André Durivage on Creating an Environment in Which HR Leaders and Change Agents Can Thrive

July 24, 2013

What would the Dr. do?

Dispensing expert HR advice from EPSI’s President, the highly respected author André Durivage, Ph. DAndré Durivage

Q: As our company continues to grow, so does my appreciation for the role of HR in our operations. As we expand our business, our mission and vision evolve – so I have decided to invest in our HR team to ensure they have the necessary skills and tools to help bring our business to the next level. I was very excited after recently hiring an employee with extensive experience driving change in his past employers’ organizations. He presented himself as an exceptional change agent and leader – qualities to which all his previous employers proudly attested. He has been with us for just over six months now, but I am disappointed to see how little progress we have made since adding this change management “rock star” to our HR team. He does not seem to understand our culture and is having difficulty getting his initiatives accepted. While I am sure you would need more context, would you have any quick ideas or recommendations as to why this is happening or what I can do to improve the situation?

Mona Rashadi
Toronto, ON

A: Thanks for the question, Mona. You are surely not the first to experience such a dilemma; I’m sure many of our readers will benefit from hearing about your experience! Sharing knowledge and experience is the raison d’être of this newsletter; we love hearing about organizational realities in the HR realm, as they allow us to better serve our customer base.

What is often referred to as the “war on talent” has created quite a stir within organizations across the board; commercial success now relies more than ever on your ability to attract, motivate, and retain those high performing employees who are capable of driving the business forward. HR has taken on a much more strategic role; it has become a considerable competitive advantage that can have substantial impacts on an organization’s bottom-line. That being said, I’m happy that you have come to recognize the important role that this function has come to play within operations. Let’s break down the challenge you are facing and see if, together, we can identify its cause.

First off, as I’m sure you understand, there is no magic recipe for success when it comes to implementing change within organizations. These initiatives must be carefully crafted if they are to reach their full potential. Leading your organization in a different direction requires much more than one high-potential employee. The reality will be different for each organization; what has worked for this individual in the past may or may not be applicable within your business context. As such, while a very positive track record is a good thing, it does not automatically translate into success for your organization.

Generally speaking, onboarding new employees represents a substantial challenge. Everyone has a learning curve when taking on a new role, and this can either be helped or hindered by an organization and its people. Before making any judgments about your new hire’s performance, make sure that you have provided him with the necessary time and resources to learn about your organization, align with its purpose, vision, and core values, understand his role in the greater scheme of things, and establish a cooperative working relationship with the other members of his team.

If there is one thing that we believe in strongly, it’s the importance of having a good fit between the individual and the organization. What are your organization’s overall vision, mission, and values? These elements serve as a basis for making smart hiring decisions, and also help guide key decisions about corporate direction. In fact, because of the importance that a good “fit” has come to play in the success of employee integration, engagement, and performance, we have developed the  Organizational Values Test (OVT) to help us explore this issue. While I’m not saying that this is necessarily the way to go for you in this situation, some introspection is definitely a great place to start in terms of moving forward. You may want to take a look at how this new hire is integrating into the organisation’s culture. The OVT will identify dissonance in this area which may be having a much more substantial impact on the recruit’s performance than you might think.

Furthermore, would you say that your new hire was provided with clear targets and expectations about his new role? What was he hired to do within your organization, exactly? We often come across a certain disconnect in terms of what employers expect and how employees perceive their role. A good job description provides a foundation for setting out those expectations; open communication, good management practices, and properly implement feedback mechanisms then go a long way in supporting employees throughout their growth in the role and organization.

Lastly, how would you characterize the team dynamic since your new hire’s arrival? Is this individual perceived as a potential threat by his colleagues? How would you describe the corporate culture and other environmental factors which might impact on this employee’s integration? If you really want to instigate change, it’s important to get everyone on board – which is often much easier said than done! Not everyone has the same comfort level when it comes to taking risks and implementing new procedures; often, those who are at the head of change initiatives are likely to face resistance from others within the organization, and this resistance can slow down or halt any efforts being invested in a project. You must ensure that your vision and direction are clearly communicated throughout the company to support the mission of change, so that everyone has the opportunity to make this vision their own, to accept the idea of change, and to understand why it can be beneficial for everyone in the long run.

I think that what is really important at this stage is to gain an in-depth understanding of your organization, of the direction you would like to take, of your existing team, and of the roles that each will have to play in attaining the objectives you set for yourself. In having a very clear sense of where you are headed, you can more actively engage employees in working collaboratively towards that outcome, and help them gain a better understanding of their respective roles within that process. If an employee believes that change is really the best way to go, then he or she is far more likely to go along with what is proposed.

To conclude, I really believe that establishing a clear sense of direction is key to implementing change within your organization at this point. You seem to be very motivated and open; you’re also lucky enough to have an individual on your side who is quite likely very capable of heading this whole initiative! That being said, there is no point injecting money and resources in any area without some degree of backward planning. What do I mean by that, exactly? It’s a good idea to look at your future, and where you see yourself heading, and then make decisions with that in mind. By communicating these insights with your new hire, he will have a better understanding of what is expected of him, and will be far more likely to live up to your expectations.

To submit a question to EPSI president André Durivage, Ph.D., please send an email to with ‘Question for the Doctor’ clearly marked in the subject line.



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