Change Management and HR – Part 1

The 21st century stands for “Continous Improvement”. All processes, projects and changes should run smoothly and continuously within the company. It is irrelevant whether change has a political, social or digital background. Every country in Europe seems to demand and promote change. Somehow changes in our environment have already become the norm. Particularly in companies, employees are expected to believe in internal change and renewal, to represent it and to help shape it.


Employees in Change Projects – A Spirit of Awakening in Companies

But is the necessity of changes in the company accepted and understood by all those involved just as it corresponds to the original idea of the change initiators? Organizing and managing change is always one of the tasks of the HR department. Together with managers, HR develops projects and tailor-made personnel development for employees in the change process. This enables them to proactively help shape change. To see this as a continuous process in their working environment. Nevertheless, change projects are still viewed critically by those affected. What is the reason for this?


Causes of change management processes

Every company is influenced by external factors that require immediate change. These changes arise for different reasons. They can result from a constantly changing market environment, new business models that make previous ones obsolete and new customer requirements. This has an impact on all corporate departments.

For example, a necessary change is the result of a new technological development (digital information processing such as computer-aided accounting) or the introduction of data storage in the cloud. This results in new internal security measures and standards. Another cause lies in the economic aspect. It is triggered by the lack of certain resources. Social changes, such as demographic change, are also forcing companies to realign their internal processes or structures and changes in the hierarchical structure. Further internal change processes are necessary, for example, if:

  • departments are reduced in size by outsourcing tasks
  • employees work on different projects parallel to their day-to-day work
  • Companies are acquired or merged with other companies
  • the management board is reappointed
  • a new technology is implemented
  • Diversity is introduced
  • or the company has a global orientation


Consequences of poor change management

Changes usually come unexpectedly, but more and more often they affect all departments. Internal change is confusing the hierarchical structure and understanding of values in companies. In 2017, for example, every second company carried out five to ten change projects in parallel. In 2018, these will continue to increase in increasing measure. But only 20 percent of companies are positively opposed to internal change, as a study by Maturee shows.

Even if change projects are mostly positive in character and bring about the necessary changes, they can still create barriers. These can trigger initially unpleasant feelings with the entire staff. Change barriers are factors, which delay, deform or prevent innovation-referred acting and thinking. This can involve the following:

  • No motivation to work together
  • Large amount of work
  • Time pressure to realize new projects
  • overtime
  • Lack of change communication

Above all, uncertainty and ignorance on the part of employees often stand in the way of the necessary change. Unfortunately, it is often forgotten what restructuring means for the individual employee.


Change and everyday life

Change projects are an integral and permanent part of the working world. The stone usually starts rolling first with the management, then with HR and then with the executives. The change process then moves slowly towards individual departments. In classical, still hierarchically operating organizations, the information is first provided to middle managers, department heads and then to employees at the end of the chain. This is the classic variant: top-down strategy.

A fatal mistake in which the employees are often overlooked during the planned change process and unconsciously put in the shade. This is a momentous step in change management, because the actual change takes place in everyday (routine) work:

  • Processes change (e.g. change from Outlook email to Gmail accounts)
  • Common software is upgraded (e.g. implementation of new HR database)
  • New internal communication channel is set up (e.g. from Skype-Business to Slack)


Communication – The A & O in the Change Process

A change process should be communicated clearly and openly with all participants from the very beginning. Employees should be involved in the change process right from the start with their ideas and fears. The necessity of restructuring must be clearly explained by change initiators and understood by employees. Executives should give up their “scepter”. They should trust in the intelligence of the group and involve the team in the decision making process during the change.

Change projects and their associated solutions have become so complex that they can no longer be managed by individual managers alone. They are no longer just a matter of months, as they used to be, but have become a permanent part of every organization.

A post-change mentality must therefore be developed together with HR in order not to lose the vision of change. Especially when innovations meet resistance or hoped-for successes do not materialize, those affected are demotivated. Another Mutaree survey has shown that many change projects mainly fail due to the failed communication between manager / HR and the respective department.

The correct and purposeful questions as well as the appropriate Mindset of the high-level personnel opposite their coworkers are missing. But it is not only this lack of support that gives employees headaches. In addition to the new targets, the administrative and organizational tasks must continue to be fulfilled parallel to the change – according to the study by Moonroc Institute of Economic Research.

It is therefore essential to give the team sufficient room for manoeuvre and to involve each individual with his or her competence in the change process.

In Part 2 you will learn how a change process can be successfully implemented with the help of HR? Which HR tasks have to change and be re-prioritized? What is necessary to carry out change management positively and to implement it as a permanent process? Employees take on the role of the change leader and show the way and the development to an agile change model.