Workforce Management During Transformational Times

Workforce Management During Transformational Times

Transformation seems to be the latest buzzword in the corporate scene in recent times.

In Oct last year, the Minister of Manpower, Mr. Lim Swee Say mentioned transformation is an important process in the life cycle of any organization, industry and economy. Only through transformation can we ride the waves of opportunity, instead of being submerged by the waves of change. This way, we prevent stagnation and decline in the shorter term, and sustain growth in the longer term.

The Singapore Government has also recently announced the Industry Transformation Programme, an initiative that seeks to transform more than 20 sectors in Singapore to help drive productivity and innovation, invest in skills and promote sectoral manpower planning.

In March 2016, I made the point at a HR Leaders Networking Forum held at LinkedIn Asia Pacific Headquarters Office in Singapore that companies don’t go through restructuring today. They go through transformation for tomorrow.

In light of this context, it is critical for HR to build capability inTransformation Business Partnering for transformational times. HR leaders could ask some possible questions to themselves -

  • Is the company at a stage of focusing on accelerating growth and investing heavily on previously untapped markets?
  • Or is the company going through a turnaround business situation to save a business that is not delivering against targeted top line revenue growth?

Understand what is the latest business status is key to understand what kind of Business Partnering is required.

In an accelerating growth scenario, the focus could be on identifying talent strategies for entering new markets, scaling up recruitment and integrating many new employees next year.

In a turnaround scenario, the focus could be on rallying employees’ morale and supporting business leaders to take painful decisions on personnel choices to create an optimal overheads structure.

HR needs to stay abreast to the latest business status, be a vital and relevant part of the business.

During transformational times, companies are likely to make a significant number of personnel changes and talent appointments. Some examples include

  • Did the company promote someone internally to take on a larger role?
  • Did the Talent Acquisition team recruit an external Director for a commercial leadership role?
  • Are selected employees taking on regional roles for the first time due to the transformation?

These are classic examples of career transitions for employees going through organizational change.

HR can proactively map out and identify the individuals who are going through career transitions and provide Transition Coaching for them. Business leaders who are going through career transitions may fall into an action imperative trap and look at solving low hanging fruits in the early stages of their move in a bid to establish their credibility quickly.

As a result, they react quickly because they thought that it is perceived as decisiveness, especially when speed is of essence to win in the market place. However, it is important for HR leaders to counsel business leaders that it is more important to understand what are the new ways of working, invest the time to know the team and think for the long haul.

In such instances, HR can be a trusted Transition Coach, partner business leaders and coach them on what are the common pitfalls for anyone going through a career transition and what are the positive actions one can take accelerate their learning. This is in-house executive coaching with a huge impact!

I read with great interests previously from the book titled ‘Firing up Commitment during Organizational Change’ by Price Pritchett and I love the part where the author talked about in times of organizational change, loyalty could be outdated and high morale may be unrealistic.

What companies need and can do is to drive commitment. Employee may go through the Change Curve during transformational times and experience Denial, Fear and Acceptance before arriving at Commitment. The good news is – I believe Business and HR leaders can help employees arrive at commitment faster.

  1. Firstly, need your people. Let your people know and feel that they are valued even more so in such times. Transformational times are times where people can shine, demonstrate their people, change, mental and results agilities, and prove that they are able to navigate and contribute in fiscally challenging macroeconomic environment. It adds to their learning and development, and honestly, their resume! It is akin to a badge of honour, a feather added that they added to their cap.
  2. Next, it is important for leaders to have and demonstrate empathy during such times. Feel what your employees are feeling as through their feelings are your own. Leaders with high empathy are able to see the world through employees’ eyes and share their perspectives. Leaders can help employees find the right phrases to express their feelings and give them a voice to express the support they need at work.
  3. Last but not the least, be the safety net for your people. Build trust by letting your people know that they should continue to have the courage to act and innovate. Transformational times are times that call for people to step up, rise to the challenge and push for innovation to break the bottlenecks of limited resources.  

Choose to invest efforts and promote commitment with your workforce during any organizational change and transformational times. Business and HR leaders can lead the way to generate that much needed dose of commitment for companies with their employees.

We can grow together in transformational times.

This article first appeared in the May 2016's issue of HRM Magazine

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