Change management is human resources’ biggest challenge

Two-thirds of firms believe that managing change is their biggest challenge, according to the latest survey, Management Agenda 2008, from research institute Roffey Park.

The study of 479 managers also found that employers see retention, recruitment and skills shortages as massive challenges for the future.

Perhaps surprisingly, less than one-third believed that increased regulation and legislation was their biggest challenge (see chart).

Responding to the challenge

More than 80% of organisations reported some form of change over the past two years. In response to this challenge, managers viewed leadership development as the most useful tool.

Some 65% of respondents cited the ability to develop senior leaders as crucial, while more than 30% said talent management and knowledge management would be key. And 68% of managers felt business changes had resulted in high or improved performance compared with 73% in 2007, and just 20% felt they had been personally negatively affected.

However, common pitfalls of managing change included a failure to maintain momentum (58%) not consolidating benefits (64%) failing to manage employee motivation (65%) and not learning from any changes (71%). In addition, 37% of employers rated their organisation’s leadership negatively – despite admitting that leadership development was the most useful tool. A further 55% of employers reported a failure to actively develop leadership at all levels.


Change management was linked to the respondents’ stress levels and trust, and whether they saw a future with the company.

Two-thirds of the managers experienced stress as a result of work, with the biggest causes being organisational politics and increased workload, which had the effect of making managers tired and irritable. As a result, managers admitted reduced performance, low morale, increased sickness absence and a breakdown in working relationships – a significant hindrance to encouraging the development of leaders.

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