HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd

Straightening out HR

ghd has reacted to a fast-changing business landscape by developing digital people capabilities...
Straightening out HR

ghd has reacted to a fast-changing business landscape by developing digital people capabilities...

Digital is happening before our very eyes. As more people adopt technology to go about their everyday lives - whether it’s ordering shopping online or an increased use of social media and tech advancements in the home – consumers now demand digital solutions. However, it’s this move to digital that is inarguably altering the retail business scene with shopping online now the go-to.

The truth is in the footfall. According to a 2018 study by Salesforce, nine out of ten consumers now begin their shopping journey on a digital device, a jump from 71% in 2017. Meanwhile, in 2018 the Delivery Matters report from Royal Mail discovered that consumers in the UK make 87% of their retail purchases online. As such, traditional sales avenues are changing. While bricks and mortar still have a place when it comes to retail, online spending continues to grow. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), online sales as a proportion of all retail spend increased to 18.6% in March 2019, from the 18.1% reported in February 2019.

To help meet this increasingly digital-first marketplace, and to mitigate any potential negative effects on business, HR professionals are starting to see the benefits of adopting tech. These days, it’s not unusual to see the people function taking a lead in training staff to be more internet savvy or switching to using online portals instead of paper-based systems. Even HR itself is getting digital. According to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report of 10,400 business and HR leaders across 140 countries, 73% cited having a digital HR function as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to make a business successful in a digitally driven market.

Digital HR

This digital business and HR landscape is one tht ghd has to evolve to meet. As such, the premium hair product manufacturer has realised the need to adopt technology into its training and business praxis. To explain what these changes mean for the business, HR Grapevine met for an exclusive interview with Kate Burn, Director of People at ghd, at the celebrity-adored organisation's main studio in Soho, London, to discuss the changing business landscape and why it has created a significant need to train employees for, and make them aware of, the shifting digital space.

“Despite the already great online presence that ghd has in the many markets that it is present in, we’re conscious that individuals’ buying habits are changing, meaning they are no longer walking into shops to find products,” Kate tells HR Grapevine. “However, they are watching more social media channels and the products that influencers are using to influence their buying choices. As such employees within the business need to be prepared and able to tackle all things the digital landscape may throw at them.

The ghd Platinum Tropic Sky Styler is my go-to for styling my hair

The Saturdays’ Mollie King

Making a change

Having joined the company in August last year, Kate was surprised to discover that ghd’s people strategy and learning and development (L&D) initiatives had not been updated in line with the digital demands now made on businesses. Recognising the need to implement a specific strategy to guide and upskill employees, Kate kicked off plans to make the workforce more digitally aware with the launch of a new L&D plan.

The brand new scheme forms part of a broader development plan - which includes the rollout of new eLearning platforms, social media training and the refreshed L&D programme itself. Kate is confident that by rolling out new technical advancements within the workplace, employees will improve their skillsets and online abilities to help drive ghd forward. The changes would also transform ghd’s position within the retail space. “We believe that everyone in the business needs some knowledge of where the world is going in terms of digital,” she claims. “For example, it’s important that all our account managers are able to help advise salon owners to know how they can improve their online presence to help sell our products.”

There won’t be anything we do that won’t fit under people being at the heart of everything we do and every decision we make

Strategic Thinking

These learning initiatives sit within ghd’s new people strategy, known as ‘My ghd Life’. In it are three key pillars: Live; Empower; and, Grow. They signal the commitments ghd make to employees about the company’s intentions for the future. There are a number of global initiatives that sit alongside each pillar, along with local plans within each of the countries ghd operates in – which the firm hope will help deliver these three core commitments to employees. “We will create an inclusive environment where individuals and teams are valued,” Kate says. “We will ensure our people understand how their role is aligned to our strategy and we will create and facilitate a culture of learning and growth." Kate's explanation highlighting that transformations at ghd aren't just reactive but are matched to strategic need.

She continues: “During a group discussion within the first global HR conference we thought, ‘we’re ghd – we need to do something different’, hence the ‘My ghd Life’ strategy and initiatives. There won’t be anything we do that won’t fit under people being at the heart of everything we do and every decision we make.” It’s Kate’s hope that every employee will refer to the pillars and use them to enhance their daily roles alongside the new initiatives ghd has put in place.

Rolling out digital

This new digitally-abetted strategy is joined up too. Following ghd’s acquisition by the multinational beauty company Coty back in 2016, Kate was eager to piggyback on digital developments taking place in the parent firm and took inspiration from them to launch new schemes. In addition, the company joined forces with a digital training provider, which will boast a number of lessons each tailored to various different job roles.

 

With any new development, uptake can naturally be quite slow. With tech this is particularly stark as a not insignificant number of employees fear the evolution of tech – with studies stating that in certain professions ‘the robots’ may eventually take their jobs. In fact, figures from the 2018 Commission on Workers and Technology chaired by Yvette Cooper MP, show that 23% of British workers, or six million people, are worried that their current job may no longer be needed due to robots. Globally, ten million people are worried their job will change for the worse when it comes to automation.

However, in this situation ghd has grabbed the bull by the horns and is welcoming technology and all the benefits it can bring to the workforce, as well as the business as a whole. Via extensive elearning opportunities and additional support via its appraisal system, ghd is ensuring that its employees are equipped with skills ready for the digital age - a benefit for employee's employability and also the firm itself. Kate continues: “We need to ensure we are keeping up to date with initiatives and looking at what skillset our people need next, and we really can only do that by keeping an eye out on what’s happening in the industry.

“We delivered this by revising job descriptions and building in more capability training for the sales teams, as well as area managers, plus we have moved from paper coaching forms to an app. In addition, we have delivered training for our account managers to become more present online and how they can then bring it to work.”

We need to ensure we are keeping up to date with initiatives and looking at what skillset our people need next

Planning ahead

With any evolving landscape, it’s imperative for businesses to make necessary changes and be agile when reacting to marketplace shifts. Furthermore, the strategy must be joined up and matched to employee and business need. It seems ghd isn’t resting on its laurels with new digitalisation plans for their workforce – which they hope will ultimately lead to more growth and a burgeoning business. “We have got massive growth plans for ghd and we’re not going to be able to do that without our employees,” shares Kate. “It’s very simple; if we want to grow, we need to sell more. The product to some degree has sold itself, but we have got more and more competition coming up now and it really comes down to having the people behind the marketing campaigns who have those great ideas.”

Digital is happening, we can’t control that.

And, with every new development it’s imperative for managers to be able to gauge how well it is doing and if it will actually make a difference to those involved. Kate says: “I think it’s difficult to have that clear black and white, to measure where we were to where are we now.” With little available to compare the new launches to, Kate has spearheaded the development of the first ever engagement survey. Designed to ask employees questions about what they think of the new initiatives in place, as well as asking what other changes they would like to see, she is confident that she will notice if things have or haven’t worked.

“In January, we held the first ever engagement survey, where we got a basic overview of where we were at. We will do that annually now, so we’ll have an annual big overview globally,” she states. “Plus, we’ll also hold pulse checks every couple of months where we will focus on a maximum of five questions that will focus on one of the pillars each time and all the different initiatives we run to find out how people felt about it.” With countless studies showing the benefit of canvassing staff for feedback, this assessment style shows ghd are in step with what employee engagement, and thus business improvements, looks like in 2019.

Most in HR will know that with any change there can often be a certain amount of reluctance for individuals, especially when it comes to transformations in tech. However Kate is hopeful that her people team will be the driving force behind the developments within the company. “We’ve done an awful lot, it’s surprising how far the team has come since I joined in August. Prior to me joining, ghd was very reactive and we’re seeing the transformation now to a much more proactive team." Indeed, since Kate joined the Leeds-headquartered firm, digitally-minded schemes have resulted in L&D changes, HR digitalisation and channel-specific engagement surveys which are all geared towards supporting the business as it competes in an evolving market - without forgetting the need to support and include staff too.

There's also a hard-nosed business ethos - which HR, according to many leaders in this space, needs to have.“There’s that sense of urgency that I’ve always had, which is now in the team as well. We’re not going to just talk about what we can do we’re actually doing it. There’s a lot less chat and more do, and they’ve embraced all of this.”


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