Looking Towards the Future of HR with Siemens’ Global HR
published by , on 30/10/2017

By Marjolijn Vlug (

What will the future bring for HR, across the globe and across organisation sizes and sectors? And what will be the best new way of dealing with what it will bring us?

I was recently invited to meet with seven HR Business Partners – and one Team & Organisational Development Expert – from Siemens worldwide. They were on a ‘strategic HR transformation learning expedition’ where they spoke with a variety of people in HR, from similar sectors, but also from completely different fields of expertise.

The invitation read:

The most powerful and rewarding learning exchanges happen when executives from different industries and backgrounds come together for an open dialogue and realize that their businesses actually face very similar challenges and disruptive forces. Because let’s face it: business is business, regardless of the industry. Having such conversations with people inside and outside of your industry encourages a ‘cross-pollination’ of ideas and the kind of outside-in feedback that can often spark new ways of looking at, and eventually addressing, your own business challenges and potentially lead to new innovations, collaborations and personal learnings. 

Of course, this sparked my interest.

A New Perspective: Hospitality and Kindness

In this meeting we discussed what was on the minds of the Siemens Global HR experts at the table, and what my ideas and insights are for HR and management. I explained to them that I strongly believe in the value of kindness. That it pays off to be welcoming, respectful and friendly to employees (and among colleagues). To make space for their perspective and for mutual benefit, rather than focusing on purely your own. This is a key skill that was etched into my core in Hotel Management School. In recent years, the Hospitality sector but also Marketing and Sales have made it common knowledge that it makes all the difference for your organisation to be friendly to customers and take your client’s perspective into account while doing business. The creation of a great customer experience is, deservedly, rising to great popularity.

More and more people are realising that the same goes for the employees in your organisation: the employee experience. Making them feel welcome and at home, happy to be working with you, will make them more motivated and energized. Happy employees make happy customers, make successful companies. It’s as simple as that.

A Mind Shift for HR

This principle works, and must work, in all aspects of the organisation’s interaction with employees – which is precisely where HR and HR-Communications, and even internal PR expertise, come in. Adding hospitality to your HR strategy, in tandem with the key values and overall strategy of the organisation, will have great impact on your results. And it will take a mind shift – in both HR and management – in order to infuse the organisation with this way of working.

At the Siemens table we talked about the practical application of this principle, where and how to apply it throughout the organisation’s interactions with employees. There are so many ways and instances that will combine to interdependently catalyze this change. An important level where this new mind shift manifests itself is in communications with employees – from large internal communications campaigns to the way in which you phrase a rejection message to a job applicant.

For instance, I talked about the experiments that Dan Ariely did on motivation. It’s valuable to watch this TedTalk in full but for now I’m focusing in on one particular bit where Ariely shows the difference it makes to simply acknowledge someone’s work.

It takes only a few seconds of your time to apply what you learn from this experiment, but imagine what this does in your organisation, for people’s motivation to work with you, their motivation to work with your (HR) department and to keep contributing to your organisation’s goals.

Learning Expedition

The Siemens HR Business Partner Community are looking to transform their HRBP strategy and wanted to exchange insights with a handful of HR leaders from various backgrounds to foster the interchange of new ideas. In small scale, informal conversations, organised and facilitated by Vaith Schmitz and Chandra Rebne from WDHB Strategic Learning, they talked about various strategic perspectives. Siemens worldwide is doing awesome things with diversity, ownership and ingenuity. And of course there are always new challenges ahead for them to take on.

HR Across the Globe

We talked about HR trends in The Netherlands and it struck me how much bigger the world is than just the conversations going on in my own country.

It quickly became clear that, even though we as HR professionals can be in different positions, subdisciplines, or organisation size (Siemens is absolutely huge with 340.000 employees in total, whereas I have worked in organisations with 2 to 600 employees), we are dealing with similar issues.

Millennials are presenting a new perspective on work in organisations worldwide. Digitization will have a big impact everywhere but especially on a company like Siemens, where it will change current job roles immensely – and although it is clear that things will change, where to is not yet set in stone. Mobility is an interesting multi-faceted topic to address. What will be people’s jobs in the future?

Kindness-Based Solutions

I think the change in perspective that I see coming from a focus on employee experience and the value of kindness will bring vital solutions for issues that we are all dealing with. The impact of new generations on the work floor, from Millennials to everyone who comes next – how do we attract new talent from those age groups and how do we keep them on board? Focus on finding out what makes them, in particular, feel welcome in your organisation. Our business is changing quickly and our employees need to become actively involved in this change – how do we increase their mobility? Transition will run more smoothly when employees truly experience that they are respected and listened to, valued and treated with basic kindness. It will help them adopt the perspective they need to find new directions and ways toward new skills and jobs in this ever changing world of ours.

An interesting task to take on for HR Business Partners in particular is: how can we help the senior management to take ownership or sponsorship of employee experience and hospitality? At our table we talked about ways to inspire and motivate managers to see the value of taking this on.

The Future of HR

And what will be the future of HR? I believe it’s the value of kindness, hospitality in HR, doing business from human to human. Because what will remain of the HR field when many of our current tasks will be automated and digitized? I firmly believe that the ‘human’ essence of our field can never be replaced. We’re in this business because we’re interested in working with people, right? Then let’s do that, and from now on, start doing it for real. We are human beings, working with human beings. This is the added value that will always remain. It matters that we show that we are humans, not computers spitting out forms and formal responses aimed at following all the rules first and foremost. And it matters that we always remember that we work with humans, who have work lives, personal lives, professional opinions and creative ideas. It may be that HR tasks will be increasingly often performed by line managers, or computers. Still, people and organisations will need coaching and advice about dealing and connecting with the humans around them – from a fellow human.

This means you yourself are also allowed to be a human being in the workplace. It matters that you’re interested in the people around you. It helps you gain information about their experience and perspective. It makes people want to work with you, help you out if you help them, go the extra mile for the company you all work so hard for.

Innovate HR, Improve Your Organisation

Moreover, the value of kindness is an improvement of your employee experience, which improves your customer experience, which, bottom line, increases your profits. It pays to be kind. It really is as simple as that. And I don’t have all the answers yet (still working on that) but I know we can find many of them together. Let’s find all the ways in which we can apply this principle and make our organisations more successful.

(This blogpost was originally published on LinkedIn)

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