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What makes for a good Change Leader in 2019? An insight from a change recruiters perspective

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Scott Murphy Change Leaders, Blog, Business change...

I work for Venquis as a Regional Recruitment Manager for the South West & the Midlands. As a business, we specialise in business change and IT, placing professionals across several sectors including financial services, retail and utilities. On a personal level, my background largely focuses on delivering change & technology professionals, both contract and permanent, right across the UK for over 7 years.

Successful change has always been and is one of the biggest challenges facing modern businesses. As we know, change is essential to success and good leadership plays a huge part in this. So, what does a good Change Manager/Leader look like in 2019?

I have spent several years building relationships with senior Change Managers and Heads of Change from various sectors and during this period I have gained a rounded understanding of what clients look out for when hiring for their senior change positions. This tends to evolve all the time but as the year comes to an end, I have been finding out specifically what our clients will be looking for in their Change Leaders in 2019.

Stakeholder Management Skills, Communication & Culture

Good communication has always been a must for change. Whether its IT transformation, business process change or digital transformation, the general consensus from our clients still puts the onus on a strong communicator being essential for change.

Whilst “stakeholder management” skills have always been a given for most hiring managers, there seems to be a new-found emphasis for finding candidates with exceptional stakeholder management skills. Stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management are arguably the most important ingredients for successful project delivery, and yet are often regarded as a fringe activity or one that can be outsourced to BAU functions. Before aiming to engage and influence stakeholders, it’s crucial for Change Managers to find out who they will be working with and relying on throughout the phases of the project lifecycle. Developing relationships results in increased trust which then means people working together more easily and effectively. Investing effort in identifying and building stakeholder relationships can increase confidence across the project environment, minimise uncertainty and speed up problem solving and decision making.

In terms of culture, clients like and want to see change professionals that can build and maintain a thriving cohesive environment as well as still finding someone who is not afraid to change the status quo or legacy values, depending on what the change programme is. They want to see the profile of someone that makes the business or programme all-inclusive to every member as well as ensuring that they are clearly communicating across all divisions and workstreams. Also, in terms of ways of working, we are seeing businesses promoting remote access and flexible working hours and this is becoming more and more common across most sectors.

The Agile Approach

Taking an agile approach to implementing change is highly fashionable for many businesses now. With the growing number of changes businesses are experiencing at any given time, it's clear that change leaders need to be thinking about their own role in the organisation and how they structure their teams to effectively support change.

The feedback from some clients show that the success of a change programme with agile methodology will require precise, accurate and timely change management if new ways of working are to be successfully adopted in each sprint cycle. Clients want to see more candidates who are now either experienced in agile or certified in the methodology. We are also seeing more businesses hiring candidates who have come from a waterfall background and then transitioned into agile.

Digital transformation will continue to impact change management

Regardless of the maturity of the organisation, or the industry it’s in, digital transformation will be impacting on how Change Leaders plan, manage and analyse their programmes. Digital transformation is likely to be a key part of the agenda as we continue into 2019 and although it will have a different meaning to different people within an organisation, how it will affect change management leaders will be similar. Several clients are now hiring candidates who have specific digital transformation experience and have exposure to digital transformation whether this be internally (back end) or externally (front end). The main sector in which I operate is financial services, but this market has always been a good predictor as to what other sectors will embark on the following year. Obviously, major change programmes may change due to which specific location the programme is being run in the UK but here in Bristol, as a known Software Hub for the UK, digital transformation will be at the centre of a lot of change next year.

Regulatory

Regulatory changes have always played a significant role within wider change management and for 2019, this is no different. As we know regulatory change management in its simplest definition is “managing regulatory, policy, or procedure changes that apply to your business within its specific industry. This year we saw the implementation of GDPR and data protection which impacted on businesses and clients across all sectors. Some of our clients have already alluded to a potential “GDPR 2” being on the horizon, meaning that businesses will have continued process and systems change. Further to this, we have the political uncertainty surrounding the Brexit deal now and many businesses have already made strides to get ahead, whatever the outcome of any proposed deal. For example, Lloyds Banking Group and Aviva have both implemented a Part VII transfer which has essentially transferred their business processes and systems to an EU based office. From a hiring managers perspective, seeing change professionals with strong regulatory change experience is always going to benefit them as a business.