Change is inevitable and is often difficult to implement, requiring employees to work in different ways than they’ve been accustomed to. Today’s organizations have typically undergone five major changes within the last three years, and 75% of them expect to move forward on more changes within the next three years.
Change requires buy-in and smoothing out issues that crop up during a period of transition. That’s why change management is particularly beneficial, and HR plays an integral role in navigating organizational change.
What is Change Management?
Change management entails planning, implementing, and continuously managing an organizational change, big or small, to minimize workplace disruption as much as possible. Corporate strategy, corporate structures, as well as procedures and technology are some typical areas that endure change and require careful planning. Common changes include mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, bankruptcy, and outsourcing.
Though it can be stressful for all involved, change necessitates a solid change management strategy. Change management offers several benefits to an organization:
- Retain employees and customers during and after change
- Address questions and concerns beforehand
- Inform all stakeholders
- Provide tailored guidance to individuals, teams, or departments
- Follow-up with employees to see if adjustments are necessary
HR professionals are key interlocutors between structural change and employees and are thus important to have at the table when discussing organizational changes.
Why HR is Important for Change Management
HR professionals are great at conflict resolution and identifying employee strengths, but they also play a critical role in change management. They facilitate change management by making sure that goals of the change are met. This means that HR staff members should be involved in change management every step of the way, from planning to execution. HR professionals also contribute their knowledge of employees to meet their needs and address their concerns during the transition. In short, they serve as a communication bridge between management and employees. Since HR professionals already use and are familiar with tools that facilitate collaboration and exchange of information, such as Monday.com or Gusto, they can assist in keeping lines of communication open during a transitional time.
Implementing Change Management as an HR Strategy
Carefully planning out steps for implementing organizational change increases the likelihood of positive outcomes. Below are steps for crafting a change management strategy that involves HR.
1. Map out the organization
Mapping or charting gives leaders and HR professionals a solid grasp of how many employees are currently working at the company and what their roles are. Organizational chart software, such as Freshteam and Sift, show organizational structure from departmental level down to working relationships and an individual employee’s assigned responsibilities. With this information at hand, it’s easier to assess how and to what extent the change will affect the organization at various levels of granularity.
Also read: Buyer’s Guide to Organization Chart Software
2. Recalibrate employee duties
Evaluating and adjusting employee responsibilities happens once there is an actual change on the horizon. Knowing what the change is will inform how HR professionals work with each employee and analyze their current responsibilities. The outcome of this phase results in several possible adjustments, including changes to titles, roles, and salaries, as well as new talent acquisition to fill a new need.
3. Report to managers of structural change
With the information acquired in the previous two steps, HR professionals have a better grasp of how the change will affect employees and can compile this information to present to those who are in charge of planning and implementing organizational change.
4. Reinforce and sustain change in company culture
Once the change has begun or has been fully integrated as the new normal, which can take up to a decade, HR can help sustain and reinforce that change within the company in both concrete and cultural ways.
HR must undertake the process of revising documentation for procedures and policies that no longer fit with the new vision instituted by the change. Learning management software, such as ProProfs, Talent LMS, and SAP’s Litmos product, provide central hubs for managing documents and training.
HR professionals must also take care to retain employees by training, promoting, supporting, and developing them. The change really becomes cemented in the company culture when HR fosters shared values that align with the change, for example, with new handbook language, office signage, office set-up, consistent employee check-ins, company-wide retreats, etc.
How HR Can Help Navigate Change
Before agents of change follow through on their plans, it’s essential to know how that change will affect the organization’s arguably most important resource: its employees. HR team members serve as mediators between structural change managers and those who will be affected. It’s therefore essential that HR professionals are involved to educate employees and carry out conflict resolution, if necessary, since major changes like downsizing can result in significant friction between management and employees.
Given that HR is responsible for hiring talent, HR professionals know current employee strengths and capabilities best. They can suggest ways for employees to upskill or re-skill in order to meet new job expectations. HR professionals can also create informational reference documents and internal communications to explain the change and its effects.
Successful organizational change depends on a strong change management strategy, and HR plays a crucial role in crafting that strategy.