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Is Change Management a Shortcut to HR Transformation?

Change Management is a new Shortcut to HR Transformation

Despite meticulous game plans and detailed road maps, the journey of business transformation – and, in particular, HR transformation – doesn't always unfold the way business and HR leaders hope it will. Often, the road can be long and winding, with changes to strategy happening sometimes at the last minute. But could there be an easier, faster route to transformation?

Whether an organization is facing a merger, restructuring, retrenchment, or market expansion, it will likely encounter roadblocks or gaps in its existing processes, workflows, tools and platforms. How these obstacles are resolved can influence an organization's chances of succeeding in a volatile business environment.

Take, for instance, how some organizations in the Asia Pacific moved to working from home in early 2020 quickly and seamlessly, even before local health authorities declared pandemic lockdowns. Or even how companies that have recently merged decide on the size and complexity of their combined workforce.

Change management in HR

In the world of HR, change management serves to create a common understanding of the transformation and the changes due to new ways of working. It allows the organization and, more importantly, individuals to accept, adapt and adopt as the transformation progresses.

After all, revamping the way a company operates – in the case of a merger, for example – can take a toll on the performance, wellbeing and morale of employees, especially if the updates to policies and work models are introduced without much context.

Aiming for high revenue, high growth and high impact, without the proper tools, resources and a work environment conducive to scaling, can lead to burnout among employees.

HR leaders, therefore, need a framework for understanding the nuances of modern business and of the plethora of disruptions that can hamper their transformation journey. 

HR as champions of change

Humans often tend to get overwhelmed by the prospect of change, even more so by the action of it. Yet HR leaders and managers are continually called on to become champions of change, advocating for the uptake of new tools or the launch of new employee programs.

They are expected to land on their feet even when their strategic HR plans are hit by a wave of disruption. However, their openness and readiness for change allow for agility in the HR function.

In our 2021 Adaptable HR research, we found how the HR function is learning to:

  • Lead in being digital
  • Proactively introduce and enable the right shifts in the way we work
  • Reimagine the HR function as a leader of organizational change
  • Shape and deliver the right value of HR to stakeholders

Empowering HR to become vocal, committed and proactive change leaders is critical to organizational success. According to our data, HR’s resistance to change is seen as the “biggest barrier” to realizing the transformation agenda.

However, transformation becomes more successful “when HR is willing to change itself.” In fact, nearly half of our respondents (47%) in the same study believe the ability to plan for and execute on change management is one of the key aspects of HR transformation.

This level of HR adaptability is what drives employers to embrace disruption as an opportunity rather than a threat, and it paves the way for change to take place at an organizational level. Our findings show that organizations with Adaptable HR functions are “three times more likely to be proactive in driving institutional change, new ways of working, and the adoption of work technologies.”

These companies are also three times more likely to build better partnerships between the business and the HR function “through their operating model and capabilities.”

As a result, business leaders are “1.5 times more confident” in their HR strategy and execution amid a volatile and competitive business environment when they know their HR function is adaptable and agile.

While there’s no shortcut to HR transformation, there are however dimensions and characteristics of an Adaptable HR function that organizations can aspire to – and benchmark their progress against – to foster transformation.

These dimensions and characteristics, as outlined in our State of HR Transformation report, cover program design, the employee experience, HR service delivery, the role of technology, and governance. Our study offers a wealth of insights on change management from an HR perspective.

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