Those of you that I have worked with before know that I have a soft spot for HR and Corporate Comms. Not only are these teams often overworked and under resourced, but they tend to be staffed with some of the most engaged and empathetic colleagues you will meet. To put it another way: you can be a sales manager and truly not care about what you are selling, but it is hard to do your job effectively with that level of apathy if you work in HR or Communications.

There is also another reason why I care about building relationships with these teams, namely that they are often the overlooked players when it comes to bringing about meaningful data-driven transformation in an organisation. I would go so far to say that they should be the first teams that should be engaged by a latterly appointed data leader. This might seem counter-intuitive given the usual focus on starting with the Technology or Finance functions.

What is this good news? Machine learning? AI? What does that even mean. Photo by Jon Tyson.

When you step into a new leadership role, it is critical to swiftly develop not just an understanding of the role and its expectations, but of the organisation as a whole. What are the prevalent pain points and opportunities, as well as the current capabilities and attitudes? HR and Comms are extraordinarily well placed to help you navigate these questions, as they can draw on both a broad network of contacts and verbatim feedback from the rank and file.

Once you have empathised with the organisation, your next challenge is to identify ways to galvanise it into action! It is tempting to make the mistake of trying to do this yourself instead of leveraging existing channels. After all, is that not the point of fresh blood? Yet this approach can waste time and effort and even burn bridges if not congruent with the organisational culture. Internal Communications are the perfect partner to help hone your message.

Just because you are excited does not mean you know how to communicate. Photo by Jason Rosewell.

With the organisation fired up you are ready to dive in, but what about your team? Better go hire some people. Ideally you can identify a mix of internal and external talent – more on this in a future post. For the former HR is a critical partner, as they can help negotiate transfers with managers that you will likely not have a relationship with yet. Meanwhile, External Communications can support in getting people outside the company excited about the opportunity.

At the end of the day, all relationships matter in a transformation. Finance does not like you? Good luck with your budget. Business does not trust you? Adoption will be a pain. Legal dismisses you? No new partnerships. Yet across the many functions, I truly believe that many transformations could proceed much more effectively and expediently if HR and Communications were more involved. Culture is usually the key to success, and they are the locksmiths.

– Ryan