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Attention HR Leaders: What to do when it’s time to transform your function

As an HR professional, you are no stranger to organizational transformation. You’ve been at the forefront of a range of restructures, efficiency drives, change programs, and culture rollouts – all while leading implementation, supporting employees and leaders through the change, and ensuring delivery of the desired business outcomes.

But what happens when the tables are turned and your HR function itself must go through transformation?

With the increasing importance of talent as a driver of competitive advantage, and the rising focus on the integration of tools, technology, and people to deliver better business results, the role of HR as a high-performing, value-adding function is more important than ever. To fulfill this, HR must often transform to deliver more value, productivity, and efficiency.

While this may seem like an easy task considering the number of transformations you’ve already led, it’s a different story when there’s a need to look inward and take an objective approach to what needs to change across your own function.

So, what do you, as an HR leader, need to think about when taking this on? Based on our experience guiding HR functions through this process, we’ve compiled three things to keep in mind when embarking on your HR transformation journey:

1. Make HR transformation a priority. There’s the saying, “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” And that couldn’t be truer when it comes to transforming your HR function before others. Often, when organizations are going through transformation, HR is the last function to transform. And that’s because attention and resources are focused on looking after internal customers first.

While there may be strategic reasons for transforming HR after looking at other functions, it’s extremely hard to support other colleagues and operate at the highest level if employees in HR are unclear about their own roles, teams, and expectations.

2. Remember, while your team members are change experts, they are people, too. We often fall into the trap of assuming HR professionals are change ‘experts’ since they support change for the rest of the organization. But HR employees are humans just like everyone else and have the very same human responses to change – from denial and aversion to fatigue and frustration.

Ensuring the right change management support and provision is in place to support HR colleagues through change is critical. An important element of this is to look for opportunities to bring people together and rally them around a shared vision or purpose driving the change.

We often work with HR organizations on initiatives to bring together different sub-functions and teams to reinforce shared goals and create a sense of belonging and ownership, especially during times of change when a lot can feel outside of HR professionals’ control. Creating clarity on how different teams, priorities and programs fit together to support shared goals can help create a sense of connectedness and community that is critical to hold on to through transformation.

3. Position HR as a strategic business function…because it is. Whether it’s structure and process, operational efficiency, or new tools and technology driving HR transformation, at the heart of any change is the opportunity for HR to deliver more impact for the business. Part of this is often about enhancing the perceived value of HR as a strategic function – organizing and operating HR more effectively to better demonstrate the value it adds to its customers and the business.

Uplifting the visibility and profile of HR internally, at the same time as making more fundamental structure, process, or technology changes, can go a long way in supporting your successful HR transformation.

We often work with HR functions to enhance their internal ‘brand’ as part of their transformation, including looking at HR’s visual identity, language and style, and communication strategy. A refreshed look and feel and improved communications, coupled with enhanced customer interactions because of organizational changes, can significantly enhance HR’s profile and perceived value with the wider business. This can support the shift of HR being seen purely as a transactional, ‘support’ function to positioning you and your team as a strategic function that delivers real impact for the business.

HR transformation, like all transformation is hard, and being a function that is heavily invested in organizational change doesn’t necessarily make it any easier! However considering these three principles will help to manage the impacts of change and leverage the opportunity to not only deliver a successful transformation program but also deliver long-term benefits for HR, your customers, and your business.

Becky is an Associate Principal at Daggerwing Group. She specializes in managing organizational change, with a people and engagement focus. She works with organizations, teams and individuals to plan, manage, and embed lasting change. Becky’s work has included supporting organizations with mergers and acquisitions, organizational transformation, system reform, culture change and operating model design. She has experience working with a broad range of public and private organizations across government, pharmaceutical, education, professional and financial services, retail, utilities and automotive. Becky’s favorite way to spend her spare time is a long country walk followed by an even longer pub lunch and a glass of red wine by the fire.