“Managing Change” for Today’s HR Professional

If the average Nigerian business executive today was asked to identify the top HR challenge facing most organizations – without doubt the response is likely to be the attracting of adequate personnel from the relatively dismal talent pool, available in the country. However, surprisingly “recruitment and availability of skilled local labour” ranks a fairly distant sixth in a global survey conducted across a diverse industry base some months back.
The top three challenges identified by Human Resource professionals, were firstly, Change Management(48% of respondents); secondly, Leadership Development (35% of respondents) and thirdly, Measuring HR effectiveness (27% of respondents). In casually perusing this outcome, it may not be immediately obvious why they made it to the top of the list. However, from the experience of working with different organizations, my mission is to very briefly to explain why what this survey has identified to be pre-requisites in the current dispensation of Human Resource management, cannot be casually dismissed. This article will focus on the topmost concern “Change Management”; while subsequent ones will address the other two.
Over and over again one hears this phrase “Change management” being bandied about, such that today it has attained the same league as other well worn consulting terms like Total Quality Management; Re-engineering and the like. However, probably the one factor that makes one reluctant to dismiss this as another vogue or a simple cliché is that “Change” is indeed a fact of modern business and one that will continue to define enterprises even more definitively in the future i.e. in terms of their capacity to speedily respond to or drive it. Secondly, is the appreciation that change always results in something new and, as a result, ushers in its wake a degree of destabilization and discomfort. As a result, preparing for and adjusting to change will never cease to frighten, confuse or exhilarate people as they strive to adjust to new phenomena – which, more often than not, arrive totally unannounced.
“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power”
– Alan Cohen
There is no doubt that man’s instinctive response is often to resist change. In fact it has been said that if you want to make enemies, just try to change something! Globally, modern day managers have come to accept and embrace this reality; but in Nigeria, probably due to our very peripheral role in the world economy, this realization is only slowly beginning to truly dawn.