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Insights From HR Change Champions

By Sarah Kamp
April 10, 2024
4 minute read

Innovation is the cornerstone of competitive advantage today. Yet, with innovation comes change, a double-edged sword that can disrupt workforce morale and productivity. Business leaders must master the art of balancing progressive innovation with the human side of change to guarantee sustainable growth while supporting a committed, thriving workforce.

As an HR leader, your role in this process is indispensable. HR leaders are the architects of organizational change, crafting strategies that help businesses pivot and adapt seamlessly. You need to foster a workforce that is resilient, skilled, and aligned with evolving business goals, while guiding people through change with empathy and foresight.

That’s why we invited Diane Cramer, senior director of global talent management and HRIS at Extreme Networks, Jennifer de Vries, director of change and performance enablement at ATB Financial, and Shipra Malhotra, director of HRIS at Vertiv, to join Jamie Aitken, VP of HR transformation at Betterworks, for a panel discussion at EmpowerHR Americas. Their hands-on experience in guiding organizations through the ebbs and flows of change has not only fostered growth but also nurtured a culture of adaptability and engagement within their workforces.

Explore the panelists’ perspectives and experiences as HR leaders guiding their organizations through the intricacies of change.

Open a collective dialogue with stakeholders

Change initiatives are most successful when the people they affect can help shape the change. Bring stakeholders into the early stages of change conversations. When evaluating new technology, for example, Shipra kicks off the discussion with her technical team. Once they’ve narrowed down the best options, she schedules a demo so other stakeholders can see the tool in action — and understand how it might change their day-to-day work lives.

“We identify our key stakeholders and invite them for an initial demo — and that demo is more like a collective dialogue,” Shipra said. “We are thinking through things, what business value it gives.” Bringing key players together gives them an opportunity to discuss the full scope of the change at different points across the business.

Shipra’s emphasis on this “show and tell” method underscores the necessity of targeted, two-way communication through the stages of change. This process allows stakeholders to visualize the impact and understand the implications of their input, leading to more informed decisions and a deeper sense of ownership over the change process.

Such an open, iterative dialogue helps everyone understand the purpose behind the change, which can minimize resistance to it and foster a culture of innovation and adaptability.

Lean into cross-functional partnerships

Uniting strategic perspectives from leaders across the organization fosters a holistic approach to decision-making, making sure initiatives are aligned with overarching business goals. This collaboration enhances your organization’s agility and effectiveness when navigating change. That’s why Extreme Networks has a cross-functional team dedicated to evaluating the business impact of potential change initiatives.

“We do have a business change council,” Diane said. “And generally they look at major systems or IT implementations across the company — but they will also consult with us.” Diane can bring suggested changes to the council to gain different perspectives on the business value of implementing that change. This collective intelligence is instrumental in identifying potential opportunities, challenges, and synergies that might not be apparent when operating within the silos of individual departments. 

Cross-functional partnerships don’t just drive change strategies at the top, though: They can also provide tactical advice on the ground during the change implementation process. Diane said having an IT business partner who wants to dig into the specifics of what HR is trying to achieve has been a gamechanger for Extreme Networks. 

Keep employee experience front and center

Employees will have trouble adapting to changes that are too disruptive to their routines — which is why prioritizing the employee experience is important when implementing changes. You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Setting small milestones across your implementation roadmap helps people ease into changes over time.

Change is always challenging, but understanding change from an employee’s perspective provides clarity. “There’s no smooth process, really,” Jennifer said. “You can have it as smooth as possible, but those roadblocks — it’s trying to anticipate it, but it’s also those baby steps moving forward.” 

When rolling out Betterworks across ATB Financial, Jennifer and her team set a starting goal of simply getting people into the system. With that smaller goal accomplished, she can focus on the next priority. “We got that quantity in there, knowing that that next step is now the quality,” she said. This approach helps employees adapt to the change without feeling overwhelmed.

Embracing open dialogue, fostering cross-functional partnerships, and prioritizing employee experience are not just strategies for today but foundational principles for the evolving workplace. As organizations innovate and adapt, HR leaders will continue shaping a future where businesses not only thrive in the face of change but also cultivate environments where employees feel valued, engaged — and prepared for what’s next.

Want to learn more? Catch EmpowerHR on demand to get more insights on driving business value and helping people thrive through change.

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