Change management is the implementation of selected activities that can touch all areas of the organization (or not) and whose goal is to purposefully change how things run in the company. (Harvard Business Review)
Change is Not an End in Itself
Change works towards something, usually one or several of these goals:
- Global presence: Should we expand?
- Customer orientation: Should we get closer to the customer?
- Agility: Should we become faster?
- Innovation: Should we break more new ground?
- Sustainability: Should we become more sustainable?
What You Should Have Management Commit To
Some CEOs want everything. One such CEO was the head of Carrefour in 2009. He wanted ‘more innovation, customer friendliness, agility and expansion’. Things did not work out because there were too many targets, resulting in less market share, fewer investments, etc. If you are advising management as an HR professional, then you need to recommend that priorities be set at the beginning of the change process.
Change Means a Fundamental HR Change in Three Areas
HR Tasks are Changing
You are an Advisor, a Mediator, and an Initiator
As an HR professional today, you can no longer expect to simply follow decisions made from ‘above’. Instead, it’s about trying things out and continually course-correcting.
The role of HR is not to ‘hold employees’ and managers’ hands’, but to set something specific in motion, according to Dagmar Dörner, consultant for company culture. That could mean initiating training for change managers or team workshops (because there is no common understanding of what the company values are).
You Provide the Facts
Use data provided by a software, for example, to support your initiatives. It is not about becoming an analytics professional, but more about getting used to using the numbers. The calculations and the processing are done with technology such as, for example, Personio (in the form of dashboards, for instance).
Example: Job Description for a Change Manager
According to Barbara Braehmer, HR people basically became change managers a long time ago. But what does a change manager have to be able to do? Below, you can see an ad that actually went online this way. It was posted by a large German company, and the target group was HR managers. We have highlighted the main points which constitute core competencies in yellow.
From the advertisement it follows that as an HR manager, you are on the C-level and are there to help create. You concern yourself with strategic topics rather than insignificant administrative tasks, and make a contribution to the direction the organization is developing in.
9 Tips for Becoming a Change Professional
All paths lead to you: Management and employees will all need you and seek you out. If they see someone who is relaxed, they will relax as well.
If departments are merged, think through, for example, who should sit where and who should go to lunch with whom? How will the first day go? Plan niceties such as having cake or grabbing a beer with colleagues at the end of the work day. Small gestures add up to success.
To do that, you will need good alliances. You have to know who is affected and who has to be notified when (e.g. the team leader first, so that there are no mid-workshop surprises).
It is important that you talk to management, for example, before they give a presentation in front of the staff for the first time. They need to know that it should not only be about structures, numbers and facts, but also about a personal story.
Not everyone needs (nor can handle) the same information. Think about who needs what content and adjust your narrative accordingly. And tell management.
Change does not happen by itself. In view of that, recruit change managers in each of the departments (not only from HR). Offer additional training not only for the managers, but for their assistants as well.
Even if things have (nearly) already been decided, ask your colleagues: What do you need from us to implement that?
Listen to their concerns and try to solicit common suggestions for solutions.
Set Clear Boundaries
You provide support and are the driving force. But you will not assume management’s role (nor their responsibility). Make that clear.
People are More Important Than Technology
Technology is naturally in play because it changes the way we work. Take Personio as an example. The software lets employees manage themselves for the most part via Employee Self Service (scanning certificates, entering vacations themselves, etc.). HR will now be there for other concerns. Both sides need to learn that.
It’s not about the technology, it’s about solving a problem.
Tip: If you are thinking about implementing new technology soon, don’t do all the hard work comparing available solutions yourself. Let the providers do the work. They are able to create cases or short pitch presentations for you, which you can present to your manager to minimize your personal risk as well as the risk to the organization.