Q. I have worked for a multi-national company for several years and have been involved in the people side of a number of acquisitions.
I really enjoyed the challenges of managing HR through change, and would like to pursue this in a more focused way. What is the market like for senior change management roles, and are there ways I can improve my chances?
A. Managing people through change in a large and complex organisation is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, aspects of the strategic human resources role. Change, whether structural, operational, systemic, behavioural or cultural, is always a confusing time for a business and it requires the skilled touch of HR and change professionals to ensure the process, including all communication, runs as smoothly as possible.
While change is not the sole provision of large, multinational blue-chip organisations, corporate change management roles tend to operate within larger organisations where the prevalence of change is greater due to the size and resulting complexity. These roles focus on the continual management of change projects across the business.
Projects can be at an individual, team, business unit or whole of company level. Working as part of, and often leading, a change project team, the change manager will work with key stakeholders at the conceptualising stage through the implementation phase to the eventual evaluation. Often managing multiple change projects they will maintain a high profile in the business and will often be involved in strategic business planning initiatives and broader HR strategising.
This is not to say that smaller organisations don't go through similarly difficult and important change processes, but they tend to look to two different solutions to satisfy their change management requirements:
The first one is contracting. There is an increasing need for experienced change managers to work with organisations on short-term assignments to help manage them through a change process. Usually independent consultants, they specialise in change management activity and work with clients primarily on the implementation phase of the change process ensuring it is delivered effectively.
Second, is consulting. Human resources consulting firms, whether global blue-chips or small privately owned businesses, are becoming increasingly used to support both small and large organisations through change processes. Consultants are sent to work as change agents within the client organisation to provide support, guidance and management throughout the entire change process. Success of change depends to a large extent on commitment of employees towards the organisation's aims and on cooperation between them. It is a consultant’s responsibility to provide direction and assistance to employees to achieve this commitment.
Considering statistics show over 90 per cent of Australian businesses have less than 100 employees, the market in human resource contracting and consulting can only continue to grow.
Change management is viewed as a marquee area of HR and, along with the broader organisational development field, many HR professionals are looking to move their career in this direction. In order to improve your chances you need to differentiate yourself from others targeting the same opportunities. Target your résumé towards your change management experience and focus on specific achievements where you have had a measurable impact on the organisation. Target the opportunities that fit with your experience.
While we all like the idea of taking giant leaps in our career, few of us are able to do this. Identify the opportunities you are skilled for and set your sights on these. Work with recruitment partners to target specific organisations where your skills may be of use. Particularly if you are immediately available, you never know when an organisation might just be able to make use of your skills if an introduction can be effected.
In an increasingly competitive economy, organisations have to continually differentiate themselves and their service offering and this means continuous change. With an increasing need for this change to be managed professionally and effectively, change managers are going to be an important part of the HR and business landscape for years to come.
By Richard Taylor, practice leader, Hudson HR