Andy Campbell: HRreview meets Oracle’s HR evangelist

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Andy Campbell is the HCM director at Oracle, an all encompassing role that takes on many different aspects. While responsible for thought leadership within the company, Campbell also works closely with executive teams within Oracle’s strategic customer accounts. Describing his role as something akin to evangelical in style, Campbell is responsible for spreading the message that better analytics and cloud technology can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on HR practice. 

Can you tell me a little bit about your work with Oracle?

I’m not a technologist at heart, even though I work for a technology company. Prior to working with Oracle I used to assist with management development at WHSmiths, so my background is in HR, not technology. I’ve been with Oracle for some time, I’ve managed teams and projects, I’ve implemented large transformation programmes for companies such as Lloyds Bank. I have more of an outreach role at Oracle today. We obviously have a sales team, but my role is to support business development by getting involved in thought leadership activity, writing while papers and speaking at events. So I spend half my time reaching out and the rest of the time working with our customers, which gives me exposure to lots of interesting people doing lots of interesting things, which then cross fertilises into some of the business development work that I do. So it’s an evangelical style role really, because cloud technology enables us to do things in an entirely different way and people have varying degrees of knowledge about what it does.

You mentioned the word evangelical and I think that is a very interesting term, because you are trying to preach a message. What in a nutshell is the message that you are trying to preach?

I preach about the cloud. The cloud enables a passive organisation to become a much more proactive organisation in the way that it manages its staff. HR has always, traditionally, been a poor relation to the rest of a business. You have people working in sales and marketing and operations and they have been the really important people on the board, and rightly so, leaving HR as a poor relation. Because of this we have become reactive as a function. HR has not had a seat at the boardroom table, we’ve been asked to do things and we’ve done them, rather than setting the agenda.

A number of things have come together to start to change this. Primarily the talent agenda, which is huge and businesses are realising that they have to take this seriously, that the power and capability of people can bring a real competitive advantage. The expectations and abilities of technology has also changed, we are now able, thanks to technology, to do things in an entirely different way. So you sit home and you use your iPad to do whatever you want to do and then you come into work and you are given a system that’s rubbish and because of this you are not given the opportunity to share and collaborate and the result of this is that you receive and reciprocate poor quality information. So a perfect storm is changing the role of HR, a combination of the demand for talent and the capability of technology to change the agenda completely.

You mentioned before that up until recently HR has not had a seat at the boardroom table. Why do you think that this was the case for so long?

It’s funny when the CIPD was first set up it was for the wellness and protection of workers and the personnel function and the payroll function have always been stuck in the back office and that’s were the profession has historically been. We’ve been looking to move that forward, to move from the transactional HR to the strategic HR and we’ve been having this debate for twenty odd years now. But I feel  that the time is right for change because the search for talent has become so important and technology enables us to do things differently.

What are the principle ways that technology can improve the search for talent?

Well, to give one example, if you look at the information available about you on Linkedin, on Facebook even, the quality of that information is probably better than it is on any HR system within an organisation. Why? Because you maintain it yourself, it is relevant to you, it says not only who you are and what your job is and how much you get paid, it also says what interests you, here’s what I can do, here’s what other people think about me. So this ability to share and collaborate and give information is very important. So people are using Linkedin and using Glassdoor as way to get information about people and about organisations. It’s a much more transparent world. We can use technology in interesting ways to find good people and good people don’t leave. Good people are exactly the kind of people we want to get hold of. So, how do I find people that are happy in their current roles? Through reputation management? Through recommendations from other people? Soft nurturing of potential prospects? Laying out your stall as an employee of choice? Having a brand that other people resonate with? Strong communications about available roles? Nobody even thought of those things up until a few years ago. But now you can use recommendations, references, transparency of information, much more that we ever could before.

Can you tell me a little bit about your work on employee engagement?

Everyone is talking about employee engagement. It’s a very hot issue and rightly so. The issue that I have with it is that everyone talks about it, but if you just have engagement in its own right then what is the point? It needs to translate into performance and productivity in some way and there has been a bit of a disconnect between a lot of the activities that people are doing to try and enthuse employees in an organisation and actually realising any improvement in performance.

Again, technology can support this agenda. If you think about young people coming into the workforce and what their expectations of work are, the fact that they are much less loyal, much less deferential, much more interested in peer connectivity, really interested in organisations that have strong values rather than necessary those that pay them more. That’s what the expectations of people are and if as an employer you don’t deliver on promises made to potential employees, the your talent is going to depart. So we have to make sure, in order to attract and retain people, that they are enthused, motivated, driven and engaged, given opportunity and good feedback. If we provide that then people will work better, contributing to UK PLC’s bottomline in the process. So there is a vested interest in it for organisations.

For the full interview look out for our Employee Engagement Special Edition, which will be released on the 29th of February 2016.

About Robert Leeming

Robert joined the HRreview editorial team in October 2015. After graduating from the University of Salford in 2009 with a BA in Politics, Robert has spent several years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past he has been part of editorial teams at Flux Magazine, Mondo*Arc Magazine and The Marine Professional.

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