Ask an HR leader what term he or she believes is most overused, and the response would likely be “transformation.” Many of the leaders we spoke with said they were “fatigued” with the term and the vagueness that comes with it. Yet whether or not you like the terminology, transformation is happening and the cultural transformation component rests on the shoulders of HR leaders, empowering them to play a critical role in positioning the organization for the future.
Reframe the transformation narrative.
At the Dubai gathering, CHROs noted that they believe the term “transformation” is used too liberally, and runs the risk of carrying a negative connotation for employees, causing them to feel uncomfortable and anxious about the changes ahead. (The sense that “transformation” is code for “job loss” fuels that anxiety.) CHROs in attendance instead suggested embracing the term “growth mindset,” as business today requires operating in a state of constant flux. To willingly accept that way of thinking, HR leaders must bring the organization along through these changes with empathy and transparency.
Create a long-term engagement plan.
Embedding a growth mindset requires HR leaders to clearly communicate why the change is happening, how it will happen and impact the organization and what the process and end result will look like. This is not accomplished through email alone. A longer-term internal communications strategy must be in place in which the CHRO is more integral and collaborates with the corporate communications team and other C-suite colleagues. To be effective, HR leaders need to move across functional and business boundaries with ease, leveraging alliances and forming connections on a deeper level.
CHROs noted that they believe the term “transformation” is used too liberally, and runs the risk of carrying a negative connotation for employees, causing them to feel uncomfortable and anxious about the changes ahead.
Accept that fear is part of the journey.
Uncertainty and change go hand-in-hand, and while employees will expect leaders to have all of the answers, that simply won’t be the case. You can assure them the reasons for making the change are vital to the survival of the business, but everyone will need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable for a time. One of our gatherings focused on how founder-led companies are struggling to evolve. Many founders, for example, are aware that their companies need to make major changes to their firms’ operations and processes to survive, but they are afraid they have more to lose than to gain from implementing change, rendering them unable to grow the business. In these types of situations, HR leaders are able to play the role of a trusted advisor—founders and CEOs often have very small networks of people they can turn to for honest feedback. HR can help guide the conversations about change and how to communicate it.
Don’t neglect HR transformation.
As the organization shifts, your talent needs will likely change as well. You may need new ways to recruit talent, better systems for collecting and understanding data and new strategies for employee engagement and wellbeing. How the HR function transforms itself from a siloed structure to a more agile, inclusive and collaborative one will often be the key contributor to the success of the bigger organizational shift being sought. Part of the transformation is linked to implementing new HR technology, but it is also a function of HR leaders stretching beyond traditional boundaries of the role.