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Annie Hayes



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Opinion: HR’s role in change management


It is unbelievable that anyone, who has been working anywhere in the last fifty years, has escaped a succession of organisation change interventions. The rapid growth of international competition, the impact of IT and the rise of demanding mass consumerism have all fed this beast; Stephen Walker of Motivation Matters offers his opinion.

To see just one example of how the world has changed, you need only watch a few movies from the 1970s. Many of the plots rely on the key character being unable to make a phone call. Today mobile phone usage is almost universal in the UK.

Some lucky people have saved their lives by calling for help when stuck in rising water, injured by a fall or in trouble at sea. To people living in the first half of the twentieth century today’s mobile phones would be impressively close to magic!

Chief Executives alternate between periods of reducing costs, building profitability and worrying about how their organisation will cope with an uncertain future of ever quickening change. Many of us are in that worrying stage now. This series of change management articles is therefore timely.

While I cannot claim a half century of change management I could go to a quarter. I have been involved in three major change programmes in that time, in different business sectors. In only one of these did I have formal HR authority, working in partnership with HR in the others. My experience has illuminated the roles HR can, indeed needs, to play in successful change interventions.

Change management is exciting if you are doing it but scary if imposed on you. It is scary because today you know you can do your job whereas, after the change, you do not know if you will be capable of fulfilling your job role. This is the essence of people’s resistance to change.

A key role in reducing resistance to change is making people believe they will be looked after in the change process. This boils down to the relationship between the employer and the employee. The key role is human relationship management. Establish it before the change intervention begins for best success. “Human Relationships” is the real meaning of strategic HR.

Successful change interventions go through a number of stages. I have identified nine.

What are the nine stages of successful change interventions?

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Annie Hayes


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