2022 was the late Queen Elizabeth II’s jubilee and an article in the Times looked back at the top 30 companies that dominated the business landscape in 1952 at the time of her coronation.
The British business landscape was then led by industrial giants such as Swan Hunter, Lancashire Cotton, Murex, and Vickers. These companies employed men in physically demanding roles, symbolising an era of traditional industrialisation. However, with the passage of time, the business landscape has transformed significantly. Of the 30 companies in the index when Elizabeth II came to the throne, only one remains unchanged — Tate and Lyle — though even that has sold its sugar refinery business.
If we move to more recent times — the rise and fall of major phone manufacturers like Nokia and BlackBerry demonstrate the importance of adaptability and evolution in the corporate world. I am hoping now that you are beginning to ask, what this has to do with Human Resource leadership ? The simple answer is the one thing we often forget — businesses don’t change, people change.
Continuing with the history lesson — you will at some point have heard of the phrase Darwinian — it also applies very much to the business world. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution asserts that individuals with adaptive traits are more likely to survive and pass on those traits to future generations. The same principle applies to the business world, where organisations need to adapt to the changing market dynamics to thrive.
The ability to navigate through uncertainty and embrace transformation is critical for the survival and success of any business. This is where good HR leadership comes into play, serving as the catalyst for change within organisations. If you want to see true examples of change — think Netflix from DVDs to content creation and Fuji from film to leaders in the digital camera field.
Businesses themselves cannot change without the people within them driving change by thinking and acting differently. Organisations are made up of individuals, each with their unique perspectives, skills, and abilities. HR professionals understand this fundamental truth and play a pivotal role in aligning the goals and aspirations of employees with the strategic direction of the company
True HR professionals are adept at recognising the need for change within organisations. They analyse market trends, assess competition, and identify areas for improvement or innovation. By keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry, HR can anticipate future challenges and drive proactive change initiatives.
Change is often met with resistance, especially when employees are accustomed to traditional ways of doing things. HR leaders and teams can play a vital role in creating a culture of adaptability within the organization. By fostering open communication, promoting continuous learning, and encouraging a growth mindset, HR professionals enable employees to embrace change and contribute to the organisation’s new direction.
Implementing change successfully requires careful planning and execution. HR professionals who specialise in change management can employ various strategies to ensure smooth transitions. They can develop comprehensive change management plans, communicate effectively with employees, provide necessary training and support, and monitor the progress of change initiatives.
As businesses evolve, new skills and competencies become essential for success. HR professionals identify skill gaps within the organisation and develop strategies to bridge them. This may involve training programmes, new talent acquisition, or upskilling initiatives. By aligning the workforce with the changing needs of the business, HR ensures a smooth transition during periods of change.
In an ever-changing business landscape and our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, organisations must adapt and evolve to remain competitive. The key to businesses successfully changing is utilising the people within them as they hold the key to successful transformation. HR professionals play a crucial role in leading change by recognizing the need for adaptation, fostering a culture of flexibility, and managing the transition effectively. By leveraging their expertise in change management, talent development, and organizational alignment, HR professionals ensure that businesses can navigate the challenges of the modern world and continue to thrive.
In this Darwinian era of business, strong HR leadership can be the guiding force that enables companies to embrace change and shape their own destinies.
Businesses don’t change — people change.
The writer is the Group Chief Human Resources Officer of Galadari Brothers. He is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and a graduate of the Wharton CHRO programme. His work on organisational transformation has been showcased by the CIPD in their digital learning series and presented at the CIPD London Festival of Work. In 2023 he was listed in the top 50 most Influential HR leaders in the region by the Economic Times.
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