Are you prepared to lead change?

An expert urges against diving headfirst into a change management plan without following these steps

Are you prepared to lead change?
HR professionals are expected to be the figureheads of change in their organization, but many may not know where to begin.

Not everyone has had formal training or experience in change management, and demands from staff and the C-suite throughout the process can add extra stress for HR professionals – but there’s a science to managing it all, an HR management expert says.

“HR professionals are often the ones that organizational leaders will turn to and say ‘you’ve got to facilitate this change. You’re the ‘people people’, so you’re the ones who should be making sure this change gets off the ground, and gets implemented’,” says Melanie Peacock, an associate professor with the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University and author of The Human Resource Professional's Guide to Change Management.

“What frustrates people is that HR professionals are often given lots of responsibility but no authority when it comes to change … When dealing with change, HR professionals need to have a balance of knowledge and tact.”

Peacock says HR professionals often tell her they’ve been asked to get involved in or spearhead change without any training on how to do so – prompting her to write a book to guide the process.

HR’s role in change management is unique and specialized, so they may not necessarily be focused on the same issues as executives or workers throughout the process – and juggling those different stakeholders is one of the major challenges.

From Peacock’s book, HR professionals gain tools, resources and knowledge to successfully launch and sustain change, as well as understanding reactions and resistance, and how to support others as change agents.

“There is actually a scientific way to approach change from an HR perspective,” she says.

“[If] you just tend to dive in and do it, without really thinking about it, you do so at your own peril.”

Before change appears on the horizon at an organization, HR needs to have already established itself as “a credible, approachable, trusted resource”, Peacock says.

“Get out of your office, meet people and walk around, because when people know who you are, and you are also aware of your organizational culture, the people within it, the types of communication that typically happens, by doing that, when change is needed, you’re well poised to be involved.”

HR professionals should identify change agents and get them involved in the process, to bring others on board.

“By doing so, you’re not seen as the one pushing the management agenda. You get other people who believe in it, and who are respected and trusted from the rank and file - it’s not the HR professional’s responsibility to do that, and they often think it is.”

Related stories:
Is this Canada’s most effective change management plan?
Why HR must lead ‘the people side of change’

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