A 2016 study showed that 96% of organizations reported they were undergoing business transformation, but only 47% expected sustainable value from those changes.
In fact, 70% of change efforts fail entirely.
The primary reason is that employees resist change. The fact that change is so constant leads to fatigue when yet another initiative is announced. On top of that, people fear losing privileges, relationships, and even their jobs when organizations shift.
You know that your organization has to change frequently to stay up-to-date with the latest business best practices, corporate technology, and more. The good news is that HR can do a lot to help employees adapt to organizational shifts and embrace new ways of working.
Here are steps you can take to help your next organizational transition go smoothly.
Help Management Understand the Risks of the Change
Each transition and advancement within an organization comes with risk. Sometimes the risk is small — most people won’t be affected, or perhaps only a small group of people need to buy in. In other cases, there could be a mass exodus of talent or significant employee resistance to an initiative.
As HR leaders, you know the most about the workforce and can help leadership understand these dynamics. Help your management team craft a change management strategy that takes into account the specific concerns that this particular update brings.
For instance, the change strategy you’ll need to create remote-work guidelines during and after COVID-19 is very different from what you’d need for a company reorganization.
Working side-by-side with management from the beginning will help you stay on the same team, rather than being adversaries if employees begin to raise concerns.
Address Employee Concerns
Few leaders realize that all change, even positive moves, causes some kind of loss for the employees. Something as simple as having to use a different door to enter the building can be jarring and creates an emotional response.
When there are major corporate adjustments, workers have even more significant fears. For instance, organizational downsizing can bring a company a lot of benefits — but each employee begins to worry about losing their job. People don’t just worry about themselves, either — they wonder if their friends and colleagues will still be working in the office when it’s all said and done.
Work relationships make a significant difference, affecting morale, cooperation, productivity, and even employee retention. Changes that disrupt the flow of work, the personnel available, or the makeup of teams all cause significant anxiety. If you try to gloss over the losses and only assure people that the long-term outcome is good, you’ll lose buy-in and your initiative may fail.
Addressing concerns doesn’t mean changing direction. It can be as simple as acknowledging that change is hard and that relationships will shift, and providing resources to help staff deal with it positively.
Keep Communication Strong
When change happens, one of the most important things you can do is communicate as much as possible. People want to know what’s happening, and having information gives people a sense of control and confidence.
As HR leaders, you want to make sure you align your message with management and help explain and describe the long-term vision that requires this change. Focus on describing what will improve for employees personally, not just the company overall. “We’ll save $10 million in operations” is cold comfort for someone who just saw their best work friend let go.
Part of connecting during shifts is understanding your specific communication style. When you’re aware of how you naturally write and speak and how that comes across, you can be more effective in sharing your message.
Help with Leadership Transitions
Sometimes the change you’re asked to help with involves a new leader coming in. Some employees will greet this news with excitement, while others may miss the old manager. Fortunately, you can help keep employees motivated and productive during a leadership transition.
The new manager may decide to update policies or make changes to long-standing processes. As these new procedures are announced, communicate them quickly and professionally. Help explain the reasons behind the shifts and how the new approach will benefit everyone.
Stay focused and make sure you listen to both the new leader and the current employees who may voice concerns. As an HR professional, you can be the bridge between the two sides.
HR is a Key Voice During Organizational Change
HR has a unique role in managing organizational change. How the HR department itself reacts to change is a litmus test for the entire organization. Balk at the changes, and they will likely never be fully accepted by the rest of the company.
Embrace the challenges and rewards that come with organizational change, and the positive ROI will trickle both up and down among the ranks. Ensuring that HR is regularly communicating with management as well as employees about all phases of transition will make any moves smoother. Employees will have clearer channels of feedback and management stronger faith in the change themselves.
All this can lead to an innovative organization that knows it will make it through changes stronger and more creative each time.
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