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Accelerating Cultural Change

Accelerating Cultural Change

One of the things that HR professionals often find themselves challenged to achieve inside an organisation is culture change.

HR is the home of change

In many organisations, regardless of size or location, when a need for change is identified, no matter how reluctantly the need has been acknowledged, it is the HR manager who will find the responsibility for making that change happen added to their objectives.

No one has ever really explained why it is that HR is seen as the champion of organisational change. It may simply be that no other profession wants it and HR professionals are eager to have something else to deal with other than administration and employment law.

Or it could be, that organisational change can only be achieved by first changing the people in the organisation, and to do that you need to understand the people.

Understanding people – Understanding change

Does being the profession that is supposed to understand people make people in that profession also the most likely to understand organisational change?

Something tells me that the two might not be the most comfortable of bed fellows.

In many cases the HR professional simply becomes the person who administers the change model that the organisation has decided to adopt.

Change management initiatives become a project which needs managing rather than something that will result in long-lasting changes to hearts and minds.

Sustaining a change in these circumstances is extremely difficult without constant reinforcement with a strong focus on the implications of non-compliance with the change.

Administrator to change agent

If you know, as HR professionals do, that you are good at process management, which is a sophisticated way of describing administration, you are likely when you’re presented with an opportunity to get involved in a change project to focus on the process.

This may mean following a change management model that has been proven to work elsewhere, or it may mean introducing policies and procedures that force people to adopt the new behavioural requirements.

Becoming a change agent requires the HR professional to let go of the role as provider of policies and procedures and allowing people to discover the logic of achieving the proposed change.

As a profession we have to build a greater understanding of change, and why people enable and allow it to happen.

Over supply of information

In days gone by, it was relatively easy to explain the need for a change to a group of employees even if that group of people where spread around the globe, because as a HR professional you could control every aspect of the flow of information to employees.

In simple terms the process is straight-forward, identify the influencers and early adopters and make sure that they are on side. Make them formal or informal ambassadors and start the formal and informal activities.

Now employees regardless of their level of experience or seniority have access because of the internet to wide ranging information about the organisation, industry and even their work colleagues and superiors.

Information received from a stranger on the other side of the world may be seen by employees as more credible than facts provided by a manager.

Over informed

The accuracy of this much of this information is often questionable, requiring employees to spend time zigzagging through the junk posts and fake news to identify something that can be trusted.

Creative thinking time is lost and the opportunities to act are reduced. By contrast, it might be possible that people with less information actually achieve more and longer lasting more sustainable change.

Accelerating Cultural Change

This is an issue explored by R. Alexander Bentley and Michael J. O'Brien in their book The Acceleration of Cultural Change - From Ancestors to Algorithms.

Bentley and O’Brien explain their theory by exploring culture change and cultural transmission through an engagingly pleasant and perhaps quirky exploration of the development and evolution of objects like cinemas, computer languages, handheld axes, and iPhones.

Their insights and ability to connect disparate ideas and historical progressions offer fascinating reading to anyone interested in understanding culture, change and the creation of organisational communities with a collective imagination and a sense of belonging.

Free book summary

We are offering in conjunction with Work Place Learning Centre a free GetAbstract book summary of Acceleration of Cultural Change - From Ancestors to Algorithms, by R. Alexander Bentley and Michael J. O'Brien.

The getAbstract book summary will explain:

  • How culture relates to the nature of humanity,
  • How “cultural transmission” functions and
  • How technology changes cultural transmission.

 Visit Work Place Learning Centre at this link to download your free GetAbstract book summary

Offer expires 15 August 2019

During a career as a human resources and employee development professional that started in 1981 Michael Millward has worked around the world in a wide range of businesses from start-ups to major conglomerates. His industry experience includes, local and national government, manufacturing, financial services, retail, distribution, hi-tech, e-commerce.

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