What makes change so difficult for HR?

Change-resistant employees are often branded as trouble makers and disregarded, but one leadership expert says they can be useful for HR

What makes change so difficult for HR?

Think about what change in the workplace aims to achieve: doing something different on a regular basis in a way that benefits the business.

Now think about how hard it can be to change as an individual (losing weight, giving up the ciggies or the booze, gaining weight, going to the gym etc etc).

Individual change is hard – but usually we have a real sense of the “why” that keeps us going when the going gets tough, according to Tammy Tansley, director Tammy Tansley Leadership & Workplace Culture, who will be speaking at the upcoming HR Summit in Perth.

“Organisational change is very hard as it involves lots of people, often without a compelling personal why. We just expect people to ‘get it’ or want to do it because it’s good for the business,” she told HRD.

“When you think of change in terms of many individual’s change processes, overlaid with introduction of new technology/equipment you get some sense of why organisational change is hard to implement and sustain.”

Considering project management vs change management, often it is people within the business, well removed from HR, who are doing the planning and project management, added Tansley.

“HR are then allocated a few communication related tasks at the end of said project.” 

This can cause a real disconnect between how the project is sold to the business, and the reality of implementing the change.

“HR professionals can struggle because what makes for a successful change is not always within their immediate control. HR needs to influence senior leadership and others within the business – which is not always easy to do,” said Tansley. 

She added that we know what makes for a successful change; and whilst none of it is rocket science, it’s not always included as part of the change and project plan:

  • Senior management communicating openly;
  • Leaders role modelling behaviour changes;
  • Managers prioritising leading and developing their teams; and
  • Leaders held accountable for the change

Change can be difficult – because it taps into competing priorities. The business on the one hand, that wants it done as quickly as possible. And the people, who as humans, need to time to adjust. 

As change is often imposed too quickly, the people are lost in the process. And the reality is still that it is the people that we need to make the change successful.

“It can be tempting to disregard those who don’t agree with our perspective. Resistors are often branded as trouble makers and disregarded,” said Tansley.

“But resistors can be an important source of data around where the change is at. They should be listened to. That doesn’t mean that HR needs to agree with their perspective but understanding it will always create a more accurate picture of what is going on.”

Tammy Tansley will be speaking on managing constant change in your organisation at the HR Summit in Perth on Thursday 21 June 2018.

Related stories:
What’s the number one HR challenge for Toyota?
Why HR should walk in someone else’s shoes
Will technology save jobs or replace them?

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