A summary of the expert discussion at the virtual Round Table Change Management in January 2021

Human Resources in times of Corona

At this year’s Round Table Change Management, not only the online format was new. The line-up was also different and for the first time there were more women than men in the panel. Other things were familiar: the flexibly structured moderation by Cliff Lehnen, editor-in-chief of Personalwirtschaft, and the multi-faceted discussion among experts. Some things new, others familiar – this is exactly what drives the clients of the discussion group. Yes, changes have taken place in organisations since Corona. But how far developments will go in the future beyond the increased remote work culture, better technical equipment and more widely used online collaboration tools is like looking into a crystal ball. My discussion partners report their observations and see a clear change in many organisations towards dynamic leadership. And this is “only” due to a pandemic and its consequences. I express my scepticism. Because I am convinced that not everything will shift towards dynamic leadership. In my opinion, many old familiar patterns will remain or re-emerge. And as before, there will continue to be leaders who see themselves as ‘chess players’. They want to move their employees strategically. We agreed on which leadership role is more effective: the role of ‘gardener’ who prepares the ground and tends everything so that it can grow well. This change – from chess player to gardener – certainly needs more than a pandemic digitalisation of individual processes and collaboration modes. And this is where HR is also needed.

Human Resources as a driver of a dynamic mindsets in Leadership

As in previous years, this HR round table is about the important role of HR in change. The task here is obvious: HR should make it clear (at least to the still ‘chess-playing’) managers that they cannot rest on their business card, i.e. their position, alone. Rather, HR should convey that leaders have to earn their legitimacy again in every situation. This is even more important with “remote leadership”. Already during the recruiting process, HR asks the question: How do we actually describe leadership externally and internally? It continues with the appropriate qualification of managers and the development of a dynamic mindset. And the adaptation of classic leadership instruments also needs to be considered.

Corporate culture and trust as a basis

If the corporate culture is characterised by trust and the leadership role is lived in the sense of a ‘gardener’, for example, target agreements can be rethought in the digital transformation. You can also listen to our podcast on New Work. Why not think about agreeing on action goals among colleagues instead of a purely top-down process? The focus is then on mutual expectations and support instead of communication that has the character of a one-way street. And of course, an iterative approach makes sense here as well. Because coordination loops between the respective ‘players’ really fill the instrument with life. You can read more about how to rethink target agreements in the book ‘Future Skills for Leadership and Organisation’ by my colleague Frank Wippermann.

Agility and stability

I’ll stick to the motto ‘Some things new, others familiar’ for a moment. Because one of the discussion points at this year’s Human Resources Round Table was still very familiar to me from last year – keyword agility. Used correctly, it helps organisations to master the digital transformation. But the observation of many discussion participants remains: Often agile is only used as a label and not really lived. The highly stable elements of any agile process are simply disregarded. The result is frustration in the organisations and a turning away from agile principles before they can even take effect. In addition to flexible structures, stable islands of reliability are still needed. Purely flexible leadership becomes too exhausting for everyone involved. Finally, there are also phases within every change in which, for example, clear project management is required.

Structured and flexible: ambidexterity is required in the leadership role. After all, no one gardens with just one hand. All the participants in the discussion agreed on this, too. Click here to see some pictures and read the (German) summary of the Round Table Change Management 2021.

Silke Engel

Foto: Personalwirtschaft / © Boggy / stock.adobe.com


Round Table Change Management in March 2020

What is the role of managers and HR in digital change? This was discussed intensively in a round-table discussion in the magazine Personalwirtschaft.

My Premiere at the Round Table

Experts from various consulting companies discussed the latest developments in change management under the leadership of editor-in-chief Cliff. For the first time I participated in this conversation. I was very much looking forward to the exchange with colleagues from the other six consulting companies. Cliff Lehnen and David Schahinian from the editorial office welcomed us at Frankfurt Airport. Hardly arrived, the debate about the current trends in change management had already started.

The leadership dilemma

This was followed by two hours of intensive exchange of views at a very high level. There was agreement among the participants on the fact digital change is a major driver of change in most companies. But it also quickly became clear that there is no patent recipe for the perfect change. In the course of the discussion, the role of management and HR in particular was examined in detail and in some cases assessed in contradictory terms.

The colleagues agreed with me managers are faced with a dilemma: they are supposed to give orientation to employees in a disruptive environment, while at the same time their own tasks change significantly. This requires a strong inner compass. The meta study developed by flow consulting shows the resulting seven dynamic leadership competencies are more relevant than ever. Managers must face the dilemma and learn anew.

The role of HR: actively accompanying change processes

HR still uses its influence far too rarely. What is clear is HR is not the leader of change. But HR should actively accompany the change processes. Because digital change primarily affects people. HR must actively set impulses, promote, shape, influence and take employees along with it. And HR also has to have a voice in the change of structures and processes. What is important to me, in every company there are still classic, linear structures in which the use of modern or agile forms of work is not (yet) appropriate. And despite all the changes, this will continue to be the case for some time to come. Therefore, it is important to define the interfaces from agile to linear structures. This is a challenge HR has to face.

The 5 most important findings at the Round Table Change Management

  • HR is a companion and supporter of change, but rarely or never a driver. Change projects are initiated by the specialist departments or Business Development.
  • It will be a task of HR to interlink linear and agile forms of work in a meaningful way.
  • In order for change projects to succeed, the focus must be placed on the continuity of the change. “Establishing routines” is crucial in order to prevent the “silting up” effect. In many change projects too little attention is paid to this point.
  • Giving orientation is one of the essential skills that managers need. It is important to find your own compass – supported by coaching.
  • The culture change towards agile organizations needs time, strategy and structural changes. Here it is important to work thoroughly and “stay tuned”.

For me it was an exciting exchange with a group of consultants at peer level.

If you would like to learn more, please click here for a summary report (in German) on the round table with a series of pictures. The title is: The Hours of Truth. You can find the whole report in the print edition of the magazine Personalwirtschaft.

If you would like to experience the seven dynamic leadership competencies, please register for our flow dynamic leader’s lab.

What are your challenges in digital transformation? If you like send me your feedback: silke.engel@flow.de

Silke Engel