HR career issues: change management

Q I’m an old-school HR director, but have just been made responsible for change management. Where should I start?

The HR expert’s view

Make sure you involve people and do not impose changes on them. You will need to ensure that you manage the change in a way they can cope with, consider how they may react differently.

It will be your responsibility to facilitate and enable change, understand the situation from an objective standpoint (to ‘step back’ and be non-judgmental), and then help people understand the reasons and aims. Change management requires thoughtful planning and sensitive implementation, and above all, consultation with, and involvement of, the people affected by the changes.

Make sure you don’t do any ‘hard selling’ of the change – this will come across as though you are forcing the change on people. They will resist the changes, and problems may arise in the future.

As the person responsible for change management, you will need to fully understand the business rationale and need for change, what and who will be affected. You will also need to know what can be achieved internally or whether you require additional help and support. There are lots of useful change models and theories available out there that may help you, and I suggest you may wish to read up on a few before you start any change plans.

Esther O’Halloran, HR director, Paul UK

The recruitment expert’s view

It really depends on whether your definition of ‘old school’ simply means you’re not experienced in change management, or if you’re really not interested. If it’s the latter, you probably need to be having a career rethink – a key skill for today’s HR professional is the successful management of change. But it’s simply a matter of not having had much exposure to the subject, we’d suggest that you find out, or find someone who does, fast.

No matter the industry sector, the commercial realities and the fast pace involved in any successful business organisation today means that change – and fast, profitable change – is a fact of life. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the engagement and successful implementation of human capital.

HR practitioners can, and should, add significant value in change situations by guiding the organisation and ensuring attention is paid to all of the important ‘people’ aspects. There are numerous consultancies and individuals steeped in the subject, so finding support – whether you employ someone internally or retain the services of a specialist consultancy – is not difficult. Give them the brief to answer, apply yourself and learn quickly from them as the project develops.

John Maxted, chief executive, Digby Morgan

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