3 Steps HR Can Take to Successfully Lead Change
The only constant in life is change, a maxim that is particularly true in the field of human resources. From the beginning of a new employee’s career, until the day they leave for the last time, HR is there. Directional change in a business stems from the overarching business strategy, with the decisions and path the change will take. Leading an organization through change can be one of the most daunting tasks, especially if human resources is the only department trying to push it through. This is why it is important to have the buy-in of the organization.
While getting buy-in is critical to leading change, it’s not the only area that should be focused on. HR is frequently involved in many stages of the change roller coaster. The key is to determine and decide what aspect is the most important for us to focus on at the present time.
Understand the Why
The first thing the organization needs to understand is the “Why”. Any time your employees have to do something different, no matter how big or small, they are going to question why this is the new way. Change without the why cannot be successful, especially in bigger projects, like going paperless or working with new applicant tracking software (ATS). Every person in the company leadership team should be able to answer this question, as well as the managers that the team members directly report to in the organization.
Change can be necessitated by any number of factors. Perhaps there have been major staffing changes, the workforce either expanded or contracted. Maybe a new business opportunity was identified, and time is of the essence in order to maximize gains. Whatever the case may be, keeping employees in the dark is rarely the best course of action. Human Resources is an ideal conduit for keeping change transparent. Bring your colleagues into the conversation and give them the information they need to understand and support the organizational changes. Who knows; you might even get invaluable suggestions from a source you didn’t expect!
Prioritize Your Communication
Prioritizing your communication efforts throughout the entire company can make or break the change happening in the organization.
- Establish multiple lines of communication for each level in the organization. Your managers may need somewhere to turn to gather more information, as they need to fully understand how to answer the questions employees may bring to them.
- Make sure the people responsible for communicating important information acknowledge each question or concern. Too many times managers answer what they deem to be the “important topics” only. They keep quiet or ignore the other issues, sometimes because they don’t know the answers.
- Make sure your communication includes handouts your employees can take with them to read, this will bring more questions, but more understanding.
- Make the effort to acknowledge that your employees will have questions and give them genuine, thoughtful answers.
Prioritizing your communication shows your employees and the company as a whole that HR and leadership are willing to listen to the problems that may arise from this change. No organization can have successful change if they are ignoring the people who keep the customers happy and the doors open. Create training workshops to help facilitate the change and if needed, bring someone in from the outside to talk with the employees. Providing specialized support for certain people or departments might be something the organization needs to prepare for before this change is announced.
HR Must Be Ready
If your change is dealing with anything computer or system-based, make sure you have people who can handle the volume of questions employees are going to have. Your organization cannot learn from managers who do not understand the new system or product. This is another area where specialized training will be the best step to provide clear and direct answers. If your company is not data-driven at the moment and HR is pushing them to create this change, human resources has to be prepared to sell this change to each level of the organization correctly. If we cannot do this, are we sure the change is even needed?
Leading directional change in an organization isn’t always easy, but a great team and culture can make the transition much smoother. Your employees accept the energy they are given, so HR and other members of the leadership team need to do a good job of preparing them and giving them the information to succeed. We cannot blame the employees for doing resisting change in when no one prepared them for to begin with. HR must take a stance in the organization to listen and lead for successful change.
Jazmine Wilkes is an Alabama-based HR professional, blogger, contributor, and connector. She holds both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science Degree in Human Resource Management. Jazmine manages the HRJazzy blog to help emerging HR professionals on their job search journey and is a SHRM18 and SHRMLead Blogger for the Society of Human Resource Management.