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How I lead: Ingrid Webber, CXC

Ingrid Webber, CXC ANZ CEO and Global COO at CXC shares lessons in building a clear vision, supportive leadership and committed teams at every level, every step of the way. 

Embracing change is part of the ethos of CXC, a global HR outsourcing company specialising in end-to-end management of contingent workforces. With change not only a constant for workforce management today, but essential to business survival, navigating it is woven into CXC’s organisational DNA. 

The biggest recent change for CXC has been a shift in positioning – while it was once purely a service provider, it is now driven by an unwavering focus on customers and their journeys. 

An integral part of making that shift in focus successful was a comprehensive technology transformation to provide the team with the tools it needed to collaborate, be closer to customers and proactively solve their challenges.

Ingrid Webber, CXC ANZ CEO and Global COO at CXC shares how the organisation managed this change.

Even in an industry as established as ours, clients all have different ways of working. So we needed to create a platform for collaboration that we could customise to accommodate our clients’ unique needs and practices. And we wanted a platform that would enable us to manage the changing nature of global workforce management – we couldn’t invest in one based on what could have been brittle assumptions about the future of our business.

When systems are static and processes can’t change, a business can become irrelevant very quickly, so we are always motivated to improve at every opportunity. 

But a comprehensive change of technological platforms and systems is not easy and requires a clear vision, supportive leadership and committed teams at every level, every step of the way. 

Successful implementation requires clear goals

For us, achieving the huge task of system transformation required both an epic vision and a comprehensive break down of smaller goals that would act as the building blocks to achieve that vision.

And our leadership team is committed to goal-setting. A 10-year BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is a great place to start because it inspires some really dynamic thinking. It has to be something people can attach themselves to, otherwise you end up with people saying “Sure, that sounds fantastic, but so what? How is it going to affect my day-to-day?”.

Then we break the 10-year path down into smaller goals: yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly – we’re after bite-size goals. And we invite people to participate in achieving them. 

We want someone to hear the plan, see how they can contribute to a small part and how that will ladder up to the achievement of the overarching vision, and say “That really interests me. I’d love to go play on that team”.

From there, we stay on track by communicating – all the way from quarterly tracking meetings to daily huddles – because when it comes to realising a goal, communication is key. Communicate, communicate, communicate. And then communicate some more. 

And don’t forget to celebrate the wins along the way. 

Resources at the ready and a lesson learned

A project of this magnitude required team leaders to commit their time and resources, and the time and resources of their teams. Subject matter experts were seconded and team readiness leads were recruited from around the organisation. 

The flipside of embracing constant change is that people can get fatigued by it if they are not properly supported and clear in their purpose. Constant change, poorly managed, can cause a lot of stress. So those shifts in people’s roles and demands on resources had to be fully backed at the leadership level. 

One lesson we learned early on in the project was that assigning people to new roles based purely on their skill set doesn’t always pay off. We nominated our first cohort of team readiness leads – the champions of the tech transformation journey – because we believed they had the right expertise. 

But they didn’t necessarily have the buy-in needed to perform the role effectively. And without belief in the program, from their point of view it just looked like a whole lot more work.

The second time around, we nominated leads who said, “I’m excited to be involved in this change, I’m up for the job”. From there, they could fill any knowledge of skills gaps – identifying belief in the change and a motivation to succeed then providing the tools to do so is a far more effective way to create champions. 

Preparing for failure and making it count

For me, the real test of any organisation is how it responds when things go wrong, and it’s inevitable they will go wrong at some stage. To respond well, we planned for failure. Not because we wanted it, but because if it happened, we wanted to deal with it efficiently, learn from it and move on.

Leadership was very clear from the outset of the project that failures were okay because we had the training, structure and workflow processes in place to deal with them. Missteps present an opportunity to make things better and to test the organisation’s ability to respond with speed and agility to problems as they arise.

How do you prepare for failure? You have the training, structure and workflow processes in place to respond with speed and agility. You create a contingency plan for each stage of a project and an escalation matrix. You know who is empowered to make decisions, and you know how quickly you can deal with problems. You also make it clear from the outset of the project that because of all of this, failures are okay – which means that measured risks are okay too.

We took care to minimise risk as well – particularly by phasing the implementation. Rather than go live with a big bang, we broke it down into bite size chunks so there was plenty of time and space to do the user acceptance testing and allow people to get comfortable with the system.

This put us in a secure position to make our new systems available to our clients with outstanding user experience – the provision of which was the ultimate goal of this transformation.

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Ingrid Webber

Ingrid Webber is the ANZ CEO and Global COO at CXC.

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