How to Move a Team Past ‘This Is the Way We've Always Done Things’


Change Management, Continuous Improvement, Core HR

How to Move a Team Past ‘This Is the Way We’ve Always Done Things’

HR transformation: How exciting! Shiny new tech to use. Streamlined processes. Way more time to work on the important parts of your job.

But wait. What’s that noise I hear, way in the back? It’s the sound of HR employees who have done their work the same way for years and years. Transformation? They’re not buying it.

The exciting promise of advancing HR tech is that our HR teams will spend less time on the tactical. They’ll be able to focus on strategy and relationships. But the people you hired to process payroll (and who have happily been doing that job, and only that job, for a decade) will probably be a little perplexed. The robots are taking the job that they’re comfortable doing. They’re going to need a little help to understand your new vision for HR — and their role in it.

Before you roll out a new HR solution, map out a vision for employees and help them understand their new role. These three approaches can help move the process along in a productive way.

Address Fears and Questions Directly

When HR people are told about a transformation in their organization, they often feel like they’re being phased out or no longer of value. It’s important to help people understand their strengths and show them how they will fit into the new process.

There’s a natural human fear of the unknown, and the best way to mitigate that fear is to communicate, communicate and communicate some more. When you talk about change, get into the details. Be specific about what the changes are, why they’re coming and how they will affect everyone.

If you don’t address employees’ fears and anxieties, people will be more likely to reject or resist the changes you’re trying to implement, or even attempt to spread negativity across the team. If this happens, it’s important for a leader to address the situation through one-on-one conversations with the problem employee.

Explain Why the Change Is Needed

To prepare teams for the organization’s post-transformation world, leaders should start by sharing the current reality and the need for change. This is a good time to explain that the speed of HR transformation is only accelerating and that change will not stop here.

At IA, we like to start transformation projects by process-mapping the current state. This is truly the beginning step in allowing the HR team to see that the way things are done today isn’t sustainable and that there’s room for improvement.

When starting this exercise, it’s not uncommon to stand at the whiteboard and receive blank stares and resistant team members. There’s often a fear of doing it wrong or being in trouble, when in reality they are merely doing “what has always been done” without asking why.

Upon realization that many of these “unnecessary” steps are due to ineffective technology, the team will typically start to soften. Through many (MANY) steps and sometimes a few tears, the team always begins to understand why it is necessary to adapt to their changing environment.

Allow Voices to Be Heard

It’s important for HR leaders to get their team members involved in the process and to allow their voices to be heard. That means making space for people to share feedback and have influence over the changes. Think about getting your picky kids to eat vegetables. When they’re involved in the process of making dinner and presenting the meal to the rest of the family, they’re more likely to have a positive attitude and try new things.

Beyond allowing employees to speak up, leaders should make an effort to cultivate organizational champions. Everyone needs a cheerleader, and positivity is contagious. When those champions are plugged into the process, they can be the storytellers and the ones to spread excitement that can ease the transition.

Some of that positive energy, however, is on the leader, who needs to be a source of excitement, appreciation and, when possible, fun. Even something as simple as providing lunch while everyone is forced to be away from their desks for a period of time will show appreciation.

Finally, lead by example. If you’re not 100 percent committed to this change, the team won’t be either. An HR transformation will be much smoother and more effective if everyone is pushing in the same direction.

Written by:

  • Janine Comito

    Janine Comito is a principal at IA. With a strong business analysis background, Janine has a unique understanding of highly complex HR challenges and the best solutions to achieve optimal results. She is also an excellent party planner who is famous for baking up a batch of her pumpkin whoopie pies.


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