“Any change is always deeply embedded in a wider ecosystem. In fact, change is the only constant within any playing field. In other words, transition is less about handling individual changes and more about fostering a mindset that allows the company to move forward as a whole.”
For us, it was an honor to have Janet Dekker as our guest speaker at our CHRO Dialogues in Amsterdam, where we could hear her reflections on her development as CHRO, her perceptions on the role of the CHRO and her thoughts on her first 18 months at Air France-KLM, in the midst of the most complex times that Air France-KLM has been confronted with.
To Janet, the key responsibility for the CHRO is to take a holistic view on transitions and recognizing that on an organizational level. This is especially true of a company like Air France-KLM, as Janet explained. It is large, mind-blowingly complex and intimately tied to national interests, sensibilities and sentiments. Not in one, but in two countries! KLM and Air France are both national icons—as airline brands, as large employers, as symbols of national heritage. Every Dutchman and Frenchman will feel a keen sense of commitment and ownership towards one of these partner companies, which means that the joint organization’s every move will be scrutinized by all.
But even a business like Air France-KLM, with its dual company structure and its wide and varied scope of operations, is ultimately about people. The transitions that fuel its evolution are the product of an ongoing human need for change, but also of the embedded way of working that needs to accommodate that change. And such ways of working exist for a reason: at some point, in some way, situations were beneficial to the company.
That’s why it is important, Janet says, to look into the wider context that organizations and teams are a part of. This involves mapping the different mindsets that play a part; assessing and respecting the sentiments that influence the process both inside and outside of the organization; and weighing the many considerations (rational, emotional and political) that come into play.
As CHRO, you need to learn to listen to your company’s inner workings. Where are the sources of energy that drive change and innovation? How deep inside a nested Russian doll do certain processes take place? How strong is the sense of trust that holds the operations together? In the end, in any company, people will come and people will go. But first and foremost, a CHRO serves the people who stay, as they are the crew that will carry the organization forward.
Finally, Janet Dekker said, she has learned to trust her inner voice. She recognizes her own sensitivities and biases and understands that her “script” can only truly take flight if it harmonizes well with the roles that others within the company need to play. After all, as a CHRO manages the diverse pool of talent at a company—even one as challenging and rewarding as Air France-KLM—she also needs to manage herself.
We look back on a very inspiring and insightful dialogue and would like to take this opportunity to once again thank Janet for sharing her vision and her transformation with us.
Our next Transformation Dialogues session is scheduled for 24th of November 2020. The Transformation Dialogues usually start at 08:00 am and lasts until 10:00 am. Bercan Günel will then interview Feike Sijbesma.