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HR's Moving Target: Why our approach to change needs to change
Written By: Melanie Peacock, PhD, CPHR
“The critical competencies and resources that HR professionals use to facilitate change are not, and should not be, the same ones utilized by leaders, employees and other stakeholders”.
As we welcome in another year thoughts turn to new beginnings. So, what does this mean for Human Resource professionals? While the focus may be on what projects or initiatives can commence, it is also important to reflect on what has already occurred. As always, it is critical to remain aware of the key trends and issues that have impacted the most important resources within a company – the people. The past months have brought many people issues to the forefront, leading to dynamic conversations and exchanges of ideas regarding critical topics. Terminations of individuals due to improper workplace behavior and enhancing workplace inclusivity due to changing demographics are just two examples.
The importance of assessment
The ongoing discussions that HR professionals are engaging in has revealed various issues that have not been adequately addressed. Why has this happened and why are organizations often ill-equipped to proactively address employee concerns and issues? While it is common for organizations to conduct a financial audit at least once a year, do we do the same for our HR practices? We are so busy planning & doing that often checking & reacting are forgotten. Review of employee performance occurs, but is the same time and effort being given to reviewing the HR function and outcomes?
HR professionals need to take heed of the quality management process, which includes evaluating how our work is being received and implemented and then making adjustments accordingly. For example, when reviewing HR initiatives careful consideration needs to be given to the following:
- Are we truly creating safe, respectful and inclusive workplaces? Are we addressing topics such as age discrimination, LGBTQ equality, prevention of harassment (all types) and gender parity?
- Are we providing processes and consequences to ensure that policies and procedures are actually being followed to ensure that our company values are more than empty words or promises?
- Are recruitment and selection practices effective and efficient? How are these being measured and evaluated?
- Are we creating flexible work spaces that keep employees connected, engaged and motivated? What job design, learning & development and performance management processes are in place to support this?
- Are total reward practices aligned to individual employee requirements while still being fair and equitable?
- Are policies and procedures up to date and compliant with legislative changes?
A careful audit will help illuminate key areas that need adjusting or perhaps complete re-engineering. In order to capitalize on opportunities to enhance how an organization operates effective change management practices need to be utilized. It is not enough to simply identify problematic areas, but action must be taken to begin and uphold necessary improvements. HR professionals play a critical role in ensuring that this occurs.
Expect the unexpected
HR professionals can react to exposed deficiencies through a careful audit, but strategic practice also demands pro-actively preparing for, or anticipating, evolving workplace requirements. However, if the past months have taught us anything, it should be that change is ongoing and that not everything can be predicted in advance. Monitoring the environment and analysis of data are useful practices, but HR professionals need to be ever vigilant of evolving workplace issues, especially the ones that take us by surprise. The need to be responsive, flexible and adaptable within dynamic, and often unanticipated circumstances, speaks to the requirement for HR professionals to be able to facilitate meaningful and lasting change as workplaces continue to quickly and unexpectedly transform. In the midst of uncertainty and sudden demands, HR professionals must be able to guide others into a new future. And this future is often murky.
Change competencies for HR Professionals
Whether it is required changes that have been identified or unexpected amendments, HR professionals typically take on a change management role with a lot of responsibility and little authority. As such, the critical competencies and resources that HR professionals use to facilitate change are not, and should not be, the same ones utilized by leaders, employees and other stakeholders. A unique function requires a distinct skill set, including but not limited to the following: recognizing the implications of different types of change, using a formula to promote change, attending to various forms of resistance from numerous stakeholders and providing communication in a balanced and continuous manner. All of this needs to be carefully executed while ensuring understanding and engagement from others. There are tools available to provide a scientific approach to managing change, but how these resources are used requires skillful implementation. As such, for HR professionals change management is a delicate balance of applying proven methods and resources, with tact and discernment, in a manner that is customized to an organization’s culture and specific requirements. Therefore, change is not really managed, per se, but instead is to be explored, supported and carefully navigated.
The ability to help launch and sustain meaningful change requires HR professionals to be courageous and bold. While not simple, the ability to embrace future possibilities and opportunities and help others through the resulting changes, can be some of the most meaningful and rewarding work that HR professionals accomplish.
Join Melanie at CPHR Alberta's 2018 Conference: HR Undefined
The Session: The Human Resource Professional's Practical Guide to Change Management. Learn more.
During times of transition HR professionals are tasked with guiding and facilitating change, but do so from a unique perspective. Therefore, HR professionals need specific tools and resources to effectively take on a strategic role as they guide multiple stakeholders to successfully deal with amendments. Further, self- awareness regarding personal responses and reactions to change is required to properly facilitate transition.
In this workshop participants will learn:
- Why HR professionals must build competence in change management;
- The common drivers of change and how to identify these;
- Categories of organizational change;
- A formula for managing change;
- Key areas of resistance to change and how to address these;
- How to effectively commence a change initiative and maintain momentum;
- How to use strategic communication during times of change; and
- How to harness personal strengths to provide strategic value during times of change.
Melanie Peacock is an Associate Professor at the Bissett School of Business (Mount Royal University) and owner of the boutique HR consulting firm, Double M Training & Consulting. With almost 30 years of experience as an HR professional, Melanie has published several books and is a sought-after media commentator. In recognition of her significant contributions, Melanie was given CPHR Alberta’s Distinguished Career Award in 2014.