Demystifying the role of Human Resource Personnel in championing successful organisational change

Kudakwashe Chimbari / Posted On: 3 June 2020 / Updated On: 24 September 2022 / Organisational Development / 736

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Demystifying the role of Human Resource Personnel in championing successful organisational change



The only uncertainty is certain. Substantiating this adage is the current happenings in the Zimbabwean economy and the whole world in general. A close look at the unfolding events will allow a sober-minded business person to agree that most organisations are not far from closure if they have a cold appreciation of reality. Not mentioning known fundamental economic and healthy causalities unfolding in Zimbabwe, there is no doubt that organisational change is fast becoming a global and workplace phenomenal. Both private and public enterprises are employing a plethora of change initiatives with the view of turning around the fortunes of their organizations. Thus, owing to the chaotic business environment, the survival of organisations is hinged upon its ability to navigate through the ever-changing environment and this explains the significance of effective organisational change management. It is against this backdrop that this article seeks to demystify the role of HR in championing successful organisational change


More often than note, facing with the predicaments of turbulent business environment executives and senior managers will hasten to discuss cost containment strategies like restructuring and layoffs. They believe in numbers, disregarding the fundamental human issues. This approach resonates well with the concept of ‘‘dissolution of the management team,’’ in which when faced with complex issues and pressure, most organizational management teams break down. Of course, this violates the very definition of leadership and the deep-seated social contract. Dave Ulrich once opined that a positive working environment is shaped by leaders who intentionally and thoughtfully build both value and “values”. If the values of people in the organisation are compromised, it stimulates counter-productive behaviours and the cost will balloon on the employer side therefore, the change will cause more harm than good.

According to Dave Ulrich, one of the fundamental roles of HR as a business partner is a “change agent”. This means HR should play a strategic role in the formulation of organizational change initiatives. It can provide help and guidance in analysis, diagnosis, and highlighting the people issues that will fundamentally affect the success of any change initiatives. Human resource can advise on resourcing programs, planning and implementing the vital learning, reward, communications and involvement aspects of the process at the strategic level. People problems associated with change should be dealt with before they distend out of control. If the program does involve restructuring and downsizing, human resource can advise on how this should be done humanely and with the minimum disruption to people's perceptions to curb survival syndrome and to ensure a trusted working environment. Failure to take your employees into cognizance at the strategic level result in mismatch or misfit between the strategy and internal employee fundamentals like culture, skills and, competencies.

 To ensure people reform, and perform to transform the organisation, culture management ranks paramount. Human resource personnel are the wardens of people, therefore, it means they are custodians of culture in the organisation. Culture is one of the deep-seated fundamental aspects that determine the success or failure of any change initiative. In his book “The fifth discipline”, Peter Senge emphasised the need for effective culture management for sustainability of change management. During phases of change, HR leadership will be expressed by guaranteeing the company culture’s integrity and making sure that processes are coherent and harmonious. Changing a corporate culture is an ongoing process, which takes time and requires constant monitoring. It is about transforming the organization through continuous influence and the shaping of beliefs, assumptions, values, and patterns of behaviour of people towards creating a desired work environment. Thus, human resources practices within the organization should act to maintain it by giving employees a set of similar experiences. For example, many of the human resource practices reinforce the organization's culture; such as the selection process, performance evaluation criteria, reward practices, training and career development activities, and promotion procedures.

People are the agents of transformation who translate organizational change into profits; however, they are often left out in this process of change. Information reaches them too late or they miss the competencies required to bring about change. Why? Executives often get ahead of themselves when it comes to business transformation. They go too fast, changing processes and systems, without taking the time to train and explain the situation to people. Poorly communicated change initiatives like restructuring will take people by the shock which heightens nervousness, panic, and confusion. The manifestation of these is counterproductive behaviours which defeat the whole purpose of intended goals. People will start stealing, moonlighting, misuse of company property and such behaviours include everyone from top management to security guard. Thus, HR with their expertise and intelligence in people management has a role to sell the strategic vision with everyone in a manner that raises awareness and willingness among people in the organization. HR’s central function in the management of people and talent means they can easily influence change adoption through strategic HR policies in the fields of dialoguing, remuneration, succession and hiring to cite a few. This takes form workplace dialogues (works councils), workshops, and formulating and implementing human resource policies.

Furthermore, the change of any magnitude in the organization creates fear and reluctance amongst employees and managers alike. Consequently, change ushers the organization into a turbulence zone, and this calls for human resource to put its categorical best in ensuring that it guides the corporate successfully by maintaining the people motivation level using non-monetary tools. There are certain points that human resource can opt for in such a situation where people are insecure about their job these include but not limited to develop the people on key skills and enhance competencies, redeployment, effective dialogue, and assuring employees among others.

Most organizations fail in implementing successful change on the account of poor people management skills. Human resource has to play an active role in refrain the top talents, act as a caring mother by getting people aligned and developed to fight with this critical situation, develop people on cross-functional skills. This helps the organization to balance the surplus and shortage of workforce, help the corporate to raise the people performance bar, ensure the fair evaluation of people performance, play an active role in the control of communication flow, pass the onus of making the corporate lean, review its minor low-cost benefits and contribute to enhancing the value-added per employee by maximizing employees inputs.

Pull it all together; change in the business environment is here to stay, and those who fail to manage it become the victims of circumstances whose consignment to the dust bin of failure is assured, while those who manage it successfully will be certainly destined for greatness.  

Kudakwashe Chimbari is an HR practitioner who is passionate about harnessing unique people solutions. He writes in his capacity.Feedback:[email protected]


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