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Change Management in HR: 5 Best Practices

Tuesday March 12, 2024

Change Management in HR: 5 Best Practices

Tuesday March 12, 2024

Three HR team members sitting at a table, smiling and discussing change management together in a well lit office room

Every organization needs adaptability. Change is an inevitable part of running a business.
According to research from Gartner, 99% of organizations have recently undergone significant change. Leaders need to be able to manage change effectively to lead their organizations to success.

Unfortunately, there are many obstacles to change. From employee resistance to poor communication, leaders need to ensure they’re prepared to overcome these challenges.

Here’s an overview of what successful change management looks like, as well as five key strategies for managing change effectively.

What Does Successful Change Management Look Like?

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), change management is successful when new processes, products, and strategies are successfully implemented with minimal negative outcomes.

The specific metrics that determine success depend on the type and scale of the change, as well as the specific key performance indicators (KPIs) the change is intended to improve.

However, it’s important to remember that successful change management doesn’t just involve metrics, but employees as well. Resistance to change is a common obstacle that leaders must overcome if they want their organization to change successfully.

 

Below are five strategies that can help you successfully implement large-scale organizational change.

5 Effective Change Management Strategies

1. Involve Employees

Gartner reports that approximately 80% of organizations take a top-down approach when it comes to change management. This means that senior leadership makes strategy and implementation decisions and rolls them out to the rest of the organization.

Unfortunately, rather than speeding up the process, top-down change management often slows the company down. 66% of Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) aren’t content with the speed of their change management processes. Unfortunately, only around 25% of workers feel comfortable changing the way they work when the change is implemented from the top-down.

The same research shows that 64% of employees possess the skills needed to implement the change effectively, and 74% are on board with change initiatives.

Another Gartner report highlights the fact that although 74% of leaders say they include employees in change initiatives, only 42% of employees report being included.

It’s natural to want a degree of control over change management, particularly when it’s on a larger scale. However, Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that including employees doesn’t mean letting them make all the decisions, or even vote on every change. Rather, it entails finding ways to give your team a voice and ensure that their desires are reflected in the planning process.

2. Adopt a Change Mindset

According to research from HBR, one of the key factors impacting the success of an organizational change is the mindset. Instead of simply focusing on change management, successful leaders should adopt a change mindset.

This means that before leading a change initiative, leaders must learn how to manage themselves, such as fears and anxieties.

HBR advises that, before considering what to do about a situation, leaders consider the following questions:

  • Are you approaching this situation from a place of hope, or a place of fear?
  • What are the drivers that are leading you to make this change?
  • What’s your orientation to this change, and how might it differ from that of your team members?

Ultimately, it’s important to allow your mindset to drive change management, rather than change management influencing your mindset.

3. Communicate Change Effectively

It’s no secret that communication is critical for organizational success. Change management isn’t an exception.

Despite the importance of communication, however, research from Gartner reveals that only 30% of employees report that leadership has effectively communicated the purpose of a given change. Furthermore, only 26% feel that their leaders have effectively communicated how this change affects the employees’ individual responsibilities.

This impacts the ultimate success of the change, since if employees don’t know how to implement the change, they won’t implement it correctly.

A Gallup survey revealed that when employees understand how changes will impact their company in the future, they’re:

  • More confident in their company’s speed and agility to meet customer and marketplace change
  • Knowledgeable about what’s expected of them in the process
  • Engaged and feel like they’re thriving in their work
  • Less likely to be burned out, stressed, and overwhelmed by their workload

Here are three tips for communicating change effectively.

Don’t Overshare

It may seem counterintuitive to avoid oversharing when it comes to organizational change. However, according to Gartner, rather than adding clarity to a change, this practice adds confusion.

Oversharing typically comes in one of two forms:

  • Oversharing data: Sharing more information on firm operations than is necessary for employees to implement change successfully.
  • Overpromising: Attempting to garner employee buy-in by overpromising on the benefits the change will bring, not knowing whether those benefits will actually result.

While highlighting benefits of the change and sharing key information is important, it’s also equally important to recognize that not every employee needs to be provided with every detail of the change.

Chunk Information

According to Gallup, one way to avoid oversharing is to “chunk” your messaging so it’s easier to understand and absorb.

This involves two primary steps:

  • Start with the big picture: Share the overarching concept of the change, highlighting the general purpose and how it aligns with the organization’s mission and values.
  • Focus on the next milestone: Shortly after sharing the big picture, follow it up by directing employees’ attention to their short-term expectations of performance and behavior, as well as where they can get help and support during the process.

By dividing the messaging into short-term segments while ensuring that employees know the big picture, they’ll be able to easily absorb the provided information without getting overwhelmed with the sheer volume of data and information the change entails.

Clarify Your Team’s Role in the Change

According to SHRM, while change management doesn’t inherently belong to any particular team in a company, the HR team often has a significant role to play.

However, in larger organizations, other departments such as organizational development or a formal project management office may be responsible for change management.

This means that unless you explicitly define your team’s role in a change, they might be unsure how much they’ll be involved, which can lead to resistance.

4. Create Psychological Safety

Creating a psychologically safe workplace results in a host of benefits. According to research from Gartner, it also benefits the change management process.

According to the report, creating a psychologically safe environment can result in up to a 46% reduction in change fatigue.

During a period of change, psychological safety comprises the following:

  • Safety to experiment: Employees are comfortable taking risks in order to accomplish their goals, and approach failure as a learning process rather than a deterrent.
  • Safety to challenge: Employees feel safe challenging existing processes and adding their voice to transformation efforts without fear of negative repercussions.

Creating a psychologically safe culture will not only help improve change management, but also overall team performance.

5. Slow Down Where Necessary

During periods of large-scale organizational change, it’s common to fall into the mindset that speed is vital to success.

According to HBR, however, the idea that successful change management requires speed above all else is a mistake. Instead of striving for maximum speed, leaders should consider how to optimize speed, considering factors such as the employee experience and the implications of the change.

This can require leaders to impose strategic organizational friction in certain areas.

According to Stanford Professor and organizational psychologist Bob Sutton in our webinar, How Great Leaders Fix Things, “Organizational friction is when an individual or a team tries to get something done, and it’s slower, more difficult, and more frustrating than they might hope.”

While this sounds like a negative, it can be leveraged to make the right things easier and the wrong things harder. “Sometimes you’ve got to slow [your team] down to make sure they do it right before they rush off and do something stupid,” explains Sutton.

Optimize Organizational Change With Teamraderie

Managing organizational change is difficult, but can be made easier when your team feels included, connected, and psychologically safe.

Whether you’re hoping to improve psychological safety in your organizational culture, boost team trust, or optimize your organizational speed, Teamraderie offers a host of research-backed experiences that can help.

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