Magazine article Personnel

From Program to Process

Magazine article Personnel

From Program to Process

Article excerpt

The overarching concern expressed at the American Management Association's 62nd Annual HR Conference & Expo was to find ways to turn the quality programs of the 80s into corporate processes in the 90s. The conference, attended by 1,225 HR professionals, was held recently in Orlando, Fla.

Throughout five days of meetings speakers expressed the need to escape the "program of the month" syndrome that too frequently plagues employee involvement and quality programs. Numerous speakers agreed that empowerment policies will take effect and result in significant change only when the organization proves its commitment to the program over time by integrating it into the corporate structure--starting at the top with the CEO.

Change agents

HR is the driving force needed to integrate these programs into corporate policy "Our mission has changed," AMA chairman Thomas R. Horton told his audience. "In the past 10 years, HR has moved from being a service operation into becoming an integral part of top management."

And in order to keep pace, HR professionals have had to change their role dramatically from that of policy administrator to that of program developer and provocateur. Horton urged the audience to become change agents. Will we watch things happen, or will we be the ones to make things happen?" he asked.

"Some watch change, others make it happen," echoed Christopher W.L. Hart, president of the TQM Group in Cambridge, Mass. "It is vital to be a change agent."

Today, "personnel policy is a strategic issue in which everyone must play a role," agreed Lief Nilsson, senior vice president of HR at ASEA Brown Boveri, Sweden.

Empowerment bugaboos

Conventional wisdom has it that the biggest barriers to developing empowerment programs are the first-line supervisors who feel threatened by these programs. This is just not the case, according to an in-depth survey of American businesses conducted by the Wyatt Company, which was unveiled at the conference.

The real barriers to change, according to Gwen Stern, director of organizational research and analysis practice at the Wyatt Company's Chicago office, are that organizations fail to alter their traditional management style to allow change to happen, the programs are not taken seriously, personnel are not trained to take full advantage of the programs, or employee involvement is not positioned as central to corporate strategy

All of these findings suggest that the key to involvement starts at the top. Indeed, Nilsson said, "It is important that the HR manager not have too much power because top management must own the vision. …

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