I was recently invited to participate in an interview with the Change Management Institute about the growing intersection between Change Management and Human Resources. A transcript of the Q&A is below. You can also view the original article in the Global Change Management Institute Newsletter by clicking here.
What were your initial training, education and background? How did you come to be interested in Change Management?
I joined Accenture straight after graduating from Pennsylvania State University and worked on an SAP project doing Change Management and became hooked! From those first years in Accenture’s Human Performance practice, through my time in IBM’s Strategy and Change division, to my current work in Talent2’s HR Advisory team, I have had the opportunity to help thousands of people navigate through their change journey.
When do you think that Change Management began to be recognised as a management discipline?
Although Change Management was regularly included in large IT projects, up until around five years ago, it was hard for Change Managers to get a seat at the leadership table. However as more business leaders experience first-hand the benefits Change Management, practitioners now influence and collaborate with the Project Management Office across functional and technical teams, serving as an adviser to project Sponsors.
How Does Change Management support HR?
One of the main trends we are seeing in recruitment is evolution of HR departments becoming more strategic. Whether it’s building Executive Sponsorship for change in an organisation or empowering managers to shift some of their attention from their “day job” to their HR responsibilities; we are seeing HR take on more of a leadership role. And this leadership is often exercised by taking responsibility for communications to ensure that the staff understands the nature and reason for the change; by implementing intensive training program; providing managers with the skills to deal with employee relations issues; engage with all levels of the organisation to get people on-board and implement change. Change Management practice has supported HR departments achieve their vision of becoming a strategic voice at the C-level.
How has the rapid pace of change in organisations influenced HR in regards to how they select candidates?
The ability to drive change through an organisation has become a significant consideration for selecting and evaluating leaders. When we conduct leadership assessments for clients, one of the key capabilities we measure is “Leading Change.”
For front-line employees, if you read through job descriptions, you’ll often find that companies explicitly state that a candidate must be able to work in a “fast-paced environment” that is “constantly changing” with the ability to be “self-directed” and adapt to “changing priorities.” These all paint a picture of a candidate who is ready and able to change with the organisation. Whether it’s formal or informal, Change Management is starting to become an integral part of most positions across an organisation.
How does the role of Change Management differ across companies?
I have worked with large, multi-national companies that actually have entire Change Management teams with detailed methodologies, processes, and tools that are applied consistently to all changes across the organisation.
Other large organisations have one or two HR professionals that are dedicated to Change Management who work as internal consultants to provide guidance to large projects. Many large and mid-size companies will partner with a company like Talent2 whose specialist HR service offering provides for Change Management methodology and deep experience.
However in smaller organisations, Change Management is often left to IT Managers and Project Managers to juggle with their “day job.” This is where I most often see companies struggle.
Would you advocate for more professional training and accreditation?
As the demand for Change Management increases, it has become increasingly difficult to identify and select a well-rounded Change Manager. I think it would be fantastic to have more professional training, as well as a consistent set of standards that people must meet to be accredited in Change Management. I think the Change Management profession is at a point where it is ready to follow a similar path to maturity that Project Management took, which culminated in professional standards and accreditation such as the Project Management Institute and Prince II, as well as the inclusion of Project Management in projects being considered a “must have,” rather than a “nice to have.”
What do you think are the future trends and forecasts for Change Management Practice?
I’ll go back to the connection between Change Management and HR. Traditional Change Management has focused on five key areas: Executive Sponsorship, Stakeholder Management, Communication, Training, and Organisation Design. I think more and more, we’re seeing that in order to really embed change in an organisation, Change Management needs to touch a large range of HR functions, as well.
This includes building changes into the performance management process so that people understand the new behaviours that are required and are subsequently measured on whether they demonstrate them.
Ask 100 people to define Change Management, and you'll get 100 different definitions. At the end of the day, the definition is just semantics. What really matters is whether you can implement a Change Management program in a practical way that allows you to support your organization in successfully achieving its goals. Whether you're a Change Manager, a consultant, or the tech. guy who was told to "figure out some Change Management stuff," this blog will help address common issues and topics you're likely to run into along the way.