TUI HRD: Create an Amazon-like experience for staff

A panel at the HR360 European Summit debated what the age of agile means for HR

Employee experiences must mimic the kind of customer experience offered by Amazon and Google, according to HR and labour director at TUI Elke Eller.

This will “really make [HR] agile and disruptive and employee-orientated,” Eller said, speaking on a panel at the HR360 European Summit, for which HR magazine is media partner, which explored how digitalisation in consumer life is affecting the expectations of employees and business leaders.

“What’s going on in everyday life is [being] brought into companies – everything is moving quickly and there’s expectations from life and business and from different generations of people,” she said.

“My question is how shall we perform as HR so that employees of different generations and business leaders feel supported?”

Also speaking on the panel, SVP HR planning, digitisation and operations at Deutsche Telekom Michael Rubas agreed that HR needs to create an “Amazon-like experience for employees”. He spoke of the three-year journey the organisation has been on, involving reducing HR staff and emphasis on performance management.

“We need to get faster,” he said, adding that this is a new collaborative “way for HR to deliver more results”.

While lessons in agile can be learned from such firms as Amazon and Google, legacy organisations come from a different starting point, commented Isabell Hametner, SVP of HR at OMV.

“Our starting point is potentially a bit behind newer companies,” she said. She added that HR at OMV now focuses on risk-taking, challenging the status quo, and “allowing people to raise their voices and fail as all that comes with agility”.

“Digital was born in Silicon Valley but they don’t have work councils so we can’t expect them to have the solution for us, so we have to manage this,” added Eller. “The core of digital is networking.”

However, HR needs to first understand what agile is, Eller continued. “Often we replace the word 'flexible' with the word 'agile' and that’s wrong,” she explained.

Agile has become a buzzword within HR, said Hametner. “We’re all a bit tired of agile HR… it feels like the new buzzword of the past two years.”

She shared her version of agility: “My organisation is surrounded by external challenges left, right and centre, so agility means we need to react quicker and faster than the competition.”

“Agility means changing the way we work and this is core to HR,” added Rubas. “So we have to start with ourselves [in HR] and experience what agility means.”

However, Hametner warned against thinking that HR needs to be the expert on agility. “The trap to not fall into is that we need to figure it out so that we can tell the rest of the business. That’s a very traditional way [of viewing things],” she said.

“This is an opportunity for the function to network and work hand in hand with the business. Be the partner but don’t believe we are the ones that need to be two steps ahead so we can educate the rest of the business.”

When asked whether CHROs understand the need to become more agile the panel gave mixed responses. “Are we capable today? No; we have to bring people in to stay relevant," said Rubas.

Eller said she does see many HR people understanding agile, but that they need to believe in themselves: “We talk about the growth mindset for our people and we need to have the growth mindset and believe in ourselves that we are the right people to drive it.”