When you’re a unique business, transforming with HR technology can be risky.
Being unique is often considered a positive. It’s not hard to see why; the word is often used interchangeably with ‘special’ or ‘distinctive’. But when you are a company or organisation, uniqueness can mean high-risk. If you’re one-of-a-kind, who is your role model, and where do you look to for advice? Sometimes uniqueness means you struggle to survive.
Racing & Wagering WA (RWWA) is the only government-owned trading enterprise remaining in Australia. It has 500 workers and is charged with serving both the betting public and running its own local racing industry across three racing codes. It’s also worth mentioning that for many years our journey has been overshadowed by the uncertainty caused by the possibility of having a large part of the organisation privatised.
Even though we have been a very traditional business, the use of technology across our customer-led divisions has seen us create transformational changes. It was only a matter of time before we realised it was HR’s time to depart on the same journey.
One piece at a time
We knew retaining and attracting key talent was crucial. We had feedback from employees that suggested many managers were in ‘survival’ mode and were not focused on their own development. This wasn’t ideal for the headwinds we were about to face.
This is where our Digital Mosaic initiative came in. The purpose of the project was to fashion a software suite that would help managers and employees navigate and excel across three key areas: learning pathways, communication and a personalised career-building process.
Of course, previous strategies had attempted to enhance staff experiences, and parts of those strategies were leveraged into the proto-Digital Mosaic. We certainly knew that digital technology would shape our focus and resolve going forward. We tried to be adventurous in the selection of some software, but we were aware that a simple and familiar solution could be perfect in given situations.
Our approach has been to start small, build engagement and advocacy up to the executive level and then keep releasing more add-ons to new products. This keeps people excited and interested. In some cases, the software we selected was so new, we were the first organisation to use it. This was fantastic, but it also brought another level of risk.
Success, and it being embraced by our employees, depended on us openly offering the story of why we were creating the Digital Mosaic. The approach was both pragmatic and innovative. We made videos to inform and entertain. First, a ‘carpool karaoke’ video, followed by a ‘drone video’ (the RWWA overview of the way forward).
These fun and informative approaches flipped the previous negative perspective around employee development into one that they felt truly counted towards engaging what was important for them at work.
Inspiring our employees to connect and take control of their careers and their experiences has been a really satisfying outcome to see realised. Strong employee advocacy has continued to occur, with ongoing high activation and engagement rates, and we have an improved communication experience across all levels.
Through this whole process, I felt that fear of the unknown – and of course, fear of failure – can sometimes limit the possibilities. But I have now learnt that the perfect time to push through is when you face uncertainty. Trust the process and the people around you.
Matthew Thomas is the General Manager – People and Culture, Racing and Wagering Western Australia.
This article first appeared in the February 2020 edition of HRM magazine.
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