Making best use of your existing team, and filling the gaps, to support organisational change.

The processes and activities that involve people, those generally completed by an organisation’s HR department, will usually be in heavy  demand during any period of organisational change. However, typically, functional areas like HR, Finance and Technology, are organised and resourced for the demands of business-as-usual rather than the requirements of a transition or transformation. And the situation is complicated by the requirement of those teams to continue to deliver their usual day-to-day tasks, such as recruitment, employee relations and case-work, alongside the additional work demands of change activity. Furthermore, the capability and capacity needed for the transition won’t usually be of the same type or intensity during the transition as they were before or will need to be after. 

Transitions and transformations provide an opportunity to take a fresh look at what HR support the organisation needs

In many cases, to get through the transition’s capability and capacity ‘hump’, will require some level of reorganisation and augmentation:  bringing in additional support and expertise to get over the hump. Doing that augmenting and reorganisation carefully will make the transition smoother and can help the function deal effectively and efficiently with the business-as-usual activity.

Moreover, augmenting the HR team can provide leaders with the space to consider what the new post-transition operating model will require and so, set the organisation up for a stable and effective function once the transition is complete. 

When thinking about the transition and post-transition operating model, the work of an HR function can generally be split into four types of activity : 

Senior direction or strategic partnering: partnering with the CEO and the organisation’s leadership team; making sure that the work of the function is fully aligned to the outcomes the organisation requires; contributing to the development and delivery of the organisation’s strategy. In our experience, this role is one that may be missing when organisations find themselves executing a transition and transformation. 

Operational or workforce planning: this level of activity requires close working between experts in articulating the organisation’s skill and capability demands and working out the the best sources of supply to fulfil these: from contingent labour through to permanent or fixed term recruitment.  In our experience, well run HR teams will be able to carry out this activity effectively, but transitions and transformations can stretch the capacity of even a team adequately resourced to perform business-as-usual activity. 

Tactical or individual case work: individual employees (at all levels of seniority) need to be recruited; managers need advice and support on performance management, succession planning, reward, disciplining and exiting.  These tasks that require planning, the right combination of sensitivity and compassion for those involved and care and rigour in the application of technical expertise.  In times of transition and transformation this type of activity may become intensified and can also be more challenging because of the seniority of the individuals involved. 

Day-to-day delivery or transactions: whatever is happening in an organisation employee records need to be kept up to date, sickness absence tracked, salaries paid, and pension contributions made.  Transactions involving individuals employees have a business-to-consumer character and levels of service need to be at or as close to ‘zero defect’ levels as possible. In our experience, during transitions, transactional effectiveness is even more important: with the employee morale and engagement implications of poor service being magnified. In addition, leaders should be looking ahead to the HR/people processes that will be needed in the new operating model, post transformation. 

Transitions and transformations will place extra demands on even the most effective enabling corporate functions, and on HR activity in particular.  During this period of more intense activity, augmenting existing capability to give the capacity and expertise needed to meet additional demands is a prudent step. Furthermore, augmenting the team can give leaders the opportunity to review how the function operates and what it should be doing once the transition to the new operating model is complete. 

This is the second of three articles that Rupert has written on HR transformation. The first article, Configuration, and the third article, Integration are available by clicking on the links.

Rupert is the Chair of 3XO. He was previously the UK’s Government Chief People Officer (2016 to 2022), and prior to that Group HR Director of Lloyds Banking Group and held senior HR roles at Aviva and Barclays.