Putting People At The Heart Of Business Strategy

John Wallace

Small and large enterprises alike face plenty of challenges when it comes to growing businesses: “It’s hard to find the right people,” “Our business growth is tied to our ability to hire, train and retain our people,” and “Our most valuable asset is our people,” are just a few examples.

Of course, putting people at the heart of business strategies makes sense, but the complexity of doing so often derails organisations’ best aspirations. Add the changing demands and expectations of talent, and the spotlight is firmly focused on HR to develop new models of engagement, solutions, and initiatives. But this is a challenge for all business leaders.

Creating a people-centric organisation is a complex web that requires balancing immediate and long-term business needs—from creating a pipeline of strong people to managing budgets and mapping them into a strategic path that enables growth and opportunity.

At Serco, we’ve taken a step-by-step approach, partnering with SAP SuccessFactors to turn these steps into giant leaps for our business.

As a multinational outsourcing specialist, the Serco “people web” is especially complex, spanning multiple geographies and differing skills and compliance requirements across five different business sectors… all against the backdrop of a business model that requires fast scaling. Typically, we have a lead time of around 3 to 6 months from winning a new contract to go-live, so we must recruit employees where required, contract and set up payroll, and for both new recruits and existing employees, we must also offer the necessary training and facilitate ongoing engagement.

Our business is fast, exciting, challenging… and 100% people-centric. We effectively bring together existing and new employees to create a specific business for each project in a matter of months.

For us, business transformation started with how we engage our people, and my own experience during this time has reinforced the concept that small steps can return major results. Choosing SuccessFactors as our partner has allowed us to move at our own pace, building an agile, sustainable model that sits at the heart of our business transformation and will support us as we continue to transform.

My advice to businesses that are committed to truly putting people at the heart of the business is to ask yourself three key questions:

  • What does “people success” look like for my business? Define where you want the business to be—not HR, not IT, not the component parts, but the whole business and how it serves its customers. What are the things we can’t do today, but that we need to gain the agility required to build an innovation-led, sustainable business?
  • What experience are we providing our customers, and how can we enhance this? For Serco, this meant being able to deliver a skilled, engaged workforce on Day One of each new contract. The strength of the service we provide becomes our reference point for future contracts. Our reputation is dependent on this element alone.
  • How can we ensure that all employees are engaged, motivated, skilled and compliant? For Serco, with a large percentage of people engaged on a contract basis, this translates to ensuring that they can manage their time sheets, understand their role and responsibility, access the appropriate training, interact with their manager (who may be remote), all while feeling part of a supportive and connected organisation.

Particularly critical for Serco is the ability to quickly and easily roll out training according to regulatory requirements, giving government clients confidence about the skills and knowledge of our staff. For example, we recently had to train 109,000 people across four of our regions to meet the requirement of our customer—not just for us, but to address some big compliance challenges. Through SuccessFactors, we were able to not only deliver and even record the training, but give evidence to the auditor to keep our customer happy.

The transformation journey at Serco has been well-documented, and our ability to improve the experience for all our stakeholders in this people-centric business has been underpinned by our transformation partner. Working with SuccessFactors has helped us define the future of Serco. For example, currently we’re looking at some of the mobile applications that come along with SuccessFactors.

The HR future is exciting, particularly in the area of analytics, which will help us source internal and external talent pools and react more quickly.

Digital transformation is reimagining our business, and our board takes collective ownership for putting people at the heart of our business. In partnership with SuccessFactors, we are already delivering significantly enhanced, 21st-century HR-driven experiences for our customers, our partners, and our people.

For more on HR tech, see Disruption Is The New Constant For HR.


John Wallace

About John Wallace

John Wallace is an HR Director at Serco with international experience. His recent career has centred around delivering major business benefit through complex HR, HRSS, and HRIS projects globally, Pan-European, and within the UK. John has experience across a variety of business sectors such as services, telecommunications, aerospace, IT, and manufacturing. He is currently focused on enhancing the consumer experience – candidate, manager, and employee – while seeking to reduce HR transactional cost.