Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Human Resources and adaptation to change 8: in the context of change management challenges

Posted in HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on March 5, 2013

This is my eighth installment to a series on business and marketplace change and on the impact of this on Human Resources as a department. And as a crucial part of that I also seek to delve into how an effective HR department and its functionalities in turn help to shape the business and its operational planning and strategy (see HR and Personnel, postings 137 and loosely following for Parts 1-7.)

So far in this series I have developed two baseline models for normative HR processes and functionality as they would play out in standard, consistent ongoing business contexts. I then began considering how Human Resources would be affected for businesses that systematically deviate from these baseline models, and in a series of specific ways. See:

Posting 2 for a startup-oriented model and Posting 3 for an established business baseline model,
Part 4 for an innovation-driven, rapidly changing business scenario,
Part 5 for a scenario driven by significantly changing headcount requirements,
Part 6: a multinational business scenario, and
Part 7 for a lean and agile business scenario.

I add a fifth business scenario that would significantly deviate for its Human Resources from that of the baseline models with this posting where I consider an explicit change management scenario. And I begin this by noting that this scenario, and perhaps more than any of the others considered so far, is driven by uncertainty.

As I have noted in previous and ongoing discussions in this blog, when I cite change management per se, I am explicitly and specifically referring to businesses that are in trouble, and that face a need for significant change in order to regain competitive strength and even in order to survive.

• So the scenario I address here is very different from that of Part 4, for example, where the underlying business may be very strong and business strategy and its operational execution are more about maximizing competitive strength and competitive advantage in the face of industry and marketplace change and challenge.
• Any viable change management resolution to the problems that a business faces is likely to involve significant staffing changes, with downsizings and staffing realignments – a combination of changes that are sometimes euphemistically referred to as right-sizing. But this is very different from the situation discussed in Part 5 of this series with its headcount requirement shifts and reliance on short-term and temporary hires, too.
• A business in need of significant change management might in fact be a multinational, but the scenario I address here is very different from the stable, effective multinational scenario of Part 6.
• And in a fundamental sense the situation faced by a business in the type of distress that would call for change management is probably close to be diametrically opposite to that of the lean and agile business of Part 7. In a Part 7 modeled business, ongoing effort has been to keep everything functioning effectively and with minimal structural or operational excess of any kind. Here, the change management-requiring business is in most cases bloated out with ineffective, redundant, and inconsistent organizational and operational structures and systems, and it is all but certainly burdened with operational and strategic disconnects. The immediate goal of change management approaches, besides securing reprieves from creditors is most likely to identify and begin cutting out the toxically dysfunctional, and with a focus on identifying and strengthening core capabilities needed to effectively provide a value proposition to a stable marketplace.

Human Resources needs to play a crucial role in making change management work, and I begin my discussion of that here, with the issues and challenges of staffing levels and balance, and with “right sizing.”

• A business that is in sufficient crisis as to need change management solutions, but that shows sufficient promise of being recoverable for that effort to make sense, is in most cases a business that needs to rethink and reorganize its staffing.
• But if the business as an organization simply starts to let people go, in individual and mass downsizings, the immediate result can be so demoralizing that the people most needed for a recovery, start heading for the exits too. Very often, those most-needed staff members are the ones who would find it easiest to find new opportunities with other businesses, and even with direct competitors, as they are the employees with the skills and experience that would most easily sell in the jobs market.
• So communications and reassurances as to the business’ overall stability and prospects are important, and for individual employees who are to be kept on this means reassuring them that if they stay they will have a job that they can count upon.
• For those leaving, this means managing what can become an employee separation-process production line, with development and management of any outplacement services and other separation offerings that might be provided and with all of the systematic paperwork involved.
• For those who stay this might, in a range of strategically select cases, mean job changes and reassignments within the organization with some people performing the same tasks but at different levels within the company, and some reporting to new managers and with table of organizations realignments and simplifications, and with some people moving on to do new types of tasks.
• Human Resources can play an important facilitating role in all of this for making these changes run more smoothly. HR managed and involved personnel decisions and processes can enable smoother change management resolutions. And the managers in HR responsible for their department’s part of making this overall change happen, can provide the direct feedback on how the personnel management side of this process is proceeding, that would be vital for developing, tuning and adjusting, and executing overall operational and strategic oversight through this transition process. And all of this, of course, falls outside of the usual and normal patterns of the baseline models of Parts 2 and 3 of this series.

I am going to turn to an increasingly important scenario that significantly deviates from the baseline models for Human Resources in my next series installment, where I will delve into issues relevant to heavily supply chain-dependent businesses, businesses that operate co-dependently in complex business ecosystems, and the impact on a business of its functioning in a globally ubiquitously interconnected community. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at HR and Personnel.

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