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HRINZ Conference 2004 Shifting the Thinking
HRINZ Conference 2004 Shifting the Thinking
next practice in people management

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Suzie Sauer

F4 What Role Should HR Take in Change?

Suzie Sauer, Change Management Consultant, Johnston Penno Ltd

The purpose of this session is to help people understand the various roles HR can take during change and the impact these have on the success of the change.

In Suzie’s experience many people, including HR practitioners, perceive HR as the owners of change, forcing the organisation to comply. This creates resistance and resentment and you often hear comments like “I don’t like HR telling us what to do” or “HR doesn’t have a clue what we need” from the organisation.

This session is designed to challenge HR practitioners to think about the possible effects of the roles they take in change and how their role will impact on the effectiveness of the change long term and also how HR is perceived later down the track.

The facilitator role is the most beneficial role for HR to take in order to achieve organisational buy-in and to minimise resistance to change. As facilitators of change HR practitioners guide the organisation through the change process ensuring the ownership of the change firmly resides with the organisation. HR facilitates the change process and the organisation specifies and owns the outcomes. This is based on the premise that it is far easier to help someone to work towards something they want to achieve rather than forcing them to do something they don’t. HR should guide the organisation towards the goal they want to achieve rather than specifying what the organisation needs to achieve and forcing them to get there.

This session is presented so as to model the change management principles necessary to get an organisation to own the necessary outcomes.Suzie presents three roles that HR can and does take during change (facilitator role, leader & specialist role).She works through each role and the impact it has on people within the organisation and the success of the change. She also providse participants with the opportunity to work through the pros and cons of each role always encouraging them to challenge their own ideas.

Session Indicator




All levels

Grunt Factor: 





Presentation 40%; Q&A 10%; group work 40%; reporting 10%




Volunteers will be asked to take part in a role-play where each person is allocated a role. The participants will then be asked...

Q. Why is the role you were given important?

Learning Point 1: The role you take shapes your attitude and the way you behave.

Learning Point 2: The role you take influences the role others adopt and how they behave towards you.

Learning Point 3: If you take the wrong role you may force others into a role, attitude or behaviour that is unhelpful.

Q. What is the most helpful role for HR to take?

To answer this question we first need to think of the role we need others in our organisation to take in order for change to be successful (e.g., CEO, Managers, Staff). The group will be asked for their ideas.

The roles people need to take for change to be successful are:

  • CEO – leading and driving change (e.g., this is where we are going and this is why we are changing).
  • Managers – advocating (being positive about and describing the need for change), supporting (providing help and removing barriers) and encouraging (motivating) change.
  • Staff – buying in, helping and doing what is necessary to make the change a success.

What is your role?

The group will be asked what their role has been in any change that has occurred in their organisations through the following stages:

  • Idea generation
  • Plan development
  • Implementation.

A few volunteers will be asked to describe what their role was and the success and ease of taking that role

Three roles HR can take

Three options will be described, an example of change to show the differences will be provided, we will look at the impact each has on the roles others take through the change process and we will look at the impact each has on the key barrier to successful change – resistance. The three options for roles are:

  1. Leader - Goal Owner
    · Provide the idea direction
    · Develop the plan and tell people what they need to do
    · No implementation, people already know what to do.
  2. Specialist
    · Provide options
    · Tell them how it should be done – planning and implementing
  3. Facilitator – Process Owner
    · Draw ideas direction from others/business
    · You help them to identify their needs, constraints etc and develop a plan in consultation with them gaining their input and agreement
    · Implement through the use of change agents – people who advocate, support and encourage the change.

The group will then work through a case study using one of the three roles.

Suzie Sauer is a Change Management consultant for Johnston Penno a Human Resource and Employment Law Specialist firm. Many of Suzie’s current clients are small to medium sized businesses who are changing the way they operate in order to meet their emerging business needs. Suzie helps them deal with issues of communication, buy-in, training, redundancy and the associated employment law considerations. Suzie also works closely with a number of larger organisations advising their CEO, General Managers and HR people.

Suzie worked for three years with Accenture (formerly known as Andersen Consulting) as a Change Management Consultant. Here she was responsible for large scale organisational change, for example Suzie was responsible for assisting New Zealand Inland Revenue to manage the change from being an enforcement-based organisation into a customer-focused organisation, she helped the Australian Taxation Office to prepare for the introduction of GST and worked with the Department for Courts to manage the implementation of a number of different IT packages and their associated people and process changes. During this time Suzie also specialised in project management which provides a practical context for all of the change management efforts she leads or advises on.

Suzie completed a MSc in Applied Psychology at the University of Canterbury where her thesis focussed on developing a tool to measure the factors most likely to predict successful integration into a new culture. She found that a person’s expectations were the strongest predictor and frequently uses this knowledge to guide organisations through successful change.

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