Change Management and its precarious relationship with human resources

Although there are many definitions floating around for change management, I have found myself frequently referring to change management as a bridge between projects and human resources (HR). The fact that we often need to define it as people change management gives away the link to human resources.

So why do I find so many HR professionals and the organizations they are part of, rejecting change management from the HR Division and placing it time and again with project management offices?

My ideal solution of course would see change management departments, business units and divisions as independent entities with some form of matrix relationship to project management business areas and human resources areas in equal measures. However there are far more situations where a change manager or change management team pushed in beside project management offices or units – “because it’s all about change”. My response is usually a suck of teeth followed by the reflection that “it is all about the management of people through change” or some similar phrase that ensures the word “people” are in there.

Now to the outsider everything to do with the people in the business place is that domain of HR – right? Actually I do kind of agree. But of course that’s with the modern view of HR – as strategic partners assessing the people needs of the business, whether it is recruitment needs, organizational structure or the realms of learning and workforce development. It is not the payroll department; it is neither the hiring and firing department nor the place where everyone’s annual appraisal is stored in dusty files – that is something of days gone by. I have an article on the history of human resources that discusses how times have changed. You can read it here. And this brings me round to why I see a strong relationship between Change Management and HR – when it is that modern entity within the business.

HR departments that develop policy and strategic direction for the workforce should understand the role of change management. Identifying organizational culture, defining workforce development plans, in fact anything within the Organizational Change, development and effectiveness arenas are common ground for HR and change management and I strongly believe in that strategic relationship for the benefit of both areas. I do find frustrations with some organizations that still have this view that HR is personnel by another name – they need to let go of the old and embrace the new role of human resources business partners and executives but I guess that just confirms their level of resistance to change and hence they are the same places that push change management in with the projects and wonder why all the work done seems to be connect the HR department to the project. Well not all the work, there’s far more than that to consider.

I even tag line my own business as change management and Strategic HR – emphasis on the strategic – because some people find it easier to relate to the OC, OD & OE activity as strategic HR rather than change management. I don’t have an issue with that and it probably explains part of the reason for developing greater presence for the profession and understanding across many industries. Yes I can do all those people management things, and offer advice, support and guidance from an HR perspective, but it makes you realize how difficult it often is to link change management.

As I’ve been writing this, my mind has had multiple other thoughts about the connectivity of HR and change management connecting. I feel this may develop into a series of posts – I’m sure there is one just on the role of “training” and oh how I hate that term! But that is another discussion for another day. I would just like to put a challenge out there to all those businesses who say they are embracing change management within their organizations – where does it sit? I hope in that area between HR and Project Management Offices – with equal interaction with both!

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