Making an Impact

The WhatWorks Awards, Bersin by Deloitte's 2016 competition, recognizes leading strategies throughout all spectrums of HR, including learning, leadership and talent.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016
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This is an exciting time to be in the business of talent. Disruptive changes in technologies, business models and workforce demographics are reshaping the workplace, the workforce and work itself.

Emerging from the disruptive chaos is a new organization built around highly empowered teams, driven by a new model of management and led by next-generation, more globally diverse leaders.

"The pace of change is staggering," says David Mallon, head of research for Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP. "Take the 24/7-feedback culture that envelops the workplace. Customers, clients, job candidates, employees, managers and senior leaders are talking about companies on an endless array of social-media platforms. This has made many traditional HR practices look like a rotary phone in a smartphone era."

Many HR leaders and their teams are stepping up and embracing the complexities of today's interconnected, always-on global business world. They are shifting from administering traditional HR processes and compliance policies to becoming drivers of business success. They are assuming roles as stewards and designers of new people processes. In addition, they are working to simplify processes, help employees manage a flood of information at work caused by the digitization of everything, and build a culture of collaboration, empowerment and innovation.

"The future of HR clearly is digital, and we are seeing companies test, modify and roll out new and often customized solutions that use data to help employees improve their performance, engagement and happiness at work," says Mallon. "This testing and innovating is exactly what the Bersin by Deloitte WhatWorks® Award Program finalists have done. As we have seen in past years, these are models that other organizations will likely adopt, customize and apply to their own particular business situations."

This marks the 11th year for this award program, which was created to recognize innovation and excellence across all areas of HR, including learning, leadership and talent. (This is also the fourth year that results of the program are appearing in Human Resource Executive®'s print publication and on its website,

Each year, the program grows increasingly competitive. Judges include Bersin by Deloitte's internal analysts and consultants -- each of whom has years of experience in the HR, talent and learning industries -- as well as volunteer industry thought leaders not employed by Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Judges scored each submission based on degree of difficulty, innovation in solution and results demonstrated. These scores were then used to identify one finalist per category. Each finalist then presented at Bersin by Deloitte's 2016 IMPACT: Different by Design: The New Organization conference. Attendees of that conference who heard the presentations chose the ultimate award recipient -- SAP -- directly by vote.

WhatWorks Award Program categories cover a wide range of HR and talent-related functions. What follows is a description of each category's finalist, including the ultimate award recipient.

Developing Tomorrow's Leaders

In today's complex business world, the entire concept of leadership development is evolving. Most companies now need employees who can lead at all levels and functions, and who can serve as coaches and collaborators, not simply supervisors. Successful ones are developing programs tied to a specific business strategy; are employing detailed program assessments to measure effectiveness and the quality of content; and are leveraging data, evidence and science-based approaches. How is the organization building better leaders to drive agility and growth?

SAP is a leading enterprise application and analytics software provider headquartered in Walldorf, Germany. Historically, its sales approach was to position itself as a best-in-class solution provider. But an analysis of customer views suggested the company was not doing enough to distinguish itself from the competition. Many clients felt like SAP sales executives lacked an understanding of their businesses, that they were transaction-oriented, and that they did not function as trusted advisers.

Because of this, SAP's sales leaders were interested in the potential of a new model called insight-based selling. With the insight model, account executives function more like consultants rather than sales people. To achieve in this consulting role, sales executives develop a clear and deep understanding of their client's business, and they should use key insights about a client in order to provide value to them.

SAP executives identified a 2012 study by CEB that appeared in the Harvard Business Review, titled "The End of Solution Sales." It confirmed insight-based sales as an important driver of customer loyalty. The study compared five different types of sales profiles and determined that executives who employed the insight-based solution -- called Challengers -- are typically most efficient at closing deals. Greater efficiency, in turn, leads to more deals and increased revenue.

In the wake of the report, SAP conducted a worldwide survey of its sales force. The survey asked managers to assess their own skills, as well as those of their teams. Team members, for their part, assessed their manager's abilities as a coach, but also their own abilities, skills, behaviors and utilization of available resources.

The survey revealed that account executives who exhibited Challenger-like behaviors were more likely to be top performers. It also revealed gaps between an account executive's coaching skills and his or her performance outcomes. In short, those sales executives without developed coaching skills underperformed against their peers.

Armed with survey results, SAP rolled out a customized sales-leadership program. As part of the design process for creating course content, SAP collected input from each of its market regions. The goal was to gain early buy-in for a pilot program that, if effective, would be rolled out to each region of the world. Executives believed the new approach, with its insight-based conversations, would lead to innovation and transformation at client companies and that, in turn, would lead to increased revenue at SAP.

A critical element of the program is called Coaching to the Challenger. It's designed to equip sales managers with the tools to coach and support team development around this new sales model. Coaching to the Challenger is comprised of three phases, including: pre-work (awareness videos and pre-workshop exercises), live classroom training (two-day intensive sessions) and post-work (facilitated teleconferences and the development of action plans).

The second component of the program, called "Lead the Way," trains account executives in the Challenger approach to selling. After completing the entire program, SAP executives expected sales managers to be able to drive behaviors in their teams that could lead to higher performance and greater long-term results. It was also expected that participants would be equipped with improved coaching skills. Launched in 2013, SAP's Coaching to the Challenger program is currently run in 22 countries, with nearly 1,000 sales managers trained worldwide. Its results clearly show that account executives who attended the training had dramatically improved results compared to their peers. The program has not only changed the coaching conversations between sales managers and AEs but, critically, it has transformed conversations between AEs and their customers.

High-Impact Learning

Learning continues to be an important area for business and HR executives, and companies are putting investment behind this belief. Learning executives and employees have also grown weary of the classic model of using corporate trainers in a classroom setting. Employees are hungry for dynamic learning opportunities that leverage new technologies and have practical applications. The days of simply hoping that learning has an impact is being replaced by demands for proof. To be truly effective, learning programs should be tied to a corporate strategy and they should be measured. How is the organization building an effective, aligned learning function that drives measurable impact?

Maersk Line, the largest container shipping company in the world, according to Bloomberg, is part of Maersk Group, a privately owned conglomerate headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 2014, Maersk Line identified a problem with its operating model. As the world's largest container-shipping company, it had about 16,100 customers. However, Maersk identified that a small fraction (approximately 500) of those customers generated an inordinate share of Maersk's revenues. When the company analyzed its customer-service operations, it determined it was spending the vast majority of its time and resources on the other 15,600 customers. Confirming the problem, Maersk executives analyzed their net promoter score, the commonly used index of customer satisfaction, and what they found was troubling.

For its top 500 customers, Maersk earned an abysmal NPS score of 10 on a scale of 100. The ratings not only reflected poor interactions with Maersk Line's customer-service department, but also a difficult business process and a lack of knowledge about their customers' needs. Executives realized they needed to shift their focus to their highest-value customers or risk damaging the business, and they should do so while still creating a valuable experience for their low-revenue clients.

Maersk executives sought to dramatically improve the interpersonal skills among the customer-service organization, and also transition their low-revenue customers to an easy-to-use digital platform. As executives put it, they wanted to switch from a travel-agent model to an online service model. Maersk identified three specific areas to improve: proactivity -- instead of waiting for a top customer to call with problems, customer service agents needed to find and solve problems before the customer even realized there was an issue; relationship-building -- the company wanted to shift its culture and conversation with its clients and start treating them as partners instead of tasks to resolve; and ownership -- Maersk Line wanted to empower its lower-revenue customers to take ownership of their issues through an advanced online system.

To address these problems, Maersk Line created an innovative, three-year customer-service transformation. While the company set about overhauling its technology platforms, it also had to completely retrain and reorient its 6,800-person customer-service team. To do so, Maersk Line created an in-house learning model called CARE PROgram, with four innovative features, including:

* One bit at a time. This program is divided into 11 distinct components -- called "bite-sized chunks." The segmentation allows participants to learn a small set of skills and then rapidly start practicing those skills. Once customer-service representatives had mastered those behaviors in their real-world customer-service environment, they were formally certified and able to move to the next chunk. Advancement through the program was thereby directly linked to daily performance improvements.

* Manager-led. Maersk Line avoided bringing in outside trainers to implement its program, instead relying on customer-service managers to lead each component. This included leading workshops, performing co-listening behavioral observations and coaching for improvements in performance. The goal was to have participants actually see their own manager embodying the skills and behaviors underpinning the program.

* Broad yet simple. Maersk Line learning executives built the program to provide comprehensive behavioral changes while remaining simple enough for most managers to implement. The goal was to facilitate managers' engagement in the learning process, and also to give them tools to sustain key skills and behaviors in their department.

* Behaviors, not systems. Despite a completely new technology platform, Maersk Line's learning team avoided focusing on the systems and processes that are commonplace in traditional IT training. The traditional "Click Here, Do That" model was replaced with: "Here's how to leverage the system in order to perform even better."

By the end of 2015, Maersk Line had effectively rolled out the CARE PROgram to the global team of 6,800 customer-service representatives and managers. The company went back to its NPS scores and the result was a 15-point improvement among its top customers. The company statistically correlated those NPS improvements to an increased likelihood of winning an opportunity and an increased customer "share of wallet."

The company has dramatically reduced the manual hours spent on bookings, from 215,000 hours before the new platform was implemented to just 33,000 hours today. By the beginning of 2016, 97 percent of bookings came through a digital platform. Even as the company shifted its lower-revenue customers to the self-service technology platform, its market share and NPS scores have stayed level with this group.

Meanwhile, the company has seen significant improvements in its employee-engagement scores. The customer-service department now ranks in the top 25 percent on a benchmarked engagement index in the following areas: "alignment of my role and behaviors to the strategy," "understanding of my role in the strategy," "I have the resources and development needed to do the job," "I feel supported during organizational changes," and "there is increased collaboration and teamwork among my team."

Acquiring Top Talent

In its Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, Bersin by Deloitte describes drivers that are creating disruptive change across the talent landscape. One is a profound demographic shift, with millennials now accounting for more than half of all employees and baby boomers continuing to work into their 70s and 80s. Another is omnipresent digital technology, and the ability to communicate globally and instantaneously. What these trends signal is the importance of driving engagement so complaints are quelled and accolades are heard by all, including top candidates. How is the organization successfully finding, recruiting, and hiring the top talent required to fuel growth and drive new business opportunity?

Dell, headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, sells technology and technology-enabled solutions to consumers and businesses around the world. In 2006, Dell's leadership recognized that the company's customers were actively discussing products online -- mostly on blogs -- and therefore leaving Dell out of the conversation.

The company's CEO posed the question: "If bloggers are talking about Dell and need our help, why don't we join the conversation?" Internal research suggested that failing to join these online conversations was creating a barrier between the company and its customers and, even worse, creating feelings of mistrust. Members of Dell's talent-acquisition team decided talent-related discussions about the company were also taking place without their input. As consumer teams sought to join customer conversations, the talent-acquisition team sought to join and influence online conversations to attract high-quality candidates and help fuel its growth.

In response to this, Dell has launched a series of innovations around customer and talent-focused conversations over the past decade. This includes launching ratings and reviews on, and creating IdeaStorm, an open forum for users to share ideas with Dell. The company also formed a Social Media and Communities team to help employees engage effectively online. In 2010, a newly formed Global Talent Acquisition Center of Excellence team reached out to the SMaC team and marketing colleagues to completely overhaul the company's employment branding. The new campaign included a robust social-media interaction program to engage directly with prospects in a way that was different and novel.

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The team designed a program that could be rolled out globally, but that was still flexible enough to drive effective dialogue within specific markets. A major component was integrating Dell's SMaC certification program into the company's recruiting efforts. One feature of this integration was the creation of "employee advocates" who share stories across a range of online and social-media platforms. The global talent-acquisition team also created a clearly defined and robust content schedule. This included the creation and then sharing of employee content along with helpful tips for candidates in the form of videos, infographics and testimonials. Additionally, Dell joined the employment conversation wherever it was happening online. Dell became an "Open Company" on Glassdoor, thereby making a commitment to respond to candidate and prospect postings -- good or bad. This participation was also integrated into Dell's online-engagement SMaC certification.

Since launching the SMaC and employee-advocate programs, Dell has realized a number of dramatic results. The company has gone from having almost no social-media presence to a robust one, helping to guide Dell's employment brand and tell its employment story. More than 15,000 employees have been certified in the use of social-media engagement skills, while the Global Talent Acquisition Center of Excellence team endeavored to provide consistent messaging and oversaw the creation of compelling content for candidates and prospects.

Today, Dell's LinkedIn page has more than 1 million followers, its Facebook page has more than 545,000, and more than 15,000 individuals subscribe to the company's Twitter feed. Dell is also active across a range of other platforms, including Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. Additionally, there are now more than 574,000 followers on its Dell Careers pages. In the past two years, the global talent-acquisition team has posted more than 17,000 times, received more than 162,000 likes, 43,000 shares and 7,600 comments with a total reach of more than 134 million people.

Employees have also embraced the social-media campaign, having shared more than 100,000 jobs on different platforms in the past two years. Because of this, external job hires through referrals have jumped from 19 percent to 39 percent.

Meanwhile, the company's CEO approval rating on Glassdoor jumped from 57 percent at the start of the employment-branding efforts to 84 percent. Similarly, the number of participants on Glassdoor who said they would recommend Dell to a friend increased from 57 percent to 69 percent. Dell has also seen improvements in its Talent Brand Index on LinkedIn -- a measure of brand impact -- increasing from 17 percent to 23 percent between 2013 and 2055.

Optimizing Talent Management

People analytics is gaining momentum in the world of HR. Progressive companies are employing analytics to help create a more stable, more engaged workforce. By leveraging available business data and testing hypotheses, HR teams are now able to tackle a wide range of challenges, including identifying future leaders and employees who are likely to leave. Many companies are taking action based on the data and then measuring results. How is the organization increasing performance and productivity through end-to-end talent management?

(Due to procedural issues, there was no finalist selected for this category this year.)

Transforming HR

Mobile apps and cloud-based solutions are enabling employees to accomplish tasks from nearly any location in the world. Yet many HR departments are still stuck in an old-tech world. Few employee surveys, for example, are designed for mobile use and their reports are usually a one-time event, leaving employers in the dark about their employees for the rest of the year. By comparison, digitally transformed HR departments can leverage real-time feedback and data, mobile applications and experience-driven design to completely change the employee experience. How is the HR function being transformed into a specific contributor to business results?

Pivotal Software provides platform-as-a-service cloud-based technology solutions to leading companies around the world. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company employs more than 2,200 employees in 30 countries. When it was formed through a joint venture between EMC and GE in 2013, it was composed of eight different organizations, with vastly different cultures and operating methodologies. Some of the constituent companies were small, while others were large. There were different HR policies and different sales models, to name just a few inconsistencies. It has been said that Pivotal Software was launched with an identity crisis.

Guiding the company, however, was a set of core values -- do what makes sense, do what works and be kind -- yet the company still lacked a coherent culture or HR strategy to support its employees. To address this, the company's executive team tasked HR with developing and executing a people strategy to support its highly complicated organizational structure. Beyond strategy, the HR team was also charged with building infrastructure, support mechanisms and related programs to promote a high-growth, high-tech business.

The organization's HR leaders promptly threw out the idea of utilizing traditional people and talent strategies, and instead began investigating how to create something wholly new. They used Agile's 12 software development principles, including the importance of transparency and trust, continuous improvement, collaboration and empathy. They believed these principles could enable them to manage unpredictability by breaking down complex projects into smaller work sets and could help them tackle the enormity of their challenge in a matter of weeks, not years.

One of the HR team's first acts was to establish a performance-management philosophy and set of practices, called Agile People Development. This led to the elimination of formal performance ratings and yearly performance conversations in favor of ongoing, real-time feedback, giving employees a holistic view of their performance. The group then created a curriculum called Lead On, which taught the practical skills needed to be an effective manager at Pivotal.

Next, the group began to analyze its high performers and what made them effective. The group hypothesized that variable pay -- bonuses and incentives -- did not impact high performers' results as much as their motivation to build and provide better software, and help create a special company. To test this theory, the company included all variable pay in the base salaries for all employees and first-line managers, and eliminated its formal time-off policy, instead adopting a "take what you need" approach. A generous paid parental-leave policy was also implemented.

Identifying and hiring leading talent in a highly competitive field, and doing so in a thoughtful manner, became another centerpiece of the new HR strategy. The group implemented a welcome program to recruit and integrate more than 1,000 hires over the course of a year. At Pivotal, executives and hiring managers support recruiters by reaching out to passive candidates, while a practical interview process lets candidates experience the actual work they will be doing. A welcome concierge, a member of the talent-acquisition team, ensures that new hires feel supported in their new roles and buddies paired with new hires help orient them.

Liberated from implementing traditional HR practices, members of the people team at Pivotal knew they would still have to establish the efficacy of their work -- and continue to improve it. Using a customized 12-question pulse survey, the team tests a representative population of the global workforce four times per year. The results, which measure employee sentiment and satisfaction, then shape the HR team's priorities for the following three to six months.

The company's performance-management philosophy -- using ongoing feedback as opposed to annual reviews -- has also led to improvements. Freed from time-consuming annual reviews, employees and managers can focus on how to improve performance on an ongoing basis. Employees also report they are more receptive to feedback since they receive it more often.

As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.


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