Navigating Change Management in the HR Function (Interview)
Navigating Change Management in the HR Function (Interview)

Fanny Heyndrickx is currently Head of Talent Management EMEA at BASF. During her HR career, she has worked on many international assignments around the globe, covering a wide range of HR topics in different industries, including the public sector. Her HR consultancy career spans almost 15 years, only briefly interrupted by a short assignment in a corporate management development role at Toyota Motor Europe. In 2010, she joined BASF and took up a role as head of recruiting and selection for the second biggest site within the BASF group, in Antwerp. In 2014, she moved to the company headquarters in Germany and became responsible for Talent Resourcing in Europe. Since 2016, Fanny has been head of Talent Management EMEA for BASF and is based in the company’s headquarters in Germany.

Here is what Fanny shared in an exclusive interview for MERIT.

What is a recent company challenge that you would like to share with the MERIT Summit community?

Lately, I have been working in the area of leadership development in the context of digitalisation. I am responsible for talent management in a very diverse region – EMEA – with 20,000 employees, across 50 countries, including emerging markets. In this diverse context we have to challenge the traditional leadership development offerings in the company – developed in-house and classroom-based – that assumed that we should fly people in from various countries to the headquarters in Germany. On top of that, the offerings were structured in modules and all participants had to complete all modules, regardless of their level of experience and background. This naturally resulted in the long duration of the programmes, especially for the new leaders.

An HR reorganisation enabled us to develop more customised offerings and deliver them in an alternative, digital way that provides more flexibility. Currently, we are prototyping and testing this digital solution and expect to have the first results early in 2019, when we will be able to analyse and decide how to move forward.

What is the value of sharing your challenges with a broader audience outside your company?

I will be happy if colleagues who are interested in the topic of developing leaders in the digital world learn from our experience, practical results, and prototype. I hope to give HR professionals from other companies the possibility of avoiding the mistakes that we may make. We are testing on a small scale before we roll out this approach on a broader level. Sharing our learning, as everything will not be perfect from the start, brings a lot of practical knowledge.

What is your main professional focus at the moment?

Digitalisation is high on our priority list and it is a long-term commitment. Leadership development delivered digitally is just one aspect of this process.

As BASF is a chemical company, there are many digitalisation initiatives at our different production sites. These initiatives will impact heavily the production sites, technology-wise as well as mindset-wise. Our large sites have their own digitalisation teams – we call them 4.0 teams – with a great deal of local knowledge and they work closely with HR. However, the role of my team is to take care of the smaller production sites that will be hit by the digitalisation wave just as much, as they will need to work with Big Data, Virtual Reality, etc. In this case, HR as a function needs to support not only the employees, but also the managers and leaders, in learning to work with technology, as well as building the new mindset. We need to instil trust in the technology as it requires leaders to think and act differently

We as HR professionals also need to navigate change management and look into the types of competence that people will need more in the future.

What are you passionate about professionally?

My biggest personal passion is applying the new requirements of the 4.0 era, e.g. agility, dealing with ambiguity, etc. to my own team and the HR function in general. I aim to refocus our work on praising and recognising good leaders and to use them as inspirational examples instead of trying to overcompensate for poor leadership.

I am also committed to increasing business understanding among HR professionals. It makes all the difference if HR executives go to a business to listen to their needs, rather than trying to sell them an HR initiative. If you enter a dialogue to explore the business perspective and try to derive the kind of solution they would need, and then develop it together with the business, the implementation will be much more effective. But all of this requires a change of mindset within the HR function.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges for businesses today?

If I have to describe just the top three, I would say – digitalisation, workforce ecosystem, and social enterprise.

As I have already talked about digitalisation, I will start with talent availability and democratisation of the workforce. Today, there is a new type of workforce. For example, we have the gig workers. Data reveals that more than 40% of the total workforce in the US have an alternative working agreement, not a permanent contract. We can see this trend in Europe as well. The workforce is becoming more diverse and we have to create a sense of community and a feeling of belonging for everyone.

In addition, with the aging workforce, especially in Europe, coupled with the trends towards digitalisation, automation, etc. it is hard to assess the profiles and skill sets that will be needed in 10 or 15 years. And this skill set might not be available yet, looking at the curricula of universities. Another consequence of an aging workforce is that there are simply fewer people coming into the labour market and we all have to think creatively, beyond national borders and permanent contracts, to attract the talent that we need.

Finally, as featured in the Deloitte Human Capital Trends report, the rise of the social enterprise is underlining the importance of the fact that organisations today are not operating in an isolated way anymore. It is interesting that especially among millennials there is an expectation that companies should fill the leadership gap in society that governments cannot handle. Business leaders are expected to build relationships with the community, as well as with stakeholders and with professional and other associations.