Last updated: July 26, 2019
Topic: BusinessManufacturing
Sample donated:

Of Resistance, Commitment, and Long-term Success: Taking the Lid Off Change Management

 

The current paper intends to look into the changes that have occurred within my organization with the change in the incumbent for the position of Human Resources Director. With this also came changes in the personnel management and employee relations style of the organization.

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My previous company is a manufacturing and sales plant, which makes it distinct from others of its kind that are exclusively dedicated to manufacturing operations. Applicants are enjoined as employees of the company because of the attractive vision of its management which has earned a good reputation. Management did not want the company to be unionized, and there is also a strong emphasis on the effective management of people, but with a distinct, non-union approach.

The company seems to have taken a non-traditional stance to the personnel function. And yet HR still is seen as taking on an administrative role up until the new HR Director took charge. From then on, HR seems to have taken a more strategic role in the organization – a clear paradigm shift. The concentration on the synthesis of HRM practices and policies with strategy has been depicted as a paradigm shift from a tactical to a strategic thrust or orientation (Thomason, 1991).

 

Before, the company is also strongly paternalistic, giving very conspicuous favours to deserving employees; in return they implicitly expect that employees will have enhanced psychological ownership and exhibit organizational citizenship behaviours. The paternalistic culture of the company is not in itself negative, if viewed from the perspective of rewarding the best performing employees. Those who perform exceptionally well may receive intangible rewards apart from financial gain. Culture is a very critical factor to consider when drafting motivational programs or initiatives for employees and in judging which style of leadership is most apt (Managing Diversity, 2002).

But with the new HR Director, this paternalistic culture which espoused personal favors has been discouraged. Everyone was asked to conform to policies and to follow strict rules of engagement within the company. This has been antagonized, particularly by those who have had long tenures and who have been used to such a paternalistic culture. Thus, the appointment of the new HR head was met with much antagonism.

Kotter (1996), in his book, Leading Change, asserts that one of the biggest mistakes that people can make in their attempt to change organizations is too much complacency. I have personally observed this through this personal experience, where those who have had long tenure seem to enjoy their entitlement and do not want to migrate into a performance-based culture. This feeling is contributed to by “too much past success, a lack of visible crises, low performance standards, [and] insufficient feedback from external constituencies” (p. 5).

 

The appraisal is conducted once a year and is their basis for a performance-based pay system. They also advocate continuous feedback giving, and the formal appraisal process is simply a documentation of the feedback that has been constantly given to the employee. There are pre-determined performance criteria, including quality of work, innovation, problem solving, and continuous improvement.

 

Traditionally, employee performance has been evaluated solely by supervisors. However, in my organization’s case, it is not so. The one who directly supervises the employee is not the one who rates him or her. This may be effective to some extent but may also be prone to bias. The new HR Director then pushed that there be more objective appraisal through a 360 system of evaluation. She recommended that both department manager and team leader carry on the appraisal, with their ratings carrying respective weights. To obtain an accurate view of the staff’s performance, other sources apart from one’s superior should provide feedback (Gruner, 1997). Sources of relevant information include supervisors, peers, subordinates, customers, and self-appraisal. Again, similar to her approach on changing the paternalistic culture of the organization, this move has been met with much resistance. But because the effort has been given a blessing by senior management, it has been sustained, and has in fact improved employees’ productivity. Apart from the support of senior management, she also proceeded to creating a clear and compelling vision for the changes in the performance management system (Kotter, 1996). This is an important step in any change effort; she has been effective at appealing at employees’ logic and reasoning. For this, her programs have been supported from top management down to employees on the shop floor.

 

The company grows leaders from within; however, it does hire externally for engineering and managerial sales positions. All production managers have been internally bred and grown.

There is transparency in promotion decisions, and people are aware of who the high potentials are even before the actual promotion transpires. The organization is pragmatic in not changing this system just so employees who have outgrown the job may be promoted even in the absence of vacancies.

The new HR Director has then observed that there is a lack in HR systems in the current set-up of the organization. She also said that clearly, there are no promotion criteria or policy, and there are also no guidelines on the establishment of new positions, and the like. Career paths are not clearly defined. These are some of the areas that may be further improved on and linked to performance as with the other HR systems. She then moved for the establishment of promotion criteria and clear career paths. To those who were exceptional performers, these were welcome changes. However, for those who were borderline or least effective performers, this was a conspicuous threat. The HR Director had to solicit the support of line managers for the career program. Again, with top management support, the program was implemented smoothly. She has also implemented these policies in phases – generating short-term wins (Kotter, 1996).  She started with the most trivial and scaled up to the more complicated and sensitive issues.

 

Looking at the company’s style of eliciting commitment and ensuring control, one can see that employees are not stringently monitored on the use of their time, and they are autonomous in this respect. They are encouraged to learn. Those who are more experienced willingly coach neophytes; as training skill is one of the appraisal criteria. There are a handful of employees are personally engaged in driving their learning.

 

Employees who have a high need for achievement ate not risk takers and tend to set goals that are challenging enough to be interesting but low enough to be attainable. Employees with a high need for achievement need recognition and want their achievements to be noticed (Arnold, Cooper, & Robertson, 2002). With this observation on lack of training, the new HR Director crafted a program which involved intensive training for high potentials. Again, this was meritorious for those who excelled in their respective positions, but to some extent demotivated those who were not performing up to par with the company’s expectations.

 

There is strong management involvement, and their vision is for the company to be differentiated by the quality of its people and their thinking. The Production Director himself advocates innovation and free expression of opinion. The role of the Production Director is critical and his transformation leadership goes a long way. Apart from the working time, he is open to the norms of his American employees and does not impose his own set of beliefs on them (he is an expatriate).

Leaders go beyond the development of a common vision; they value the human resources of their organizations. They provide an environment that promotes individual contributions to the organization’s work. Leaders develop and maintain collaborative relationships formed during the development and adoption of the shared vision. They form teams, support team efforts, develop the skills groups and individuals need, and provide the necessary resources, both human and material, to fulfill the shared vision (Tichy ; Devanna, 2000).

The support of the Production Director has proved to be a critical component in the successful deployment of the programs of the new HR Director. If not for his support, it would not be possible to move the organization forward through change. Another good thing about the changes in my organization is the support that was given by top management. Kotter (1996) warns that one of the bad things that transpire while leading a change effort is “failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition” (p. 6). He further says that the change effort may be sustained only for a while when such support is not present; and yet this will surely fail when forces within the organization start to undermine these initial efforts. As a new player within the organization, our HR Director was well aware that she could not influence others if not for top management support. She began soliciting support from the top for all her change initiatives to ensure their smooth roll-out.

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Personnel is perceived as a conscience and a channel through which valid grievances may be aired. In such cases, management is “ready to step down” to admit the fault or shortcoming. This is not the case in unionized environments. In the latter, the transactions are impersonal since the union is used to represent the person – and that person-to-person interaction, which is very important, gets lost. My organization’s set-up requires a high degree of management maturity. It is good for the company to promote this notion of HR merely as an arbiter, and not as “police”. The company operates with the thinking that “people will deliver given the opportunity and the correct guidance and discipline”. The company perceives that there is still a need for control if they were to expect optimal performance from employees.

Because the company has worked and operated like ‘family’ in the past, it was very difficult for the HR Director to set up formal systems. It also took a while for employees to be accustomed to the new rules of the game, wherein everything was well documented and there were policies for each of their issues. In the past, almost everything has been decided on in an impromptu manner and there were no official documents to refer to.

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The young employees of the company are accorded with opportunities to “show-off” their capability to think critically and to interpret. These initiatives build these individuals’ self-esteem, and they thrive in such an environment. Managers have grown naturally in this kind of environment, and yet one setback is the complacency about how they have done things. From the normative point of view, experienced meaningfulness is elicited by the job characteristic of skill variety, task identity, and task significance, it is determined when an individual perceives his work as worthwhile or important by some system of value he accepts (Woods, 1994). Thus, that the organization provides this environment of continuous learning is commendable. This is also a very strong retention strategy.

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With the HR Director’s thrust of developing a performance-based culture, she has attempted to continue this atmosphere of being a learning organization. She formalized this further by crafting learning tracks for each level – team member, supervisor, manager, and executive. It is from these development programs that she was able to solicit the support of line employees. Seeing that their careers may thrive with development and that the changes were all for their benefit, they soon realized that these change efforts were worthwhile, not only for their personal gain but for the long-tem sustainability of the organization as well.

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The company has a competitive benefits package. In addition, they spend lavishly on company activities to get clear reward messages through. It is effective that the company maintains an internally equitable and externally competitive pay and benefits package. The degree of inequity that an employee feels when underpaid appears to be a function of whether the employee chose actions that resulted in underpayment. That is, if an employee chooses to work harder than others who are paid the same, he will not feel cheated, but if he is pressured into working harder for the same pay, he will be unhappy (Gagne ; Deci, 2003).

This sense of equity in terms of rewards has been addressed in the changes in the company’s performance management system. Through the measurement of objective metrics, those who achieved more were logically given more rewards. This has promoted a strong sense of internal equity. There was also a move to benchmark salaries against similar others within the industry. This, on the other hand, has been effective at promoting external competitiveness.

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While the company has its strengths, they admit that the worst aspect of staff management relations is the inconsistency that comes from management and supervisors; there is a mechanism that allows management to acknowledge these inconsistencies. This is possible only through the maturity and personal involvement of the employees involved, which is not the case in unionized organizations whose treatment of such cases is distinctly impersonal. Fallibility and changing one’s mind is acceptable at the organization and is not perceived as a weakness. This is reinforced by the openness with which performance discussions are conducted.

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The HR Director believes that the motivation to perform represents a much more complex psychological contract between the individual and the organization involving perceived alternatives, perceived consequences of these alternatives, and individual goals (Mcdonald ; Makin, 2000). She said that they had no choice but to provide membership motivation if they wish to remain organizations. Moreover, she wanted that the company’s employees be trained towards broadening their jobs. There has also been an emphasis on breadth of knowledge and expertise. This has proven to be an effective way of motivating workers. Such motivation in these times of change demands a balanced combination of emotional and intellectual levers (Goss, 2000).

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Production targets are set systematically, emanating from the sales plan. These are then cascaded per section, and performance comparisons against target are done on a monthly basis. From a normative viewpoint, getting employees warmed up through performance management is good, but it is not enough.  Performance management is critical for the successful achievement of organizational strategies and goals (Managing People, 1999).

The new HR Director has moved to maintaining measurable targets. She just added a new feature – the weights of these targets must be cascaded from top down, and not bubbled up as done with some departments. This way, she says, she is sure that the targets of top management are cascaded effectively down to the rank and file levels’ individual objectives.

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Previously, there were no avenues for discussing interdepartmental concerns. To solve this issue on communication, the new HR Director recommended that there be weekly team meetings are held for the resolution of parochial concerns at the operator level. Team briefings are done on a daily basis where department managers are expected to provide comprehensive updates in their respective areas. These include information on previous month’s target achievements, sales, significant customers, and complaints. There are evaluation measures that allow constant, stringent monitoring of performance. One way of motivating employees is to share information (like profit and loss or quality of service) on how his department is doing in comparison with others in or out of the company (Byars ; Rue, 2000).

Initially, some managers felt that meetings were a waste of time; however, as they went through each session, they realized that it was indeed an effectual way of threshing out concerns within their own department and those which involved other departments as well. These sessions were also used for communicating the next steps in the change management plan. They were effective channels for communicating the change vision (Kotter, 1996).

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Conclusion

The informal nature of the Human Resource function in my company has been possible because of the size of our organization, which allows such informality to still be effective. While there has been criticism over the formation of a trade union and its impersonal nature, this may have been indispensable for employees of large organizations since these companies do not encourage individual ‘voice’ or expression of opinion. This is one practice that the company has been able to advocate. The clear vision from management and the path that it should take to acculturate young recruits is critical in its successful people practices. The paternalistic culture has been effective at encouraging people to exhibit organizational citizenship behaviours and at retaining them for the long haul. However, there should a review of its HR systems, so that these may be more scientific and anchored on logic – this does not necessarily make these processes impersonal, but rather represents a serious attempt at professionalising them.

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The changes towards the development of a performance-based culture, internal equity, and advocacy of individual expression, innovation, and continuous learning are critical if the HR Director is to sustain this non-unionized approach. When applicable, our company’s example is worth emulating.
References

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Arnold, J., Cooper, M., and Robertson, R. (2002). Work psychology. Pitman.

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Byars, L. ; Rue, L. (2000). Human resource management (6th edn). McGraw-Hill.

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Gagne, M., ; Deci, E.L. (2005). Self-determination theory and work motivation. Retrieved November 13, 2006 from http:// www.psych.rochester.edu/SDT/publications/documents/2005_GagneDeci_JOB_SDTtheory.pdf

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Goss, D. (2000). Principles of human resource management. Thomson Business Press.

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Gruner, S. (1997). Feedback from everyone: Are 360-degree performance reviews a silly fad – or a smart management tool? Inc., 19(2), 102-103.

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Kotter, J. (year). Leading change. Harvard Business School Press.

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Managing Diversity. (2002). Harvard Business Review, HBS Press.

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Managing People. (1999). Harvard Business Review, HBS Press.

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McDonald, D., ; Makin, P. (2000).  The psychological contract, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction of temporary staff.  Leadership ; Organization Development Journal, 21 (2), 84-91.

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Thomason, G. (1991). The management of personnel. Personnel Review, 20(2), 3-10.

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Tichy, N.M. ; Devanna, M.A. (2000). The transformational leader. John Wiley ; Sons .

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Woods, R. C. (1994). Organizational behaviour. Butterworth – Heinemann