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The Team at Laudale

Alec Laurie
Alec Laurie
Managing Director

Hiring for Transformation. Part 1: People & Culture

(This is part 1 of 3 posts that adapt a recent talk I gave at Gateley’s ‘Disrupt or be disrupted’ conference.)

What is Transformation?

Over my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a front-row seat to a lot of really interesting and challenging transformation agendas across the UK. This has given me a good insight into what works and what doesn’t.

So, I shared with the delegates my thoughts about Hiring for Transformation.

I started by breaking down what transformation actually is.

For me, it’s very much subjective depending on the nature and maturity of the business. It can mean anything from digitising an operating model, to turnaround, to pivoting towards a new market or customer base.

One of the better overarching definitions of strategic transformation that I’ve read recently is this one.Hiring for Transformation - definition - Innosight

It was taken from an annual report on the Top 20 Global Transformation agendas according to the US-based consultancy, Innosight.

Some real examples

To bring the subjectivity of transformation to life, I looked at some examples of North West businesses.Hiring for Transformation - Shop Direct and Connect Childcare

On one scale, you have Shop Direct Group in Liverpool – £1bn revenue, 4000 people. Shop Direct was a traditional catalogue retailer with a bricks-and-mortar offering, via it’s Littlewoods brand. It transformed to become a pure-play digital retailer with the focus primarily on its Very business.

On a different scale is Connect Childcare in Lancashire – a leading provider Nursery Management software. Connect has 65 staff, is 10 years old, and in the process of transforming from a traditional software vendor to a Software as a Service business.

And, if you know about the SaaS model, you’ll know it’s a totally different strategy. Different KPIs, different customer engagement, and a different way of thinking and behaving.

More broadly, the Manchester City Region is home to businesses, and large business units, that are at various stages of bold transformations. Hiring for Transformation - Manchester companies

The obvious example is Autotrader (print media > digital). Less obvious are RBS (specifically the payments business), Together Money (modernising a heritage business), and the BBC‘s technology function (which operates like a product-focussed software business).

What’s the common thread?

These are all very different businesses with different drivers and different outcomes. But, what’s the common thread?

It’s people.

Regardless of the scale of change, and what change means to you, your people and your culture make or break transformation.

Which is why I love Jim Collins‘ quote…

Hiring for Transformation - Jim Collins Quote

Can you transform a legacy company at scale?

One of the best case-studies of a company that embraces the principle that people enable change is DBS.

DBS is a traditional regional bank headquartered in Singapore. As recent as 10 years ago it was one of the less attractive banks. Fast forward to 2018 when it was awarded the Global Bank of the Year and the Best Bank in the World. Not bad!Hiring for Transformation - DBS

How did they do it? Well, they made their customers a lot happier, primarily by speeding things up.

Behind the scenes, they transformed their traditional bank to become a Global, open, digital platform company. In doing so, they proved that it is possible for a legacy company to transform at scale.

What made this transformation so successful?

Well, according to the CEO, Piyush Gupta, it was a “cultural vision of a 27,000- person startup”.

They began to act less like a bank and more like a tech company.

So, the core of my message is this:

transformation is possible when you have the right people on-board and create the right culture.

In my next post, I’ll attempt the answer the obvious question, “So What?“. I’ll examine the transformation ‘skill set’, before presenting some tips for hiring for transformation.

Thank you.