4th March 2015

The changing face of change management for HRs

A recent report by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) has concluded that HR professionals should develop new skills to tackle change as it is “even more complex than we might traditionally acknowledge.”

The institute’s annual Perspectives on HR urges the profession to consider developing fluid approaches to replace outmoded traditional thinking on change management. Among the recommendations for better results are tools such as coaching and innovation, alongside a new attitude to change itself.

According to the report, the notion of stable, static contexts should be discarded as ironically unrealistic. Everyone involved in change management should instead appreciate that even while planning or implementing change, shifting external circumstances mean that an adaptable strategy that anticipates various possible scenarios – and considers how to accommodate them - is far more useful.

Acknowledging that it is difficult to second guess every eventuality, it nonetheless calls on HRs to practice ‘double-loop learning’, which is proactively learning and preparing before responding, rather than reacting automatically to any shift. Discarding a prescriptive route would enable HR managers and other leaders to properly address and influence changing conditions.

IES associate director, Penny Tamkin, said: “In a world of change, people management practice is often casing events, thrown onto the back foot of change and trying to respond to its impact and diminish its negative effects.”

With this in mind, the report also warns against assessing people for generic, transferable skills. As these are context dependant, they are actually not transferable or they are so general they lose relevance to a specific workplace, with its individual culture, systems and processes.

The IES reports an acknowledgement of this, with many organisations moving away from competence and capability assessment towards selecting by attitudes behaviours and values instead.

Penny Tamkin added: “As futures become more uncertain, preparing people for specific roles and tasks is too limiting. We need innovation, competitiveness and productivity improvements and in a more complex world, these would seem to cry out for holistic, rather than atomised, conceptions of abilities.”


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