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Change needs to become part of a new HR

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The recent Roffey Park Management Agenda survey (see page 10) has criticised HR managers as ineffective change agents. So how can HR prove its worth? Stefan Stern reports


Charles Watkin, HR manager, General Electric UK


'GE is constantly growing, changing and evolving as a business we make a lot of acquisitions. Our HR team is trying to offer continuity to employees while this is going on. That's what wins commitment from people. Change also offers opportunities for them to grow and develop.


'We need to be credible and value-adding business partners, to have active ongoing communication with our people and strong employee relations. We try to create a sense of employee ownership of change. This requires commitment from management and visionary leadership. Effective HR identifies the long-term drivers of change and helps make it happen fast. We want people to have a positive appetite for it; it's part of our mind-set and culture here. That is made clear at recruitment and in appraisals. Employee expectations are key. If they don't expect change, there may be resistance to it. But we see it as a positive factor, creating opportunities, and obviously we don't want to stand still or stagnate.'


John Ingham, principal consultant, Penna Consulting


'Although there are many different ways to get change wrong, probably the most common problem is in not balancing perspectives effectively business and people, the long-term and short-term, and involvement and execution.


'HR needs to be able to gain management commitment to change throughout a business. It is part of the growing "business partner" role of HR. This might involve HR people adopting new skills and a new mind-set, in order to become real change leaders in an organisation, and not limiting themselves to conventional HR activities.


'Change is all about people. But there is a lot more to do than just managing a reorganisation, even though that in itself can take a lot of time. HR can add value in the planning stage through its understanding of people.


'HR can also work to build a culture that is conducive to change, trying to instil some agility into the organisation. If HR leads the debate it can make people more comfortable with the idea. The competitive environment dictates that mergers need to be managed and completed quickly. Simple change management isn't good enough any more you need to manage change fast. And you can't plan everything. Reacting to people's response to change is a large part of managing the process.'


Frances Allcock, VP talent management and resourcing,


BT Global Services


'These days most organisations have such challenging business strategies that focusing on achievement of the strategy leads HR into a change agenda without necessarily having to label it as a change programme.


'We have been through quite a lot of change programmes, so we don't really talk so much in these terms any more. In HR we work on change all the time, so to some extent it is business as usual. This year we are focusing on building a high-performance culture, part of which is a programme called 'Maximising Performance'. We have taken our top managers through a series of workshops, and introduced greater coherence internally, moving to a single performance management system. HR has worked on this with the Global Services leadership team. We have supported them, but they have held themselves accountable for the results.'