It is HR’s role to ensure transformational change stays firmly on the agenda for organisations undergoing it, according to a panel of speakers at the CIPD’s Annual Conference and Exhibition.
In a session titled ‘Innovative Approaches to Transformational Change to Sustain Business Performance’, people director at BBC Worldwide Kirstin Furber said: “You have to prioritise this because you’re going to be pushed and pulled away from it every day.”
She added: “When you’re driving change you’re also managing the business as usual, and managing any issues that might come up. But we need to keep focused on that change. It’s all about being fit for the future and if we stand still we are not going to win.”
“We will always be brought away by something else: the next crisis, the next bad publicity,” agreed Gill Nicholson, head of talent, employee engagement and diversity at HMRC. “But it’s important not to forget the communication and learning piece.”
Nicholson said that another critical focus for HR when supporting transformational change should be leadership training. “The investment in building our leadership capability is absolutely key to what we are doing. That’s both at a local and organisational level,” she said.
“We realised that not everybody would be comfortable with standing up and starting the conversation,” she added. “So we invested a huge amount so they could deliver that in a way that would really help to convey this.”
Furber agreed that it is about finding the communication each manager is most comfortable with. “I work with people who sometimes don’t want to do the personal stuff and you have to be respectful of that,” she said. “So you can show examples of different ways of doing it. Someone who’s an introvert might not want to pour their heart out and say what they did at the weekend.”
Introducing the session, associate dean of research and professor of strategic management at the University of Bath Julia Balogun reported that her team’s latest research revealed greater investment in this area than in the past. “In particular we saw much more investment in leading change,” she explained.
She added that the research also uncovered greater investment in “softer interventions” when it came to transformational change, and in communicating that change effectively to all employees. “We’re now seeing recognition that strategies have to be pushed down to the frontline,” she said.