Strategy Masterclass 3: Equipped for change?

In
the third series of three articles examining the strategic challenges facing HR
in the future, Professor Amin Rajan and Gary Storer look at the obstacles that
must be faced in successfully implementing change in an organisation

As
one business leader in our interviews observed, "Only a baby with a wet
nappy likes change, nobody else does".

The
kind of volatility arising from global competition is something few people are
brought up to cope with. At organisational level, it creates distrust and risk
aversion. At individual level, it engenders defensive behaviours such as
self-protection, self-interest and undue individualism.

Indeed,
one of the main paradoxes of globalisation is that its "dog eat dog"
competition requires far more teamwork, interdependency and reciprocity at the
workplace than before. Yet, it is invoking emotions. There are three reasons.

To
start with, the change programmes of the past five years or so have required a
very different skills mix for HR and line managers.

Specifically,
the new business model requires significant mental agility and emotional
resilience from those who manage people at the workplace. Yet only a minority
of organisations have been able to develop them. The rhetoric of the skills
revolution has raced well ahead of reality.

Furthermore,
HR professionals and line managers may have similar goals but use different
languages (see figure 1). Mutual misunderstanding has therefore been
inevitable.

Finally,
equipping HR and line managers with the necessary skills is not enough. An
educated workforce takes far more to motivate – understanding its deeper
emotions and responding to them is an essential prerequisite.

Emerging
Skill Gaps

Our
research has identified seven skills sets that HR professionals and line
managers need to have. Their precise combination and level of proficiency are, of
course, influenced by their respective roles and seniority.

But
in all cases it amounts to creating a business hybrid that combines breadth of
experience with depth of know how. On this front, progress has been painfully
slow: skills gaps are rife

The
picture that emerges is distinctly uncomfortable – all the more so since HR
professionals and line managers participating in our research presented a
similar assessment.

The
emerging business model, described in our first article, envisages a
significant role for employees in delivering the value proposition to customers
and shareholders alike.

Yet
people who manage them – HR professionals and line managers – appear not to
have the necessary tools. Very few of them have worked, or indeed studied,
outside their natural silos.

Very
few organisations – 20 per cent, at best – have any systematic developmental
programmes for HR professionals or line managers.

But
the emerging skills gaps are forcing others to introduce planned career
development involving stretch assignments, coaching and mentoring.

In
turn, they are being backed, albeit gradually, by:


Special study programmes delivered by business schools and reputable
consultants


Lateral moves inside the organisations in different departments in order to
acquire the breadth of experience; notably only a few organisations in our
study have been able to entice line managers into formal HR roles


External recruitment, especially from private-sector organisations who have
undergone significant transformation in the past decade.

One
thing is certain, though.  Even if HR
professionals and line managers can acquire the necessary skills, that will not
be enough to generate the self-employment mindset of a committed worker, as
described in our first article. Something else will have to happen.

Engaging
the individual

Motivating
staff to align personal goals with business goals is about establishing a
mutuality of interest in a culture of leadership. That means answering
convincingly the four most frequently asked questions at today’s workplace:

Where
is this business going?
This is about spelling broader goals which people
can buy into

Will
we succeed in achieving these goals?
This is about having leaders and
values that give credibility

How
will our strategy affect the place where I and my immediate colleagues work?

This is about understanding the impact of strategy in a local context. 

What’s
in it for me?
This is about creating perceptions of fairness by ensuring
commitment is duly rewarded.

These
are simple but big issues. They need to be addressed not only by HR
professionals and line managers but also their chief executives. It is idle to
pretend that by creating a new HR organisation and equipping its staff with the
right skills one would end up with a motivated workforce.

We
came across two notable examples where the structural model of the HR
organisation was implemented as far back as 1996 but it failed to excite
employees.

In
both cases, the top executive teams were perceived as a cynical, egotistical
bunch interested only in their power base and status. They showed little
understanding of the world view of the individual.

In
this climate, creating a new HR organisation is little more than respraying an
old car.

We
also came across examples where there is a clear culture of leadership but they
are a minority.

This
article is based on Tomorrow’s Organisation: New Mindsets, New Skills is
available from Create (£49.50 inc P&P). Tel 01892 526757)

Amin
Rajan is chief executive of Create create_uk@compuserve.com)

Gary
Storer is managing consultant at K-Learning, KPMG’s Financial Sector Learning
Practice gary.storer@kpmg.co.uk)

The
study is the subject of a conference in the City on 12 June with business
leaders as keynote speakers. Details available from Create.

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