Organisational development will help firms manage change, CIPD says

HR professionals are too process-driven to reap the benefits of using organisational development (OD) when managing change, delegates at a CIPD conference have warned.

Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development HRD conference in London this morning, OD and engagement adviser Angela Baron said OD was a relatively new concept in the UK, which encouraged organisations to collect and use data about their people – from staff engagement, skills gaps and recruitment needs – to adapt to shifting customer demands.

Baron told Personnel Today: “OD is much more about people rather than the process of ‘ironing out efficiencies’ – encouraging innovation, knowledge sharing and empowering customers.”

But delegates at the event warned HR was too process-driven to involve people more during change.

Paul Rouhan, learning and development manager at Tower Hamlets Homes, a not-for-profit housing association, said: “HR can be seen as too process-led. When you involve HR, organisational development can turn from something that is great and innovative to something that is a box-ticking exercise.”

Claire Marsh, a learning consultant employed by RBS bank, agreed HR could be too process-driven. “HR feels on a day-to-day basis like payroll, processing, advice – it’s not necessarily a driver for change. It’s not about the coalface of the business.”

She added that as learning consultants, “we are HR’s ugly sister”, working with HR business partners to deliver new ways of working, but rarely with the core HR function.

However, Baron insisted HR and OD could work well together, citing retailer Marks & Spencer which used both teams to help the business improve performance.

She admitted HR professionals new to the concept of OD may need to refresh their skillset to better understand how to get the best out of people during change.

But OD had become more popular among UK businesses during the recession, she claimed.

“In the good times, organisations hadn’t thought so much about how to spend their money. Once they have been through a recession, organisations look more at what the value of a role is and how to bring money to the business – there’s been a lot more refocusing. OD is very well placed to help manage that process.”

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