HR plays a leading role when major changes happen in the workplace, from complying with guidelines during a pandemic or other external influences, to supporting staff during a merger and acquisition, departmental restructuring or through significant upheaval in the leadership team. Critical change inevitably leads to challenges, but it is possible to navigate them with confidence and efficiency.
We think these are the main considerations for HR leaders when supporting companies and teams through a change process.
1. Align HR with leadership and management
Successfully supporting change management begins with understanding and buying into the vision. You need to be crystal clear on what the intended plans are, why the organisation has chosen to do it this way, what the benefits are for the business and its people, whether there are any concerns in terms of human capital management and what the agreed role of HR throughout the process will be. Establishing (and communicating) common goals will provide purpose, clarity and direction for everyone impacted and involved.
2. Understand and allow for the impact of change on people
We tend to get fixated on the processes and procedures when it comes to dealing with major change in the workplace, but there are seven stages that individuals typically go through when faced with significant adjustments in their working life. It’s helpful for HR leaders to support both line managers and the senior leadership team in being mindful and accommodating of these stages. Based on the Kubler-Ross Change Curve Model, your workforce will likely experience shock, denial, frustration, depression, experimentation (with adapting to change), decision and integration. It’s well worth reading up on these stages, and remembering that they are rarely a linear experience. When we understand and allow for the human impact of change, we are more likely to bring our workforce along on the journey with us in a far more positive and inclusive way.
3. Communicate well and often
Change is a constant in every organisation, but ambiguity is often the biggest hurdle. Most companies will already have well-established methods of communicating with employees at all levels, but now is the time to solidify (or improve) them. Make sure your messages are reaching the right people at the right time in right format so there is no air of secrecy or hierarchy. Share information when you can about the changes that are occurring, how it will impact employees’ day-to-day situations, and the steps being taken to help ensure the changes are for the overall good. But remember that communication is two-way - more on that in our next point!
4. Involve and empower your workforce at every stage
Involving your workforce as much as possible, especially when making key decisions, gives them the opportunity to put their ideas and concerns forward. When people are part of a process, they are far more likely to view it positively and to accept and commit to any resulting decisions. Be transparent and explicit. Share goals and rationales that prompt decisions. Seek input. Invite dialogue. Show empathy. Steve Jobs famously reflected: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Make it clear to your workforce: they are vital to the success of the transformation. Take time to really listen to, and identify the issues that most concern your workforce. There are many times when employees may be worried about things that are not even on HR or management’s radar. By understanding what issues your team deems the most important, it is possible to quickly and effectively address them.
5. Accept the continuum and stay focused on the end goal
It’s important to accept that people either embrace or resist change on a continuum. Some may jump on board immediately while others may put up barriers right until the last minute. There will be degrees of resistance and compliance at different stages – that’s just how it is. Accepting this will reduce the pressure on those leading teams through change.
As always, we’re here if you need any recruitment support during the often lengthy and complicated change management process – you can reach us on 01932 355000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.