April 9, 2024

HR’s Role in Change Management

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Key takeaways

  • HR has many responsibilities in change management, including:
  • Assessing the employees’ preparedness.
  • Verifying legal compliance.
  • Facilitating clear communication.
  • Providing training.
  • Reviewing the impact of change. 
  • Some examples of workplace changes that involve HR are mergers and acquisitions, new policy roll-outs, layoffs, and leadership changes. 

Apr. 9, 2024: Irene Casucian rewrote the article to provide a clear and concise explanation of HR’s role in change management, illustrate examples of change management scenarios that directly involve HR, and recommended software tools to support HR change management.

What is HR change management?

HR change management refers to the human resources department’s efforts to help employees transition and adapt to organizational changes. These changes can be related to business processes, structures, policies, or culture. Some HR change management activities include conducting surveys, creating training programs, and addressing employee wellness risks. 

HR change management aims to minimize disruptions, maintain productivity, and keep employees motivated despite the recent adjustments. 

HR’s role in change management

HR plays a vital role in change management by assessing employees’ preparedness, facilitating good communication, monitoring legal compliance, providing training, and reviewing the effects of change.

Evaluate the employees’ preparedness

Before developing a plan to communicate and implement a change, it is essential to gauge how the employees might react. Create a plan for the upcoming changes by:

  • Deciding the best communication style(s) and channel(s).
  • Analyzing skills gaps. 
  • Identifying current and future resource constraints.
  • Forecasting impact on various HR metrics by assessing historical data.

Taking these steps will help introduce the change without overwhelming the team. 

One way to check an organization’s receptiveness and readiness to change is to conduct surveys. Survey tools, such as SurveySparrow, can streamline this process. After collecting survey responses, SurveySparrow provides detailed analytics that you can use to make informed decisions when planning next steps. Another best is to use historical data to forecast the impact of change. 

Screenshot of how to create a survey in SurveySparrow.
A screenshot of SurveySparrow showing how to customize your survey form. Source: SurveySparrow

Monitor legal compliance

One of HR’s most vital roles in change management is ensuring that impending changes are in full compliance with the law. This responsibility includes verifying existing contracts and ensuring that the changes align with legal frameworks country-wise and state-wise. This involves checking employee rights, compensations, anti-discrimination policies, and health and safety standards. If there’s a threat of compliance risk, you should implement safeguards to avoid negative repercussions.  

In line with this, HR must also see that everything is well-documented. Processes such as planning a change, communicating with stakeholders, and consulting legal experts should have proper documentation in case of a future audit or legal challenge.

GoCo can help streamline the documentation process by keeping all important documents in one secure and accessible location. Additionally, GoCo offers features that help HR teams keep track of compliance requirements, including labor laws, regulations, and industry standards.

Communicate impending changes

Aside from considering the readiness of the employees for a change, you should also plan how to communicate to employees, while keeping in mind the importance of maintaining transparency. Doing so will help build trust and reduce resistance. Be clear and honest, and set proper expectations.

It is also best practice to maintain communication both ways. Make sure your employees know you hear them by offering different ways to express concerns or questions. Workvivo, an employee experience tool, centralizes communication, allowing companies to easily update and share information in one location.It can also measure employee engagement and track sentiment. 

Provide training

HR should provide change management training to minimize operational disruption by equipping employees with the necessary tools to adapt to the change. Anyone who is tasked with new responsibilities as a result of the change should receive some type of training — otherwise, they won’t be set up for success.

Apps like 360Learning help foster collaborative change management training. 360Learning lets you create and customize training courses to ease transitions, and its analytics and tracking features to help your team monitor progress and completion rates. 

A screenshot of 360Learning’s homepage, showing a user’s list of works, their progress, and other training items.
Screenshot of 360Learning’s homepage. Source: 360Learning

Track and review the effects of the change

Another part of HR’s role in change management is tracking the change’s effects. Monitoring the impact helps evaluate the success of the change management strategy and the efficacy of the change. This process also helps identify any areas for improvement.

Collect data you can use to gauge the impact; you can use methods like surveys, feedback forms, or interviews. With the help of the gathered data, you can adjust the change management strategy accordingly.

Change management examples

As your company evolves, your HR team should be prepared to implement changes with as little disruption as possible. Common situations that require HR change management include mergers and acquisitions, new policy roll-outs, layoffs, and leadership changes.

While mergers and acquisitions are common in the business world, these events can trigger anxiety in employees. Clear communication that explains the motivation behind the merger or acquisition helps employees understand that it is a strategic move for the organization that will benefit their own careers in the long run. It will also help to provide a clear path forward and align the employees’ expectations. 

Implementing a new policy requires a comprehensive approach to change management. Start with developing a plan that outlines the entire policy implementation process, including the goals of the rollout and what problem that the new policy will address.

All stakeholders must review and agree on the new policy to prevent misunderstandings. You must also check the new policy at this point to ensure it complies with laws and regulations.

As always, a strong communication plan is vital. You should utilize digital channels and platforms to distribute the details of the new policy and for training purposes.

Layoffs are some of the most challenging changes to manage because they require holistic strategies involving: 

  • Thorough planning and compliance checks. 
  • Careful and empathetic communication. 
  • Reputation management.
  • Morale management.

By considering these strategies, you can manage layoffs in a way that respects the dignity of all employees, minimizes negative impacts, and positions the organization for recovery and future growth.

Read more: How to Gracefully Layoff an Employee with Compassion

Changes in leadership can significantly impact employees, and a smooth transition of power requires familiarity and trust from the ground-up. Meet-and-greets and town hall meetings provide a low-stakes environment where employees can ask questions and learn more about the new leader.

In addition to explaining why the leadership change happened and what we expect from it, you should first inform key team members about the change, outlining the reasons and expected outcomes. Then, to build a positive work environment, organize team-building activities for all employees.

Implementing change management as an HR strategy

Change management strategies make sure workplace changes meet the organization’s goals and follow legal and ethical standards. Poor change management means you’ll spend more money on recruiting and onboarding new employees in the long run


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