“Ultimately, HR is HR, no matter where you are”

HR Transition’s Co-Founder & Transition Director, Lydia de Klerk, on the JV project for OCI and international HR

Key theme: HR Transition’s Co-Founder & Transition Director, Lydia de Klerk, on the JV project for OCI and international HR
Date: July 2020
Interviewer: Noortje Poot, Pootentieel Recruitment Marketing (Branding Specialist)
Interviewee: Lydia de Klerk, Founder & Director HR Transition

Before we talk business on your latest endeavours, can you tell us what HR Transition is about? 

HR Transition specializes in HR transitions such as restructuring, HR transformations, Joint Ventures and M&A processes. Together with the client we try to get to the core of the problem and provide what is needed. This can range from program management, strategic/ tactical advice but also driving the operational execution. Using our network of professionals we ensure to swiftly and effectively get the required capacity and expertise on board. Ultimately, the ownership and learnings from our project will be transferred to the client where they belong. Our assignments have often been in international environments, and in fact we recognise HR professionals with deep international experience are scarce. 

You have started HR Transition some years ago with Haakon Scheepens, what made you decide to join forces?

Working together as interim HR specialists on several projects, we discovered a ‘gap’ in what our clients need during the process of undergoing change. Sizeable organization changes don’t occur every year which means not all organization and HR departments have the capacity or the expertise to guide these changes. Change requires dedication, expertise and considerable capacity to succeed which can be difficult to manage on top of the already full workload of HR departments. 

As an external transition party, we distinguish ourselves from the freelancers and the bigger firms in the combination of program management, expert knowledge, a broad network of partners and professionals and our ‘feet in the mud’ approach. 

We work with the available internal resources during the transition and tailor the interim resources to the specific needs of the client; these are professionals or partners from our network we know and have worked with in the past. Depending on the required expertise during the project, we can attract expertise for e.g.  employment law, recruitment expertise, branding, communication, remuneration or benchmarking, payroll, expat services, tax support, etc. Haakon and/ or myself are always involved in the project ourselves. This ensures we ‘hit the ground running’. We enjoy working in new environments each time with both familiar and new faces, it’s great fun. 

Can you share a few examples of the type of assignments you do?

We have been very fortunate, our assignments have been so diverse, it has been the most exciting journey to work in a different environment, (company) culture, field of expertise and with a new group of people each time! Not only have we been able to have been a part of impactful business transformation but we also learn a lot ourselves each time.  

Our clients range from smaller business with a complex company structure up to business with 10.000 employees worldwide. In some cases, we support clients in setting out the strategic goals leading up to a substantial change process or a request from an HR department that plans to make a change from e.g. an operational HR function towards the strategic business partner function with a business – and data driven approach. In most cases, we take part in larger transition programs and ensure we drive it from the HR&O perspective alongside the leadership and HR department. Examples of these projects are restructuring, Joint Ventures, M&A processes, HR transformations, change management projects, Business Process redesign, etc. 

Can you tell us more about the Joint Venture in the Middle East for OCI?

The OCI NV assignment was really a one of a kind project; combining the exciting ‘rush’ of an M&A process between two large players in the market joining forces, with the complex international arena of HR focused centered around Abu Dhabi in the UAE. 

What was the project about?
OCI NV set up a Joint Venture with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), merging OCI’s Fertilizer businesses in the MENA Region with ADNOC FERTIL plants. Our role has been to initiate and manage the transition from an HR&O perspective, build the HR Function of the newly formed company called ‘Fertiglobe’ and at times to play a role in Integration Management across the workstreams.

What was HR Transition responsible for?
In our program management role, we facilitated the business in the Integration of the MENA plants and the Organization Design of new head office in Abu Dhabi, gaining insight in the SG&A HR, setting up global mobility & recruitment, integration of the two companies from an HR perspective, communication and different temporary service agreements between the parties. Additionally, we designed and set-up the basis of the HR department (strategy, processes, structure, rewards, people & governance).

We have been involved from the early stages, when both parties were still in the phase of due diligence and valuation giving us the opportunity to line up with the client from the start. When two companies decide to form a new company of parts of their business, it means that a lot of disentanglement needs to be done. This meant on the integration side matters such as agreeing on a set of employee benefits for the group of former employees of two different companies as well as newly hired employees, building a new organisation structure for the corporate and sales functions with combined resources and new resources and ensuring coverage of all corporate functions during the integration process resulting in service agreements between parties.

It also involved a lot of work similar to a startup company in a new region for both us and the client; ensuring the new company entities were legally equipped to employ and payroll about 50 people within the required timeframe, ensuring to gain knowledge and expertise about local labor law, expat rules & regulations, collecting the right external partners, transferring OCI employees and their families from all over the world to Abu Dhabi and overseeing the legal immigration processes took place as required, creating expat packages supported with proper benchmarking and setting up expat services to support e.g. schooling and housing was all part of this. We have also started the foundation to build up the HR function from for the local team to continue with once in was in place. We are happy and proud to see Fertiglobe doing well and the local HR professionals of Fertiglobe further building on what we started. 

What stuck with you the most, looking back on this assignment?
It was quite remarkable project, interesting and complex on the content side as well as culturally. One day we were working on the project from Amsterdam with the international corporate team of OCI located in London, US, Egypt, Algeria, Dubai and France. The next day we were traveling business class (tick on my bucket list!) to Abu Dhabi to work with the local HR team on integration matters for the JV.  

Although Abu Dhabi feels like entering a different world; when talking about performance management or employee policies with the local HR professionals of the partner company, it is so clear that ultimately, HR is HR no matter where you are. It has been exciting to be far away from home, working with local professionals on these kind of topics. 

When the plane landed back in Amsterdam, reality kicked in straight away as my travels back home meant standing  in the busy Dutch trains with my suitcase. Happily I could safely say I had another memorable project experience in my back pocket!

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