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Learn how HR can serve a critical change management role

HR leaders must be involved with planning change management from the beginning, as they are integral to ensuring its success. Learn more about HR's role in change management.

Various circumstances, such as technology implementations and evolving market conditions, can lead to changes at organizations. During these periods, change management should be a primary focus for every company.

HR plays a critical role in managing change. HR leaders must take the lead in initiatives like communicating with employees about the change and creating resources to help workers navigate the new circumstances.

Learn more about change management and some best practices that HR leaders should follow.

What is change management and why is it important?

Change management is a process that companies follow to address the effects of new organizational circumstances. The goal of change management is to help the workforce adapt to change by controlling how the change is communicated and establishing processes for executing the change.

How should HR assist with change management?

HR should take the lead in communicating with their organization about changes. Communication can -- and should -- take multiple forms, such as town hall events, email notifications, and individual departmental meetings.

Messaging must be consistent in content and tone, as well as include every member of the company. Failure to develop consistent and widespread communication can negatively affect the new initiative's success.

Training and professional development are also integral to change management, and HR departments are usually responsible for planning, for example, system upgrade training.

HR also often takes charge of company culture initiatives. For example, if a company is going through a merger or acquisition, HR staff may host small get-togethers so blended teams can get to know one another and share knowledge.

4 change management best practices

HR leaders should follow some guidelines to ensure the change at their company occurs as smoothly as possible. Here's what to do.

1. Get involved early in the process

HR must have a seat at the table for change management.

HR leaders should insist on being involved well in advance of a rollout so they have sufficient time to understand the goals of the change management process, create company communications and implement training sessions.

2. Provide a rationale

HR leaders should explain to employees -- and encourage other leaders to explain -- why the change is occurring.

Doing so seems obvious, but many company leaders overlook it. When employees understand why the change needs to happen and how it will affect them, they are better prepared to accept the outcome. HR leaders should emphasize the benefits of the change for the organization.

3. Communicate as frequently as possible

HR leaders should err on the side of overcommunicating when discussing company change.

Keep employees engaged and informed throughout by defining the goals for the change, being transparent about the effects on the workforce, and actively listening to any employee concerns.

4. Identify resources

Each type of change management requires different resources to help employees adjust.

If a company is going through a system or software implementation, HR leaders should ensure training is available and test it with a focus group. If a company is undergoing a reorganization, HR should create and distribute an updated org chart to avoid potential confusion.

Lynda Spiegel is a freelance writer and former global HR executive for financial services, telecommunications and SaaS companies.

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