Understanding Change Management Within Your HR Department

Change is hard enough when it impacts us on a personal level. When it upsets the balance in an entire organization, it can seem near-impossible to deal with. That’s where your Human Resources department comes in. HR professionals have perhaps one of the most important roles where change management is concerned—they manage people throughout it.

As an HR professional, it’s your job to manage the people within your organization—to handle talent acquisition, deal with employee disputes, and help foster a positive corporate culture. Change management is a big part of that role.

See, change is difficult no matter your perspective. But it’s especially hard when it spans an entire organization. Improperly implemented and poorly handled, it can be downright disastrous, leading to multiple redundancies, employee displacement, and frustration for virtually everyone involved.

The role of HR is especially critical here, as noted by Dr. Debra Cohen. “From my perspective, HR has multiple roles in managing change,” she writes. “Sometimes HR has to implement a change because it is required by outside forces (changes in laws or safety requirements, for example). Sometimes HR has to facilitate change because it is requested by other internal stakeholders (changes in IT operations due to efficiency or effectiveness needs, for example). And sometimes HR enables change because it is the right thing to do to given current and future organization conditions.”

Cohen goes on to explain that HR must take an active role in bringing about organizational change. The Human Resources department must act as an agent of change—a conduit that’s present throughout the process, from initial planning through to execution. The reason for this is simple.

Effective organizational change is, at its core, about communication. About driving positive value by serving as an intermediary between both individuals and departments. About ensuring everyone has the information they need to transition your organization effectively. 

Your job here takes a few forms. First, you must determine who needs information at each stage of the change process, when they need it, and why. Clearly articulate to anyone who will be impacted by the change about what’s going on, and why things are proceeding as they are, and work with them to ensure things go as seamlessly as possible. 

No one should ever feel like they’re flying blind during this process. Ensure there are ample sources of information for anyone who wants to learn more about your plans. Make yourself available to answer any questions people may have, and show them you’re there to support them throughout. 

Perhaps most importantly, establish a clear framework for accepting, evaluating, and integrating employee feedback. There’s an old saying that no plan survives first contact with the enemy that applies here. No matter how ironclad you think your organization’s change process is, it’s critical that you have mechanisms in place for determining when something about it isn’t working.

Working in Human Resources means being many things. A facilitator. A communicator. A mediator. And perhaps most importantly of all, a foundation of effective change management. 

Brad Wayland is the chief strategy officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom T-shirts.