In an era of rapid technological disruptions, globalisation, and demographic changes, organisations have to deal with multifarious and unprecedented variations that have a direct impact on employees. Today, workplaces are becoming virtual with digital adoption, and, the emergence of new HR tech trends make it essential for processes, systems, and strategies to constantly change and ensure that an organisation remains competitive. These trends are shaping the world of human resources, impacting organisations, and their ecosystem.
Organisations are enduring continuous transformations to ensure that they remain relevant and achieve business objectives, while ensuring continued support to individuals working with them. The HR function is expected to enact the role of that of an agent in this change and transformation, and, spearhead the cultural revolution required to stay competitive and successful. The HR function luckily, being a connection between the leadership and the workforce at large, has the mandate to understand the implication of this change, and, provide that bridge between the strategic direction and cultural alignment of its workforce.
Initiating and calibrating change
What HR teams need to do then is adopt the mindset of a change management expert in helping employees understand the ethos of the company in today’s dynamic environment. The role of HR is to think horizontally and company-wide, but with employees at the centre of its core strategy. HR professionals are uniquely positioned to facilitate this shift, since they are constantly in touch with the management as well as employees on a day-to-day basis. They possess the ability and also the relevant tools to gauge the pulse of their workforce and the other stakeholders of the company to find the right path for this cultural transformation.
1. If leveraged properly, this capability of HR professionals can be of immense value to enhance the effectiveness of the change programme.
2. A McKinsey study estimates that up to 70% of change programmes do not achieve their targeted goals because of employee resistance.
3. Thus, the skills of sensing, contextualising the resistance, persuasion and coaching are the core competencies that HR professionals need to develop to effect this change.
HR teams need to proactively understand how change is likely to impact their organisation. And, for that, they should have the ability to align resources and identify influencers within the company who will be a part of the change management process. Besides this, you also need to empower them with tools and ideas, and, institute a constant feedback mechanism within the organisation to steer change in the right direction.
In Quotes “HR teams need to proactively understand how change is likely to impact their organisation. And, for that they should have the ability to align resources and identify influencers…”
To overcome the challenges of this fast-changing context, and thus remain successful, organisations will have to be sensitive towards the change and build a change ready culture. And, to build such a culture, Human Resource (HR) will have to proactively take ownership and lead the change from the front. Any change needs to be seen as an opportunity, which is what we did at Samsung. Here are a few things that have been done at Samsung to create a positive culture and bring in sustainable growth.
Open To Change
We wanted to orient employees about the need for change and educate them about three key behaviours of positive change
1. Being proactive
2. Being ethical
3. Mutual respect
Here, Samsung focussed on discussions and group activities around change, making employees reflect on strategies to overcome the challenges of change. One key aspect was to make employees understand that in order to facilitate change, it is very important to respond proactively to a new situation, rather than coming forth with a reaction. The employees were then oriented towards being ethical, identifying the difference between right and wrong. We also focussed on creating a workplace where mutual respect is the norm, which would lead to a more professional, inclusive, healthy, and a productive work environment.
The ‘Open to Change’ programme created a more conducive workplace, helping employees become more sensitive towards their customers as well. Employees appreciated this programme because it presented them with an opportunity to share, learn, and more importantly, connect with each other. Working in a positive change ready culture, and, taking the responsibility of building such a culture can enable them to bring the best out of employees.
Samsung’s Change Champions
Samsung is a huge organisation and we wield an employee strength of 70,000. And, it therefore became important for us to address the aspect of employee integration into a common transformative agenda in a multi-business, geographically dispersed organisation through our Change Champion initiative. So, we started through the process of identification of formal and informal influencers across the organisation, and, equipped them with a formal change agenda. They were trained with techniques and backed by budgetary support to drive the required transformation.
Change Champions act as an extension of HR initiatives, supporting employees, and, are sensitive to all employee needs. These Change Champions, who are usually young millennials, wield both formal and informal influence, and, are usually the opinion leaders at their workplaces. As a result, their ability to reach out to every employee across the country helps immensely in building better culture, and, thereby, enhances their performance. To achieve their objectives, Change Champions work around certain themes—maintaining a proper work-life balance and creating opportunities for employees to bond, collaborate, and refresh at periodic intervals.
In Quotes “Change Champions, who are usually young millennials, wield both formal and informal influence, and, are usually the opinion leaders at their workplaces.”
The designated Change Champions have specific event calendars, and, they decide the opportunities where employees can spend some time bonding with each other, socializing, and, getting to know other team members without unwanted protocols. These refreshing interactions help employees bond. Such engagements also make the workplace a lot more flexible, providing freedom to employees to express themselves and their talent. In turn, this helps each person perform to her/his full potential once s/he has peers who are more receptive and supportive of individual initiatives. Once an atmosphere of collaboration and camaraderie is created, it engenders a more connected workspace, inspiring greater productivity, efficiency, and speed because contented, happy and re-energized employees are able to contribute with greater effectiveness to the organisational agenda.
The direct impact of Change Champions and greater office camaraderie became evident in 2016, when a massive traffic jam in Gurugram—which earned infamy as ‘Gurujam’—left thousands stranded on various roads in the city for more than 20 hours. The very next day, there were chances and apprehensions of a similar ‘Gurujam’ recurring. A proactive group of Change Champions then huddled at the corporate headquarters in the Millennium City, deliberating over ways to address the likely scenario. Many in the group had experienced a torrid time themselves the previous day, and, were in no mood to let other employees experience a rerun. The 16 Change Champions communicated their concerns to the management, suggesting that their buses leave early at 4:00 pm to beat the likelihood of another traffic nightmare that day. The HR and the management responded positively to such a sensible suggestion and the staff left early that day, avoiding another replay of traffic chaos. Decisions like this are possible when the employees and management operate on the same wavelength – keeping the Company and its employees’ welfare at the core of every instance of decision-making.
Across the company, 120 young Change Champions are seeking ways to make the workplace more exciting for the employees of Samsung. Such occasions are also an opportunity for them to demonstrate their leadership skills, helping create new leaders of the future. These Change Champions conduct over 175 activities a year involving sports, knowledge-sharing sessions, teamwork exercises, Yoga and health sessions, and, sometimes just know-your-team sessions.
The result- individual as well as team productivity has improved noticeably.
Three years down the line, the change agenda has led to positive outcomes for Samsung India. There is more connect between and within teams and with the top leadership of the company. Employees reveal they are managing their work-related stress much better. They are also enjoying better work-life balance, improved team dynamics, higher levels of creativity, more positive outcomes, increased respect between colleagues and stronger bonding with immediate managers. The credit for this success story goes to all the players involved - the employees, the HR team and the management and partners, and, of course, the Change Champions. Motivated by the success of the Change Champions, change management is now constantly on the Company’s agenda.
Is HR solely responsible for cultural change?
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