, we will explain how you can deliver a HR transformation. 

In 2023, HR transformation could be your most important organizational change. Earlier this year, KPMG reported that 60% of business leaders anticipated major changes in their HR operating model. As the world continues through challenging times, it’s easy to see why: companies need to find new ways to find value through people and culture. 

What Is HR Transformation? 

In a HR transformation, a company’s HR department goes through changes to improve service delivery, obtain better talent, and enhance technology adoption. The changes are often far-reaching: organizations can integrate core business elements in HR strategy to achieve business objectives. 

HR transformations often align with digital transformations. A digital HR transformation strategically integrates technology to improve HR processes. Digital technology enhances data collection and analytics, enables more efficient communication, and automates essential HR operations.

Human resources are vital to any business, but often get overlooked during transformation initiatives. HR transformation should be a critical focus of all business strategies.

Business leaders can invest in HR transformation to see meaningful organizational growth. Managers, employees, and executives receive greater business value from HR services by improving the HR function.

Why do you need a HR Transformation? 

Business leaders prioritize employee performance through strategic development projects. They focus on standardizing internal HR processes based on industry best practices. A successful HR transformation strategy focuses on several objectives to enhance the employee experience.

The goal is for HR functions to deliver more value to employees through company-wide collaboration. Other objectives include improving employee data security, making work more rewarding, and providing data-driven support to business leaders.

Human resources also play a vital role in recruitment. After an HR transformation, HR functions can respond more efficiently to the business’ evolving talent requirements. They can also handle changing regulatory and legal demands. 

Business leaders should invest in HR transformation to see meaningful organizational growth. Managers, employees, and executives receive greater business value from HR services by improving the HR function.

The four fundamental elements of HR Transformation 

The HR function remains a vital component of any organization. From performance management to talent acquisition and workforce planning, the HR function is the sail that keeps the ship moving forward. The quality of HR operations directly impacts the entire organization. HR transformation has become essential for any business looking for a competitive advantage. 

Here are the four fundamental elements of human resources transformation:

HR Leadership

A successful HR strategy begins with outstanding leadership. HR leaders drive impactful change and ensure cohesion between various hr departments. They must approach problems strategically, able to see past short-term obstacles toward a long-term enterprise vision. 

HR transformation efforts will fall short without comprehensive world-class leadership. HR leaders help achieve operational excellence and employee engagement across the enterprise. 

HR leaders focus on:

  • Driving business strategy development
  • Adapting to changing strategic objectives as the business evolves.
  • Improving the HR operating model to meet business needs
  • Enhancing the HR function’s budget

HR leaders have an essential voice within the executive arm of the organization. They strive to influence a company culture of inclusivity and trust and ensure executives commit to employee development. 

HR Operating Model 

The HR operating model is the structural foundation of the HR function. A robust operating model drives cohesion between people and processes. The goal is to enable the HR function to deliver maximum business value to stakeholders and the C-suite.

When assessing the current state of the operating model, HR executives must consider multiple factors for success. These include:

  • HR business partners maintain an effective talent strategy
  • The HR function consists of a robust HR service delivery team, including shared service centers
  • The HR department supports the C-suite with exceptional centers of excellence (COEs)

HR operational efficiency relies on the efforts of key talent, including solid leadership. HR leaders must understand the business objectives and create a clear HR vision to achieve those objectives. The operating model must also become adaptable to meet the needs of the future workforce and improve the employee experience.

HR Capabilities 

Like digital transformation initiatives, the HR transformation journey improves an organization’s capabilities. The HR department leverages human capital to create effective business strategies. This shift in responsibility grows human resources beyond workforce management to become a strategic partner, more capable of driving business growth. 

To improve HR capabilities, HR leaders must address the following challenges:

New work environments

The rise of remote work opportunities and an increasingly digital workplace challenges HR leaders to find new ways to manage performance. The workforce requires new skills and training to ensure a healthy workforce. HR leaders must understand the variables of digital adoption to meet the needs of modern employees. 

Competitive talent pool

New ways of working combined with a deficiency in the labor market have made it harder to recruit the right talent. HR teams are exploring ways to collect enhanced workforce data by leveraging human capital. HR data insights streamline the recruitment process and help businesses refine their approach to talent acquisition.

Changing HR business partner roles

The role of the HR business partner is likely to evolve as HR operating models transform. HR staff, in general, are likely to take on more responsibilities and specialized roles. The average HR team will look very different, requiring new skills and competencies.

HR Technology Enablement 

Human resources technology refers to any digitized operations that help streamline HR processes. HR technology has many applications, such as payroll, workforce management, and talent management strategies. A more digital HR can work alongside an increasingly digital workforce. 

Digital HR transformation means keeping up with the latest technological developments. Digital transformation is more than just implementing new software tools. It also means creating a digital-friendly culture.

A recent Mckinsey survey reveals that 47% of respondents at these companies say that their senior technology leaders very effectively foster a culture that supports new and digital ways of working.

Core HR technology assesses and stores administrative data, including employee data and communications. This data is essential for maintaining key inventory management, attendance, benefits administration, and payroll processes.

HR digital transformation also includes employee management tools that help businesses leverage human capital. These digital assets focus on the acquisition and disposition of new employees. Talent management technology provides a framework for developing effective talent strategies.

What are HR transformation activities? 

The role of today’s HR managers has grown beyond just administrative responsibilities. Hr leaders are essential for connecting employees to business objectives. They streamline communication between employees and management, significantly increasing engagement in transformation initiatives. 

HR transformation activities focus on restructuring the company and aligning policies with the future. These activities include tracking talent management, incorporating the best technology, and embracing performance data analytics.

Transformational activities target hierarchical structures to help companies connect to employees. This helps them provide a better employee experience and, in turn, improve performance. Becoming a technology-driven organization is especially important to keep up with constantly evolving business trends by 

HR transformation activities also embrace the digital revolution by leveraging data analytics. Human resources are uniquely positioned within the business to collect key workforce data and share insights with executives. HR must prioritize best practices, including a comprehensive feedback collection mechanism. 

Following these practices helps to grow any HR department beyond its usual role to become fundamental to the growth of the business. 

How to Start a HR Transformation 


The expectation is higher than ever for HR teams to deliver strategic impact and achieve business results. That’s why so many companies undertake an HR transformation to continuously improve employee performance and enterprise operations.

But how do you successfully align human resources with key business goals? Consider this your comprehensive guide to a successful transformation. 

Prioritize HR Professionals 

People are the essential component of any large-scale transformation. People determine the success of transitioning from old to new ways of working. This is especially true in human resources. Prioritizing HR professionals is critical. 

Your organization must communicate the new role of HR, including a plan for strategic development and key transformation objectives. Transparency builds trust among the workforce. 

Consider the position of employees and how change might impact them. They will resist if they feel left out of the change initiative and don’t understand the reason for such large-scale change management. Employee resistance is the most common reason that the transformation process fails. 

Secure Leadership Buy-in

Senior management must feel included in the transformation process. By securing leadership buy-in, you create champions for change among key C-suite members. Leaders guide by example and show the workforce the positive impact of their transformation initiative. 

Remember, successful change comes from the top. Executives directly shape company culture. Share your business strategy with senior management at an early stage, secure buy-in, and ensure full support throughout. Explain to executives how HR transformation helps to achieve critical business goals.

Adopt the Right Technology

Like digital transformation, HR transformation involves the strategic integration of digital technology. Digital tools streamline processes, increase efficiency, and improve employee performance. Digital transformation and HR change initiatives often go hand in hand because they follow the same strategic priorities. 

Many emerging HR technologies are promising to transform the way people work. These include artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, and virtual assistants. Creating a more digital HR allows the HR function to operate more effectively, impacting performance across the entire business. 

Create a Plan for Transformation

Many HR leaders make the mistake of taking the short route to change. Planning is one of the most crucial and often overlooked stages of an HR transformation. A successful transformation strategy must include business and department-specific goals. It should outline critical players and roles, from the C-suite to smaller HR teams. 

A business transformation strategy should also contain measurable success metrics to enable executives to track progress. Collecting consistent feedback to gauge employee engagement and make necessary adjustments to the plan is essential. The more detailed the plan, the more effective it will be. 

Let Data Guide the Transformation

HR departments can use employee performance data, including key projects, workforce training, and competency. Combining data insights with business strategy helps to accelerate organizational growth.

HR data highlight important improvement areas and make measuring progress during transformation easier. Share data insights with leaders across the business to ensure cohesion between all areas. Capitalizing on data analytics within the HR department is essential for a digital-centric enterprise and all its benefits. 

How HR Leaders Create Futureproof Organizations

HR leaders are currently tackling fast and abrupt changes in their business and externally. An increasingly competitive labor market, new digital technologies, and new responsibilities require a new robust strategy. 

There are a few helpful tips for securing your organization’s place in the future. 

1. Motivate your team with metrics

HR leaders can use key performance indicators to demonstrate their usefulness to the rest of the company. Modern business intelligence solutions make employee performance data collection much more accessible. 

HR professionals can now reduce the cost-to-hire and time-to-hire by utilizing productivity metrics. HR leaders can then deliver metrics to executives to justify their contribution to business objectives. 

2. Improve the candidate experience

HR leaders often neglect the candidate’s perspective on the hiring experience while conducting an HR transformation. As the job market tightens, offering an enhanced candidate experience is vital. 

It improves the company’s reputation, attracts more talent, and helps retain current talent. The best way to improve the candidate experience is by focusing on communication and reducing potential hires’ burdens.

3. Leverage technology

To improve the human resources function, organizations must embody a digital mindset. Leveraging technology starts with making innovative technology investments. The next stage is ensuring technology works for existing employees. Engaging employees in new digital assets involves comprehensive training and support from the top. 

Find the right technology that meets the needs of your business and addresses your organization’s concerns. For example, HR can leverage automation technology to enhance the recruitment process. 

Prioritize diversity and inclusion

Potential employees look at multiple factors when assessing a new employer. One area that has become more important than ever is diversity and inclusion. Today’s workers look for companies that prioritize fair work opportunities for everyone. 

The best way to do this is to assess your company’s current standards. Conduct employee surveys to find out what current employees think about the organization’s level of inclusion. Then commit to improving the level of diversity and inclusion through strategic transformation. 

These best practices will ensure your organization maintains an advantage in a highly-competitive market. 

Winning with HR Transformation 

Changes in HR may be big or small. But when we talk about the processes of HR transformation, we are figuring out how to make root-and-branch changes to our company practices. 

Even when those changes can be boiled down to one issue, a true transformation is not easy. For example, one 2020 case study from Gartner showed how “digital dexterity” was the key mindset change for Sammons Financial. This still required a significant investment of time and effort. 

Fortunately, there’s no secret to the best methods of achieving a positive HR transformation. Through better leadership, appropriate operating models enhanced HR capabilities and technology, your HR department can go from strength to strength.

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