HR, the front line in change management

We’ve been hearing a lot about change from our clients. Some companies are facing the good kind brought on by strong demand for their products. Others are facing tough competition and pressure on their prices. Meanwhile,  human resource executives are trying to find ways to energize and arm their managers with skills to manage through change. That’s not easy because change often includes behavior change, either in yourself or those you’re training or both!

For example, effective communication skills go a long way in managing change.  One of our corporate training videos features AOL founder Steve Case who succinctly counsels leaders to manage the swings in emotions brought about by change.  Case, who led AOL through extraordinary growth in the nineties says he had to manage egos by constantly reminding his folks that they might be riding a wave of luck.  He also had to act as a buffer for his team when times were bad, reconnecting them with their vision and why they chose to work at his company. Not an easy task when you are facing overworked employees who are not feeling the momentum of a win. Sound familiar?

Think of our economy today and the same need for effective communication shows up. Caring leadership comes from self-awareness and knowledge of human nature. Communicating to a team about change takes authenticity and caring because they’ll know quickly if it’s all fake. They’ll feel it. Often, leaders are faced with decisions like this, suddenly.  It’s when their caring and character show up.

This isn’t a skill learned overnight. A human resource executive at a large electronics company said her first line of defense was to arm her direct managers with leadership skills to cope with change.  She knows her executives will be putting themselves in the middle of change and all the drama that can unfold with it.  The stakes are high. An overly aggressive executive who pushes his or her employees too far in the hopes of meeting his numbers can blow out key members of his team. Or, employees resistant to change can delay or derail a product launch.  Then, there’s the issue of risk when making a change… We’ll save that for another post.

Let’s just say they’re all moving parts and it’s the agile executive armed with her toolbox of skills that will benefit the most from change.

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