From the President

By Susan Meisinger Mar 1, 2008
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HR Magazine, March 2008 Change Management And HR’s Role

It’s the political season, and “Change!” seems to be the dominant theme on the campaign trail. But in the global business environment—and for organizations worldwide—real, constant change has been a fact of life for some time. To remain competitive, organizations often find it necessary to undertake major changes that affect their processes and people.

Increasingly, change management is seen as a permanent business function to improve efficiency and keep organizations adaptable to the competitive marketplace. Many organizations strategically use change to improve organizational effectiveness. But bringing about successful change in today’s competitive environment requires thoughtful planning, effective communication and employee acceptance.

As the function with primary responsibility for human capital management, HR needs to be involved from the beginning when major organizational change initiatives are being developed.

The impact of major organizational changes on employee attitudes cannot be overstated. Change can create enormous tension in the workplace. Many people are uncomfortable with change, and are filled with uncertainty and apprehension over job security and the future, circumstances that can threaten the success of change initiatives. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 2007 Change Management Survey Report, the top two obstacles encountered during major organizational change are communication breakdown and employee resistance.

HR leaders can help get employee support for change initiatives by ensuring that communications about change are clear, constant and consistent. Communication largely determines how change initiatives are received and supported, and most HR professionals have highly developed communication skills. SHRM’s survey found that when HR was involved in change management communications, employee understanding improved, communication between managerial and non-managerial employees improved, and potential risks were identified and mitigated.

Communication that fails to engage employees and to inform them of the reasons, processes and expected benefits of major organizational changes can lead to lack of employee buy-in and, ultimately, failure of change initiatives.

Research shows that HR is the critical link to successful organizational change. To ensure agreement of stakeholders at all levels of the organization, HR can foster effective change management by clearly communicating the organization’s vision, carefully designing change initiatives, providing updates at all stages of the program, and engaging both top management and employees throughout the process.

When political candidates tout “change,” most of us recognize it as hopeful anticipation for a better future. When it comes to organizations, HR has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that change is realized, hopes are met, and success is sustainable. And that’s a recurring theme that is here to stay.

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SHRM survey report:
2007 Change Management

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