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Change Management: How HR and Leadership Can Work Together

June 23, 2024

change managment

Change management comes down to proper planning, collaboration and execution. When the human resources department and the c-suite executives work together, everyone wins.

The best-laid plans often become so warped when trying to lead a change initiative that it makes you wonder if planning for change management is worth it at all. Yet planning for changes that may or may not come is a foundational pillar for successful corporate transitions of any kind. The other foundational pillar, if I may continue this metaphor, is employee buy-in. Smart, motivated, skilled and valuable employees won’t buy into anything if they don’t see their leaders doing the same. Who has time to participate in the change-management plan when not everyone is equally committed? No one. That’s why the HR department and the executive leaders at the top of the company must be on the same page, working off of each other to bring all employees into the fold.

How HR and Executives Can Lead Change Management

I often turn to sports metaphors because they weirdly mirror life in unexpected contexts. Say you’re building a team to lead your change-management initiative. Obviously, top leadership, human resources, mid-level managers and all employees need to be on board if the changes affect the entire organization. But working together and everyone getting involved are two different things.

Stay with me here. You’re building a team comprised of company leaders and the HR team. When any team builder tries to put together a winning side in any sport, they take into account the talent and abilities they already have on the team and decide the best way to utilize them. We just saw how all 32 NFL teams build and think about their teams during the NFL Draft. Creating a winning football team is blending a wide range of talents and personalities into one synergistic organization capable of beating other synergistic (or not so much) organizations.

Which talents do your HR people bring to the table, and how can you match that with the skills, abilities and powers of the executive leadership team?

Potential Pitfalls of Blending the C-Suite with HR

change management

Especially in large companies, mixing two wildly different departments to accomplish one goal can be risky and can backfire. What common conflicts do HR and leadership encounter, and how can we avoid incomplete change-management initiatives?

It’s all about communication, obviously. But more than that, HR and the executive team need to see themselves as the same side, operating from one metaphorical desk to lead the change-management initiatives the company needs. Many organizations like to put one face on the change efforts—a change-management czar who still delegates responsibilities to other managers and staff but serves as the primary point of contact for employees raising concerns or asking questions and the one who announces what changes will be happening and when.

But having one leader or one primary spokesperson isn’t always the right approach for everyone. Some organizations may value the input and additional resources a more democratic change-management team might bring to the table. Just make sure that any communication designed for employees at all levels is consistent with the goals of the change initiative (which the employees have already reviewed) and fits with all communications that came before it. So when it’s announced all employees now have the choice to spend half of their work week at home instead of commuting to the office, the message is not repeated or confused by additional (or conflicting) communications coming from multiple departments.

Technology and Change Management

Constantly shifting how change initiatives are communicated and executed is the persistent force of technology and innovation. As more workers move out of the office to work from their homes, and as more organizations devote resources to developing new devices and programs, new ways of managing change emerge. Remember that your top priority should always be making it easier for your employees to adhere to your company vision and remain engaged in their work. Any change initiative should be geared toward helping the employees help the company.

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