Take control to deal with times of change

I was recently invited to join the question and answer panel for the Richmond Events HR Forum, which was attended by most of the HR directors representing major organisations. I also agreed to host two ‘How to manage change’ workshops, with representation from HR directors from a broad spectrum of enterprises.

The sessions were extremely lively, candid and engaging. As the discussions became more animated, it quickly became apparent that the only constant facing these HR professionals was dealing with change itself. Organisations, it seemed, no longer experienced change on a programmed basis, but rather were permanently involved in some form of transition or transformation.

The causes of change were myriad, including mergers and acquisitions, disposals and wholesale change of the management team and even the chief executive.

In several cases, HR was only involved after key decisions had been made, and then was expected to deal with the consequences. Sometimes, HR even had little knowledge of the new parent organisation, but was expected to deal with all of the people ramifications.

Despite these tough hurdles, many of the people present had risen to the challenge. They had sought to inject order, method and certainty into their respective organisations, even when they were uncertain of the future implications, including for themselves.

Best practice was freely and openly shared, and there was some reassurance in the fact that these tough challenges were being faced by all those represented.

So what were the main messages for any HR professional facing such a volatile change agenda? The three key points concluded were:

  • Determine and demand to be at the centre of your business, and to be involved at an early stage in any plans to restructure, so that you can plan the required actions well in advance of implementation
  • Acknowledge and accept that change is inevitable. Work with change, not against it, to ensure fair outcomes for all of those affected
  • Others are facing similar challenges to you. Form a network of colleagues and share best practice – it was astonishing how fabulous some of the solutions were to uncompromising problems.

My personal learning was that there are some truly exceptional but undervalued HR practitioners out there. Without them, their organisations would undoubtedly be much worse off.

The time is right for business to properly recognise these people, and the indisputable and unique value they add. That would truly represent a change for the better for all concerned.

Paul Pagliari
Senior director, HR
Immigration and Nationality Directorate

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