Organizational change management: 7 strategies for HR departments
Est. Read Time: 3 min.
Many articles are written about organizational change. But when the business changes, so does HR. The change might be big or maybe small. But HR changes. Today, instead of talking about how companies manage change, let’s talk about how HR departments manage change (while their company is in transition).
Just like individual change isn’t the same as organizational change, department change isn’t always the same as organizational change. Changes that benefit the organization can change the way a department operates. Here are two examples:
- The change may add work to a department. Like in the case of a new law that the organization needs to follow which changes the way the company will hire, train, or pay employees.
- The change may shift work from one department to another. For example, if HR also managed office facilities and now someone else will handle it. While getting some stuff off our plate might be great, it creates a new workflow for employees. And we have to make sure the transition goes smoothly.
Constant change is the new business normal
According to research and advisory firm Gartner, the typical organization has undertaken five major changes in the past three years. And nearly 75% expect to multiply that number within the next three.
This means that organizational change management is something we need to be prepared to deal with all the time. So how can HR departments manage change well? For starters, we need to get ourselves ready. We can’t expect the organization to manage change well if the HR department isn’t able to. Here are two things HR departments can do for themselves:
- STRATEGY #1 Make sure HR teams receive change management training. Sometimes HR professionals are so busy taking care of the organization that they forget to take care of themselves. If we want the organization to manage change well, then we need to be able to manage change ourselves.
- STRATEGY #2 Create a safe space for HR pros to discuss change. Employees are often allowed to vent about changes. But HR doesn’t always get the same opportunity. Senior HR leaders need to give their teams a way to blow off some steam. One way that HR can get comfortable being uncomfortable is through being able to talk about their frustrations in a safe environment.
Accepting constant change is only one part of the equation.
Effectiveness is the second component to managing change well. We’ve all heard the well-worn statistic that 70% of change efforts fail. In the Harvard Business Review article “Stop Using the Excuse ‘Organizational Change is Hard,” they present the case that the well-worn 70% statistic could simply be bunk. Whether the 70% statistic is true or not, the bottom-line is that some change efforts fail.
Organizational change management involves everyone. The company will look to HR to provide support and assistance to other departments, so the overall effort is successful. HR departments can show their readiness through the next four strategies:
- STRATEGY #3 Consider advanced change management training, like a certification or certificate program. Part of HR’s strategy for managing organizational change needs to include helping the organization. HR pros should consider gaining an understanding of classic change management models to provide insights on executing change efforts effectively.
- STRATEGY #4 Have a model that everyone can use. A benefit of receiving advanced change management training is discovering the proven change management models that are available—like Lewin or Kotter. The organization can adopt one model that employees can apply in their professional lives (and maybe even in their personal lives). HR can train employees on how to use a change management model during orientation and onboarding, so everyone is speaking a common language.
- STRATEGY #5 Allow employees to fail successfully. In many organizations, individuals can learn from making honest mistakes. But it means having a company culture that supports it. Please note: We’re not talking about life and death situations here. That’s different. HR can play a role in helping guide this aspect of company culture, educating managers on handling employee mistakes, and creating a performance management system that will focus on the right things and not allow mistakes to hurt an employee’s pay or promotional opportunities.
- STRATEGY #6 Embrace technology. Speaking of performance, sometimes the organizational change management initiative being undertaken will involve technology, like implementing a new system. And sometimes we will need technology—like a case management system—to help us prioritize and manage change activities. By creating a culture that allows employees to experiment (see strategy #5), employees might be more willing to try new technologies.
- STRATEGY #7 Recognize and reward efforts to manage change. Encourage employees to set stretch goals, support their efforts, then reward them for their accomplishments. HR can bring value to this strategy by coaching and training managers on effective feedback techniques, and by designing rewards and recognition programs that encourage these behaviors.
HR departments play multiple roles during organizational change
Human resources departments are responsible for many aspects of the organizational change management process. They need to support the organizational change, manage the change effort happening within their department, help other departments and employees process the change, while at the same time dealing with the change on an individual level.
That might sound like an impossible task, but it can be done. It means becoming educated about how effective change management strategies work, using those strategies for managing change, and adopting technology to support the effort.
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About Sharlyn Lauby
Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc., a Florida based training and human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent. Sharlyn sees human resources as a strategic partner - the marketing department for a company’s internal clients rather as administrative. During her 20+ years in the profession, she has earned a reputation for bringing business solutions to reality. Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources for Right Management Consultants, one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms. She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development. Publications such as Reuters, The New York Times, ABC News, TODAY, Readers Digest, Men’s Health and The Wall Street Journal have sought out her expertise on topics related to human resources and workplace issues.