Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology.com, as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools and case studies for the business leader, H.R. and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now, here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.
Episode 260: The Role of the CHRO Leading a Global Organization with Jane Keith (@JaneKeith)
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:25.75] Welcome to the Workology podcast sponsored by Workology. Today’s podcast is part of a series on the Workology podcast focused on the roles and responsibilities of the Chief Human Resources Officer, or CHRO. The CHRO is an executive or C-level role that deals with managing human resources, as well as with organisational development and implementing policies of change to improve the overall efficiency of the company. The CHRO series is powered by HUB International. Today I’m joined by Jane Keith. She’s the CHRO of IFS. IFS develops and delivers enterprise software for customers around the world who manufacture and distribute goods, maintain assets and manage service focused operations. Jane leads the Human Resources Program to ensure optimal employee engagement, recruitment, talent management and business HR across the global organization. Prior to joining IFS, Jane worked for more than 24 years at Hewlett-Packard and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, most recently as the UK HR director and the HR vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Jane also worked for two years as an H.R. leader for the European Services and Consulting Business at SAP. Jane, welcome to the Workology podcast.
Jane Keith: [00:01:46.16] Thank you, Jessica.
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Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:01:48.72] Awesome. I’m so excited for for us to be talking today because of a lot of reasons, but you have a lot of amazing experience. So let’s start with your background. You’ve been in H.R. management for over 20 years. How did your experience and job titles evolve over time into that CHRO role?
Jane Keith: [00:02:08.76] Sure. So I started in Hewlett-Packard in recruitment. And honestly, I think it was then the role that I cut my teeth on. Having great interviewing skills is a key part of any role in business. But within H.R., it’s an absolute essential.
Jane Keith: [00:02:29.46] I think if you can hire and hire well, you’ll be successful in any role. I went from there to an H.R. business partner. HP had just adopted the Ulrich model, so we moved away from H.R. managers to HR business partners. I was given a lot of training and enablement around how to consult with a business. One of the roles I took on I inherited a really dysfunctional organization and I cut my teeth in those roles on some of the difficult decisions I had to make. And that experience, although it was hard at the time, it served me well. I then moved into a new center of excellence that HP created called Talent Management, and that gave me an opportunity to really engage at our C-level. We ran a program where we looked at the top 100 leaders across a region and paired them up with a mentor coach and ran some sort of excellent development program. So that was great insight as well. I was then asked to move into an H.R. director at a global level in our software organization, which exposed me to new cultures, hiring different people from different geographies and managing a very global team with different needs. Some were more mature, some was in sort of startup mode and growth countries. And we were starting from scratch. And again, superb experience that led me really. Then I ended up leaving HP for a role at SAP. Great experience being in another organization after being at HP for such a long time, but I was there two years, HP phoned and said, I’ve got a great job and it was a role I’d always wanted to do. So I went back to HP as the vice president of H.R. for the EMEA region. So Europe, Middle East and Africa and I felt like I’d gone home again. It was fantastic. And I stayed for a further four years before eventually move into IFS.
Jane Keith: [00:04:36.60] So I joined IFS two years ago as the Chief H.R. Officer. It was my first CHRO role. I think that everyone had a bit of imposter syndrome to begin with. Could I do this? Was I up for it? But actually, I realized quite quickly the wealth of experience and knowledge that I’d built up in HP and SAP really stood me in good stead. So yeah. So I’ve been here two years.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:05:03.15] Awesome. Well, I think it’s important for for HR folks who are thinking about their own careers to hear from others what what their journey has looked like, because no one’s journey in H.R. is is exactly the same. And it’s interesting how you kind of went in. You were at HP for a really long time and then you left and then you returned. So you were what’s considered a boomerang employee.
Jane Keith: [00:05:28.11] Yeah, definitely. Yeah.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:05:30.00] I wanted to ask you how your role as the CHRO has changed how you feel like company leadership works with H.R. and vice versa?
Jane Keith: [00:05:39.81] Yeah, I mean, that’s a I think it’s a really good question. I think my my perspective is if you want H.R. to have a seat at the table, you need to understand how the business ticks. You need really strong business acumen. You need to understand what levers the business are trying to pull in what direction. So are you on a growth trajectory? Are you transforming? Are you resizing? And and my personal view, the best way to do that is to connect very closely with the senior leadership team and be involved in those strategic discussions. It’s surprising. I think people feel that, you know, HR get wheeled in when the decision’s already been made to implement. IFS is the absolute opposite. I sit on the executive leadership team and I play just as much as an important role as our chief customer officer, our product officer, our CFO. We work very closely as a team and we’re very aligned. So I think getting a blend in the right place of the right people in a team that really respect each other’s disciplines, I think is really important, and a piece of advice I was given years ago is if you can if you’re moving into a role like that, is try and shadow that leader for a day or half a day, you know, do a day in the life and just follow them around in their meetings, listen to what challenges they’re facing, how people approach them, if they’re comfortable doing it. I’ve learned more doing that than probably any other way or any other enablement program I’ve ever been on. You just, and then at the end of the day, I do a wash up with the leader on what does this mean? You can ask dumb questions like I didn’t understand this acronym. And if you make that decision, what’s the knock on effect? And it just gets you much more closer to what the business is facing and how you can then leverage your organization to support the business.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:07:46.53] Awesome. The other thing I wanted to ask, and we’ve been asking this of everyone that we’ve interviewed in the CHRO series is what skills and experiences do you think are absolute requirements for that CHRO role?
Jane Keith: [00:08:01.67] Ok, I mean, business acumen, without a doubt, as I just mentioned, but I also think good financial acumen, if you’re operating at CHRO level or the next level down, you really do need to understand the financial impact that the decisions the company make are going to have on the bottom line, whether you’re in growth, restructure, transformation. There will always be a financial impact because you’re running a business. So I think very good financial skills. I’ve done, you know, one on ones with some great CFOs in my time, really to understand how a peer now works, you know, revenue, revenue recognition, how you set quotas, sales comp. You need to understand that level of detail. And I also think being inquisitive is a great skill. My husband would describe it as being nosey. I like to use the term inquisitive. And what I mean by that is asking the right questions at the right time. When you get to a senior position, a lot of the time I feel that people tell you what they think you want to hear and you need to be brave enough to dig deep and ask the deeper questions. Don’t always take everything that’s been presented to you as at face value, but do it in a, you know, empathetic way. But I think be brave enough to lean in and ask some difficult questions is a key skill.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:09:30.54] I love that and thank you for these insights, it’s I’m not surprised that business acumen has been mentioned in every single interview for this series that we’ve done, but it just reinforces what I have been talking about. And it’s great to hear it from someone like you who’s in this position, because as I’m doing a lot of HR certification prep work, I do a lot of training and coaching for newly minted H.R. leaders is just saying, hey, Jane says, Derek says, Tee says, all these CHROs say that business acumen is really important. So thank you for for for sharing.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:10:06.36] It’s really I think hopefully we can help train and grow future CHRO leaders with maybe a business acumen focused first before maybe above anything else.
Jane Keith: [00:10:19.10] I agree.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:10:20.69] One of the things I wanted to ask you, because you’re a global CHRO and the communication process, particularly in change management, I think I went well, I want to hear more about. So how does that work for such a large organization that spread out in 24 different countries?
Jane Keith: [00:10:38.18] Yeah, I mean, I think it’s it’s it’s the marketing mantra. It’s communication, communication, communication. I think if people feel you’re shut away in a room and there’s something going on and you’re not sharing that journey or even giving insights immediately, people will worry and they will be very adverse to change because they don’t know why you’re doing it, what the outcomes should be, what how it affects them as an individual. Doesn’t matter what role they’ve got in the company. So I feel change management needs to be taken seriously. It’s not an add on. H.R. needs to be in the steering committee and the steering committee should be a representation of all the key functions of an organization. It should not just sit in one place. And it’s not the soft, fluffy stuff, the people stuff.
Jane Keith: [00:11:32.63] It’s the stuff that you need to get out of the business to get the buy in on the journey that you’re trying to take people in, whether you’re introducing a new tool, a new process, a transformation program, or totally restructuring the organization, you need good change management practices to support any kind of strategy like that. You can’t just expect it to land. It won’t work. You will fail. And I’ve experienced that in the past where it’s very prescriptive and people feel like they’ve been done too, rather than they’re part of the solution. And nobody likes that in our personal lives and, you know, in our professional lives. So managing a large scale change in an organization our size, one of the things I loved when I got to IFS is we use workplace, which is like Facebook for business. It’s probably one of the best communication to and I’m not sponsoring it, by the way, but it’s just one of the best communication tools I’ve ever used. It’s a really good way to immediately get messages out to people. We use it for various things new product launches, updates, fireside chats, town halls to celebrate birthdays, that kind of thing. But you need to connect with people directly. You cannot always rely on managers to communicate directly to their employees in a timely way. And when you’re running global teams, that’s always a challenge for leaders because they will have people working on different time zones. So it’s not always convenient to have team calls regularly. If there’s urgent news, they need to get out there.
Jane Keith: [00:13:09.86] So having a platform like workplace has really been a big advantage to IFS and I’ve really seen the benefits of it. It’s really well used in our company. It’s a good focal point. I think if you’re going to take an organization through a huge amount of change, I would suggest you build the strategy. But I would make sure you set up work streams where people feel they’re involved in the solution. You’d be surprised. We we did something recently in our organization, the amount of individuals that have got great ideas that are hidden away. But if you bring them into a work stream and give them the opportunity to share their views and thoughts on how you can improve something, we learned a lot through a recent change management process we went through and a lot of it was designed and created by some of our great employees that if you hadn’t taken that type of approach, you probably wouldn’t have reaped the benefits that we reaped.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:14:08.36] I love that and what’s the CHRO role in the change management process? How are you? How are you and your team involved in this typically?
Jane Keith: [00:14:18.02] Yeah, I think, first of all, is absolutely if you’re going through a global change like we did, it’s reminding the leaders and the next level down, you know, we’ve got a very diverse group of employees in different cultures, different levels of maturity from a business perspective. Some are more mature. Some are very new in incubator mode. You cannot treat everybody the same. You need to play to your audience. So my my role is very much don’t forget the human element to this. It’s very, very important. And I don’t you know, people fear change unless they feel that they are part of it or they can understand it. And anybody who says they love change initially, it’s just an automatic reaction as a human being. Oh, my God, something’s changing, you know?
Jane Keith: [00:15:11.90] But if you can then explain why it’s changing and what we want the outcome to be and the journey that we’re going to go on, that people element is very, very important in my in my opinion and in my experience, people are the beating heart of the business and you need them on board.
Break: [00:15:29.99] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell, and you were listening to the Workology podcast sponsored by Workology. Talking about the role of the CHRO with Jane Keith of IFS. This podcast is part of our CHRO series on the Workology podcast powered by HUB International.
Break: [00:15:47.84] This episode is sponsored by HUB International, your full service employee benefits broker. Explore HUB’s 2021 Employee Benefits Outlook at www.HUBInternational.com for emerging trends, challenges and opportunities ahead in 2021.
The CHRO Role in Change Management
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:16:07.48] You want to share with us, you mentioned that you recently went through some change management initiatives. We want to talk through some.
Jane Keith: [00:16:14.85] Yeah, sure. So one of the products that we well, we sell is an ERP system and there’s an HCM element to that so we have our own H.R. platform. And we decided that IFS must run the IFS globally and all on the same platform. So last year we kicked off a project we implemented last July. But, you know, we implemented the whole thing in just over six months and we did exactly what I said. We set up work streams. We had a steering committee, we bought in a change management guru who was superb. And we ensured, first of all, we united everyone why we needed it, getting everybody on the same page with the same vision, getting buy in for the need for change. And then we set up work streams and we asked for volunteers and we had experts and we mixed those teams together.
Jane Keith: [00:17:11.62] And we started by facilitating sort of shared insights of what we wanted the outcome to be. And then we put these work streams together. We put a lot of funding behind it. We did a kick-off where we got everyone in the same country in the same room and ran a two-day workshop so that team automatically felt connected with each other. We listened to the feedback that they gave us. We adjusted course where necessary. And the change management consultant was the person that sort of kept everybody on track from a process perspective. But our executive leadership team every two weeks would have a steering committee. And, you know, we made quick, fast, nimble decisions so people weren’t losing the momentum and losing the will to live because things was too bureaucratic. We moved very, very fast and we had pilots we tested, did a lot of user testing with our employees. They loved it. We created super users of the tool. On the day that we launched, we had all the super users in t-shirts walking the floor of the offices, you know, with can I help you? on the back and they would sit down and show people how to use the new tool. I mean, it was really quite exciting. We made a big buzz around it. We had stuff up on TV screens, town halls. We really celebrated the fact that this was our product and we were kind of launching it to ourselves. And, you know, we all know change is never done. There’s more to do. And we will move on to the next version and there will be upgrades. But it was it was embraced really well, because I think we kind of did like our own internal marketing campaign to make sure it landed properly. So, yeah, no, it worked well and amazing that we pulled it off in six months.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:19:00.10] That was my next question was how long did this whole process take? I can’t believe it was six months. That’s yeah, that’s amazing.
Jane Keith: [00:19:08.29] Yeah. And we you know, it was great because, you know, our product management organization and our R&D facility, they learn as well because, you know, like the HCM and product team would come and sit with me as the CHRO and say, what do you need as a, as an H.R. practitioner, what data, what insights, etc.. So I felt like I was part of the development. It was just amazing. So, yeah, there was a lot of huge amount of collaboration and people felt very, very proud at the end of it that, you know, we’ve done it to ourselves, we’d done it on time and we delivered. And and it’s a great story then to go out and tell your customers. I get called in to, you know, discussions with, you know, fairly senior customers around. So you, you, you use your own HCM system, tell it what, what it felt like. And I always start by saying I am not trying to sell you our product. I have used a lot of different HCM systems in my career. This does what it says on the tin, it is absolutely perfect for my needs and we did it in six months.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:20:13.03] What about the adoption strategy? Could you talk maybe a little bit about that? So you mentioned folks in t-shirts who were were showing, but once the t-shirts, you know, once the launch had happened, how do you keep people going back and learning and asking questions?
Jane Keith: [00:20:31.87] And yeah, I think. Yeah. First of all, first and foremost, you need to be brave and take the old versions away because people have their natural habitat is to go back to what they know. That would be one piece of advice. So, you know, we made sure it was fit for purpose and it was working properly. The day we launched that wasn’t the end of the project. We then had a major wash up session as an executive leadership team. What worked, where had been we’d been really successful. So our consultants can learn from that when they’re implementing. Our customers, what needed tweaking and what the next upgrade should look like, what should be included and that dialogue, we’d started with employees, with them being involved in work streams and being part of user testing, we continued that after the product was launched. And it was amazing. And I think we’ve even seen people move roles where they’ve moved into more technical roles because they loved doing it so much. They wanted to be more involved in the research and development of our product. So, yeah, I mean, it’s working really well now. It’s an integral part of our organization. It was called Project Thor and it was the information [00:21:47.49] of our 10 [00:21:48.87] applications. Yeah. Really well adopted.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:53.19] I love that, this is so such great insights. And we have it’s interesting, not surprising, but it’s interesting. We’ve talked about technology implementation a lot in this series. So I wanted to ask you about as the CHRO, what kind of role are you playing in selecting new technology? You mentioned Facebook workplace, but others like what does that process look like when you’re going through the discovery to the selection process? We’ve talked about implementation and then change management too.
Jane Keith: [00:22:23.10] Yeah, so I use Gartner a lot. We partnered with Gartner as an adversary of IFS, but we use them a lot, which we’re just about to launch a new business management tool. And we use Gartner Insights to decide who would we would shortlist. I think if you’re if you’re company spending that much money in a in a big implementation, you do need some references. I would never just go out and buy something off the shelf unless you’re a very small entity and you haven’t got that sort of insight or relationship. But I would definitely say make sure you do take some references and really understand what you need as an organization. I mean, with the bonus tool that we’re implementing as our rewards team down and some of our managers and our business operations team. And we sat down and said, what do we want and what don’t we want? And we’ve all worked in other companies and use various different versions of tools. And we we went through the warts and all what worked brilliantly, what wasn’t so great, what was expensive, what was too cheap. And we came up with a list of must-haves and we use that with Gartner. And, you know, that’s how we put our RRFP and our shortlist. And then I got the the supplier that we’ve actually chosen came in and presented to my team and said, this is what we can do. And I said to them, grill them. You’re going to be the users. You grill them on what you want. And yeah, that’s that’s how we’ve chosen technology. We’ve I introduced a new global applicant tracking system. And we went through exactly the same process. There’s so many on the market. But I think if you’re going to invest and it’s something that’s going to touch future employees, you want it to work and it needs to be in the cloud. It needs to be compatible with our own products. You do need to make sure you do your research.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:24:23.37] Thank you. And I love that you’re talking you’re you’re having your team be a part of it, because I have experienced myself where I’ve been the end user of certain technology products that won’t be name but large enterprise HCM software. And it doesn’t do exactly what they said it would do. And it cost me a lot of heartburn, so.
Jane Keith: [00:24:46.98] Yeah.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:24:48.00] I wanted to also ask you, we talked a lot about change management and I think that this is a new area maybe that HR hasn’t necessarily thought about, like their role in change management and why this is important, whether it’s technology, implementation and adoption or it’s maybe just a new program or initiative that is really critical to the future of the business success of the organization.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:25:12.06] So I wanted to ask about any advice that you could give, maybe H.R. leaders who might be struggling with change management in their organizations. What do you recommend? Where should they go to get resources information access to help in that area?
Jane Keith: [00:25:25.95] Yeah, I mean, I before we, I, I, I guess I don’t think I realized that change management is actually, you know, a profession as such. There are some great change management gurus out there that work as consultants working in practices. I would really encourage you to learn from them and don’t think you can do it all yourself. It’s much harder than I realized. You know, they’ve got hints and tips and tricks up their sleeve of how they can keep a project on track in a very sophisticated way that, you know, that’s not my sweet spot. I’m not a change management guru. I understand. What change management is, but could I do it on my own? No, so I would say if you can’t if you’ve got the budget, try and engage someone, you don’t have to go. Personally, I don’t think you have to go to one of the big consultancies to do that. You can find a lot of people out there. And I would always go on people that have recommended people to you. My number one priority would be make sure you have a steering committee and the executive level and the H.R. is part of that.
Jane Keith: [00:26:33.68] You don’t realize until you sit in those steering committees how much value you’re going to add. But I would engage a change management consultant if I was you to at least get you started. They don’t have to see the product right the project right the way through to the end. But yeah, steering committee as a minimum. Make sure you’ve got some cadence. You communicate to your employees. You be prepared to be flexible because I don’t think projects always stay on task or to time. So build a buffer in there would be my other recommendation. Be realistic. In other words, you know, no one knew COVID was going to happen 10 months ago and it’s derailed the whole nearly every industry. So you do need to be flexible and think about how you’re going to respond to things like that. But yeah, I would really encourage you to consider engaging somebody who’s got real change management experience rather than think you can do it all yourself.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:27:33.31] I think that’s one thing that CHRO, to be a CHRO you have to give up control and realize that you’re not the expert of everything and seek out those experts in those areas.
Jane Keith: [00:27:45.46] Yeah, definitely. That’s been my biggest lesson in the last two years, actually, Jessica. You know, there’s some things I know that I’m really uncomfortable with and I’ve got a lot of experience. Doesn’t mean I always it’s always right. But there are other areas that in this role have exposed me to where I thought, oh, my word, I didn’t know that there was actually, you know, a change management profession. That’s fantastic. And I learned so much from those individuals. So you’ll learn along the way. You’re always learning.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:28:15.81] Last question for you, I wanted to ask you about how you see the CHRO role evolving and maybe what that looks like in the future. I’m just throwning out a number like 2040, but it could be in the next 10 years, next 20 years, is the CHRO are here to stay? And then how is maybe that role changing?
Jane Keith: [00:28:36.90] My personal view is, yes, it is. I have a bit of a philosophy. I think a CHRO level, C-level, a CEO needs a couple of wingman that are going to be a wing people that are going to be neutral. And to me, that’s your CFO and your CHRO. Those two individuals have no politics. No, you know, there’s no competition. They will tell the CEO exactly how it is in a neutral and transparent way. I’m not saying the other leaders don’t, but it’s kind of like a safe place where they can make decisions. And I think, therefore, that level of council will always, always be needed by a CEO. It’s a lonely place being a CEO. And I think having a couple of people around you that you trust their judgment. They understand what you’re trying to achieve and they can give you a neutral and honest view is really, really important. So I do see it there. But I think you have to keep striving. H.R. needs to keep earning its seat at the table. We’ve come a long way since the old personnel department, H.R. and the Ulrich model, and evolved to, you know, being seen as a value added partner. My advice would be don’t rest on your laurels.
Jane Keith: [00:29:56.61] It’s not a given. You have to earn the seat at the table. You have to be of value to the business. And I think if you can give critical counsel where it’s needed, make sure you’re tech savvy, make sure you’re armed with data, because data is king. If your business is making really critical decisions, especially financial impacting decisions, you need data. So make sure you’ve got insights when you sit with your CEO or your executive leadership team, rather than just hearsay, you have to have facts. So I think the role is definitely, in my view, the role is definitely there and it may change. And who knows what’s going to happen. Look what’s happened in the last year. This pandemic has changed the way that everybody works. You don’t have to be in a certain country or a certain location anymore. You can have your team globally. So the way that you hire and you build your organizations is going to change massively because people have had to take a bit of a fall, you know, a pause and think actually we need to adapt the way that we work. I think that’s going to help open up a whole new myriad of opportunities for organizations if they grasp it.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:10.59] I agree with you. Well, thank you so much, Jane, for taking the time to talk with us today. This has been awesome and I love your insights from a global perspective. I, I personally can’t imagine implementing all the change management that you did with the new HCM in 24 different countries and get people excited. So hats off to you and your team for, for that. That’s pretty, pretty phenomenal. Where can people go to learn more about you, the work that you do, and then IFS?
Jane Keith: [00:31:40.05] So, IFS.com, everything is on our page, what we sell, what we do, who we are, all CSR activity and all of our roles that are open. So IFS.com.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:53.60] Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
Jane Keith: [00:31:56.97] Thank you, Jessica. It was great to talk to you.
Closing: [00:31:59.49] There have been so many changes in H.R. in the past decade, but we’ve never lost our focus on the people. HR teams are now being formed around an executive role like the CHRO. And this means that this leadership position has a large role in technology selection, adoption training and so on. I appreciate Jane’s time. She has so many insights, not just in global HR operations, but also in project management and change management roles which are critical to the future success of the human resources role. As a reminder, this is the Workology podcast, and this CHRO series is powered by my friends at HUB International. Thank you for supporting the Workology podcast.
Closing: [00:32:41.94] Are you studying for your HRCI or SHRM exams? Join our free H.R. Certification Study Group on Facebook, search for HR Certification Study Group or go to HRCertificationStudyGroup.com. ACE your HR exams with the H.R. Certification Study Group.
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