DHR International Forms Partnership to Ease Clients’ Digital Struggles

May 22, 2017 | Hunt Scanlon Media

As more companies focus on digital disruption and its long-term effects, three professional services teams have joined forces to address recruitment, branding, and information technology concerns. Let's take a closer look.

DHR International, Ogilvy & Mather and International Data Corporation (IDC) have launched a partnership to help their customers in the Asia-Pacific market overcome the challenges of digital disruption.

Typically, businesses view digital transformation as an IT issue. But for a company to successfully make the change, multiple functions within the organization must be brought into the fold. That’s where the partnership, known as S_HIFT, is hoping to make a difference. Bringing together their respective expertise in recruitment, branding and IT advisory services, the firms seek to cut through the complexities of digital transformation that clients are facing.

“Technology should enable marketing, sales, customer service, research and development, and supply chain management, as they all stand to benefit from it,” said Jason Gorud, IDC’s group vice president for Asia Pacific. “But technology itself isn’t just the answer; it’s just one part of the bigger questions we’re hoping to help answer in this partnership. At the end of the day, any transformation must deliver business results for strategic growth.”

Jerry Smith, chief operating officer of Ogilvy & Mather, said most companies see themselves as “somewhere on the journey” of digitally transforming their businesses. One of the biggest challenges they face, however, is ownership of the agenda in the boardroom. “It was clear that transformation of this magnitude for any organization transcends functions and departments,” said Mr. Smith. “Collaboration holds the key, and in discussions with our partners at IDC and DHR, it seemed logical that we ourselves collaborate for the mutual benefit of our clients.”

The Partners

DHR’s part of the equation is to help companies identify, recruit and develop the talent to carry out digital transformation. “S_HIFT brings the leadership factor into play,” said Steve Stine, DHR’s managing partner for Asia Pacific. “Never before have organizations been so hard pressed to deliver change to both meet demands of today’s consumers and to stave off the onslaught of a new wave of disrupters. Deploying leadership capable of making the leap has never been so important.”

S_HIFT has its roots in an exhaustive effort DHR underwent in 2015 and 2016 to get a better handle on the challenges that clients were facing across the Asia market. “As the new regional managing partner for DHR Asia, I was trying to understand where we might be of greatest value to clients and where we might have the greatest success in differentiating ourselves from the competition,” said Mr. Stine. “I didn’t think that telling clients that being ‘the sixth largest retained search firm in the world,’ was going to cut it. We had to stand for something more and be prepared to back it up.”

Time and again, both existing and prospective clients spoke of the stress and uncertainty of digitally transforming their businesses. “For some, they had thrown the ball to the IT team and that had only generated additional costs,” said Mr. Stine. “For others, they vested hope in marketing. More often than not, digital projects came up short or underperformed expectations. There was a growing sense of desperation in the market among leadership teams that were being told to ‘do something about it’ but then left to their own devices to figure it out.”

Most obvious was that the client companies’ CEOs, CMOs and CTOs were rarely aligned in what to do. That’s what ultimately led Mr. Stine to enlist Ogilvy & Mather and IDC, both of which reported similar issues with their clients.

Combining Strengths

So it was that the partnership came together. Each of the firms brought its own strengths to the equation of digital transformation planning and execution: Ogilvy would address customer engagement; IDC, technology enablement; and DHR, leadership recruitment and development. “We soon discovered,” said Mr. Stine, “that our triumvirate had a better story to tell shoulder-to-shoulder than trying to address the digital transformation problems in silos.”

Mr. Stine’s goal is for DHR to be associated with digital transformation and all the varieties of people and talent issues it involves. Being relevant to clients is the first big step to building relationships and winning search assignments, he explained. “If they know we are looking out for their business and bringing them digital insights to help them navigate some very precarious issues, then they will trust us and wish to partner with us. This approach is already yielding results, and by association with Ogilvy and IDC brands, we are moving into whole new client realms that we were previously blind to or blocked from.”

In a process that has already begun, the partners plan over the course of this year to release four reports and hold 12 events across Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai to help C-suite executives better understand the issues surrounding digital disruption.

The S_HIFT partnership has also established a two-tiered consulting service. The first level is a half-day workshop with a client’s top team, primarily the CEO, CMO and CTO, to determine the company’s level of digital maturity and digital readiness. “As a partnership, we help assess the most practical and meaningful areas to begin the digital journey then blueprint the plan so that CEO, CTO and CMO are aligned and project ready,” said Mr. Stine.

The second tier, which is more involved, spans two to three weeks depending on the coverage and complexity of the proposed digital agenda. “In this process, each group brings its respective assessment tools to the table to flesh out the details and lock in the specific steps for digital change,” said Mr. Stine.

Asia is proving to be more than ready for such a service. Digital disruption is a global phenomenon, said Mr. Stine, but Asia has some advantages in that organizations, processes and people there are less entrenched. There’s also an entrepreneurial appetite to move quickly into the digital world.

“China is proving itself the most digitally sophisticated market in the world with more than 50 percent of retail sales now occurring online and mobile payment applications via WeChat and other platforms that put U.S. or European alternatives to shame,” he said. “Multinational corporations in Asia see this and they know they can’t afford to wait and do nothing. Our timing appears to be perfect and if the take up on our invitations to download reports and join our roundtables is any indication, there’s a hunger to learn more and make the necessary changes.”