Guy Arguin, the CHRO of Mercer International Inc., understands change may bring uncertainty and fear, yet knows it is critical for personal, professional, and organizational transformational growth. To better understand why change is important, GuyArguinexplains that from an organizational level, change is strategic. An organization's choices to acquire a business or expand or downsize its business portfolio may often be a strategy for growth or survival. Each choice will impact people and the internal dynamic.
To assist with transformative changes, Arguin emphasizes that change may be more readily accepted by first considering how it is approached and accepted from an individual perspective - what they need to know and how it will make them feel.
Arguinhas been involved in many large global projects, learning principles and strategies of what to do and what not to do. One can come out with bruises and scars, but mainly learnings - the experiences wegain implementing such change across different countries and cultures add to it tremendously, but a big part of change or transformation is about communication. Arguin further notes, “Change management strategies must also consider cultural and language elements, but the working principle should be the same to learn and educate. This has been a key part of the learning and experience I have gained.”
How You Communicate is as important as What You Communicate
To prepare to lead change management projects, Arguinasks two fundamental questions: what is the case for change, and why do we need to change? These two questions provide the foundation for preparing communications to guide leaders on how to shape the message to employees.
“From an organizational level, change is strategic. An organization's choices to acquire a business or expand or downsize its business portfolio may often be a strategy for growth or survival. Each choice will impact people and the internal dynamic.”
Human Resource professionals need to ensure communications are transparent and will not disengage employees. Arguinprovides some insights for HR practitioners to consider when shaping messaging for the various stakeholders.
Firstly, in the early stages of change management messaging, we do not overwhelm the recipients with details. Consider phasing and cascading messages to allow for greater clarity and detail. Each employee group should receive what is pertinent to them, starting with leadership and then phased to cascade down through the organization. This phasing and cascading strategy will help each level understand‘why’ the change is necessary and how it is relevant or impactful to them, so when you get into the implementation phase, you get into understanding, engagement and buy-in.
Be honest, humble, and open. Trust is built with every action;therefore providing information with care at the start is critical. If you cannot share details due to legal or ethical considerations, commit to coming back to share more information with a timeline, what are the next steps and follow through with that commitment. People need something to hold on to during the transition, to help them understand what will happen and when. This is critical to help reduce misunderstandings, anxiety, and fear.
Develop relationships and an engaging environment before the transformational change when and where possible. This is the foundation of trust and will be beneficial if people know us- with a trusting relationship comes confidence and credibility.
Make the message personal and especially relevant. Smaller, intimate group conversations should be the preferred channel of communication.
Providing brief and key talking points usually helps align on what will be said, not how to say it. Provide the context of the message to those delivering it rather than telling them how to deliver it. Each leader and manager should deliver the message personalized to their team members; they know best how to convey such sensitive messages.
It is not so much about the how (channels, approaches and standardization) but rather about the content; this brings consistency in content and facts Managers will find the right way, the right tone. If we shape the ‘what and why’ they can then take it away and convey the necessary information to their organization in a way that will help people in understanding what is happening and what is to come next.
A Piece of Advice
Arguinadvises HR practitioners to remain adaptable and flexible during a change initiative. He indicates that even the best plan will face unexpected circumstances requiring changes and adjustments.
As he further stated, get comfortable being uncomfortable by challenging yourself to explore different situations, scenarios and opportunities; get out of your comfort zone as much as possible in a controlled environment to learn how to adapt to change. Seize the moments to raise self-awareness and get to know yourself better. This will help ustremendously when leading a transformation or being impacted by one.
What are you most proud of in your career?
There was a point in my career where I was advising, coaching, etc. line supervisors on how to manage, coach and mentor teams. At the time, it was mainly an environment with technical personnel (engineers, electricians, etc.). There was an opportunity for me to get out of HR completely to become an Operation Manager leading Operational and Logistical personnel on three shifts. I told myself to get out of my comfort zone to try it, face the challenge and grow as a professional. It was a 3.5-year opportunity that very soon became addictive as you faced new and unexpected challenges every morning.
As an individual at this stage of my career, it could have been a very risky move- but in the end, it was the best decision of my career from a professional perspective. To take me completely out of my comfort zone, as an HR and not a technical person, to manage such technical and experienced colleagues - as the “HR guy,” I had to very quickly build credibility, to find ways to lead close to 200 technical employees to produce and deliver the products daily. It was such a learning experience, and then I went back to HR with a different perspective and a more holistic view of what was needed to lead a change. This helped me tremendously since soon after, I was part of another transformation.
Being flexible, adaptable, and finding relevant solutions to various situations was a key turning point in my career; it helped me go through changes in my personal and professional life. This specific experience gave me the tools and equipped me to better support and guide colleagues and leaders when faced with change, transition, and transformation.
About Guy Arguin
• Global Human Resources Executive with broad international and multi-cultural experience acquired in Europe, Middle East, Americas, Africa and Asia (Consumer Goods, Oil & Gas/Mining and Engineering Consultancy industries, Forest Products).
• A wide range of HR and Leadership skills developed over 20 years in emerging and mature commercial environments and transformation landscapes.
• Established professional HR teams across different geographies globally, introducing HR best practices to support Commercial and Manufacturing business strategies.
• Executive Leadership I Growth/M&A/Optimization I Talent Management
• Business Transformation I Executive Coaching I Global Compensation
• Leading Cross Cultural Teams I International HR Strategy I High Performing Teams