With a clear mandate, self-confidence and a suitable mindset, HR becomes the Transformation Partner for corporate change. The need for competent support in transformation processes in companies is undiminished. Digitalization, agile transformation and VUCA are just some of the drivers that lead to more complexity and speed in change processes. As a strategic partner of management, the HR department should initiate and support the transformation. Above all, the HR Business Partner should be able to advise the management competently and at eye level. In everyday life, however, HR is all too often only seen as an administrative service provider.

But how does the metamorphosis from HR Business Partner to Transformation Partner succeed?

A central question is: How do I secure my mandate as Transformation Partner?

HR is rarely perceived as a competence partner for change

Wish and reality often diverge in everyday life. HR would like to advise the management. But the management is rightly demanding in this respect. It only consults those partners it considers competent. And HR is often not perceived as competent – at least in questions of corporate transformation. Rather, HR is seen as a pure service function that (only) plays a role in administrative matters – or perhaps in leadership development. However, many companies lack confidence in HR with regard to the design of complex changes.

The serving self-image of HR becomes a problem

HR is regarded as a service function within the company. And HR often sees itself only in the role of a service provider, not as a strategic partner of management. This may be a useful attitude in the everyday life of the HR department. To put it a little bluntly: Keeping an eye on the individual person, wanting to fulfil his or her wishes and at the same time displaying a service-oriented friendliness is useful in the areas of recruiting, application management and administration.

In the professional support of a transformation, however, the value contribution must be delivered differently. Here, too, friendliness and customer orientation play an important role. But professionalism is mainly manifested in steadfastness and consulting competence. HR’s mindset can make the difference here. HR itself must be convinced that it can add value.

How do I secure my mandate as Transformation Partner?

A consulting assignment to support a transformation in a company needs a clear mandate.

External consultations have an easier – and harder – time

An external consultant receives an explicit mandate and thus also has a clear mandate to accompany the change, to shape it with his or her own proposals and to advise the management. This mandate is defined within the clarification of the assignment. And above all, the necessary prerequisites are agreed upon. And if these are not in place, the mandate will be rejected by a responsible consultancy. Because in the long term, it is more dangerous for the reputation of an external consultancy to accept an imprecisely defined mandate – and thus fail – than to lose the individual mandate. The reputation of the consultancy is at stake.

As an internal department, it is more difficult for HR to refuse an assignment, even if the prerequisites for successful implementation are not in place. Moreover, it is often unclear what exactly is part of the assignment – and what is not: what is »in scope« or »out of scope«?

In short, an external consulting has a higher degree of »systemic freedom« because it can reject the assignment. However, it must first acquire the assignment. With HR it is often the other way round: HR gets the assignment »thrown over the fence« – and can hardly ever refuse to accept it.

The special mandate as Transformation Partner

The mandate as a Transformation Partner differs significantly from what HR has in its everyday work. The HR department often sees itself as a service provider to the specialist departments; in the sense of: “We do everything to make our customers happy”. However, the Transformation Partner is above all committed to the change process itself. And this can mean that – in terms of process progress – one must also be able to tell senior managers how they can support the process. Be it by doing things that they should do – or even refrain from doing.

The Transformation Partner has to prove his or her »standing« (in the sense of reputation and authority) especially when emotions are boiling and the smart concepts are confronted with the reality of everyday professional life. Therefore, the following holds true: Those who accompany the change process also need an inner clarity about their own mission and identity as Transformation Partner.

The mindset matters

A useful model for defining one’s own self-image and identity as a Transformation Partner are the »Logical Levels« (according to Robert Dilts). Following the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, the Transformation Partner can ask himself or herself: “What is the difference that makes the difference – between my normal HR work and that as a Transformation Partner?” The model can be described in a simplified way with the following questions:

  • Context: Which people will I meet as Transformation Partner? In which situations? Which needs and emotions will these people have?
  • Behavior: Which behaviors will I exhibit there? What will I do that I usually do not or only rarely do?
  • Competences: Which competences (skills, knowledge, etc.) will I need for this?
  • Values and beliefs: What will be important to me? Which values do I want to protect in my work? What convictions do I base my actions on?
  • Identity: What self-image of me will be useful for this? How will others see me? Also: What projections of others about me will I be confronted with?
  • Vision / purpose: Which higher goal do I want to keep in mind? What contribution do I want to make to the overall transformation process?

The identity of the Transformation Partner can be seen as part of the broader concept of the HR Business Partner. However, it is important to take into account the special qualities and requirements of this role and to keep in mind the special services that the Transformation Partner must provide.

Becoming the Transformation Partner for your company

Sharpening your professional identity, developing your own mindset and proving your standing is no easy task. But the good news is that you can acquire this competence. By offering the qualification »HR Transformation Partner«, we want to close the gap that internal HR professionals currently have to bridge in order to contribute their potential to the company.

Together with our colleagues from Synnecta, we offer this internationally proven qualification in three compact modules. Participants benefit from first-hand expertise: Synnecta has been supporting complex change processes in companies for over 20 years – from medium-sized to large corporations.

All contents and modalities of the qualification can be found on the page https://hr-transformation-partner.com/ (German).

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