7 Critical Competencies to Help HR Leaders Manage Change

Global companies are in growth mode, and that's giving HR leaders more uncertainty to manage. One search firm has developed a list of seven critical HR competencies to help them.

May 24, 2017 – For every international business, the stakes are high. Today, many global companies are embarking on their own journey forward, leaving behind the effects of the recession and setting sail for growth again. Management and HR leaders, however, know the game has changed and, if anything, uncertainty looms larger than ever.

More and more, according to one new report by Stanton Chase International, business leaders are concluding that competency in human resources is a core requirement for their company to succeed. The study was prepared by Karen Fogh-Andersen, global leader of the firm’s HR practice group.

In the report, Stanton Chase asked companies a series of questions to assess their HR team as they look to the future: Do you need radical change or will you move forward with incremental adjustments? Will you rock the boat today and add more uncertainty to your strategy, or should you wait until things are more settled? Is it less risky to mitigate the risk of large and complex organizational changes, or the risk of the status quo? Does your future business need new skills and competences or are you comfortable with the human resources that you have today?

The New Workplace

Every business leader, no matter their function or industry, has experienced some form of radical work transformation, whether it be digitally in the form of social media, for example, demographically, or in countless other ways. Old paradigms are out, new ways of thinking are in — and talent, that one ‘commodity’ we’re all after is caught up in the middle of it all. That shift, among workers and along the entire spectrum of the world of work, is calling for new approaches, fresh thinking and an updated playbook ….. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.

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HR’s Impact

Businesses must answer these basic questions, and increasingly human resources plays a key role in answering them, said Ms. Fogh-Andersen. Suddenly, HR performance is positioned to influence a company’s overall performance. HR leaders find themselves under heavy pressure, which calls for new skills, competencies and profiles across the practice. There is also a special focus on HR senior management in charge of driving organizational changes medium and long term.

What human resources abilities and competencies need to be in place within your company and what should HR leaders be doing to support those competencies? Here’s a list of competencies developed by Stanton Chase, based on research and client interviews from around the world.

1) Strong leadership, able to sell a vision and drive change.

What distinguishes top-performing business leaders today is not their individual abilities or actions, but rather their ability to work with their peers — capturing ideas, information and resources from their network and using them to help reset strategic goals and objectives. Management skills are a given; but leadership is now the crucial talent. HR leaders must maintain close relationships with other C-suite executives to ensure alignment as companies grow and mature into the global market. Frequent communication within the C-suite is critical.

“Organizational change must be understood and embraced at all levels,” said Ms. Fogh-Andersen. “As one client expressed: ‘Undoubtedly, successful, frequent communication within the C-suite is critical in this process as is buy-in from the C-suite and a willingness to bring in HR at the right level to carry out the change processes.’ In real life behaviors make the difference, behaviors can be adapted, observed and consequently constructively challenged by feedback. So, we hear our clients welcome a translation into concrete and specific, actionable behaviors.”

2) Ability to redesign organizations.

Organizational structure and practices must be driven by business strategy and future market needs. Key work is increasingly executed by teams working on projects instead of individuals with daily, static roles. For HR leaders, the future is about business alignment and transparency. What’s required is a modern, forward-looking HR team to achieve strategic alignment within the company. HR must be fully integrated with all organizational practices.

“We are seeing a complete transformation of HR around the globe and across all industries and sectors,” said Ms. Fogh-Andersen. “We are also seeing how client companies that have not undergone any transformation during the recession are now struggling more than those who are changing the way they do business.”

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3) A resilient and engaged company culture.

Companies today must be able to confront change. Expectations should be set so that “change is the new normal.” This means that employees should be given a stronger voice and communication during transitions should be constant. HR leaders should work with management to foster an environment where change is expected and valued. This approach is about defining reality and then inspiring engagement and participation.

It’s a tack that calls for “the ability to wrap what must be said in very simple, easy to understand and remember messages, such as stories, that build on line manager’s intrinsic motivation,” said Ms. Fogh-Andersen. “Today, HR is overly complex and line managers are not willing to invest the time or may even fail to understand the complexity but are very receptive for clear, straight forward concepts that talk to them and stick over time.”

4) Employee contribution and commitment.

Employees want to feel that they are contributing to the growth of an organization. The rise of social media and greater global connectivity means that employees can partake in their company’s success far beyond their formal scope of work. HR leaders should support employee engagement processes not only because it leads to employee satisfaction, but because it also means better organizational performance.

“One challenge we have identified among our clients is getting employee commitment and involvement when transformation and change is driven top down,” said Ms. Fogh-Andersen. “As HR leaders, the way they interact and take people through this change is key.”

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5) A learning environment, able to adapt to new competence requirements.

Change drives the need for individuals and teams to learn and adapt to new competencies. Creating a learning environment in the workplace supports new competency development, but is also directly linked with higher employee engagement. This is becoming a differentiating quality of successful companies, regardless of size.

“HR leaders need to proactively support this by working with management to ensure the learning needs are being identified and addressed,” said Ms. Fogh-Andersen. “Sometimes it’s as simple as establishing a mentor program for junior and senior employees. Sometimes it means developing and investing in training and development.”

6) Strategic people analytics and workforce-planning abilities

Setting new organizational directions for people requires evidence-based planning just like any other project. Today, lead consulting organizations such as Deloitte are confirming that people analytics are becoming an essential feature of human resources management to predict workforce trends and target top talent. This includes leveraging external data, such as data from social networking platforms, employment brand data, data on hiring patterns, and external turnover and demographic data. Workforce planning is informed by these data sources.

“HR leaders need to use these tools to support management decision making,” Ms. Fogh-Andersen says. “The winning combination for a successful strategic evaluation and restructuring of the company’s human resources involves both people and technology. HR need to drive strategy setting, and vision/mission/values processes, in the present period of growth in most markets and sectors.”

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7) Ability to re-think HR systems, tools and methods using appropriate technology

Technology has touched every facet of HR’s traditional roles; social media platforms have quickly increased the speed and focus of recruitment, and videoconferencing has transformed the interview process. Advanced software offers improved big data analytics. Generational differences in the workplace have also added a new layer of complexity. HR leaders must adapt HR processes in a way that effectively supports implementation of the organization’s strategy. Many businesses have been recognized for their innovative approaches to transforming HR functions both with and sometimes without technology.

“No doubt that enhanced technology changes the fundamental nature of what it means to go to work, with many employees expecting to roll out of bed and into their kitchen to tackle the day’s tasks,” said Ms. Fogh-Andersen. “HR departments must find ways to provide flexibility for the new generation in order to retain the top talent.”

“HR plays a key role in securing your organization’s sustainability in the increasingly global era,” Ms. Fogh-Andersen continued. “In order to stay at the forefront of these demands, C-suite leaders should review and modify the role of the entire HR organization. Businesses cannot survive if HR remains reactive and static. The modern-day HR team is responsible for managing and developing the organization and people in a way that corresponds with the company’s overall business strategy.”

Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor and Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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