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Caterpillars, Football and Human Resources How to Start Over

June 8, 2001
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What do caterpillars, the Washington Redskins, and HR departments have incommon?

    At first glance nothing, but on closer examination it becomes apparent thatall three are about transformation. Whether you are talking about butterflies,winning seasons or new ways of doing business, transformation is about takingwhat was and evolving into a new being or entity.

    How does transformation differ from the half dozen efforts to change thatmost HR departments have already undergone? Why is this any different? Most change efforts that have "gone before" involved doing something different or starting over withperhaps more sweat but essentially the same approach.

    However, transformation is about starting over from an entirely newperspective and with an entirely new approach. It requires first and foremost achange in mindset, followed by a change in processes, and finally a change inservices.

    HR is being challenged to transform in order to:

  • Visibly demonstrate the value added to the accomplishment of theorganization mission

  • Provide flexible alternatives to previously restrictive HR processes

  • Become more strategic and efficient in delivering HR services

  • Be aligned with the organizational mission

  • Develop performance consultants to improve individual and organizationalproductivity

  • Provide change management strategies for moving the organization forward

  • Partner with operational units to achieve goals and measurable success

    So, how do you meet these challenges? How can you live up to the expectationsof doing business differently? What is the secret formula? In working withvarious organizations, we have found four critical areas that must be addressedin the transformation process:

These are:

  1. Changing the role of HR professionals
  2. HR Transformation Model
  3. Market, Market, Market
  4. Managing the Change and Transition

    The good news is that there are many "HR Transformation Models"available. The bad news is that you must sort through these and select the onethat best serves your organization and then tailor it to fit the specificrequirements of your culture, operations and reality.

    The selection and use of a model should be an integral and critical part of alarger HR Strategic Planning Process that is looking at HR's transformation inrelationship to the entire organization. Strategic issues HR must address are:

  • Alignment with the larger organization and working to move HR from anafterthought in the organization's planning process to a "strategiccontributor to the process

  • Identifying opportunities to forge partnerships

  • Incorporating organizational mission, vision, value statements, goals,performance indicators and evaluation structures into HR's daily activities

  • Defining, predicting and planning for resource requirements now and in thefuture

  • Assessing the return on investment status for HR programs relative tooverall mission and goals of the organization

    These issues must translate for the organization in a flexible and responsivehiring system; improved performance management; measurable return on investment(ROI) in training and development; a family-friendly workplace that keeps upwith the times and the issues; elimination of red tape and cumbersome processes;and creation of an inclusive and diverse workforce.

    Just as a blueprint is the defining factor in the building of a new home orbuilding, the use of a model for the transformation process is a key ingredientthat ensures all parties are talking about the same ideas, issues and goals.

Changing the role of HR professionals
    HR professionals must assume new roles and develop new competencies in orderto help organizations meet their mission and strategic goals. The messages havegone out loud and clear that HR must shift from being the "systempolice" to being an integral part of the management team. The ideal HRprofessional has been described as one who can be proactive in providing serviceand concentrates on the big picture instead of pushing paper-one who is orientedtoward adding value in the accomplishment of the mission and providing flexibleand expert service.

    So, how do you transform yourself and your HR department to meet thesechanging roles and changing requirements? Once again the answer may very welllie in the use of a model. In the last five years several excellent models havebeen developed to help guide professional development and retooling.

HR competency models
    Although a number of competency models exist, there is a consistent themethat runs through each of them. This theme is that HR professionals must thinkof themselves as:

  • Business Partners
  • Change Agents
  • Leaders
  • Performance Consultants
  • Advocates
  • HR Experts

    Whether separate or combined, the overriding theme is that HR must get out ofits offices, out from behind the desk, and into the operational areas of theorganization, which offer solutions and strategies for meeting challenges. Shiftthe perspective from dealing with people issues to people-related businessissues.

HR consulting competency model
    The competency model should also provide:

  • Guidance for the transition

  • Definition of new competencies

  • Tools and methodologies

  • Stimulus to do strategic thinking, partnering and collaborations

  • Detailed description of what needs to be done differently

Market, market, market
    Madison Avenue marketing strategies are promoted in full and living coloreach year with new commercials presented during the National Football League'sSuper Bowl.

    Why does this matter to Human Resources? Surely no one is suggesting that HRshould be expected to think and act like Madison Avenue marketing moguls. Infact, that is exactly what is expected. The question is not whether HR shouldbecome marketing gurus-the question is have you started your marketing campaignyet?

Positioning HR by marketing
    Deciding how to best market the new HR is dependent to some degree on yourcurrent and past positioning in the organization. Is your HR department one thathas always been seen as progressive, promoting organizational success andengaged in mission accomplishment strategy and planning? If so, you may needonly to promote the benefits of new initiatives and demonstrate the value theseinitiatives will add to the organization.

    If, on the other hand, your position in the organization is one of police,afterthought or "clean-up kid," you have a greater challenge in frontof you. You need to demonstrate a new position of value and leadership. It iscritical that you show operational entities how you can be the critical factorin their ultimate success. You must show how resource planning and flexibilitycan enhance the organization's ability to meet future challenges.

General HR marketing strategies
    Start your marketing campaign by:

  • Determining what HR wants it position to be in the organization

  • Creating an image of that position-something that can be translated into atangible and understandable role

  • Analyzing the gap between where you currently are and where you havestated you want to be

  • Establishing a plan directed at all customers, stakeholders and approachmay be necessary to garner understanding from mainline employees. Another playmay be necessary to engage mid-level managers and yet a third to ensure upperlevel management support-consider each aspect of your organization in your plan

  • Create time-lines to roll-out marketing strategies

  • Use every organizational opportunity to promote the new HR

  • Measure effectiveness of campaign, adjust, correct or expand as needed

Managing the change and transition
    For most organizations the transformation to a consultation/partnering modelis a significant shift. It will require changes in mindset, processes,methodologies, approach, and services. Managing the transition and changeinherent in that shift is critical to ultimate success. It is not sufficient tosimply rearrange the HR Department boxes, give everyone new titles and announcea "new way of doing business." Each aspect must be handled in keepingwith sound transitional and change management approaches.

    Some starting points to remember in managing the changes are:

  • We are all at different levels of readiness for change.

  • We will believe we do not have enough resources.

  • We will revert to old behaviors and methods if the pressure is off.

  • We feel awkward, ill at ease, and self-conscious during change.

  • We tend to focus on what we have to give up.

  • We often feel alone, even if everyone else is going through the samechange.

    William Bridges, author of Managing Transition, says in his book, "Itisn't the changes that do you in, it's the transitions. Change is not the sameas transition. Change is situational: the new site, boss, team roles and policy.

    Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to termswith the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal."Throughout the massive changes organizations have experienced in the lastdecade, one absolute has surface, personal change must precede organizationalchange. In order to accomplish this companies or organizations must find theconnection between the organization, the employee and the change initiativesbeing introduced.

    To do this, develop consensus around the need for change, then select andrefine your transformation model involving as many people as possible. Paint apicture of what the future is likely to look like and give individuals a safeenvironment and the opportunity and resources to develop the competencies neededto meet the new challenges. Publish a plan; ensure that all have part to play inachieving transformation success, and measure progress throughout the process.

HR and transformation
    Is there any guarantee that if you incorporate these strategies yourdepartment will be safe from outsourcing or worse? No. One guarantee is thatwithout strategies, which represent HR's desire, intention, and willingness totransform, HR will remain in an extremely high-risk position. Addressing each ofthe critical areas detailed herein will provide a solid foundation for beginningyour transformation.

    Lastly, do not view your transformation efforts in a vacuum. Experience hasshown authors that there are many successful HR transformation efforts underway.The HR departments that the authors have assisted are finding the selection of amodel and upgrading the competencies to be attainable.

    However, they have become mired in the change and transitional aspects andfind it difficult to move the organization forward. Marketing is also on thebottom of their priority list as they struggle to transition to a new way ofdoing business.

    Use these models to create strategies for transformation; to createcompetency requirements and awareness for retooling and upgrading the skills ofHR professionals; and, to stimulate your own strategic thinking about your HRdepartment.

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