During the Corona pandemic change has become a constant in our working life. Further changes are to be expected, as Germany’s economy has taken a substantial hit. It is said that only companies that are able to react to changing conditions will continue to be successful.

However, without a motivated team, this is not possible. Employees live these changes and must adapt to  new situations. Therefore, HR is of particular importance in changing times and changing processes. We had a talk with our Managing Directors Marie and Janet about the key role that HR plays in change management processes. Here are their valuable views:

WHY IS HR SO IMPORTANT FOR A SUCCESSFUL TRANSFORMATION?

Janet: Nowadays HR does not only work administratively or operationally, but the department acts as an important interface between employees and the C-level management or the founder. Employees and management need to be coordinated and aligned – especially when the company is facing new challenges and changes.

In such situations, the HR department should focus on its strategic role in supporting the change management process. HR forms the bridge between the management’s vision and the practical work of the employees. This is crucial for a successful transformation. You won’t get very far without the support of motivated employees.

Furthermore, the HR department must be sensitive to and communicate with employees in order to implement the changes successfully. The HR team should listen to the employees and make them feel understood. The key to success is not bossing them around, but rather enabling them to accept the new changes, to feel responsible and to feel motivated to implement them themselves.

WHERE DOES THE CHANGE PROCESS START AND HOW CAN HR SUPPORT EMPLOYEES AND THE C-LEVEL MANAGEMENT? 

Marie: In an ideal work environment, the HR team sees challenges before they come. They have already started with necessary precautionary measures to support the upcoming change process. They have informed the C-level management about the next strategic steps and have made them aware of how to counteract problems. They ensure that processes, structures and communication works hand-in-hand during the change period.

But everything starts with the right employee-mindset. Therefore, HR should continuously strive to develop a corporate culture that is open to change. To make sure that the right corporate culture is in place, HR could prepare an employees’ assessment before the process starts.

With such measures, the HR team will get a better understanding of who will be supporting the changes, as well as who will be the likely doubters or opponents to change proposals. In addition, they will glean a deeper understanding of the employees’ resistances and fears. And they will identify opinion leaders, who will be motivated by the upcoming changes. HR will involve these positive thinking opinion leaders and position them as role models to increase their positive influence on all employees.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR HR? 

Marie: The biggest challenge is to align the management with the people and to get everyone feeling involved. The goal is to take everyone with you; making sure everyone understands what is happening and why this is the case. Rather than over-communicating, HR should face that something has not yet been understood and speak to blockers on a personal 1:1 level.

Moreover, you have to see challenges before they come and get prepared. This is key. Otherwise, internal communication might slip out of your hands, you will slowly lose control and the change process will not be successful.

WHICH TOOLS ARE USEFUL IN SHAPING SUCH A TRANSFORMATION? 

Janet: It all depends on the size of the organisation and what they already have. First of all, I would take a look at the available IT infrastructure and see what is already there and if I can make use of it for the change process. The key is also to not over-engineer things and bring one tool after another into the fold. Be careful that you don’t have a million tools, which aren’t being used and do not even integrated with one another. In the beginning, I would rather keep things rather lean and make wise decisions on what to keep, what to cut and what new things to bring in.

WHAT FACTORS ARE IMPORTANT IN SECURING A SUCCESSFUL TRANSFORMATION?

Marie: Being structured is the key. Sure you need to be agile, but for this to work, everyone needs to be aligned and feel a sense of ownership in the process. You also need to make sure that you truly understand your data before acting, so sometimes you need to take a step back again, structure, analyse and stop everything before you can start the agile journey.

Many thanks for the interview!

If you have more questions about your change management, please contact Janet (janet@doneberlin.com).