IBM helps Woodside Energy apply design thinking to HR onboarding

In a move to eliminate what Woodside Energy said is often a confusing process.

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Six weeks into working with IBM Garage -- a centre that Big Blue uses as a test bed to meld human resources (HR), artificial intelligence (AI), and culture -- Australia's oil and gas giant Woodside Energy said the conversations about how new employees are onboarded has started to change.

"We're experimenting in stepping forward and seeing the results with the Garage. With the Garage, it's about changing the culture, and bringing together those people who aren't always together … Often they're operating in silos but what this does is bring them across end-to-end," Woodside Energy chief digital officer Shelley Kalms said on Tuesday.

As one of four current IBM Garage customers in Australia, Woodside approached IBM Garage to help the company improve its HR onboarding process, which Kalms described as often being confusing.

"You have to go into a number of systems. I remember on my first day I didn't get something, so I had to fill out a form and I didn't get it until two weeks later; I wasn't productive straight away. But what we're trying to do is give a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose straight away," she said.

"The reason why we did this example is because it resonates with everyone. Everyone has had a first day. We want to show this is what it was, and this is what it is re-imagined. We want to show that step change so we can help people think and be unrestrained in their thinking going forward."

See also: Recruiting and hiring top talent: A guide for business leaders (free PDF) (TechRepublic)  

As part of the process, team members from different parts of the Woodside business, including HR, contractor and procurement, security and emergency management, and digital, have undertaken design thinking workshops, data-driven research, and formulated experiments.

"What we're trying to do at Woodside is unlock the collective intelligence of the organisation -- past and present -- by bringing the data, information, and insights for our people," Kalms said.

She said the most pivotal point of the process to date has been when Woodside employees participating in the workshops began changing their attitudes.

"You had people coming with questions of have you thought about this, have you considered that, and that was key," she said.

But the process hasn't been completely seamless. Kalms said parts of the business that have been traditionally accustomed to a certain way of thinking have questioned the design thinking process. To overcome the challenges within the project, as well as to enhance the digital skills of its workforce, Woodside will launch what it's calling a digital academy.

"That's really about helping the digital function but also the wider enterprise to lift their digital skills and how we use technology. Technology can be really exciting and fun but we're very disciplined," she said.

"We always start with what is the opportunity and the problem we're trying to solve because you can be taken away by the technology sometimes and you forget to solve the problem. That can take time some time."

She added Woodside was motivated to change its way of thinking with IBM Garage mainly because former transformations have never stuck.

"We work in agile, we do MVP and some waterfall projects, but often the business says this is what it wants … but often what they get is not what they wanted. Taking them on the journey is very important and this is what this does. We're giving them product ownership and bringing the business into re-imagining because they're the ones who know the business processes."

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