How to Manage HR Challenges in Change Management

Great news: managing HR challenges in change management is possible. Here are a few tips to succeed!

Human capital

Michel Guay

Monday, August 18, 2014


Change. Does that word scare you? No, especially not you; devoted manager who has an upbeat attitude and openness to the evolution of your business and your industry…

But between you and me, when it comes to change, isn’t there a degree of uncertainty that is quite perplexing? An anticipated challenge is a lot easier to tackle: so here are some HR challenges in change management and ways to get out alive!

Change in your image rebranding, restructuring, modernization, new product development, process optimization, globalization, and so on! The possible changes in a company are numerous … and the challenges related to them are equally so.

Good news, there are possible solutions for (almost) all the issues caused by change. Are you ready? This will require a lot of consideration, time and action – but you can do it!

You’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelet

But do you need to go through the entire dozen? The phases of successful changes contribute to the success of a business. That being said, failed change phases affect the organization and may even lead to its demise.

Before undertaking any change whatsoever, make sure that its range was measured in a clear strategic plan. Moreover, this specific plan will give you an overall picture of the company’s future, and sharing the vision on every level of the organization will be easier.

Also, make sure you agree with these changes (despite any personal objections you might have). Your enthusiasm and conviction are tools that will be needed throughout the process.

HR, find your place, and take it!

If in certain companies the HR team is a strong organizational pillar, in several others, human resources are not yet considered and used to their full potential. The phases of change are sometimes secluded by project managers or by “change managers”, thus, excluding human resources.

It doesn’t matter if you elbow your way through, or charm your way through… but please, do everything in your power to be involved in those changes! Once the changes are set in motion, your employees will turn to you. Be prepared!

The perpetual lack of resources

HR, just as most other departments of a company, are no exception: resources are not infinite. The limited annual budget must be invested in several projects at once, while the limited staff needs to be more versatile than ever. How do you successfully manage change in such conditions?

Sharpen your pencils, you will need planning and a little creativity. The period needed for change is proportional to its magnitude. If it is a major project, make sure to be informed as soon as possible. You’ll be able to negotiate whatever is necessary for your human resources operations and, if appropriate, allow a certain budget of expenses and investments over several periods, quarters or years.

Also, consider cooperating! Develop a close collaboration with the communications department (or any other related team) and split the budget and efforts related to the actions needed for change.

Be quick, but take your time!

Set a change timetable: planning realistic deadlines and adding certain buffers for contingencies and emergencies.

Even if certain changes must be set quickly, time remains an issue. It will be important to allow time for employees to manage change, so as to minimize the impact on their daily lives. Take this into consideration in your planning.

Let your personnel progress

Depending on the nature of change, a small percentage of employees will be totally repelled, another will be completely enthusiastic, while most of the staff will be indecisive about these changes. Either way, all employees go through the phases of preoccupations during change.

The “phases of preoccupation” theory suggests that during a period of change, employees follows an evolutionary sequence of about seven behaviors and reactions. Starting with the lack of preoccupation, the employee then moves on to analyzing the effects of change on himself and the organization. The employee then wonders about the nature of this change and gradually gives way to the implementation of change. In the best case scenario, the employee cooperates and sometimes demonstrates a desire for improvement and innovation.

Beware, this is not a recipe! Employees do not necessarily complete all of these seven phases, some end their journey at the implementation of change: they will do what is asked of them, and nothing more.

Remember that change is a great concern for most employees and might affect their mobilization; success takes time and dedication from each member of your workforce.

It is possible to survive dissatisfaction, closed-mindedness and denial

As wonderful as changes in the company may be, the fact remains that some employees will not understand the benefits you will suggest.

It’s not your fault, the human being is fundamentally resistant to change. Fortunately, humans are also sensitive and intelligent, which lets you turn this state of denial into a state of employee engagement.

Note that denial and closed-mindedness are often only evidence of misunderstanding and fear of change. So let unhappy employees express themselves and question decisions. Listen to them and take the time to answer their questions.

Since the unknown can be quite disturbing, ensure that changes are communicated clearly, making room for understanding, acceptance and rallying.

Communication – obvious, but not so simple

Employees want to understand changes, is this not a demonstration of their engagement? Optimize their interest by enhancing communication activities.

First and foremost, join forces with managers by sharing the company’s vision and the direction it wants to take. They are your allies, make sure they act positively with employees, and not selfishly keep the information to themselves.

Be prepared to mourn! Most institutional communications are not read entirely, and oh bummer, are sometimes not read at all. Communicate the changes and their impacts through various channels: emails certainly, but also initiatives like dynamic videos, lunch with the president, or a lunch-and-learn session. Dare to go further: organize a contest to increase awareness and understanding of the changes to come.

You cannot go through a phase of change without effective communication – dedicate the time and effort needed.

Staff that is trained and prepared

For changes to take place as gracefully as possible, lean on the strengths of your human resources already in place, and, more than ever, be sure to assign employees to positions that best suit their respective profiles.

There! It’s the perfect time to use your human resources plan. A clear vision will also help you get through the phases of change, while promoting employee engagement!

In addition, plan training sessions so that employees can be aware of the novelties and, if necessary, offer them skill development sessions.

Recognize and celebrate

Share the success and benefits of those changes. After asking such tremendous efforts from your employees, it would be awkward to keep them away from the results of their involvement. Thus, motivate your employees by celebrating this significant phase of the company’s development with them.

All in all, never lose sight of your role at the expense of the objectives and strategies of the organization. Be sure to serve both the company and its employees.

Although changes in organizations can shake your staff (including yourself), remain sensitive to human matters, after all, it is an organization’s natural wealth.

Change? Bring it on!

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