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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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. Managing IT-Driven change is a
specialized skill which HR folks need to learn, it is not rocket science.
HR can easily learn and embrace this new role of change catalyst and
contribute to the company's growth. (see Seminar for HR Folks).
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.
IT folks can continue to be the change agents, and HR needs to take on
this new role of a change catalyst.
Behavioral IT - The People Aspects of IT-Driven Change
Change Today is Mainly IT-Driven
CEO as a Leader of IT Driven Change
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