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Can you measure and plan the people side of business transformation?



A great conversation with Zuleka Kaysan on the human side of business transformation: in the last two years, 60% of companies have embarked in major changes on their business models, efficiency through digital or simply rebuilding an organization culture that is more agile and entrepreneurial. A big part of the success of this transformation will come from the human factor created by a mindset and culture in the organization.

Despite investments in technology, trainings and organizational restructure – often the human factor will impact the most in times of change. But can we really measure the human factor in order to have control of the change?


The key questions on the people's side of business transformation


In this episode of Learn with Bessern, we cover the following questions:

What are the signs that we have a business that are made to last and thrive despite competition and uncertainty?

  • What are the most common mistakes companies do when embarking in transformation?

  • What type of transformations?

  • How is the human factor affecting change in corporations?

  • What type of measurements (KPI’s) we should put in place to make things right during transformation?

  • What actions directed to people in organizations can help companies to make change happen

  • What is role of HR in these changes?


About our guest Zuleka Kaysan:

With over 15 years experience in strategy execution and business excellence, Zuleka has led the Business Excellence function for companies with portfolios extending to $20B, and in organisations that quadrupled in size in just 2 years. delivering results across multiple industries including Real Estate, Hospitality and Healthcare. Her experience spans across Europe and Middle East. She is the managing director of one of the most trending companies in MENA: The Cornerstone Advisory.



Partial transcription of this episode:


Ivan Palomino: Zuleka it is a pleasure to have you today. One of the topics that everybody in corporations is talking about is on how to create change in organizations. So, what we know is that in the last two years 60% of companies have embarked in some type of change, some call them transformation.

Companies are changing their business models, trying to find efficiency through digital or simply rebuilding an organization culture that is more and more entrepreneurial. A big part of the success of this transformation will come from the human factor that is created by a mindset and culture in the organization. And what we know is that despite investments in technology, trainings, and restructuring the organization, often the human factor will impact the most in times of change. The key question and the reason why I wanted to invite you Zuleka is because I really want to understand: Can we really measure the impact of human in order to have the control of the change?

We have been working together a couple of projects and I would like to introduce you in some words - you have 15 years’ experience in strategy execution. You have been working with big organizations, corporations that had a portfolio of more than $20 billion in terms of investments, and you have been delivering quite a lot of results. And it is quiet impressive given the different types of industries you worked on: real estate, hospitality, healthcare, and you have been working across different continents Europe Middle East. Today.

You are the managing director of one of the most trending companies in the Middle East. The Cornerstone Advisory. I understand that, The Cornerstone Advisory is unique as it targets the pains of transformation by embedding the human aspect in the industry in your strategy. And it's not all about plans with beautiful slides, but about engaging people to drive the execution? Right. I wanted to ask you, what was the your aha moment that made you transition into the world of consulting.


Zuleka Kaysan: That is an amazing introduction. Thank you. You didn't miss anything. I strongly resonate with the work that you and the Bessern team do. Because, you know, while change is in that bigger vision, you only realize it at the individual human level. And that's such a huge value to businesses. And I think in a similar way and this is why I set up the cornerstone advisory, you know, it's so easy to set the strategy and the ideas and the pretty pictures and slides. But on their own they're meaningless unless you know they translate into the business on they don't stand well on their own. I worked with companies and for companies that have had these amazing ideas of collaboration and employee empowerment, while everything that was happening in the business contradicted that, for example, if you have this extensive hierarchy and rigid processes, especially when you have a small company. There's no way for people to get together sit and share ideas and live up to that idea of collaboration and they're not being empowered to do anything. That's why I set up the cornerstone advisory not to be an HR consultancy. It's not about people in that sense, because it's not one dimension. It's about bridging the gap between those ideas and the execution across the business. So, in terms of people, processes, and systems, right, and just to get the most effective and efficient results for the business. And I think that's the most important thing is when companies are looking especially when they're looking to implement some kind of change in their businesses.


Ivan Palomino: if we look at today's world, what has happened is that COVID has given a major slap to many companies in order to transform. But this is not about giving people just the knowledge about how to use technology because at the end, we are facing the natural resistance of human to change, right? What happens to us when there is a major change, like when we decide, I want to learn a new skill. I want to be healthier, or I want to go to the gym. We always have this natural resistance to change that make us stop despite being motivated.


Zuleka Kaysan: I want to add to that point, actually, Ivan because I think you're right like people will look at it in with such a one-dimensional perspective. So, they'll look at, oh, I'm offering training. Oh, I want cost efficiency. Companies are just not looking at the bigger picture. And I think that's why it's important that we have these conversations as we're having today because companies will see a clear path in their mind when they're thinking operational efficiency and cost reduction. They'll go Yeah, A to Z done, but they don't really see that path in the same way when it comes to connecting people with those results or the bottom line is much less tangible and but that's where we know that that's where the greatest value can be added to the business. Right?


Ivan Palomino: More than having today, more knowledge people in organizations in order to thrive and enjoy the change - they need to embrace the change. And there is a lot of work into the mental capacity of embracing the change, having the capacity and also to create a process that makes you continuously change, and the transformation starts with individual before it goes into an organization because it's the ones who will put the resistance for the major change that organization. And that drives me to the next question. what are the signs that a business is making lasting impact despite competition and uncertainty.

This is the time when you want to change you don't know what results to expect. And we know that human beings are really bad at forecasting the future and when there is this uncertainty, we become less motivated. For many, It means also: I'm going to lose my job or I'm going to be replaced by technology. It doesn't look like that clear cut for me because also during this period there must be a refocus into the human instead of finding technology to replace the work of human, it is about how can you use technology to enhance the work of human and that has been a major challenge. For you what would be the signs that that we are doing a good and sustainable change?


Zuleka Kaysan: We live in a world where ideas are replicated just like that. But what isn't easy for companies is to replicate it and making a company thrive in change. Are the business structures in the business culture right? I have my most favorite example. I've been following a company called Gravity Payments. It's based in the US I don't know if you've heard of them. They're a payment processing tech. There's many of them out there, as we as we know now, right? They have an abundance of competitors, but their CEO has what he calls a people first approach. And that's a lot more than what everyone says people first, but it's a lot more than words. His starting point was let's give everyone regardless of their role a base salary of $70,000, right? Because if they're comfortable and they're not worrying about paying the bills and paying around and you know surviving outside of work, they can you know, fully immerse themselves into the job.


Ivan Palomino: I think that there are two good elements that you have mentioned. The first one is about the impact of the intangibles, in terms of the motivation in order to drive change. So, it is true that there has been some research conducted by a writer called Paul Zack who talks about trust in organizations. And he has been assessing the different parameters that creates that people get engaged in organizations in order to give to be more engaged and productive and of course, money is something tactical to engage in individuals. It engages you for a couple of months; you receive a bonus because you have been working but it doesn't drive a sustainable engagement.

What has an impact is a sense of belonging, the recognition that you get a recognition it doesn't mean money more, it means more like somebody gives you a simple like ovation like saying, hey Zuleka you did that excellent job. Bravo and you say it in front of others. Your self-esteem is growing you feel like belonging to a tribe.


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