Human resources: How to engage in change? It’s the people …

Gone are the days when managers can relax into predictable pattern of operations expecting only occasional bursts of change. Continuous change is the new norm and the ability of top executives to execute it rapidly and successfully will dictate their organisation’s future.
How they do that depends very much on the degree to which they can bring their people with them. This was highlighted by experienced change professionals and researchers who addressed the theme of “engaging change” at the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand annual conference.
Three of the key speakers, IBM’s Ross Pearce, Mercer’s Daren Hill and Gallup’s Jackie Lloyd, helped scope the issue and present managers with some insights as to how best to address the challenges of change.
A growing awareness that change management is now business fundamental was revealed in recent IBM survey “Making Change Work”, which was presented by Ross Pearce, senior management consultant at IBM Global Businesses Services.
After surveying more than 1530 people directly involved in managing change, including 43 in New Zealand, the study found that the number of top executives expecting substantial change had risen in two years from 65 percent (2006) to 83 percent.
Globally, just 41 percent of projects were considered to be completely successful, meeting all objectives on time and within budget. That average dropped to 35 percent in New Zealand and Australia. Pearce attributes this partly to the entrenched cultural attitudes of nation of doers whose “she’ll be right attitude” sidesteps planned and structured processes.
But he also believes New Zealanders generally have higher level of expectation of what success looks like than their global counterparts.
“High standards are good – but it often means we are too hard on ourselves. People I have talked to around New Zealand about this study, tend to agree.”
However, our high expectations have yet to translate into strong incentive to master change. While globally 20 percent of organisations were shown to be “change masters”, reporting an 80 percent or more project success rate, in New Zealand and Australia, the average number of change masters dropped to 11 percent.
On the other hand, 20 percent of organisations in New Zealand and Australia, and globally, rated as “change novices” – with an eight percent or worse project success rate.
The study highlights key differentiating factor in successful change projects as not hinging primarily on technology, but depending largely on people.
Pearce sees this human factor as possible threat for many top executives in New Zealand, who are challenged by the concept of dealing with people’s reactions.
However, while there has been lag in adopting change management practices, Pearce believes things are changing rapidly.
“Continuous change is the new normal and organisations are realising the need to engage employees on the journey of change in order to ensure they are well-positioned for when recovery comes.”

Embedding change
Guiding major Australian company through process of significant structural, strategic and cultural change has provided an exciting new challenge for Daren Hill, who leads Mercer’s Workforce Strategies practice in Sydney.
“I have done this in other parts of the world, but this is pretty new to Australia,” says Hill, whose HRINZ conference keynote speech addressed embedding change using insights from the project.
“The company has long history of acquisitions and had gone through major people change and internal transformations in the business. They had used external contractors to support this but their HR department recognised that to continue to do this was just ‘band aiding’ the problem.
“They saw the company was continuing to grow and undergo transition and, rather than relying on third parties and outside experience, they wanted to reinvest in the organisation.”
Hill, who has been working on the project for nine months, shared how change methodologies and frameworks have been applied in this complex reorganisation programme.
The presentation outlined how the client has adopted disciplined change format, simultaneously piloting, executing and institutionalising change management framework with measurable tools and deliverables to ensure they achieve business results.
“One of the first aims of this project was to define the style of service they wanted to build, assess all the change work they had done, identify strengths and weaknesses and help the client to understand exactly what change management is and which areas were most in need of it.
“We discussed how HR can help business go on journey and build change and capacity and outlined very simple but comprehensive tool that everyone in the company could use to identify the content, style and nature of the change.
“They were very clear that they wanted something they could take to the business and truly teach their people how to use. They wanted library of change tools that the company could use to build much longer journey.”
The company has already moved on significantly – from basis of saying “we don’t do change very well’’ to point where “champions of change” are emerging.
“I think it is going to be easy to find people who will champion change. There is real sense of excitement. The HR department will be the professional owners of the tools, techniques and methods. They are owning as well as sponsoring this programme. They very much want this to be developed for and by the business and taken to the business.
“They have taken very long-term and mature view – and they do not expect the world to change in the first year.”
Hill has spent the past 12 years consulting on human resources transformation and organisational change across the world. He joined Mercer as principal in 2008 following two-and-a-half years at Ernst & Young Australia where he helped build the advisory business working with clients on diverse range of HR, organisational change and business transformation solutions. His career has spanned the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.
Most recently he has worked with number of ASX Top 100 companies, focusing on energy and financial services.
His work with Mercer includes advising clients and leading projects in the areas of HR strategy, organisational effectiveness, business transformation, large-scale technology implementations and talent management.

How do New Zealand managers stack up?
When it comes to staff, as with customers, feelings are facts and now, more than ever, managers need to know their employees well.
However, it seems many New Zealand managers don’t stack up according to the results of Gallup Consulting’s latest biannual poll of working New Zealanders, discussed at the HRINZ conference by Jackie Lloyd, Gallup managing principal.
The poll revealed the concerning statistic showing employee disengagement has increased over the past three years with 15 percent of workers now actively disengaged – compared to 11 percent
in 2006.
“The impact of disengaged employees on an organisation is profound,” says Lloyd. “Not only are they less productive, they are also less change-resilient and trusting of their supervisor. Many disengaged employees undermine the actions of their managers and colleagues.”
Engaged employees however, through their more positive attitude towards change, enable organisations to more rapidly respond to the new normal.
It is up to managers to lead their people into engagement. Indeed, Gallup found that 76 percent of “engaged New Zealand workers” strongly agree that their supervisor is an active supporter of changes that affect their group.
In stark contrast, only one percent of “actively disengaged New Zealand workers” strongly agree.
So it is crucial that through great management, organisations harness the energy of their current workforce, and in turn actively transform disengaged employees into net contributors.
Gallup has found

Visited 6 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window