The Role of HR in Managing Change in the Workplace
Change, as the formula Barack Obama used in the 2008 election campaign, is in fact inevitable. There’s no way to escape change, no matter how resistant you are to it. If there’s anything that Obama has taught us, it’s to embrace change.
Yet, it’s important to acknowledge that its complex nature presents a multi-faceted challenge for HR. Change is hard to predict, non-linear, and especially hard to reproduce. But organisations today can take different approaches to its management – think defensive vs. offensive styles.
Whether you decide to adapt to change, anticipate it, or use a mix of both, HR have a great role to play in leveraging this opportunity. In an era where organisational agility is a must, it’s time to rethink the importance of HR leadership in bringing about change.
Bringing Change to the Workplace
Change is what brings forth new ideas, solutions and growth. It’s about breaking free from our circle of comfort in order to start seeing alternative routes offered to our organisations to progress in the right direction. It’s about embracing business transformation, making your organisation more agile, ready to adapt, and taking advantage of the latest innovations to boost competitiveness.
Change in the workplace can take many forms. From the introduction of new processes and all the way to more unsettling changes such as a merger or an acquisition. In any case, change is first and foremost a matter of behaviours. Objection, resistance or on the other hand: drive and enthusiasm, are all emotional reactions that could make or break the success of change implementation.
One thing that we need to understand is that change can’t happen without someone facilitating it. General management stands in a position of force to drive change management. They have the power to elicit positive emotions and neutralise negative ones to drive the organisation towards success.
An organisation’s management guides its people and is responsible for bringing stability to ensure a smooth transition during phases of change. A strategic vision, a proactive contribution to building a strong company culture, and a committed investment in developing competencies are all essential to support organisational change. In essence, the leadership team is responsible for making change happen in the workplace.
The role of HR in Change Management Process
Conducting change, or in other words: transformation, is the fact for an organisation to make its processes evolve to gain in competitiveness. Obviously, the larger the organisation, the more challenging the task is.
And who’d be better placed than HR to uptake the role of walking change agent? Their proximity to the people of an organisation makes it easy to influence leadership and provide the right framework to support change in the workplace.
A Role of Watchdog
The HR department plays an important role in re-thinking organisational design to bring about change and facilitate the implementation of these new processes. This implies that it also has a crucial monitoring role to do. During phases of change, HR leadership will be expressed by guaranteeing the company culture’s integrity and making sure that processes are coherent and harmonious.
Taking the Time to Communicate
As HR gain in expertise and business intelligence, it’s important for them to share their strategic vision with finance and marketing, as well as other key departments of the organisation. HR’s central function in the management of people and talent means they can easily influence change adoption through strategic HR policies in the fields of remuneration, succession and hiring to cite a few.
Middle managers, the foundational pillars of your organisation, are too often left out in this process. Information reaches them too late or they miss the competencies required to bring about change. Why? Companies often get ahead of themselves when it comes to business transformation. They go too fast, changing processes and systems, without taking the time to train and explain the situation to managers.
Establishing a Change Agenda
HR should recommend a calendar and define specific milestones to be reached by both the organisation and its employees through time. Business transformation takes time and if rushed, could inevitably end up in a costly failure. So taking it step by step will ensure that employees adhere fully to these changes and don’t even think about “it was better before”.
Anticipating Emotional Roadblocks
We know too well how change can create fear and reluctance amongst employees and managers alike. Change is not an easy thing, hence why it’s important to anticipate negative reactions as much as possible – even if not everything can be planned in advance, of course.
It’s important to accompany and train managers, not so that they become good change agents – this should be done before business transformation happens – but so that they understand the ins and outs of the change they are contributing their efforts to. You should provide them with a meaning and purpose to engage in the business transformation. Actively listening to your managers is essential to accompany them through the different challenges they will face too.
Proposing Adapted Solutions
Depending on whether change is required to adapt in a highly competitive market or due to a phase of growth, HR should propose adequate solutions to each situation. For example, a high level of market competition that necessitates to reduce costs will not have the same challenges than a company that is expanding its operations worldwide. HR should be able to come up with a strategy that is suited to the context in which change needs to happen.