HR Personnel as Change Agents

BY ICFAI - 2016-12-23

HR Personnel as change agents

HR departments in organizations are meant to continuel improve performance levels by minimizing costs, to develop leadership in the organization, and to bring in the necessary change in the culture, structure, systems and processes at the workplace.

Traditional Role in New Circumstances

Detailed planning and quick execution are extremely important for managing change. Some critical issues that may surface during change management are:

  1. Creating new job descriptions(changes in roles and responsibilities of employees, redefining the role of managers)
  2. Compensation and other reward systems.
  3. Methods of transferring knowledge and education
  4. Maintaining high performance levels
  5. Maintaining appropriate relations with the employees and among them

HR personnel have an important role to play during both the planning of change and its execution. During the merger between HP and Compaq, their HR departments acted swiftly and decisively. They designed the entire organizational structure top down immediately after the merger was announced. Teams were set up in each business area to look after the regular business activities. Country general managers, sub-region managers, function and customer business managers were in place by the time the merger was announced. This clarity in planning reduced the confusion that usually accompanies any merger.

HR departments worked with business managers in ensuring the proper representation of employees of both the companies on all the important teams. This made the integration process easier. One critical issue the departments faced was to ensure the compatibility of the new HR strategy with the business strategy of the merged entity. As a part of the reorganization of the company, the departments instituted a new employee selection process. This process was arrived at after looking into the scope and structure of the new business entity and staff requirements to perform the company’s activities. The HR personnel also had to ensure a proper alignment of the new organizational structure with the overall business strategy.

HR departments had to face challenges such as the diverse employee laws and consultation agreements in 39 countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa. They had to address these new challenges while ensuring business continuity in a competitive environment. If employees lack to adequate knowledge of developments during a merger, they tend to misconceive the merger process and become victims of insecurity and poor morale. In order to address this problem, the HR departments of HP introduced a change management tool called “Fast Start”- a program of “new team” discussion meetings for every employee. These meetings were intended to promote meetings, the managers helped their employees get better understanding of the new HP “big picture”. The discussions usually ranged from the market strategy of the company, it’s approach to customers, and its culture, to the specific strategy for the business unit to which they belonged, and business unit goals, down to individual roles within a team.

One of the most important contributions made by the HR people was in the reorganization of job titles and base pay. They reorganized the global job structure and designed a common system of job codes, titles and functions. The global grade structure and common pay ranges were implemented across units in different countries. Thus the active role played by the HR personnel as change agents resulted in a smooth integration process. 

New Role Amid New Circumstances.

In some organizations such as Sero, HR is no longer seen simply as a personnel and administration function but also as a strategic component of the business itself. The senior HR people at serco are referred to as “Change directors.”

The new role of HR department at Serco is.

  1. To define company’s vision in people terms
  2. To act as the guardian of company’s culture
  3. To play a key role in the development of business strategy
  4. To define Serco’s “Route Map for Change” – an organizational process for bringing and managing internal changer
  5. To train, educate, and develop Serco managers by providing the tools and techniques necessary for ushering in the desired change

When bringing in change, HR departments face many challenges. Though traditional skills are important there is a need for broader business and commercial skills to manage change. Serco also faced this problem. To overcome this problem, the HR department at serco identified the broad spectrum of skills that are necessary to facilitate change and began recruiting people who possessed these skills. Today, the top HR personnel at this company act as strategic advisors to the board.

In case you missed it, my last post was Quality: More than just a result

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Acknowledgement: Leadership & Change Management book by ICFAI

Gemba Kaizen