Future Focus

Managing Change

By Jennifer Schramm Mar 1, 2007
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HR Magazine, March 2007 The vast majority of companies have implemented a change-management initiative over the past two years, and HR was involved in most of the initiatives long before the changes were implemented, according to a forthcoming change-management survey report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

The success of change-management initiatives relies heavily on employees making a smooth transition through the process. According to the survey, HR professionals’ most important task during major changes is to help employees through the transitions.

In the SHRM survey, 58 percent of respondents reported major change initiatives involving new or revised performance management and review processes, 54 percent went through organizational culture change such as executive leadership turnover or organization values change, 53 percent implemented new or revised HR information systems, and 40 percent dealt with major staffing changes such as downsizing or layoffs.

One area where HR’s role may be expanding is in working in a more strategic capacity with the organizational leadership during the decision-making phase before change-management initiatives have been decided on. Because so many initiatives involve human capital in some way, HR plays a crucial role in helping organizational leaders determine the effects that change initiatives could have on the labor force.

Fifty-five percent of HR professionals reported that they were involved in assessing organizational readiness for change, and 51 percent said they worked with their organizational leadership to analyze the potential impact of change on stakeholders before changes were implemented.

Although successful companies must be able to manage change effectively, often it’s just as important to maintain continuity.

According to business historians, key aspects of an organization’s ideology, such as values and purpose, appear to be most effective when they remain constant over long periods of time.

A strong sense of values and purpose seems to enable organizations to make decisions and create strategies that look beyond short-term profit and lead to greater performance over the long term.

Maintaining the values and communicating the organization’s ideology and purpose are often integral to familiar HR processes such as recruitment, team building, training initiatives, and promoting and rewarding employees.

Though the pace of change appears likely to speed up and HR’s involvement in change initiatives will doubtless intensify, human resource professionals’ greatest contribution in times of transition could be in safeguarding the organizational values that stay constant over time.

Jennifer Schramm is manager of the Workplace Trends and Forecasting program at SHRM.

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SHRM research: Future Workplace Trends

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