Role of HR in Change Management

This module has covered the various aspects of change management and the roles played by senior management as well as the CEO in top down change and the role of employees at all levels in bottom up change. This article looks at the role played by “support functions” in an organization in facilitating change. Specifically, it looks at the role that the Human Resources Department can play in supporting and enabling change. Before we launch into the specifics of how the HR can facilitate change, it needs to be remembered that change management is first and foremost about people and their capacity to adapt to change. Since, the HR department is all about recruiting, training and monitoring employee performance; it has a key role to play in any change management program. There are different aspects in which HR can play a significant role and we shall consider some of them.

The HR department has to ensure that employees are motivated to undertake the change and participate in the change management program. For this to happen, they need to recruit the right people who can think out of the box and can bring a fresh perspective to the table.

Companies like Yahoo and Intel look for people who can think non-linearly and in unconventional ways. Once the right people are recruited, they need to be encouraged and mentored so that they act as “change agents”. This is the key element of a successful change management strategy and this is where the HR department has a stellar role to play. Many companies have a separate role for a “People Manager” wherein he or she has the responsibility of mentoring and nurturing talent. Some examples are Fidelity and IBM that have designated people managers who are apart from the line managers and so their primary duty is to ensure the enabling and empowering of employees who report to them in a dotted line fashion.

The point here is that the HR department must be encouraged to look for people who can act as catalysts for change and who can motivate other employees to participate in the change initiative. Since the HR department is staffed by people who have degrees in organizational and personal behavior, enlisting their help in driving change is a crucial element in the overall change management strategy. Great companies have great leaders and great leaders are “enabled” and “energized” by highly supportive environments that nurture and reward talent. The last aspect of reward and recognition is the final element in a successful change management plan and if the employees who enthusiastically participate in change initiatives are suitably rewarded and adequately recognized, there is an added incentive for them to further the change initiative.

In conclusion, HR needs to be seen as much more than a supporting function and instead, must be viewed as integral to the organization’s change management strategy. Companies like the TATA group and Infosys are highly successful at change management because their personnel policies are employee friendly and are geared towards getting the best out of their employees.



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