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Leading and Managing Change as HR Professionals


Leading and managing change as HR professionals; roles, responsibilities and strategies

All industries are ever evolving spaces and therefore, it follows that organisations will need to make changes to remain competitive or even exist in an evolving world. This could include procedures or policies as dictated by movements within the industry or the wider world such as cultural shifts necessitated by the effects of the pandemic.

Change management is the umbrella term we use to describe the transition of a company’s systems, processes or overall goals and culture and in this article, we will be looking at change management through the lens of HR and what some of the predicted shifts are across different industries.

We will also be looking at the process of change management itself and what the most effective way of enacting change across an organisation may be, as well as how to communicate these shifts to your people.

What is Change Management?

Change management is the process by which businesses can enact change to their overall structure and working culture. Change management refers specifically to the actions which organisations take in order to leverage change, be it an adoption of new policies or a sourcing of new technologies or systems.

The purpose of enacting any form of significant change is to bring about a resolution of some sort of long term goal. Change management forms a key component of future business strategy and the risks of making any form of alteration to company procedure or structure must always be weighed up with the potential for future growth and success. HR teams have over the past year, found themselves at the forefront of wider business planning and it is inevitable that they will play a key role in devising change and effectively communicating it to the wider business.

The events of the past year have made businesses keenly aware of the need to remain adaptable and agile to shifts across the wider world and as they look towards the future, more and more organisations are seeing the value in adopting the lessons learned during the pandemic era and also, the importance of introducing an element of forecasting into their business strategy planning.

Google Trends from 2020 have highlighted the need for change moving forward, with the indication being that an increasing number of businesses are looking how to enact fundamental change to their structure and working culture, rather than moving towards a “hard reset” back to the way things were:

“In 2020 we looked for a better future more than we wished to return to the past. how to change the world was searched twice as much as how to go back to normal”

Rather than being an emergency expedient, the appetite for change moving forward appears to be motivated by a desire to drive productivity and profitability, as well as the need to maintain a competitive edge.

We are all returning to a working world which is new and in many ways, still unfamiliar. With both employee and organisational expectations having shifted somewhat over the past year, businesses will need to be mindful of the need to enact change within their organisation and to avoid becoming static and stagnant.

Change management in a post pandemic world

As businesses now begin to shift into the new structure of the post-pandemic working world, the benefits of HR- driven change management are becoming more and more appealing. What may have previously been considered as ponderous and risky are now being viewed in the light of recent, fundamental change. As employee and customer experiences and expectations have shifted over the past year and half, businesses too are now looking towards their company culture and structure and looking at where change can be made.

HR professionals have found the scope of their role expanding massively during the course of the pandemic, with their expertise being leveraged to help inform long term business planning. This has resulted in the influence of HR professionals skyrocketing, with more organisations turning to their knowledge outside of their traditional function.

The events of the past 18 months have also brought issues of employee wellbeing and safeguarding into sharp relief – core components of the HR experience which businesses would do well to draw upon when looking at enacting long term change.

Types of organisational change

Broadly speaking, organisational change falls under three categories: transitional change, developmental change and transformational change.

Whilst by no means exhaustive, these offer a broad base which generally accommodates the traditional forms of change usually enacted by businesses.

Transitional Change

Perhaps the most traditionally viewed form of organisational change, transitional change represents an organisation shifting in its goals or direction, often to align with new strategies. Transitional change is in most instances spearheaded by project managers or exec level talent and is often brought about by a desire to steer a business away from a direction that is seen as undesirable or untenable.

Transitional change often takes the form of mergers, automation and acquisition and often sees an organisation adopting a new ethos or merging core values with a parent or partner company.

One of the more ponderous forms of change, transitional change is often considered to be an indication of a failing or struggling organisation, rather than measures which have been taken in a more proactive sense. This will often come in the form of buyouts or acquisitions, with a regime change at the top level being seen as the most effective measure to enact change.

Developmental Change

Developmental change is the process by which organisations make changes to their procedures, systems or technologies in order to help supplement and refine existing processes.

Developmental change is often viewed as being more granular in nature than transitional change as shifts and changes can be made at a departmental level, targeting specific systems or processes and identifying problem areas at the source rather than making sweeping change at an organisational level.

Transformational Change

Perhaps the most sweeping form of organisational change, transformational change describes the process by which a business may begin to alter their core identity, values and the fundamental concepts which the organisation may have been formed upon. This can mean an organisation pivoting it’s business model in order to embrace wider societal shifts, Such as Shell committing themselves to an environmentally friendly model.

This process obviously represents a significant degree of risk for organisations as these values are often intertwined with their brand identity and can have strong associations for both employees and the customer base. Any fundamental evolution of an organisation’s ethos can have long-reaching impacts and the success of any such initiatives will live or die by the ability of HR teams to effectively communicate change and help guide employees through a transition.

In many respects, transformational change may be a necessary step in order to ensure the integrity of a brand in the face of shifting values. For example, in 2006, McDonald’s announced a range of changes to their menu, particularly their child focused Happy Meals in the wake of heightened awareness of the health implications of fast food consumption.

Transformational change is broad and sweeping and in many cases a clumsy process. Representing as it does, significant levels of risk, many organisations are understandably reluctant to action such change.

However, as both employee and consumer attitudes continue to evolve, businesses who are able to take that step and realign their brand values and ethos, may very well find themselves with the competitive edge over those who choose to stick with the status quo.

Change management across industries

The exact form that change management will take will likely differ from industry to industry.

There’s very little point in making change for the sake of it, therefore each organisation will have to view change management through the lens of their particular industry- identifying problem areas which need to be targeted or simply being aware of shifts in the wider world which are likely to impact their business and sector.


The construction sector at large has found itself dealing with a raft of issues over the past couple of years.

The impact of Brexit, whilst yet to be fully realised, is predicted to have a significant impact on the logistics supply chain as well as the ability to source skilled workers from European nations.

As with all industries, the pressures introduced by the pandemic have had a huge impact on construction projects, with many sites having to down tools over the better part of the last year.

The increasingly ageing workforce within the industry is an ongoing problem facing businesses within the sector, with many business owners keenly aware of the difficulty in bringing in new blood to take on board the experience of older workers. Many in the sector fear that teachable skill sets will be lost if the industry isn’t able to present itself as a more attractive prospect for younger workers.

CIOB sums up the need for change within the sector:

“Construction is dominated by a few major organisations, operating on narrow margins and with complex supply chains. An industry couldn’t be more ripe for application of excellent change management skills combined with technological advances to lift itself into a new period of prosperity but the industry needs to start taking it a bit more seriously”

With these challenges in mind, it seems evident that some form of change will have to be leveraged in order to safeguard the operational effectiveness of businesses within the sector, as well as allowing them to meet predicted disruptions head on.

Developmental change will be an asset to organisations looking to mitigate the impact of challenges to the sector, with new systems and technologies being introduced in order to meet specific challenges regarding recruitment and the supply chain.

Increased adoption of digital systems and processes will be an asset in helping organisations stay ahead of any logistical constraints predicted by the long term Impact of Brexit. HR suites will also form a key component of the training and onboarding of the younger workforce, allowing clear visibility of existing qualification and skill sets and allowing the formation of an effective roadmap to pass on relevant knowledge.

Overall, the industry pivoting to a more tech savvy and digitised sector will no doubt play a part in making work within construction a more appealing prospect to younger workers as it will leverage their knowledge and experience rather than being beholden to older skillsets.


It has undeniably been a tumultuous time for the hospitality industry. Perhaps one of the sectors hit hardest by covid restrictions both domestically and to international travel, businesses within the industry have had to contend with truncated income flow as well as the continued uncertainty around continued operation.

Furthermore, recent studies have found that increasing numbers of people are choosing not to return to their jobs within the sector even as restrictions are lifted. The disruptions and uncertainty of the past 18 months will have undoubtedly given employees within the industry pause for thought and plenty of time to reflect on their priorities.

This presents a significant challenge for businesses in the sector who understandably want to hit the ground running and drive forward profitability. Retaining and recruitment of talent will need to be foremost in employer’s minds moving forward and to ignore the wider concerns of their employees will find them scrambling to recruit.

Hospitality as an industry has always been viewed through quite a traditional lens. The base level of requirements from patrons hasn’t evolved quite in the same way as other sectors. Also, given that workers in the industry tend to be in low paid, entry level positions, the need to innovate and change up working practices perhaps isn’t as apparent as in other sectors.

HVS summarises this attitude to change in their article: “Hospitality is one of the oldest industries and yet, not much has changed with regards to how we serve our guests since the time of inn-keeping. Yet, we all acknowledge the need to innovate, evolve and respond to the changing guest tastes.

Prolific brands, constantly changing technology, shifting guest service culture and evolving customer expectations, all require that we build a workforce that is accustomed to a culture of constant change and innovation.”

The approach for hospitality businesses appears to be two fold: firstly, they must look at some measure of transformational change, taking into account the understandable anxieties of their returning staff and shifting their ethos and working culture to one that places an emphasis on employee wellbeing and safeguarding.

Secondly, developmental shifts can help supplement any cultural pivots by leveraging technology to support both organisation and employees.

Systems such as time and attendance monitoring can help businesses effectively schedule their people in order to avoid burnout and certain payroll solutions can offer drawdown pay functionality which can be an attractive prospect when offering overtime.


Forcam takes an interesting look into how the manufacturing industry has shifted:

“Twenty years ago, it was possible to make decisions for months or even years. But with the rapid digital transformation occurring in most industries and the explosion of data-exploiting abilities, reacting slowly is not only inadvisable but can also be suicidal.

For manufacturing companies, this fact is even more imperative now than ever before. As technological advances create smarter manufacturing processes, along with the ever-present need to produce in the most cost-effective way possible, companies must continuously remain on their toes to identify and exploit opportunities.”

River Logic also highlights the need for change in their blog, noting that in past decades, manufacturing had the luxury of operating within a relatively static market where technological and strategic innovations were seen as luxuries.

Now, it appears that the lifespan of businesses within the sector has halved to roughly 14 years when compared with 33 years and upwards of older times. Indications point towards the ever increasing need for complex business planning and that being beholden to the old methods of logistics and the supply chain simply doesn’t work anymore.

Developmental change appears to be the watchword for the manufacturing sector with increasing indications that no matter how long standing an organisation may be, they cannot afford to avoid the benefits of technological innovation.

The introduction of new systems and technologies can revitalise an organisation, allowing for smoother operation and ensuring that resources are allocated effectively to where businesses need them the most.

Effective change management is all about tackling problems head on and leveraging technology in this fashion can not only help guarantee increased efficiency but importantly, a tech savvy company won’t find themselves blown about by the winds of change, deaf to new developments.

A company who invests in their digital infrastructure will find themselves leaps and bounds beyond their competition, honing that competitive edge and just as importantly, they will present themselves as a modern, attractive prospect for new hires.

girl smiling with a laptop

The importance of change management

Over the past decade, organisations across all sectors have found themselves operating within markets which have become increasingly more demanding in terms of the complexity of business strategies required for success.

The widespread proliferation of new technology has also seen a shift in attitudes where new systems and hardware have gone from being a gimmick or a curiosity and instead form a cornerstone of modern business operations.

In certain sectors, many organisations with older heads in charge will have had the luxury of being resistant to change, cleaving to long standing ways of working. Iberdrola succinctly summarises the need for businesses to be agile now more than ever:

“Adapting to and managing change has become a fundamental skill for dealing with the present and the future. In addition, it is a clear indicator of professional leadership because organisations require leaders who are also agents of change.

Organisational change is necessary for companies to succeed and grow. Change management drives the successful adoption and usage of change within the business. It allows employees to understand and commit to the shift and work effectively during it.

Without effective organisational change management, company transitions can be rocky and expensive in terms of both time and resources. They can also result in lower employee morale and competent skill development. Ultimately, a lack of effective change management can lead the organisation to fail.”

Organisational change is more than just about honing a competitive edge however.

Research by Accenture found that increasing numbers of consumers are demonstrating a heightened awareness of ethical concerns and that their patronage of businesses reflects this shift in attitudes. We have already seen instances of corporate activism where organisations will adopt branding to reflect certain movements such as for pride month.

There have also been recent examples of companies being proactive in producing statements around the Black Lives Matter movement and issues which have been in the cultural zeitgeist. The scope of HR will have naturally expanded in recent years in order to account for these societal shifts. With a greater awareness of issues including diversity and safeguarding, it often falls to HR professionals to devise and spearhead relevant initiatives.

While some people deride any form of activism by brands, perhaps seeing it as a distraction, there are increasing indications that having a strong and clearly defined stance on these issues is actually an asset in attracting increasingly socially aware customers.

Change management process

A study by Gartner found that only 34% of all change initiatives pursued by businesses end in clear success. On the other hand, 16% yield mixed results, which equates to 50% of all change initiatives failing.

This demonstrates that the key to enacting successful change is more than just identifying the need for change but to also have a clearly defined roadmap for how the process will be implemented within an organisation.

Furthermore, when you are discussing enacting fundamental changes to your organisational structure and culture, a degree of forecasting will be necessary in order to understand the impact this may have on your business, employees and consumer base.

Blindly enacting change can have devastating impacts on businesses and can in many ways, impact their perception of any form of innovation.

There are important steps for organisations to consider when looking at introducing any elements of change management. These steps include:


  1. Define the change:
    Understanding why change needs to happen and precisely what steps need to be taken to achieve it will be absolutely critical as a first step. Be aware of challenges facing your business, identify any problem areas and determine if more sweeping, company wide change is needed or if any initiatives can be focused at a departmental level. The HR function has already evolved to meet pandemic level business planning and is likely to be leveraged once more to facilitate these goals..
  2. Determine impacts and those affected:
    Once you understand where and why change needs to take place, the next step is to determine who will be affected at an organisational level by any changes. Having a clear understanding of the implications ahead of time can allow for effective strategic planning to mitigate the impact of any changes.
  3. Develop a communication strategy:
    The next, and perhaps most crucial stage of the change management process is ensuring that you have an effective plan in place to communicate the process of change to your people. The first two steps will have highlighted the people in your organisation who will be most greatly impacted, therefore make it a priority to communicate the change process to them. With your HR teams being the people with their finger on the pulse of your organisation, it will fall to them to effectively communicate change across the organisation
  4. Provide effective training:
    If the change process is introducing new technologies or procedures, it is vitally important that your people understand that they are to receive effective training in helping them meet these new changes. Determine and effectively communicate the process by which training and development will take place, be it on premise coaching or via online modules. Your teams should be supplemented with robust and comprehensive HR systems in order to help them manage and maintain any training modules moving forward.
  5. Implement a support structure:
    Big changes can make some people feel anxious. It is important that your people feel supported both during the transitional process and moving forward. Make a point to prioritise employees who will have been the most greatly affected and encourage an open door policy with management teams, in order to allow your people to air any concerns. Technology should once more be leveraged to support your HR teams, with HR systems providing a platform to easily chart conversations with employees, providing a clear roadmap.
  6. Measure the change process:
    The process of change management is only truly effective when it is evaluated against the needs of the organisation as a whole. No meaningful change exists within a vacuum, therefore it is important that you have systems and processes in place in order to measure the effectiveness of your change management policy.


By having a clear understanding of the impacts or successes brought about by any new policies, you are able to more effectively pivot your business strategy in order to accommodate any lessons learned.

As important as it Is to have a clear roadmap of any changes you intend to make, the most vital component of a successful change management process is the ability to communicate the impact of any changes to your people efficiently and effectively.

Communicating change effectively

Any meaningful form of change is likely to have far reaching implications for your organisation and the people who make it work. Change management can be an effective way to address challenges facing an organisation and to pivot a business strategy in order to meet them but it also brings with it a degree of upheaval and uncertainty which can impact employees.

Gartner surveyed more than 6,500 employees and over 100 CHROs around the globe, and found that the best organisations rely on their workforce, not executives, to lead transformational change.

The message is therefore clear: it is vital that any change management is founded upon an inclusive strategy which effectively communicates the impact of any changes to your people.

Harvard business school highlights the importance of clear and effective communication, emphasising the importance in actively including your people in the journey of change management and ensuring that they are ready to meet the new future which will be brought about by any new systems and processes.

Communicating change to employees – examples

Yfish highlights the power of effective communication and motivation and how it can make all the difference with getting employees on board and therefore working hard: 77% of employees say that they would work harder if they were recognized for their work. Therefore, this approach can be a great motivation to comply with and implement the changes faster.

It is clear therefore, that an effective policy of communicating the impact of any changes is not only vital in safeguarding the wellbeing of your people, but also in helping to bring your people onboard in a more proactive sense.

Very often, changes at an organisational level are a more passive affair for employees, with wider shifts such as redundancies or restructuring being seen as an inevitable, if anxiety inducing part of the process. This can colour people’s perception of any form of change management as something broadly negative, bringing upheaval which people simply have to grin and bear.

The responsibility of effectively communicating the impact of any change will inevitably fall to HR teams. Given the nature of the role, it is reasonable to assume that HR professionals will have their finger on the pulse regarding the mood of their people.

HR teams will be instrumental in providing a bridge between executives and employees and effectively communicating the process and reasoning behind any change.

This article by Harvard Business Review correctly identifies that one of the main hurdles facing organisations when enacting change is treating their employees as a passive part of the process and just handing down dictates from on high.

The article rightly highlights that for employees, it isn’t enough to simply be made aware of any impending changes, but they also need to have a clear understanding of the motivation behind them. A lack of understanding can lead to anxieties and resentment, all of which present as barriers when enacting change. It is vitally important therefore, that your people are brought onboard in a more proactive sense.

HR teams often find themselves placed at the heart of the human element when it comes to wider business shifts. Seasoned HR professionals are no strangers to the impacts of acquisitions, mergers and other wide ranging changes and therefore, will be invaluable to an organisation in helping communicate and mitigating the effect of change.

Your HR people should identify and highlight personnel or departments who are likely to be the most greatly impacted by any changes and drive conversation with them in order to head off any potential anxieties or uncertainties.

It is an unfortunate reality that any change management has the potential to impact your people, particularly in the form of restructuring or redundancies. When these measures are unavoidable, it’s crucial that you identify the affected parties as swiftly as possible and drive one to one conversations about how best to support any employees impacted.

Beyond any negative impacts, employees who feel more engaged with the change process are more likely to work towards it being a success. Changes mandated from on high will only serve to alienate your people and create needless barriers when implementing any new policies or procedures.

Create an honest, open door policy where your people can give their feedback and potentially allow their own experiences to inform any future business strategy.


We’ve seen the power that change management can have in transforming an organisation. As a process, change management has evolved from something that has traditionally been seen as sweeping, destructive and a last resort, into an indication of a forward thinking organisation.

The shifts and developments of the past year have provided businesses with a unique opportunity to reassess the way they work and in many instances, to do away with older, more ponderous processes.

We have also seen shifts in the wider working culture which will have long reaching impacts for organisations reluctant to change. Effective change management is about more than identifying and eliminating problem areas – we are seeing increasing instances of both employees and customers demanding significant change to an organisation’s culture and ethos.

Effective change management can be the key for organisations looking to future proof themselves.

We can help with cutting edge solutions that will enable your HR team to communicate change effectively and stay productive, whilst putting the needs and wants of your employees first in this ever changing landscape. Mitrefinch’s HR software flexes to meet the requirements of your organisation, no matter what change it goes through. 

Contact us today for more information.


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