Many CEOs and HR professionals worry about how to lead or plan for both upcoming and unexpected changes. With the business world becoming more and more unpredictable, one-year plans are continuously being adjusted and altered with new business goals, expanded strategies, or pivots based on unexpected disruptions. In today’s environment, change can happen fast, and there isn’t always time to have all the information up front. HR professionals need to be prepared for this inevitable situation and understand how to move things forward without causing panic in the workforce.
Even with planned change, there is often not enough time spent on planning and process, which can lead to confusion and a lack of transparency that can have unintended consequences.
HR professionals must be prepared to tackle change, so that, no matter the timing, they can lead their teams and workforces into exciting new territory. Here are some of the key ways HR professionals can help navigate fast-moving changes.
Know the “Why”
Understanding your business and the need for change is paramount. As the HR Champion, you have the pulse of the entire organization. When you propose a business plan for change, you should be able to make the case for the betterment of the company and its people. Your executive team will ask you;
- Why is this change occurring?
- Why is it necessary?
- What is the opportunity cost for this change?
- Where are the immediate short- and long-term financial benefits for this change?
- Your suggestions for when the changes are expected to begin/end
- Key personnel impacted or involved
- A general timeline for the implementation strategy
During fast-moving changes, most employees will feel out of the loop and perhaps scared. One of the first questions HR professionals will hear from employees after announcing upcoming changes is, “Why is this happening?” It’s crucial that you have answers to this basic question and have spent the time with the C-suite and organizational leaders so that the entire leadership speaks with one voice.
HR professionals need to foresee the impact of change on the employee population. They need to have the confidence to go to business managers and ask the important questions to get the answers employees will be looking for. When change seems to be coming around the corner, employees will start to get nervous. As the HR manager, make sure you take the first step of booking a meeting with your employees so that communication can be transparent and ongoing. This should be a substantial get-together where both parties are honest about new changes and the reasons behind them.
Involve All Perspectives
With any type of change, it can be difficult to foresee all possible pitfalls and roadblocks, but when change is coming quickly, it can be even tougher. To build your business case and manage change productively and strategically, it’s crucial to include alternative perspectives, which may undercover potential problems and solutions you may not have considered.
In Silicon Valley, entrepreneur David Kidder uses the term “radical outsider” to describe someone with business expertise who is not deeply involved in your organization’s business model who can come in to bring a fresh perspective to strategy and planning discussions. When change has to happen fast, it can be easy to work in a silo, creating a plan that makes sense to business leaders or even within the HR department, but this may include significant gaps that go unseen.
By looping in others on different teams, offering opportunities for feedback, and listening to outside perspectives, you can accurately view the whole picture and understand how to move forward with a plan that works best for everyone.
Match the Culture
Many HR leaders do not take office culture into account in their planning. HR professionals and managers are not immune to getting caught up in the structural details. This can cause them to forget about the emotional connections employees have to their day-to-day routines.
When managing change, try to use your company’s culture to add energy to your changes. Look at elements of the new changes that align with your business culture. Consider performing surveys to learn what employees most value about the company and where its strengths and weaknesses lie. Then frame your change initiatives within this view. For example, if your company values process but your new business plan is stressing bottom-line goals, find a way to highlight using process as the main driver of upcoming business goals.
HR professionals should try to be sensitive to existing culture and use it to their advantage to make fast-moving changes fit quickly and feel more in touch with the current working environment.
Pinpoint Key Activities for Success
Most change initiatives tend to assume people will simply start behaving a new way because they were told to collaborate with a new team or shift workloads. However, simply because goals have changed doesn’t mean lines on a chart equate to immediate adjustments.
To make change initiatives a success, especially in the short term, HR professionals need to narrow down certain activities that are crucial for implementation. This could simply mean the C-suite needs to use certain key phrases or department managers need to have weekly calls with their staff on the new strategy and follow up with HR. While meeting with business leaders and department managers, make sure to stress these types of activities and outline why other changes will seem more natural if these activities are enforced.
When employees see leadership engaging with the new initiatives and modeling new business behaviours, employees will be encouraged to do the same.
Change requires momentum, no matter if it’s fast or slow. If there are new initiatives or changes coming that may be implemented more quickly than expected; find the early adopters in the organization and have them advocate for the change. If change is coming fast, you don’t have the luxury of slowing down implementation halfway through or having people lose interest along the way. Having advocates at all levels of the organization means that if change is coming quickly, everyone needs to get on board and get moving!
Enthusiasm is contagious, and if HR leaders are confident and excited about upcoming changes, employees will be too. Although long-term change is better for planning and structure, it also leaves more room to breed resistance. To keep things moving and reduce the possibility of friction, HR professionals need to increase communication with all parts of the workforce and be as transparent as possible. This way, everyone can understand what the entire company is actively doing to prepare for their new reality.
There is no perfect plan or strategy to implement change quickly. If a company has been through similar changes before, perhaps there are past experiences to draw from, but every change is unique. HR professionals should aim to learn quickly, get detailed answers whenever possible, remain flexible, listen to different perspectives, tweak as they go, and keep positive.