What is organisational development?


What is organisational development?
What is organisational development?


A lot has changed since I started re:find 4 years ago, but the principles are still the same. I want to help make your business better, through recruiting the right people!

I want to go back to the start and look into my world of organisational development (OD). As an OD expert, I help build high performing businesses. Yes, it is a fancy title. So what is it exactly that I do?

OD is about how organisations’ function and, more importantly, how they can work better. There is no one single OD theory, but there are plenty of best practice models that give discipline to my work which is a combination of “hard” and “soft” issues.

Hard issues such as the external environment, vision, strategy, structure, tasks and skills. Soft issues such as culture, values, work climate, motivation, management practices and individual needs. Hard or soft, my end game is always to help your business achieve great individual and organisational performance.

Re-creating your strategy
Technological, demographic and geographic change is constant, whether we like it not. I have a view that organisational development (OD) should be a constant, organic, evolving process of change, improvement and development to meet what is an ever-changing internal and external market.

What does this mean for you, the business leader? There are one-off situations where a leader finds something that they find distinctly undesirable and wants to change it. Mostly, OD is about being on the ball, revisiting core business capabilities, revising old strategies or implementing new strategies to make sure that your business survives and thrives, in line with the market.

So I encourage my clients to think about the product, where it sits in its sector, competitors, suppliers, customers, technological advances and the threat of new entrants into the market – the stuff of Porter’s five forces.

Are you a market leader or follower? Are you asset light or asset heavy? Who’s doing something new out there? Keep your market intelligence up to date. As Jack Welch once said, “Change before you have to.”

When you make a change to a strategy it always has a knock-on on effect on certain areas of the business – structure, process, people and culture. Some experts will argue which is affected first. Stop! All are interconnected and have to be considered in the round.

So, exactly what part do I play? Well, I help you to recreate your strategy.

Changing strategy means some of your core processes will change. Your team, using their end to end technical process knowledge, will now need to assess, analyse, discover, redefine and redesign certain processes. This will be key to maintaining and improving service to customers and should not be rushed.

You will need a disciplined method of considering workflow design, IT, motivation and measurement, policies and rules, people, resources and facilities.

I can help you redefine the process. Some folk call it ‘business process re-engineering’.

The new process will impact the structure and reorganisation of staff, resources and facilities. Policy led and technological systems will have to be addressed.

Technology is an enabler for strategy. Since the days of the Luddites, technological advances have meant that smart machinery has replaced skilled workforces and that the smart machinery has required a new set of technical expertise to maintain and develop.

I can help you to design the proposed organisation model.

Today, we are all technologists with our smartphones, iPads and social media, but most people still don’t like change. Communicating your logic and passion for change, consulting and listening and remaining organized, tenacious, sensitive to reactions, adaptable and resilient will help you to make a successful change.

I can help you gain acceptance of change and manage the transformation programme.

Your current core capabilities, management systems and culture are likely to limit your ability to implement the new strategy and will also need to be adjusted.

Company culture is difficult to change and sometimes it is a case of “working with what you have got” and morphing it into “what you need”, to drive the strategy. Leadership, reward, training, employee branding, recruitment, management practices and other motivating factors can be introduced to help culture evolve. Perhaps the most powerful impact on culture comes from a good learning infrastructure.

Your culture is unique and I can help you call on the creativity, best practices and lesson learned from other organisations.

Darwin once said, “It’s not the strongest species that survive, or even the most intelligent. It is those most adaptable to change”.

He has a point you know!

Ruth Gawthorpe is the founder of The Change Directors. She is an expert in Organisational Devlopment, HR and Change Management and works with organisations to help them build high performance cultures. Ruth is passionate about using her skills to support executive teams to get the results quickly and smoothly and would like to share her lessons learned and wisdom with you.


To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Are HR folk really masters of organisational change?


Are HR folk really masters of organisational change?
Are HR folk really masters of organisational change?

There’s one thing that frequently surprises me about the mainstream HR narrative. It’s the unflappable belief that HR folk are masters of organisational change – that they take change in their stride and it’s done with a process-driven approach, that removes the inevitable emotion that goes with it.

But here’s my issue. Yes, this might be true for change that affects everyone else, but what if ‘change’ is actually happening to them? What if HR people are the ones that are being impacted by the shadow of uncertainty that they sometimes (purposely or not) impose on everyone else?

In these instances, I’ve found that the truth is closer to this: that in actual fact, HR professionals are ‘not’ the resilient people we expect them to be. But that’s just my point. In these instances, we shouldn’t actually expect them to be super-human, emotionless people. The problem is that we often do.


Well, ultimately, HR folk are people too. When they’re impacted by change, they very quickly become just as ‘normal’ as any other employee. Some might call this ‘HR revealing their true colours’. But, just because they’re HR experts, does not, (and crucially, should not), make them somehow emotionally detached.

In fact, I think HR professionals have a reason to exhibit more fear than most – because they have a greater understanding of what’s really likely to happen; because they know the processes, and they know the score. When you think about it, it’s hardly surprising these people feel more vulnerable, because they can read between the lines more. They’re afraid because they’re more informed or aware. They’re already thinking whether processes being discussed are open and transparent, and whether people really know more than they’re letting on – often because that’s how they’ve been taught to do so.

Does this matter?

Yes, I believe so. Organisational change can only happen when everyone – and that truly means everyone – is behind the change and engaged with it. It’s my view that HR is pivotal in making broader organisation change happen, but this can only happen, if they themselves are not suspicious of the process and how it will impact them.

Even if there is an agreed business case for making change, different people have different methods for presenting it. By and large, the HR community has been taught to question change, so without these people on-board, there can be barriers and obstacles to change.

The only way to eliminate this, is for the business to talk to HR consistently – as if they’re all being impacted the same as anyone else. This is the only way the business can get a better breed of change professional, and one that is engaged in the process. So often, I hear HR folk say they’re being told that there is going to be restructure, and that they should come up with suggestions for how to achieve it, but what’s missing is a way for them to participate without wondering how their own function is being affected. You can’t expect this level of buy-in without telling HR straight about how change is coming to them.

What many people forget, is that when HR is dealing with organisational change, they are worried about how the change will impact their own jobs, but they are also expected to get on with their day job too. This could be a change they are managing for their client group. This is emotionally draining.

Getting the best out of HR:

All businesses need to recognise that to get the best out of HR, they must support them, and give them insights, and most importantly, not forget that they are real people too. After all, they have been hired precisely because of their ‘people’ skills. Without garnering this support, the internal change agents you need HR to be may not do things with the business’s interest at heart.

Remember, it is totally appropriate to expect HR to perform, but it should also not be forgotten that HR folk are employees too. It’s important their feelings are talked about, and that it’s done with genuine respect for the skills they have.

My advice is to be straight. If you don’t know something, tell HR you don’t know. If you do know some things, tell them those things. The business of planning for change should include these elements from the start, but sometimes they can be overlooked. Remember, seek to be open, but in a managed way. There’s nothing worse than catching HR professionals off-guard about change. Of course, we should expect HR experts to be mature, and professional, but let’s not forget that sometimes, because they are armed with more knowledge, they will often need more nurturing.

Josh Sunsoa is the founder of Sunsoa & Co, an specialist ‘Employment Relations’ consultancy providing professional strategic advice on the management of business restructuring, executive and managed terminations, TUPE transfers, HR case management and compliance

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

You’re wrong, let me tell you why

Having difficult conversations

The title of this article is from my early recruitment career and is quite a famous quote from a past MD of mine. At first glance, it may seem provocative but in reality, it is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received.

Now, it can be difficult to tell someone they are wrong. It’s uncomfortable for most people to deliver this, plus there are many social implications. Having difficult conversations is never easy and in this case, you could come across as being arrogant, they might not actually be wrong, in fact, it might be you that’s wrong. There could also be contributing factors that you are unaware of (or they just might not want to hear it!)

In recruitment, one of the most challenging things you have to do is to tell a client they have got it wrong. Especially these days as a recruiter, where there can be many barriers to getting the right feedback to the right person. The introduction of technology (ATS systems), job portals, multi-agency PSL agreements, and internal recruiters are all in place to ensure suppliers do as they should. Now, I’m not sitting here saying all of this is unnecessary. They are particularly necessary if you are a big business with a high volume of recruitment. And without this technology, there is no other way to manage things and it would lead to problems, not just financially but also in terms of delivery.

What I am talking about is being able to consult with a client, to truly understand what they need, rather than sometimes what they think they need, and then to assist or guide them to that decision.

When I launched re:find, I decided from the outset that we would only work directly with people who we have a relationship with. That’s not to say we don’t work through some of these channels, because we do. But we still have access to the people who make the decisions so that we can provide advice and guidance, if it is required.

On one particular occasion, a client had gone through the usual PSL channels for a hire and we had been invited in at the back end of things, as they were yet to find what they were searching for. So we took a brief and sent a shortlist. As a niche supplier, we were going to approach things from another angle. None of my candidates were taken forward. In actual fact, they hired from the PSL.

I had pushed back on the brief, sent candidates who were 50% more expensive on the day rate, explained why hiring an interim was different and gone way off brief. (For anyone interested in my rationale please see another blog of mine)

So, I contacted the client and apologised.

Clearly, I’d got this one wrong.

I think they were surprised that I was humble and said sorry about getting it wrong – apparently a lot of recruiters don’t do this!

Unfortunately for the client, the contractor they hired didn’t work out and the client gave me a call to talk through the issues.

I suggested again why hiring a day rate interim could be an option with less risk involved. They were now more open to my initial argument around hitting the ground running and bringing a ready-made toolkit with them.

Needless to say, they chose one off of my initial shortlist.

3 months on and all has worked out well for the client in terms of delivering what was needed quickly and the person has exited, moving on to their next gig.

I share this, as I think it illustrates the journey that you sometimes need to go on to influence successfully.

Here are my top tips:

  • Remember that telling someone they are wrong and why they are wrong, is as much about your self-awareness as it is with changing someone else’s thought process.
  • You won’t be able to change someone else’s opinion straight away, they need to go through a journey to get there.
  • Building a strong relationship with your client and becoming a trusted advisor needs to happen both ways. It can’t be all tell, tell, tell. Saying when you have got it wrong is an important step to building trust.
  • Consider whether resourcing should be treated as such a transactional process.

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Mental health at work

Mental health at work

By now, you will likely have heard how health and well-being in the workplace is becoming just as important, if not more so, than salary or career progression. One issue that certainly appears to have become more prominent is mental health in the workplace. A detailed insight into this issue has been taken by the CIPD, with surveys in 2011 and one taken more recently this year.

What important information did these surveys bring to the forefront and what can employers do to offer more support?

Firstly, the number of mental health cases in the workplace has risen by 5% since 2011, with the figure now reaching 31%. More than 2000 people were polled within this survey and they found that only 46% felt like they were supported “fairly” well. This figure of 46% is an increase on the previous survey back in 2011, which found 37% felt “fairly” supported. Although this is a significant improvement, employers still have a long way to go.

Only 43% of employees decide to disclose their stress or mental health problems to their employer or manager. A figure that makes it abundantly clear that employees do not feel confident enough talking to their employers about their problems related to mental health. What is even more worrying is that this figure is exactly the same in both surveys, envisaging that nothing has changed in the last 5 years. However, out of those that do disclose their problems, 46% felt very well supported, which is an increase of 9% from 2011.

The age-group that appears to experience mental health problems the most (36%) are those that are between 45 and 54 years old, closely followed (35%) by the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups. Thus showing that mental health issues are not differentiated by age. So what causes the mental health problems? It seems that the majority (54%) seem to suffer from a combination of personal life issues and work issues.

So what can an employer do to support an employee with mental health issues?

Ensure that you create an environment that is open, that encourages staff to discuss their challenges and problems. Have a culture of openness that allows you to go beyond a persons work load, instead it delves deeper into their role responsibilities and the opportunities that they would like to see appear.

Know what to do if a mental health problem arises within your workplace, such as where to direct the employees if they require specialist help. Also, educate yourself and staff on various mental health problems, so you can see the triggers but always remember to be sensitive.

Be Clear
The groundwork can be set from the minute a new recruit starts, just by letting them know that if any problem arises, big or small, that they can discuss it.

It doesn’t take much to make an employee feel supported or to create a culture of openness, especially if it means it decreases the chances of mental health problems in the workplace. What would you suggest would make an employee feel more supported?

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.