HR spends a lot of time working on the change management other departments in an organization need, and rightly so. Change in business is inevitable, and it’s human nature to resist change. HR exists, in part, to overcome that resistance and ensure staff develop and hone the skills needed to succeed.
But what happens when the change management needed is in HR? You’d hope your HR team’s professional experience is enough to overcome human nature’s natural resistance to change. But HR professionals aren’t necessarily better at managing change than anyone else. In fact, their familiarity with change management could be a source of resistance. They could have a mentality of, “I’m not falling for that.”
The Digital Revolution in HR
The biggest change most jobs have confronted in the last generation is the addition and evolution of technology. C-suite executives need to be able to video conference and e-sign contracts. Auto mechanics need to diagnose engine trouble with computer sensors rather than just by tinkering. Digital billing is a new career path. The impact of the digital revolution was no different for HR.
The Times of Malta put it this way, “Organisations should: develop and demonstrate HR’s awareness and understanding of technology and bring HR and business leaders together on the issues; ensure HR is trained to use data analytics to predict and monitor skills gaps in the workforce; and make sure HR has a strong influence on the process of mapping automatable tasks.”
If your HR department isn’t on the cutting edge of all of this, you have a change management issue in HR to address.
Back to the Future
HR already manages change for other departments. So, when change management is needed within HR, they need to turn that experience and the lessons learned back on themselves. What aggravation did the accounting professionals have when a new software package was introduced? When sales and marketing had to start using automatic billing for expenses, where were the pitfalls?
In other words, before embarking on a change management plan for HR, go back and look at previous change campaigns. Make it a formal review rather than a brief discussion over coffee. Interview the staff affected by the changes and learn what they think now that time has passed. What worked, what didn’t, what was useful and what was a waste. It’s a good time and place to make feedback interviews a regular project.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Just because you’re working with HR professionals doesn’t mean you’re excused from the main activity of HR: communication. You still need to do what you did with other change management initiatives. Get C-suite buy-in. Recruit change ambassadors. There are no shortcuts. The fact is change management of any type requires a deliberate communications plan.
Tell staff what’s coming. Explain and assure them they’ll get the support they need to succeed in implementing the changes. You can get creative in your methods, like using a digital postcard campaign or other digital communications tools. But the importance of communication isn’t different just because the change is happening in HR.
There is, however, another dimension to HR change management that requires consideration. Rather than helping others manage the change, they’ll be the ones getting the help. It’s an opportunity for your staff to learn by doing. From the initial planning to the wrap-up meeting and everything in between, they’ll experience the process from the other side. Soliciting feedback at every stage is important. The surveys, recognition and everything else you normally use should be employed with extra deliberateness.
One place where HR professionals stand out is in their appreciation of two-way communications and feedback. They’re going to take it more seriously than anyone else does. Make sure to prepare for the feedback loops so they function effectively.
Don’t Let Opportunity Pass You By
Let’s return to the idea of digital change management in HR for a moment. While staff get used to a new interface, broader reporting capabilities and easier data management, you have an opportunity to study how change is best managed by seeing it from the recipient’s perspective.
Some people have an abiding love of outmoded forms of communication. But when the HR department is on the receiving end of the managed change, they see just how such outmoded ideas work against them in their other projects. Not everyone thinks feedback is all that important (top-down managers often feel this way). Yet, here’s a chance to prove why it matters and how to get the best and most useful feedback.
Managing change in HR creates a huge opportunity for everyone to learn and improve change management across the board by seeing ourselves as others see us.