The role of Human Resources in whole systems change: HR as Scout, Chess Master, Cartographer, and Architect
By Cris Hagen who can be contacted at www.crishagen.com
1. The Shifting Role of Human Resource Professionals
Much has been written over the past few years about the need for Human Resource professionals to more strategically partner with line executives, particularly with regard to leading change. This article attempts to articulate the major roles and behaviors associated with being a more strategic business partner using a model that HR professionals and their client counterparts can readily relate to.
2. The Current Environment
The current environment for most Human Resource professionals is characterized by the following:
>> HR organizations have tighter budgets and fewer people
>> Technology is playing a bigger role in day-to-day, HR-related activities
>> ERP systems are providing more self-service functionality for employees and managers alike, reducing the transaction-based work for HR staff
>> Many HR functions are being outsourced entirely
HR professionals are being forced to move out of "comfort zone" roles in administrative, legal, and employee relations tasks. Instead, they are being asked to demonstrate skills and knowledge in:
>> Change management
>> Strategic human resource planning
>> Talent management
>> Merger/acquisition integration and rationalization
>> Global team development
>> Strategic diversity
>> General business operations
These competencies can be associated with four key roles that HR professionals can play to support, and even to lead change in the organization. These four roles are:
B. Chess Master
While developing some of the competencies and knowledge required to effectively execute these four roles requires some level of training and education, understanding the behavioral attributes associated with each role can help the HR professional determine how best to support strategic change. Key behaviors associated with each of these four roles are described below.
A. The Role of Scout
In the role of Scout, the HR professional is literally scouting the landscape and internal business environment to identify opportunities, threats, challenges, weaknesses, and strengths. In doing so, he/she engages in the following behaviors:
>> Scans the business horizon to identify potential threats to the business and assess current capabilities to address and overcome those threats.
>> Evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the organization related to people, process, structure, and technology.
>> Identifies future talent needs required to support the business strategy and takes action to recruit, acquire, and/or develop those talent capabilities.
>> Identifies opportunities to improve or re-engineer business operations.
Identifies subject matter experts and key stakeholders who can be instrumental in leading or supporting change initiatives.
B. The Role of Chess Master
As every savvy HR professional knows, being in a staff position presents the challenge of influencing others without having direct authority over them. In the role of Chess Master, the HR professional is engaging in a constant evaluation of all the "players" on the "chess board," determining how best to influence, coach, and leverage change champions who have the authority to make change happen.
In this role, he/she engages in the following behaviors:
Identifies and coaches key players, or "change champions" whose collaboration can be leveraged to influence and lead change efforts, whether or not those key players are formally positioned in the organization structure to lead change.
>> Seeks to understand and influence the opinions, ideas, concerns, and goals of executives, managers, and employees within his/her client organization.
>> Defines, develops, and communicates key messages to support change champions in leading change initiatives.
>> Evaluates the positions of key stakeholders in the organization and develops strategies for managing stakeholder concerns.
>> Participate in both strategic and tactical human resource deployment decisions in order to influence the outcome of change efforts.
C. The Role of Cartographer
The HR professional is uniquely positioned to advise and educate executives and managers on how best to approach and manage change efforts. They can literally provide a "roadmap" for change that encompasses all the critical elements of a successful change initiative. This roadmap should contain the necessary tools and techniques to navigate successfully through re-engineering efforts, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, etc.
In this role the HR professional engages in the following behaviors:
Assesses the potential challenges, barriers, and risks to the change initiative, and defines strategies for addressing them.
>> Recommends and helps establish the appropriate governance infrastructure to effectively manage change.
>> Develops communication forums and media to facilitate two-way communication with employees about change efforts.
>> Educates leaders on change tools and techniques.
>> Establishes issue resolution processes to ensure that any roadblocks to change are managed quickly and effectively.
D. The Role of Architect
Many changes initiatives require HR professionals to re-think the design of systems and processes for managing human performance.
In the role of Architect, the HR professional engages in the following behaviors:
>> Designs/re-designs performance management processes for managing team and individual performance.
>> Designs/re-designs jobs or job classification systems to empower employees with greater responsibility and authority over day-to-day operations.
>> Designs/re-designs the organization structure to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness.
>> Designs/re-designs compensation and incentive systems to formally reward desirable behaviors and improvements in business performance.
>> Implements informal recognition systems to recognize employee performance.
>> Provides training and development programs for executives and managers on how to create a high-performance work climate.
The role of strategic business partner requires not only a shift in thinking on the part of the HR professional, but more importantly a shift in behavior.
By understanding your new roles and associated behaviors, you will be better equipped to partner with business line managers and executives, and to really champion change throughout your organization.
* Reprinted by permission of Linkage Inc
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