Blog Post

How HR Can Help Employees Navigate Change

Katie McBeth

Business Writer

Massive organizational shifts can be bittersweet for businesses. Employees and managers are often excited about the shift, but also nervous about the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Remember the fall of Borders, Kodak film or most recently Radio Shack? All of these businesses failed to migrate through a change in business and instead were forced to close their doors. The most common factor in the closing of these, and other businesses like them, lies in a lack of employee engagement and motivation.

When it comes to change within a business, it's up to HR managers and executives to help employees handle the pressure and keep employees engaged in their work.

There are plenty of ways for HR departments to ensure that change happens smoothly; here's some foolproof advice for when your company prepares for a shift in business.

Put the Employee First

No matter what a business specializes in, it would not exist without the dedicated work of its employees. From the part-time worker, all the way to the CEO or owner; businesses need dedicated people to keep them running strong.

Change in the workplace can be high stress for everyone involved, but it is important that employees stay engaged in their work. If not, it can end up costing the company thousands of dollars in lost time, poor work, increased sick days and eventually turnover.

Gallup poll revealed that disengaged employees can cost businesses anywhere between $450 to $550 billion dollars in lost productivity every year.

Thus, when it comes to navigating through change, identifying the key drivers of motivation for your employees is vital a successful shift. A 2013, CAHRS survey found that employees identify with their organization at four levels—company, job, supervisor and coworkers—and depending on how your business is shifting, you should focus your communication efforts on one or two of these components.

Be a Resource

When an employee is stressed about upcoming change, let them address their concerns, and offer them a chance to provide suggestions. Giving employees space to be heard can be powerful and validating to their role in the business.

"We maintain an open-door policy in the HR department and encourage employees to talk with us one-on-one about their questions and concerns regarding the company changes," says Hailey Wood, an HR manager with a small business marketing firm.

Of course, HR managers have to be sure that those employees are not only heard, but sought out. One of the biggest, and most damaging, misconceptions is that employees will actively address concerns with managers or the HR department. In reality, talk amongst themselves, which can spread incorrect information or don't say anything at all.

Take a proactive approach and address each employee directly—whether face to face, or through email—and allow them to provide any feedback they have, without repercussions. If their concerns are too large to address via email, then set up a meeting with them and their direct manager.

Be Transparent

Keeping employees trust, and preventing false rumors from spreading, requires open and honest communication. Make sure your business is practicing honesty and transparency in all of its major announcements.

Employees are less likely to be scared of change if they can see for themselves how it will help the business and affect their work. If the changes in a company are drastic or involve new technology, work with the managers to create "up-training" seminars and be sure to provide ample opportunity to educate the staff, and work with them at their own pace. In the end, the whole business will feel more positive and motivated to continue providing excellent work.

Sudden change in a business environment can be stressful for everyone involved. As an HR professional it is your job to make the transition as easy as possible. If you prepare well, your team and company will come out stronger when all is said and done.

Photo: Creative Commons

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