Organisation Development, Human Resources and Global Mobility – working together for future success

The fields of Organisation Development, Human Resources and Global Mobility share a number of features that provide critical input to successful organisational change. Dr Sue Shortland reports.

Organization Development
According to the latest edition of Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge and Linda Holbeche’s landmark book Organization Development – A Practitioner's Guide for OD and HR, Organisation Development (OD) is a field of applied behavioural science which expands our understanding of human and group behaviour.The authors note that our knowledge of OD can guide work in developing organisational effectiveness by improving performance and organisational health during times of change.The OD field addresses the behaviour of groups, individuals and organisations with the goal of improving organisational effectiveness to benefit all constituents while maintaining organisational health, such that people are supported within their work in a sustainable way.OD values include respect for human differences alongside a commitment to all forms of social justice and equity. There is also an emphasis on lifelong learning for both individuals and organisations.

A multi-disciplinary approach?

OD draws on a number of behavioural science disciplines including sociology, psychology, social and clinical psychology, as well as management studies. It focuses on the alignment of all of an organisation’s constituent parts, emphasising both group and social processes in supporting individuals and businesses. The design and execution of planned interventions are managed alongside any necessary emergency interventions.OD’s principles indicate that interaction leads to reflection; reflection to data; data to action; and action back to reflection as part of an action cycle. Thus, OD applies theory in action and uses experience to form working theories and also theories to inform methodologies – hence a cycle of practice to theory to practice is in evidence. OD’s values are described as “shamelessly humanistic” by Cheung-Judge and Holbeche – there is respect for all through social equality, equity and lifelong learning.

Links between OD and HR

OD is of immense value to Human Resources (HR) professionals. With respect to the HR function, Cheung-Judge and Holbeche point out that an understanding of OD is important if HR professionals are to act as change agents, operating a strategic agenda and developing appropriate practices to enhance organisational performance.With today’s economic and geopolitical turbulence, disruptive innovation, consumer behaviour and changing markets lead to the need for immense agility in order to deliver successful products and services.Innovation is increasing at an exponential rate. Knowledge and service work are at the centre of economic growth in much of the developed world. Technology and globalisation are transforming how businesses operate and organisations are becoming more fluid in their ways of working and more diverse in terms of their workforces. Connectivity is also increasingly enabling people to interact with immediacy and ease.But it is important to remember that all of this is taking place within a context of widening social inequality. As such, the demand for organisations to adopt multi-stakeholder perspectives, as well as a focus on sustainability, is increasing significantly.Demand is growing for stronger regulation and governance with greater transparency, equity and accountability. HR therefore faces a huge number of challenges in improving organisational practice and building future business capability.How well HR can meet these challenges, the authors argue, depends on the capability of their function and their relationships with the business. Agile organisations must be change-ready; they need to be able to respond swiftly and competently, drawing on a blend of innovation and risk management.In order to manage continuous change, it is vital organisations call on the best talent. It is more important than ever to have the right people working in the right way in the right place who are ethically and effectively managed. A continuous learning and development culture where processes grow people’s skills and line managers support talent to create the conditions that stimulate discretionary effort are vital to the development of human capital.The overlap between HR’s role and that of OD is therefore clear in terms of the focus on processes that enhance group and individual behaviours drawing upon diversity and equality principles. All constituent parts of the organisation and its personnel must be supported effectively and capably if organisations are to be future-proofed.In situations of turbulence and complexity where change is ongoing and globalisation and technological improvements are increasing dramatically, it is critical that the global workforce is addressed in such a manner as to ensure its motivation and engagement.The requirement for speed of response is ever-increasing and knowledge provides the competitive edge. As such, it is crucial that leadership mindsets, succession planning, strategic workforce development and communications are put centre stage of organisational activity.[CROSS-HEAD] Global Mobility’s contributionThere are clear links here between OD, HR and the Global Mobility (GM) function in terms of its role in supporting talent development through international mobility. Capability building through cultural awareness development, international team working and cross-border assignments lies at the heart of organisational talent development and deployment.Globally mobile individuals provide the future leadership talent for organisations: leadership development rests upon international capability development.The current focus within GM on issues such as sustainability and diversity fit well with the framework of OD and indeed are also bedrock components of good HR practice. Cultural understanding is the key to success – organisationally, professionally and societally – and an understanding of leadership competencies that take account of various facets of culture lies at the heart of OD, HR and GM professionals’ activities.Management of the future talent stream is crucial in this respect and thus OD, HR, and GM professionals working together can help to provide a pathway to organisational productivity and performance improvement.However, as Cheung-Judge and Holbeche note, there are real differences between these disciplines. This can produce tensions and misunderstandings. OD places strong emphasis on humanistic, democratic and participative methodologies which recognise voice in designing how change is enacted. HR’s traditional role has focused on legal compliance and being seen as a business partner. HR has also traditionally taken a unitary perspective, with its assumptions that all stakeholders have the same objectives. Yet recognition of a pluralist approach is necessary in that recognition of diverse stakeholders’ concerns needs to be acknowledged and individuals’ voices heard.GM has traditionally been a policy designer and deliverer. Individuals on the move were often in receipt of policy components that lacked recognition of diversity and sustainability. Today, GM is taking a more flexible approach in this regard, thereby responding to diversity, equity and inclusion issues as well as focusing on sustainability in policy actions. Assignees today also have greater voice in terms of articulating their experience such that their moves are facilitated on a more personal level. And this flexibility in policy design and delivery is extending to more sustainable ways of working globally. Hence, an overlap with OD values is in evidence.As businesses become increasingly agile, more attention needs to be paid to stakeholders’ views such that individuals have a greater voice and are increasingly engaged in the business. In this way, support for change can be won.OD, HR and GM professionals need to work together to drive forward organisational transformation using interventions that support people through major change projects. In so doing, the overall health and wellbeing of individuals and the organisations that employ them will form the foundation of future business success.
This article is taken from the latest issue of Think Global People, the new home of Relocate Magazine.Click on the cover to access the digital edition or on the links below to read all of the articles on our website.
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