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HR! Discover Your New Role of the IT Era

by Prem Kamble

HR Departments World-over have Missed this Opportunity

Few will dispute the fact that the biggest driver of change in businesses today is information technology. Change impacts people - people naturally and strongly resist change. People's attitude is the greatest hindrance to change. But since change is imminent and unavoidable, it creates stress and impacts people behaviour.

IT, unlike popular belief, is not all technology. Since change is mainly IT-Driven and people resist change, IT has a very high people component. A successful IT implementer has to be a people expert as much as a technology expert.

People need support to cope with rapid IT-Driven change. IT departments may not be equipped to give this kind of psychological support. Which other department in the company can be expected to best understand the human psychology of change and support them? Is it Finance? Production? Obviously it is the HUMAN Resource department.

There is a big paradox in businesses. When IT impacts so many employees and their behaviour, and businesses have HR departments to look after everything concerning employees, why is it that no one has thought of a role for HR in IT implementations? HR itself has been blind to this possibility.

Globally, HR has not yet recognized an opportunity that information revolution has given to it on a platter. There is a new role that HR can play in this business world which is changing so rapidly on account of IT. HR has to rediscover itself.


HR as a Catalyst for Change

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HR has to discover its new role as a IT-Driven Change Agent. People psychology, organizational psychology, organization structure and authority structure - all of these are very important factors which impact the success and smoothness of change. And they are all clearly in the domain of HR. So why is HR having a blind eye to this golden opportunity?

IT guys are expected to drive this change. Their solutions affect the lives and work-style of all the people by changing work-processes causing disruption. Any change can be driven only by a person who has authority. Can you imagine a lowly peon trying to bring about a change in behaviour? Can a CEO do the job better? It is a no-brainer to say that CEO can best drive a change. Obviously, a person who wields the authority is best suited to bring about a change in companies.

Globally, HR has not yet recognized an opportunity that information revolution has given to it on a platter. There is a new role that HR can play in this business world which is changing so rapidly on account of IT. HR has to rediscover itself.
Here is another paradox - businesses are full of paradoxes. IT department provides the disruptive solution. Its success depends on whether the solution is used, adopted and implemented by other department folks, most often by all other departments. An employee normally takes orders from and acts on instructions from his or her superior. So if the solution and the imminent change in work has to be adopted, the push has to come from their respective superiors or department heads. IT department has no authority to force these employees to adopt the change. IT folks' success depends on how well the users adopt the change, whereas the users naturally resist change. But IT department cannot drive the change or has no authority to push it through.

The affected parties (the actual users who are affected by change) have nothing to lose if the project fails - they can blame it on IT department (although they do not know how much they lose in terms of efficiency). But they can certainly save their skin and avoid the discomfort of change. There is always a conscious desire to improve efficiencies, but there are also these lurking subconscious desires to avoid change and save their skin in case of failure. Subconscious desires always overpower conscious desires.

To make matters worse, technology is equally confusing to most managers. "I just don't understand this technology" is a very common phrase heard in offices. The CEO, who IT department can look upon to assist in bringing about a change, is equally uncomfortable. Whereas he is relatively at ease speaking to and befriending the HR manager, Finance manager, production manager, etc., he keeps the IT manager at arm's length as he does not understand anything of IT. He is not comfortable talking to IT folks so he rarely befriends them. In such a situation, politics flourishes, as parties involved in automation try to take advantage of his ignorance. Since today's CEO is more comfortable dealing with HR than with IT, HR has a great opportunity there to help the CEO cope with this issue of managing IT Driven change.

HR has a great role to play. But HR has to first equip itself to play this role. It needs to first understand the dynamics of this IT Driven Change. They need to understand what exactly creates this stress and confusion during IT Implementations. And learning this is not rocket science. HR can easily embrace this new role of change catalyst and contribute to the company's growth (see seminar).

IT folks can continue to be the change agents, and HR needs to take on this new role of a change catalyst.

Update (July 2014)

I have now given a name to this special skill of managing IT-Driven Change. I call it Behavioral ITTM skill. HR folks can easily pick up Behavioral IT skills and contribute as Catalysts of IT-Driven Change. You can google on Behavioral IT to know more - or click here.



Related Readings:

Behavioral IT - The People Aspects of IT-Driven Change
Change Today is Mainly IT-Driven
CEO as a Leader of IT Driven Change
More Articles for HR Professionals
All Articles by Prem Kamble

Also See:
See this Seminar for HR Managers
More Seminars for HR Managers


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