HR Business Case – Assessment 1
Managing Change 21884, AUT2021
Stark Parker is a global professional services firm
with operations in Australia, New Zealand and
South-East Asia. The company has more than
5,000 employees and has been advising their
clients on risk, strategy and people for over 75
With the lockdown coming out of the COVID-19
response, more companies than ever before are
relying on virtual employees working from their
homes, many for the first time. That presents an
interesting new dynamic for both the employer and
the employee. Stark Parker has been also forced to
transition from their employees being physically
present in their offices to working remotely. The
CEO of the company is aware that even if a
vaccine or effective treatment will open the
possibility of safe return to the traditional
workplace, remote work will take a permanent
place in the employment mix. Virtual teamwork
models, done right, allow organisations to better
recruit talent, achieve innovation, and define a
future of work that is more flexible, digital, and
However, the company approached virtual work by merely replacing face-to-face
communication with virtual meetings without any additional considerations. Apart from
traditional difficulties of managing virtual teams, such as missing visual cues and gestures that
people can pick up on with in-person communication or not being able to get the point across
effectively, there are further issues. In particular, face-to-face one-on-one coaching sessions
between managers and their employees have been replaced by a suitable virtual alternative.
Yet, non-existent in-office interaction has made employees feeling unsupported especially
during these difficult times. The question of how staff may be supported and developed to face
future challenges tends to be neglected since managers are busy going from one Zoom meeting
to another. Lack of management by results (supporting employee autonomy on when, where
and how they do their work) in the company, the managers feel that they cannot trust that their
employees are actually doing the work and employees are feeling micromanaged. Moreover,
newly hired employees feel highly disengaged, and communication with divisions in Asia has
become more problematic as travel restrictions prevented managers from having face-to-face
interactions with their colleagues from other cultures. As a result, lack of socialisation and
genuine support from managers – an essential part of office life – deteriorated the firm’s culture
by creating a lack of trust and disengagement.
In your HR leadership role, you would like to contribute to an increase of productivity through
a more engaged workforce as well as making the company more attractive to talent. To do this,
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it has become clear to you that the company’s approach to virtual work is underdeveloped and
what is more, the current way of how remote work is done is not effective. You are not alone
in this view. In conversations with frontline managers and employees, you have established
that their feelings about the current way of working range from resignation to downright
hostility (‘toxic working environment’, ‘demotivating’, ‘too stressful’ and ‘lack of support’).
The problem is, the senior executive team is nervous about tinkering with a system that, in their
minds, has worked fairly well. There are a number of views in the leadership team. The CEO
is fundamentally open to change as long as it aligns with the company’s value statements (see
below) and helps increase the company’s competitive market position. In particular, his
message on the company’s website is: “For the many challenges this pandemic poses, it also
presents opportunities – new ways of thinking and working, new approaches to business and a
greater emphasis on community-focused solutions.” He is joined by the Marketing and Sales
Operating Officers who believe that the firm’s culture would benefit from becoming more
collaborative and trusting. The Divisional Leaders tend to have a more neutral position: they
are aware of frontline managers’ and staff’s disengagement with the current way of virtual
work across all divisions, but see it as a ‘necessary evil’ since they believe there are no
alternative options and that virtual work is just short-term solution. The Chief Operating
Officer and Chief Financial Officer believe that the company has a solid system that everyone
knows how to use and that provides clear communication channels, so why change it?
To make matters more complex, there is a degree of change fatigue in the organisation. The
company’s approach to change has traditionally been to have experts design the change and
then tell managers to implement it. But the workforce consists predominantly of unionised,
long-time employees, so it is difficult to mandate changes if they do not like them. As one of
the frontline managers has told you: “We’ve been through different change management
programs, and the perception at the front lines is that if you duck your head, they go away.
There is a certain amount of cynicism in the organisation.” Knowing this, you are fully aware
that the senior executive team will likely have concerns and queries around the proposed
- What are the key benefits for the firm? Is it really worth the effort?
- What will make this change initiative successful, as opposed to other failed change initiatives by external consultancies that they have endorsed in the past?
- How does your proposed change initiative align with the company’s current value statements and external market drivers?
- What is the business case for it, compared to the status quo in how virtual work virtual is currently handled by the firm?
- How will staff and frontline managers be involved in the process so that the initiative does not end up being undermined, as has been the case with previous (top-down)
driven change efforts?
Stark Parker’s value statement
1. We strive for excellence in what we do. We are committed to the continuous improvement of our services, and we achieve this by continuously developing and
deepening our knowledge of our people, our customers, and our business.
2. We lead in ways that provide recognition, motivation, and empowerment – by listening, seeking feedback, and working with our staff on the attainment of shared goals.
3. We encourage accountability and ownership across divisions and roles, and we strive for a culture of empowerment.
4. We treat each other with respect. We embrace diverse communities, cultures and points of view. We understand how we differ and how we are similar.
5. We work together as one team. To collaborate well, we trust each other and work together towards shared goals because we know that this is how we can offer our
customers the best service.