Making change happen is not just a job for the HR Department. In competitive business environments, organisations strive relentlessly towards sustaining a superior advantage. This requires leaders to use proactive approaches and exploit opportunities. Globalisation and advancements in Information Technology (IT) have driven businesses to assess their existing practices and align them with the developments of the modern era. Consequently, driving change within organisations is an ongoing process. Change is strategy. A common misconception is that the Human Resources (HR) function has to identify, guide, enable and encourage a change management team, whereas line managers and leaders play an almost passive role, relying primarily on HR for effective change (Cunningham and Hyman, 1995). This often happens when a change management initiative is seen to be an event, rather than a process of transformation towards a new state.
Todnem suggests that producing change requires a robust, guiding coalition led by key line managers as they are in a better position to encourage their teams towards change (Todnem, 2005). Change management, therefore, becomes the accountability of those who are in a position to lead, with HR playing a supportive role. Driving change requires a holistic approach led by executive and line management and incorporates all stakeholders (employees, shareholders, clients, suppliers, unions and, if appropriate, industry regulators). Executives, senior managers, line managers and supervisors all have an employee-facing role, where they can interact, impact and act as the visible agents for change, encouraging their teams towards transformation. In the end, stakeholders want to hear the message from two sources only: the executive team to describe why the change is necessary, and line management to indicate the direct benefit to the individual, or group. Research suggests that employees feel more motivated towards a change initiative when their supervisors strongly encourage the change.
Human Resource Management (HRM) as a function plays a pivotal role in providing support to all other functions through effective HR planning, recruitment, talent, and performance management making it a strategic partner to the business. Supporting change, therefore, becomes part of HR’s responsibility in relation to organisational design, values alignment, redesigning role descriptions and competency dictionaries, sourcing upskilling and training interventions, job matching and managing labour relations implications. It is the line managers and top management within the organisation who should advocate, guide, and sustain the process. (Gilbert, De Winne and Sels, 2011).
Effective change management should begin with the development of a shared diagnosis of the organisational problems creating a mutual understanding of why the change is necessary (Beer and Nohria, 2000). Litha-Lethu supports the view that managing any change initiative (be it restructuring, mergers, acquisitions, new technology, or downsizing), is not an isolated exercise. Rather it is a complex business which requires clear leadership, a systematic rigorous approach and an “end to end” change management plan which endures long after the “go-live” team has departed. If you want to know more about making change a strategy in your business, contact us. You’ll be pleased you did.
- Cunningham, I. and Hyman, J., 1995. Transforming the HRM vision into reality: the role of line managers and supervisors in implementing change. Employee Relations, 17(8), pp.5-20.
- Beer, M. and Nohria, N., 2000. Cracking the code of change. HBR’s 10 must reads on change, 78(3), pp.133-141.
- Rouleau, L., 2005. Micro‐practices of strategic sensemaking and sensegiving: How middle managers interpret and sell change every day. Journal of Management studies, 42(7), pp.1413-1441.
- Gilbert, C., De Winne, S. and Sels, L., 2011. The influence of line managers and HR department on employees’ affective commitment. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 22(8), pp.1618-1637.
- Todnem By, R., 2005. Organisational change management: A critical review. Journal of change management, 5(4), pp.369-380.