In the third series of three articles examining the strategic challenges facing HR in the future, Professor Amin Rajan and Gary Storer look at the obstacles that must be faced in successfully implementing change in an organisation
As one business leader in our interviews observed, "Only a baby with a wet nappy likes change, nobody else does".
The kind of volatility arising from global competition is something few people are brought up to cope with. At organisational level, it creates distrust and risk aversion. At individual level, it engenders defensive behaviours such as self-protection, self-interest and undue individualism.
Indeed, one of the main paradoxes of globalisation is that its "dog eat dog" competition requires far more teamwork, interdependency and reciprocity at the workplace than before. Yet, it is invoking emotions. There are three reasons.
To start with, the change programmes of the past five years or so have required a very different skills mix for HR and line managers.
Specifically, the new business model requires significant mental agility and emotional resilience from those who manage people at the workplace. Yet only a minority of organisations have been able to develop them. The rhetoric of the skills revolution has raced well ahead of reality.
Furthermore, HR professionals and line managers may have similar goals but use different languages (see figure 1). Mutual misunderstanding has therefore been inevitable.
Finally, equipping HR and line managers with the necessary skills is not enough. An educated workforce takes far more to motivate - understanding its deeper emotions and responding to them is an essential prerequisite.
Emerging Skill Gaps
Our research has identified seven skills sets that HR professionals and line managers need to have. Their precise combination and level of proficiency are, of course, influenced by their respective roles and seniority.
But in all cases it amounts to creating a business hybrid that combines breadth of experience with depth of know how. On this front, progress has been painfully slow: skills gaps are rife
The picture that emerges is