(or getting the most out of your people in times of change)

I am an HR professional. First and foremost. I am also an organisation design consultant. This therefore puts me in a unique position to review the increasingly important role which HR plays in managing large scale organisation restructure through the digital revolution. Having worked on a number of large scale organisation restructures and redesigns recently I have noticed that there is an increasing focus on the value which HR brings to ensure a truly effective and embedded change to the business. This is in the main due to the rapid change in how business and its employees cope with technological advances. Chances are, if you are reading this, then you have either been part of a large scale change programme yourself to implement a new organisation design or have been through (or undergoing) a digital business transformation. So how do you get the most out of your people when large scale change is occurring in the context of the ever shifting technological landscape? To coin a quote from a recent blog by Julian Raad: Are People our Biggest Asset?‘The Brand is the engine and the People its fuel.’ Without the fuel, the engine won’t run, conversely get the fuel mix right and you can drive forward.

I believe that in times of change you need to look after the engine by managing the fuel mix effectively. You not only have to put in place a new structure, processes and systems which work in the best interests of the business’ strategic priorities but also enable and guide your workforce through what is sometimes a hellish level of change and often impacts them deeply at a personal level. This kind of care and attention is surely where HR can step up to the plate. In the war for talent and drive to increase brand loyalty, this is where the HR community can deliver exceptional results either part of, or alongside the OD process. As such, I propose that HR can add value in the following in the following 5 areas:

Staff consultation: The new legislation to decrease the minimum formal consultation period from 90 to 45 days has forced companies to review how to manage this process. The HR function can play a crucial role in linking with the business, in particular making use of the HR Business Partner (HRBP) role. The HRBP has the unique position of being able to engage with both the business and HR function and can help to manage expectations effectively by listening to the employees, engaging with trade unions (where these exist) and managing risk of redundancy.

Personal data: The digital revolution has catapulted data volume and complexity to a new level. Ensuring that personal data is up-to-date and accurate is critical to ensuring that people transition smoothly into new roles and that the new organisation is matched by data feeds e.g. pay and reward data, location information etc. The use of HR Analytics can support the data management throughout the transition to the new organisation design.

Recruitment and Selection: A major part of embedding a new organisation design is selecting and/or recruiting the right mix of people to deliver the new accountabilities. The HR recruitment specialism can add value here by tapping into the new social network to build a selection process which sources the best talent. Establishing a clear approach and process for internal or external sourcing and recruitment is important to be ready to implement quickly when required.

Competency Framework: Change will bring about new behaviours, skills and ways of working. Much of this can be captured in a new or updated competency framework, which is usually the remit of a Learning and Development function or ‘Academy’. Critically, the HR function needs to factor in the social organisation with a generation of digitally enabled employees and the new skillset now required

Training and Development: Putting in place a clear training strategy and/or training needs analysis will help to ensure that the new skills, capability and leadership are in place when the new design is in place, or as soon after as possible. The HR function has a key role to play in embedding new capability and upskilling individuals. Recent value adding approaches include incorporating e-learning where possible, building in self-selection of learning activities and using social media to carry out learning and development.

Bringing HR into the OD at an early stage and focusing on these 5 areas upfront will, I believe, help to ensure that the design on a page is brought to life for people and that change is embedded more quickly and effortlessly than a pure boxes and wires approach. Given the nature and speed of technology change, the HR function can lead and support the change to build a more technically competent and enabled workforce.