Years ago, I was attending classes on EFQM Excellence model. I learnt, excellent leaders must do five things consistently, one of them is to lead the change initiatives from the front. They build systems to adopt and deploy the changes, enthuse their teams to adopt new ways of working.
In the times we live now, we see companies across sectors from consumer products, healthcare, education to automotive and engineering, have been announcing change programmes pretty regularly. Thinkers and advisors have been propagating the need of making changes pre-emptively than reactively. So, leaders have to be thinking of various change programmes they can deploy.
Any change affects people, their morale and habits. The organization’s culture and the leadership style determine how well a change is implemented. All of these are in the domain of HR. So, who is responsible to drive the change – leadership or HR?
Partnering the business
For years, we have been hearing about the need of HR to get into the shoes of the business leader and craft its actions accordingly. About a decade ago, a role called HRBP got created with the hope that the right talent comes on board at the right time and cost, they are engaged well and developed to take the business forward. Looking into the mirror, one can easily say, the need is perennial and HRBP is no silver bullet to fulfil this.
Possibly, the most important priority for the business leader is to deliver stakeholder value and to be more specific, shareholder value. With information being ubiquitous, all businesses face fierce competition for resources and market. Unless HR is able to lift itself above the transactions of recruitment, staffing, payroll, labour laws, training, salary reviews and promotions, it will never be the partner of the Business Leader or the Function Head in solving their challenges.
HR can understand the world of the business leader only when the HR team takes efforts to live there. It has to be in the market, the production floor, the supply chain and the service centres where value is generated for the customer and revenue for the business. The team has to keenly observe if the employees relate to the organization’s purpose, are enthusiastic to service customer needs and stand for what the organisation claims to stand for.
Real partnering is to effect changes in employee behaviours and leadership behaviours. Not many HR minds have the inclination to be in the place of action. Moreover, not too many of them have the ability to engage with employees, customers and suppliers meaningfully. They have to see the patterns, connect the dots and develop a plan. Most importantly, they need to win the buy-in of the line manager on the plan, keep nudging them along the way to put the plan in play.
Creating the bandwidth
Not only do the skills of HR team pose a bottleneck to conceive of a change and driving it, but also the team is busy dealing with a tonne of transactions each day. I see organisations loading their HR leader with transactional requests that hog his or her bandwidth. Right from long-vacant job roles to regulatory filings sit on the plate.
These days, many workplaces shun the practice of having admin assistants to help business leaders and thus, end up choking precious workhours dealing with mundane tasks. Secondly, they need to free themselves from the routine actions that typically lock up the HR team. There are specialists who can carry out every aspect of HR such as recruiting, staffing, payroll, compliance, training, assessment and audits. They need to let the routine be executed efficiently by the specialists while the strategic aspects be directed firmly by the HR leader.
Treating a patient is the job of a doctor aided by the medical assistants. Similarly, driving a change is the job of the leader partnered ably by HR.