As a transformational change HR director, my role is normally to help companies take their staff with them when the business changes.
I’m no stranger to the need for change in HR itself. When I’m meeting line managers, I come across quite a negative view of what HR does. I think they tend to see us as an administrative department. I want to turn that round, and to show them that, actually, we’re professional, and that we can make a real difference to their business and make their staff feel more engaged, and better about coming to work on a daily basis. I’m trying to deal with the belief that HR creates work for line managers.
I came across somebody recently who said: “I do a lot of HR’s work for them”. When I asked what he meant, he said: “We’ve done all the appraisals for our staff”. So I try to talk to the HR teams I work with as an interim in terms of giving good customer service, understanding the business’s issues and giving good professional advice. I’m trying to ensure that HR initiatives are properly presented to line managers, that they get the context of why we’re making changes. HR procedures are necessary, but they exist to help managers.
Above all, I try to listen to line managers, to use their expertise to help us to devise solutions. If I’ve got ideas, I try them out on line managers at an early stage, and get their feedback before I put anything down on paper. I also try to be with them as much as possible, going to their departmental events, trying to find out what is keeping them awake at night.
It’s all about communicating to people on their terms, rather than on HR’s. We are after all solution providers, not creators of administrative work. In short, making sure that HR serves the business, not the other way around.
It’s not just laying off staff and changing people’s roles – it’s about working with staff to make sure they understand the reasons, and to change their approach. It’s ‘hearts and minds’ stuff.