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How Human Resources Leaders Can Support Organizational Change

How Human Resources Leaders Can Support Organizational Change

For some, the prospect of change is something that is welcome and exciting, while for others; the thought of change can induce anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. Be that as it may, organizational change is often necessary.

No matter what the nature of the change may be, HR leaders can and should play a significant part in supporting change.

Getting Ready for Change

Consider this: arguably, one of the most significant forms of organizational change is a merger or an acquisition. A survey of 1000 companies conducted by Watson Wyatt reported that fewer than 33% attained their profit goals following a merger. That suggests that success in change management is the exception and not the norm. Regardless of whether the change you’re dealing with is as comprehensive as a merger or if it pertains to a smaller part of what your company does, statistics like this serve to underline the importance of a careful and studied approach.

Roles of HR Leaders Supporting Change

In any change management plan, there are four possible roles in change that an HR professional can have: leader, educator, adviser, or participant. In each of these roles, you can be an invaluable part of ushering in change successfully.

Leader: As the change leader, the HR professional takes on the responsibility for the planning and execution of the change project. This can sometimes be the case for managing a change within the HR function or introducing a new service.

Educator: In this capacity, the HR leader provides expertise and knowledge to help stakeholders understand the ins and outs of successful change management. This may include hosting workshops, sourcing tools and materials, and gathering data.

Adviser: As a change adviser, the HR expert helps the change leaders with the process of preparing a plan and implementing the change. This role can be very important for challenging stakeholder to ensure they avoid mistakes and can be successful.

Participant: In some instances, the HR leader is part of the change that is taking place. With knowledge of change management, the HR can spot potential problem areas, understand their reaction to the change and that of others, and provide assistance and support to those also affected by the change.

The Four Pillars of Change Management

Regardless of which role they find themselves in, HR leaders can support successful change and help to improve employee engagement. At the foundation of this is having a good understanding of what we call the four pillars of change management.

The four pillars of change management can be categorized as clarity, readiness, fitness, and response. Each piece is critically important in obtaining a successful result in organizational change.


This component involves coming to a complete and thorough understanding of the rationale behind the change. It means testing the thinking behind the proposed change to ensure complete certainty and clarity surrounding the proposition.

Questions that may be asked as part of this process might include:

  • Why do we need to undertake this change?
  • What do we hope to accomplish?
  • What problems do we hope to solve and what problems will not be solved?

This line of questioning will help to create a shared understanding of the desired goals, the importance and benefits of the change, as well as the possible limitations. It also will serve to create a coherent case for the change that can later be communicated to a wider audience.


Through this pillar, we can examine what exists within the company’s culture, history, and leadership that could serve as either a hindrance or an advantage for implementing change.

By focusing on the readiness for change, you’ll be able to identify potential pitfalls and avoid setbacks. Although it’s impossible to predict every potential problem that may arise, doing this will mitigate the risk.


This section concerns itself with ensuring that the organization has the appropriate systems, processes, and structure to take on the change. In other words, this is where we look more closely at the effects and the repercussions of the change.

All too often, we’ve seen companies implement a new solution that led to unexpected and sometimes disastrous outcomes elsewhere within the organization.


Here, we concern ourselves with the human impact of the change. This is a leading cause of unsuccessful change management. It’s critical to understand and respond to the emotional reaction that people have when dealing with change.

Through this examination, you can make sure that employees have a clear understanding of what change is going to occur, how it’s going to affect them, and when. It’s also an opportunity for the company can come up with strategies for supporting employees through the change.

A clear understanding of the importance of each of these four pillars can help HR leaders driving change, no matter what role they are playing in change management.

Learn More

To further be a resource to the organization, watch and share this free webinar reviewing what every CEO needs to know about employee engagement.

Content in partnership with Best Companies Group