The rise of OD: How does it impact HR?

The role of OD in HR is gaining momentum

The rise of OD: How does it impact HR?

Organizational Development is a growing field as it helps organizations succeed in the global, competitive and interconnected world. Not surprisingly, many HR professionals, managers, and corporate strategists are interested in acquiring OD mindsets and skills. At present in Canada, there are no undergraduate programs in OD. Professional programs, like the OD Certificate Series programs offered by Queen’s IRC, are an alternative for professionals who want to get a grounding in OD.

But what exactly is OD and how does it interact with the HR world?

“One classic definition of organization development comes from Richard Beckhard's 1969 Organization Development, Strategies and Models. Organization Development initiatives are:

  • Planned
  • Organization-wide
  • Managed from the top
  • Increase organization effectiveness and health
  • Through planned interventions in the organization's "processes,” using behavioral-science knowledge.

OD professionals focus on enhancing organization capacity through alignment of strategy, structure, management processes, people, and rewards and metrics.”

We spoke to Françoise Morissette, co-facilitator of the upcoming OD Foundations course at Queen’s University IRC.

Morissette is an OD Practitioner with a focus on Leadership and Strategy, and a Professional Coach. With colleague Brenda Barker Scott, an OD Practitioner focusing on Organizational Design and Designing Collaborative Workplaces, she delivers Queen’s IRC OD Foundations: “an introductory program exploring theories, approaches and tools of the contemporary OD practitioner. Fundamental to the practice of OD is the involvement of stakeholders in an action learning approach to change. It’s about developing organizational capacity to learn and adapt in pursuit of strategic goals.”

Due to increased global competitiveness, changing stakeholder expectations, and disruptive technology, organizations in all sectors have to raise the bar. This means extensive organizational transformation, which requires enhanced leadership capacity and systems thinking and action.  “It’s about looking at the big picture and connecting the dots for optimal synergy and flow. Instead of breaking an entity into its components, systems thinking examines how components contribute to the whole and reinforce each other to produce system wide outcomes.”

OD’s purpose is to help organizations perform better, which means improving their health to an athletic level:  sick, dysfunctional, toxic organizations simply cannot perform, nor can they compete. Better performance means changing faster: there are two drivers for change: pain and gain. Unfortunately most change (70% to 80%) is driven by pain. By waiting too long to transform, organizations paint themselves in a corner, where their options are limited, behaviours reactive, while fear and panic run rampant.  OD professionals help organizations move the needle from pain to gain: ‘we are pretty good now, how can we improve?’ Instead of: ‘we are in a crisis, and close to collapse.’ Bottom Line: organizations should be making a pre-emptive strike to solve problems before they’re forced to. “Don’t only start moving when you have cancer, start moving when you’ve got a cold,” added Morissette. “That’s one of the big messages we send organizations.”

So, how does HR relate to OD? How do they fit together?

“The HR function started as Personnel with a focus on operational effectiveness. Over time, Personnel evolved into Human Resources, signaling that employees are considered a valuable asset to organizational performance and sustainability.” As a result, HR’s focus shifted to the stewardship of Human Capital, for the greater good of both organization and employees. Currently, many HR functions are being renamed Talent Management, implying that human capital is not only a valuable asset, but one that needs to be managed optimally and sensitively.

Consequently, many HR professionals are busy integrating talent management components such as recruitment and development, into aligned and synergistic systems to ensure optimal connectivity, mutual reinforcement, for stronger impact.

“Organization development means creating an enabling workplace where people can work effectively toward strategic goals. OD is a change process that explores the overall dynamics of people systems, and how change in one area affects the others.”

OD Units can be located in the HR function, but not always. Sometimes they belong to Corporate Services, sometimes, to Corporate Strategy, or to Internal Consulting.  OD is related to HR because it deals with enhancing individual and organizational capacity for greater performance.

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