All change – Organisation Development – what can HR offer?

The themes that recurred throughout the first day of CIPD’s annual conference seemed to be change management and employee engagement. The opening address from Sir Terry Leahy, former CEO of Tesco, boiled down to – good leadership frees up the creativity of the whole workforce, allowing staff to take risks and make mistakes. A workforce so liberated will be more engaged, more willing to go the extra mile, all the more so if they are inspired by stretching targets. In the background an enlightened management will track progress across a wide range of success measures, not focusing on narrow definitions of profit or shareholder return. Four key messages were • Make the job interesting (don’t restrict employees just to contributing in terms of their roles) • Treat employees with respect • Give staff the opportunity to progress • Make sure they have a boss that is a help, not part of the problem A later master class session tried to shed light on how organisations might continue to adapt in a changing world. Organisation Development can be seen as a separate discipline from Human Resources, or as a codification of its strategic contribution. The key point is that OD has a focus on the strategic long term capability of an organisation and may embrace a range of insights from several disciplines. Hence it offers organisational leaders a full range of interventions, not just those directly associated with managing people. In particular, OD would emphasise the importance of values, offering them as normative guides as well as elements in the description of the current and planned state of the organisation. The critical issue is to ensure that an organisation addresses these wider issues as part of its long term planning, the debate about whether this is HR or OD is academic. Sustaining and embedding change are being raised as critical questions alongside more traditional aspects of change management capability. There is a clear link between organisations that can be described as high performing and the way in which all HR interventions are seen as having a broad organisation development impact, where employee engagement is not just a catch all term, but is linked to clearly defined business outcomes. In these organisations change becomes part of “how we do business”, not the result of yet another programme. An acceptance of, even an embracing of, modern work life as being based around continuing change is one of the contributory elements of being a high performing business. There is a clear and direct link to the concept of “The learning organisation”. There is also wide spread acceptance that one of the key elements to a successful change environment is the inclusion of all those affected by change (and those key groups who could block its success) in the design and execution. This helps engage people in the change process and increase the pace and effectiveness of the change. None of this is “rocket science” and stripped of its jargon what is being looked for is a method for motivating people in every day work as well as in supporting and sustaining change. They cannot be treated as just passive recipients. These are not new insights, but they do bear repeating. Long term sustained change requires • A clear, compelling vision of the future • The involvement of all stakeholders in the analysis, design and execution of change • A full organisational assessment of impact, not just a narrow process one • Clear milestones and measures of success • A willingness to accept risks and allow for mistakes

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