Road to success

1 Back up HR actions with good theory

To be an effective doer, to make interventions that work and be pragmatic, you need to know why things work better if they are done in a certain way. Good theory is the product of observable and generalised patterns, shared knowledge and shared experience. Without theory, HR practices are little more than isolated acts. HR professionals can draw from a strong theoretical background: psychology, sociology, economics, business management, political science, law and so on. This allows you to make a powerful contribution to complex business issues.

2 Establish a ‘systems’ mindset

Recognise and understand that all organisations are ‘open systems’. They are systems in that they maintain their existence, and function as a whole, through the interaction of different parts. Organisations are open systems in that they can influence and be influenced by the external environment.

3 Establish a ‘process consulting’ mindset

Appreciate that, as HR professionals, it is our role to help our internal clients deal with reality and find solutions that will work for them. This does not mean abandoning our expertise, but that we need to deploy our expertise in a way that leaves ownership of the problem and solution with our internal clients and customers.

4 Establish a ‘project’ mindset

Adopt the principles and approaches of project management to organise and shape work more effectively, so that activity and effort focus on the work that will add the most value.

5 Develop a clear case for change

Your case will recognise that there is dissatisfaction with the way things are – or that a change is imperative. It needs to embrace a shared sense of how things will be in the future and get agreement and clarity around the appropriate steps to get to where you want to be. Look at the level of will or propensity among key stakeholders to make the change happen.

6 Pay equal attention to ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ benefits

Hard benefits are generally those that can be measured and assigned a cost benefit, such as reducing the HR budget by 30%. Soft benefits are concerned with things such as improved satisfaction among line managers and employees following the change process. Recognise that plans or benefit targets in themselves do not capture value; value is realised only through the sustained, collective actions of those affected by the changes. This requires an intimate understanding of the human side of change management and reinforces the need to maintain focus on the softer issues as the change process unfolds.

7 Project governance

To achieve successful project outcomes, particularly in respect of highly complex change projects, extending over months or even years, it is vital that costs, benefits and implementation timescales are carefully monitored and managed. This means you need clear accountability in terms of who is sponsoring the change project and a clear decision-making framework that allows good day-to-day management of risks, issues, costs and benefit delivery.

8 Manage issues and risks

Risk is any uncertainty, potential threat or occurrence that may prevent you achieving your objectives. All projects are exposed to risk in some form, but the extent will vary considerably. In practice, it is unlikely that you can use risk management to eliminate risk altogether, but it will enable you to avoid problems in some instances, or minimise the disruption in others. Issues are things that threaten the change programme and you should put in place measures for dealing with them – simply giving issues visibility is sometimes enough to start resolving them.

9 Sustain benefits

The capture and delivery of ongoing benefits is highly influenced by a number of factors. Make sure you continue to have resources in place to support people affected by the change process, thereby eliminating ‘fear of the new’. It is also important that leadership is demonstrated from the highest levels, and effectively cascaded to encourage acceptance of the new ways of working. In conjunction with this, any opportunities for people to revert to ‘old’ ways of working must be progressively removed. Wrapping around all of this will be a determination to monitor and measure the project outcomes.

10 Engage stakeholders

This runs through the entire change project. The ability to identify and engage different stakeholders, as individuals or groups, is fundamental to any change effort. Unless you can secure the unwavering commitment of the primary sponsors of the change project and address concerns or resistance from those affected most by it, serious issues will arise. Also, make sure you communicate the business vision. To help win over opinion on your side, it is essential that the change project is perceived to be relevant, aligned with the business vision, and that people understand their role within that vision. Otherwise, tensions can surface, often fuelled by suspicion based on ambiguity or rumours.

– Published earlier this year, Transforming HR: creating value through people provides practical tools, techniques and frameworks which will support critical decisions and help create sustained change.

Personnel Today has five copies of Reddington’s book to give away in a prize draw. To enter, e-mail, putting ‘Transforming HR’ in the subject line. Remember to include your name, job title and address. The first five names out of the hat will be the winners. Closing date for entries is Monday 1 August.

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