Six top tips for running a successful HR change programme

Paul Connor

By Paul Connor

24 Jan 2017

From time to time an organisation will experience significant change: they might acquire another company, close an office or need to deal with the impact of new industry regulations. We offer some practical tips on how to deliver successful organisational change.

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1. Make sure your team is resilient

You may have in-house HR experts or you might not. The availability of outsourced HR providers means that this shouldn't be a big deal. What is critical is that the people you ultimately choose to deliver change – particularly those in leadership roles – must be resilient individuals.

The more flexible and experienced your people are, the more resilient they will be to the challenges that large change programmes can bring. If you expect a team of people to make dozens of people redundant, and manage the ongoing consultation processes for each of them, recognise that this is a difficult prospect for even an experienced HR professional.

2. Do your due diligence

With company mergers and acquisitions we find that problems often emerge because one or both sides will have gaps in their knowledge. One organisation might have a very different view of its compensation and benefits, for instance, to another.

The role of an HR leader in these cases is about bridging the knowledge gap by asking exploring questions that establish what is known and unknown. If the acquiring company doesn't know the culture of its recent purchase, that could present a problem further down the line. It is all about the detail here, as what seem like small challenges can often turn into large issues.

It can help to anticipate and discuss the best and worst case scenarios with those involved. For example: 'You think that about 50% of people will accept voluntary redundancy but what would you do if no-one did?'

3. Be comfortable with complexity and ambiguity

Being comfortable with ongoing ambiguity and complexity is important. You will know the problem that you want to address and what you want things to look like once you've made changes. But the journey is likely to be unpredictable and won't always go to plan. Expect complexity and ambiguity and be ready to react to it in the most productive manner.

4. Be brilliant at data management

You will field numerous questions during any large change programme – often from senior executives who will be feeling under pressure. You might be asked: 'How many people have accepted the relocation offer?', 'What's the average settlement agreement?' or 'If we have to put 100 people through mandatory training – what will it cost us and what is the pass rate?' Good data management is vital and for particularly large projects you might consider employing someone to manage this for you rather than delegate it to an already busy member of your HR or operations teams.

5. Consider having a project sponsor who can be a guardian of quality

This person can provide the internal client – your CEO for example – with a 'light touch overview' of the progress and quality of the programme on a periodical basis. Your CEO may feel it is easier to give their feedback to this person rather than a project manager who is responsible for the day to day management of the change programme.

An experienced, impartial professional can provide an objective view on what is fair and what isn’t, particularly when it comes to sensitive issues such as grievances or unfair dismissal claims.

6. Ask for help with contractual and financial elements

Your finance or operations teams can be enlisted to provide advice and support where appropriate. For any large change programme, it is important to have a good, clear contract between your organisation and any third party suppliers you are using. You also want to be aware of the financial dimensions of the project so you know where you are against your budget.  

Connor can support or lead your organisation to deliver successful change programmes. For more information or just to have an initial chat about how we might help, speak to Paul Connor on +44 (0)1491 414 010.

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