HR specialisms: organisational development director

Last month a survey by the Roffey Park Institute found that line managers
believe HR professionals lack foresight, credibility and influence. One of the
few positives within this damning verdict on the profession is that line
managers see HR as making a positive contribution when it tackles issues such
as supporting cultural change, organisational cohesion, training and
development, performance management, benchmarking and change management.

Intriguingly, it is just these types of activities that are key to the
position of organisational development director (ODD), giving the role an
increasing prominence within HR, and within the rapidly changing business
community asa whole.

According to Professor Amin Rajan, chief executive of research consultancy
Create, the role of the ODD is rapidly converging with that of HR director.
"HR is increasingly acquiring functions that go outside the traditional
field of HR," he says.

And, when you look at some of the central responsibilities of an ODD, it
quickly becomes apparent that there is a substantial overlap between it and
where the proactive, strategic-thinking HR director should be coming from. The
ODD role encompasses changing the culture of an organisation, changing its
operating models, changing its performance and management structures and its
systems, says Rajan.

"If you look at the ODD role in isolation it is about building up the
resilience and inner strength of an organisation. It is about refashioning
corporate culture," he adds. Within a large, slow-moving organisation such
as, say, a bank or oil conglomerate, this might mean reshaping cultures from a
paternalistic to a performance-driven approach, changing mindsets, reward
systems and the recruitment culture.

A long-term strategic view of where the organisation should be going over
the next three to five years will inevitably be critical to managing such
changes, argues Linda Holbeche, director of research at Roffey Park.

How do the managers manage? What kind of skills does the organisation need?
What sort of development programmes are there and, vitally, what sort of
leadership is there in place? These are all the sorts of questions a good ODD
will be addressing, says Holbeche.

"It will always be helpful for an ODD to really understand business in
general and their business in particular. They will normally have practical
experience and will have been involved in different change efforts, either on
the receiving end or leading it," she says.

Most ODDs will come into organisations from a consultancy role. Most will
have had significant line management experience or they will, increasingly,
come from the HR career ladder, suggests Rajan.

No specific qualifications are required to make a successful ODD, but
personal attributes such as an unusual degree of tact and persuasion are a
necessity. It is also vital to be able to demonstrate credibility and a wealth
of experience. Culture change can work in both directions, and influencing
upwards may be a key part of the job.

Successful culture change needs tact and sympathy and an awareness that
mistakes, as long as they are learnt from, are normally a good thing, rather
than something to be punished, says Holbeche.

"It is about working with line managers to create a coaching and
development culture. It is about helping individuals to become more
self-reliant," she explains.

Organisational development might mean leading a one-off big change project
or it might be more organic, moving individual units on to a more innovative
footing or working to spread change through an organisation, Holbeche argues.

An ODD will not normally be a board-level appointment, because the function
is still largely seen as a specialist rather than a generalist one, but it can
act as a useful springboard to that sort of role. While pay rates will
inevitably differ depending on the size and complexity of the organisation,
anything that is seen to add value to a company will be rewarded generously.

For a FTSE-100 company, a good ODD might expect a package of around £150,000
plus benefits, estimates Rajan. However, Holbeche calculates a package
somewhere between £50,000 and £70,000.

One of the pitfalls of being a specialist, however, is the danger of being
pigeonholed – being seen as someone who is good at only managing endless
restructuring rather than driving the business forward in other ways, she adds.

"The link to failure is more evident in the ODD role than it is in a
generalist HR role. It is difficult to prove success," she says. "You
have got to have enough of a reputation to give you the time to make the new
structures work."

ODDs should want to make a difference to their organisation and not want to
be stuck in a purely transactional function. They should be able to look beyond
the operational, suggests Holbeche. "It is the ultimate strategic role. It
is about creating little bonfires all over the place that will all burn in the
same direction."

Adds Rajan: "It is fundamentally about making things work. It is about
the art of the possible."

Case study Barry Dyer, director of organisational development, Bupa

Evolution rather than revolution is the watchword for Barry
Dyer, director of organisational development at private health insurer Bupa.
Since joining the firm 18 months ago, Dyer has been playing a central role in
developing and linking the objectives and functions of all the various business
units as well as promoting executive, management and staff development.

Dyer joined Bupa from insurer CGNU, where he was director of
organisational learning and part of the HR team overseeing the merger of the
then Commercial Union with Norwich Union. An ability to engage with people
across the business is a key attribute to bringing about change, he says.

"You have to develop a relationship based on trust, so
people will confide in you about issues of concern. Without that, you cannot
begin to tackle those issues," he says. It is also a good idea to present
yourself as a role model, showing how adaptive you can be to change, he

"We are not trying to churn everything up. It is about
change as an evolutionary relationship, continually building a culture from the
same reference points. There is a danger that change is something people see as
starting from scratch."

The insurer ensures the various projects and initiatives it
runs have the same branding to give staff a sense of identity. Dyer is also
proud of the work he has done in building the staff ‘climate survey’. Though in
place for some years, this is a survey through the various HR teams that has
provided invaluable feedback on performance.

"What I enjoy is the fact that you are working across the
whole organisation. You have insights into every aspect of the business and an
opportunity to get involved in a diverse range of issues. What I dislike is the
flip side of that. When you are looking at something in the broadest sense, the
movement you achieve can seem so small as to be disheartening."

He adds, "The key is to always be looking at things from a
strategic perspective. It is not just looking at the what and how you are
doing, but the why, the ripple effect."

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