Agile HR Ahead


It may be time for HR to change its approach to change management. Change management is probably one of the most critical core competencies required of HR professionals. The profession of HR, however, seems to be lagging behind the very thing that it needs to be leading.

The cause for this lag is explored in recent articles that come from the technology sector. They explore how responsiveness and agility are embedded in business approaches using pro-active systems thinking. Due to the lack of agility on the part of HR, our profession as a function appears to be struggling to keep up with the businesses we are supposed to serve.

Click here to read why HR needs to be agile.

Click here to read more about agility in HR.

As noted in these articles, an agile HR approach includes increased responsiveness, catching up with business language in an authentic way and reducing reliance on out-dated systems just because they used to be ‘best practice’. In Jeff Gothen’s article, he describes the challenges involved in having employees at ING re-interview for their jobs in order to implement systems change. This resulted in a ‘staggering’ 40% of ING employees either changing jobs or leaving the organization.  Not because they did not have the skills, but because they needed to have a different organizational mindset. It was HR’s role to understand and implement what that cultural mind set looked like and felt like in order to make this type of organizational change happen. In order to implement this change for others, it seems critical for the mindset in HR to be changed first.

Agile HR means allowing more time to reflect on organizational practices. It means taking a critical look at what is working or not working to meet the needs of the business and responding proactively when those needs are not being met. HR can not be perceived as the organizational anchor due to its reliance on ‘old-ways’ systems thinking that approaches change as an event to be managed.

Agile HR means hoisting the sails and navigating through the seas of constant change, leading to new ways of thinking.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Identify one HR practice that is perceived as unresponsive to the changing needs in the current workplace.
  2. If you had to re-interview for your current job, would you hire yourself? Explain your rationale.
  3. What does agile HR mean to you as an HR professional?

Time for Disruption


To paraphrase Heraclitus, change is the only constant – nothing stands still. This, it would seem, is true of the theories that shape change-management itself. With the evolution of technological innovations, we have left behind ‘traditional’ change paradigms and have moved into the realm of data-based disruptors impacting organizational change.

Disruption embraces a tumultuous approach to existing business practices. It turns traditional practices on their heads, through the rapid implementation of technology-based systems. Disruption leads to the destruction of the old ways in order for new ways to take root and grow.

As disruptors impact all levels of organizational strategy, Human Resources must react and respond constructively in order to overcome any of the destructive elements. Simultaneously we must push for new, creative approaches in HR’s technology-based new world.

Canadian-focused HR disruptors are explored in a round table discussion posted by Human Resources Director Canada.

Key messages arising from this panel discussion include the impact of the ‘want it now’ customer, which translates into the ‘want it now’ employee. Human Resources must be adaptive, nimble and mobile in order to meet the challenges of all consumers including those within our own workforces.

Disruptors are here and they are carving the path for Human Resources planning and strategy. According to the experts, as Human Resources practitioners, we cannot be tethered to the past because that is an anchor leading to organizational death and destruction.

Today’s disruptors must be perceived as agents of freedom compelling us forward into the constant of ongoing change.

Best to embrace it. Here it comes!

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the term ‘disruptors’ mean to you as an HR professional?
  2. How does the perception that employees are customers shape your own approach to working as a Human Resources professional?
  3. What does the Human Resources department need to do in order to meet the demands of the ‘want it and want it now’ approach from customers and/or employees?

Should Managers Become Extinct?

Snake curled in infinity ring. Ouroboros devouring its own tail. Serpent tattoo design, witchcraft masonic, vector illustration

What does HR do in a world without managers?

Morningstar Farms, Sun Hydraulics, Valve, Medium, W.L. Gore, Zappos, Treehouse, Crisp: what do all these companies have in common? It is hard to guess, but all the above organizations have done away with traditional management. Crisp, a Swedish company, even axed its CEO.

Click here to watch a BBC video clip on the CEO-less company.

In 2011, Gary Hamel wrote an article called, “First lets’ fire all the Managers.” This was published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Click here to read the article.

Now, in his new book (2016) Under New Management, David Burkus is saying“fire all managers.”

Is this a real trend or a fleeting notion? Organizations have been downsizing and flattening hierarchies for decades. Has the time come to really eliminate managers? If managers are gone what is the role of an HR department? Traditional HR spends a lot if its time on supporting managers. If managers are gone is HR next, or does the opposite happen and more HR resources are required to support employees?

Is it an interesting thought? Is getting rid of managers the Ouroboros of HR (the Greek mythological symbol of the snake devouring itself)?

This will be an interesting HR trend to watch; will manager-less companies become the norm or not?

Discussion Questions

  1. Your CEO has asked you to prepare a business case outlining the benefits of eliminating managers in your organizations. Develop a 10-minute presentation.
  2. Your VP of HR has asked to develop a list of recommendation on what would the role of HR be in an organization with no managers.

The Changing Role of Change Management


Birds on a wire, one offset from the rest
Source: Lightspring/Shutterstock

It seems trite to say that change is difficult. There is nothing simple about change or the numerous variables that go along with it.  Even the concept of defining change, as a process of interlocking steps, is complex and challenging.

When we think about our own personal reactions to change, how many of us have decided to do something differently just because someone else suggested we should? The answer to that is probably, never.

Most of us need multiple, compelling reasons to make changes in our lives, both positive and negative.  We need constant reinforcement along the path to making a successful change.  We need someone to push us forward when the backwards pull of inertia is too strong.  We need someone to shake us out of our familiar habits when they become far too tempting and we want to go back to the comfort of where we began.  We need someone to show us why we should make the change.  We need someone to give us concrete rewards once we have achieved success along the way. We need others to be engaged with us all the way along.

Having said that, there is nothing linear about the change management process.  It does not follow a straight path from the decision to make a change to a successful conclusion where the change is complete and nothing else happens.   For some of us, we go through significant changes without even realizing that they have happened until we have had time to reflect and observe that which is different in our lives between ‘now’ and ‘then’.  Again, we may need someone else to point out that we are in a different place, if we are not able to see it for ourselves when we get there.

In the complexity of the change process, we must rely on numerous sources to help us through the most challenging of times.  It is no different for organizations when they go through similar change processes.

Successful organizations must rely on the commitment from multiple sources to keep the change process moving forward.  Catherine Smithson outlines the need for a variety of roles within organizations managing change.

Click Here to Read the Article.

While Smithson is clear in identifying the need for a Change Management leader, she also identifies the continuing need to have multiple roles committed to the process in different parts of the organization. Organizational change does not happen through the allocation of a change management project to one person in particular. It happens by having different roles embedded and committed to making change happen. These roles must push, pull, challenge, reward, and reflect upon the complexities of the journey along the way.

Change might be good, but surely, it is not easy to do it alone.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When thinking about your own experience, when you wanted to make a change who did you rely upon to make that change happen?
  2. What types of pressures would force an organization to make changes?
  3. What types of rewards do employees need to stay on the path of continued change?
  4. How can organizations identify the completion of a change process?
  5. Which roles or functions in an organization must be involved in making change happen?

The Drive Force for Change – May the Forces Be With You!

Knowing your forces is the only way to really manage change.

Many geeks, and non-geeks alike, are excited about the upcoming release of the New Star Wars reboot Episode VII – The Force Awakens.  The title is an excellent segway into a discussion of the concept of Kurt Lewin’s force-field analysis as a model to assist change. As an HR Professional, you must deeply understand what will move change forward or what will hold it back.

Forces, whether driving or resisting, are made up of people, habits, customs, and attitudes.  No wonder organizational change is so difficult to implement; there are so many variables pulling individuals and organizations in various directions.

The big question to ask, as well as answer, is – Do the driving forces outweigh the restraining forces?

The following 6 minute video, from Alanis Business Academy, gives you an overview of how to conduct a force-field analysis.

Source: Alanis Business Academy, The above content constitutes a link to the source website.  Click on the play icon to stream the video

Many organization who want change to occur only focus on the driving forces and completely forget about the resisting forces until it is too late.  Don’t fall into this trap! Be prepared and make sure you analyse the driving and resisting forces, as described by Kurt Lewin.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can HR professionals convince senior management that a force-field analysis would be beneficial before undergoing change?
  2. Think about a personal change you want to accomplish.  Identify all the driving and restraining forces that may be acting on you when you attempt to make this change.