Managing through change is a complicated process. Whether it's a merger and acquisition or a change in the company's core leadership, big changes can lead to directional shifts, personnel turnover, and other challenges for businesses.
When HR takes a leadership role during periods of change, it's possible to gracefully navigate the challenges that come with such a situation – achieving both the organization's goals and ensuring your team feels confident about the company's future direction. Here are four steps for HR leaders to consider when supporting companies and teams through a change process.
Align with Management
Successfully supporting change management begins by understanding the vision. Align your efforts with management and take a deep dive into their long-term vision for the company. Ask yourself:
- What changes are occurring?
- How will this ultimately bring the company closer to its long-term goals?
- Are there any areas of concern in terms of human capital management?
- What do other leaders expect from HR during the change management process?
Once you understand the vision, you can help ensure all communications align back to the company's bigger vision, and you can build on your understanding of the organization to suggest ways HR can help lead through change.
Change is a constant in every organization, and many professionals are accustomed to dealing with it. However, the ambiguity that is often associated with change management can make it harder for people to navigate the process. For example, does hiring a new vice president of sales mean that people's jobs could be on the line, or that the company will be adopting a new sales strategy?
Take the time to establish lines of communication with employees at all levels of your organization. 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. Make time to listen, and identify the issues that most concern your team. There are many times when employees may be worried about things that are not even on management’s radar. By understanding what issues your team deems the most important, it is possible to quickly and effectively address them.
Assess Readiness and Risk
Understanding your organization's readiness levels for change is an important part of designing a change management implementation strategy. For example, if you work in a company where mergers and acquisitions are common, key members of your team are much less likely to be affected. However, if you are acquiring a company where most of the employees have worked for decades without facing major organizational changes, there is a separate set of risks and concerns on the table. HR can lead the way in assessing change management readiness and identifying areas of risk that need special attention from executives.
Provide Special Support Where Needed
HR can provide specialized support during the change process where it is needed. For example, in a company acquisition scenario, employees may have never been through a merger or acquisition. HR leaders can craft a training program to help employees understand what the acquisition process will entail, how they will be integrated into the new company, and what areas of their day-to-day business lives are unlikely to change. By investing this extra support where needed, much of the concern around the changes can be mitigated.
Special needs can often arise – especially in the area of human capital management – during periods of change. By having your HR department on board and focused on providing support, it is possible to help employees at all levels of the organization successfully move through the transition.
Leading through change can be a challenging process. However, HR can play a critical role in bridging communications between management and employees, ensuring information is shared in a timely and transparent way, and identifying and addressing any specific concerns or risks before they potentially become long-term problems.