HR: The Change Catalyst

HR: The Change Catalyst

 Culture does not change because we desire to change it, Culture changes when the organisation is transformed – the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day. - Frances Hesselbein


Businesses can only maintain their position in the marketplace, or gain competitive advantage provided they constantly change. The growing global competition, and, the rate of technological advancement foresees a continuing need for change. Change helps improve and increase productivity, which ultimately bolsters sales and the overall business of an enterprise. Hence, an organisation requires change agents to work as enablers in its effort towards successful change. It is here that the HR professional plays a critical role in ushering in change within the culture of an organisation, thus making it more adaptable and agile.


HR plays a key role in change management, and, acts as a facilitator by influencing multiple factors. From an employee’s perspective, HR facilitates by improving employees' understanding of change, by increasing communication between the management and employees, and, enhances employee satisfaction. It also identifies and mitigates risks and boosts trust between management and employees. It helps employees improve their skills and proficiency through change-related training initiatives. It caters to match the potential employee to the desired culture in the organisation, and, aligns employees with the culture to foster the most effective culture of ownership and accountability, therefore, moving away from being a support function to that of being a business partner that enables business results.


A necessity to involve HR


HR should be involved in major organisational changes from the beginning as change management involves the transformation and modification of whole organisations, or sometimes in parts, as it is highly people intensive. It is an effort on the part of the leadership to maintain or improve upon the effectiveness in productivity, revenue, market competitiveness and internal alignment. So, change management is an approach to transition individuals, teams and organisations to a desired future state. It is therefore pivotal to involve the Human Resources team right from the beginning. This ensures that course correction and intended change is made possible in the least resistive manner and with maximum results.


In Quotes “Change management is an approach to transition individuals, teams and organisations to a desired future state. It is therefore pivotal to involve the Human Resources team right from the beginning.


Cultural Transformation is a hard road in an established organisation as compared to a new organisation. Every organisation has an established culture where people must unlearn the old values, assumptions and behaviour before they can learn the new one. In an organisation, we have employees who have been in the system for a specific period, hence, there is already a culture which is established, and, in order to change that agents of change normally have to follow the proven model of change. The change agents can institute change by following Kurt Lewin’s three step change model.

1. Unfreezing

2. Moving

3. Freezing




To avoid resistance to change, the first stage involves preparing the organisation to accede that change is essential, which involves breaking down the prevailing status quo, before you can put together a new way of operating. The preferred environment should be created for change to occur so that new ideas and visions can be formed in minds of the people. The unfreezing process passes through three phases. Firstly, there must be indicators that current conditions are not ideal. Secondly, this vital information must be communicated to the organisational members, and finally, a solution has to be found to reduce anxiety among the members.


Transition/ Moving


This is the stage where people have resolved their uncertainty, and, are looking forward to newer ways of doing things, and extending support to the new direction. Also, communication is vital to the success of change, and, people need to be given time to understand the change and feel highly connected to the organisation throughout the transition period.




At the point when the progressions are coming to fruition and individuals have grasped better approaches for working, the association is prepared to refreeze. Management experts use a structured approach using a 9-step model: A Define-Align- Manage framework for building a strong cultural foundation.



1. Step 1– Evaluate your current culture and performance

2. Step 2 – Clarify your initial vision

3. Step 3 – Clarify values and expected behaviours



1. Step 4 – Clarify strategic priorities

2. Step 5 – Engage your team in defining smart goals

3. Step 6 – Clarify and track key measures



 1. Step 7 – Maintain a management system for priorities and goals

 2. Step 8 – Manage communication habits and routines

 3. Step 9 – Build motivation throughout the process


This is definitely not a quick fix. It is a long intervention starting with understanding the prevailing culture and the desired culture to achieve the results. It involves getting the leadership buy-in as this is leadership-led. The process also requires understanding what is working well, and, deciding to continue with what needs to immediately stop and start. These are specific actions required to achieve the desired results. HR is responsible to be able to use tools, techniques and tricks for nurturing minds, behaviours and beliefs to suit the organisation’s value system. In general, the most fruitful success strategy is, to begin with, leadership tools; including a vision or story of the future, cement the change in place with management tools such as role definitions, job descriptions, and organisational structure, measurement and control systems. Tools and techniques involve focused feedback, Managers as coach, open and candid dialogues with employees, employee engagement at all stages of the culture change. Organisations use project plan tools as well.


Driving cultural change requires active and intentional leadership. Whether you are changing the culture of a team, a division, or an entire enterprise, few steps to be kept in mind:


1. Quantitatively measure your current cultural values: The first step to culture change is knowing where your current culture stands; that is, what employees believe your organisation’s current values are.


2. Intentionally align culture, strategy, and structure: Be sure that the culture change fits with the firm’s or group’s business strategy, and, that both fit with the organisation’s structure (its formal systems and policies). Reconsider formal reporting relationships, job descriptions, selection and recruiting practices, performance appraisal, reward or compensation structures, and training and development. Supporting change and innovation, both structurally and culturally, have been found to be critical to the success of culture change initiatives. Make changes where appropriate to support the new culture.


3. Ensure staff and stakeholder participation: Change cannot succeed without the meaningful involvement of many people throughout the organisation. Participation can range from individually offering ideas, solutions, and, reactions to concepts, to taking part in team meetings to design and build the new culture and organisational structure.


4. Communicate and demonstrate the change continuously: To frequently communicate and demonstrate the change- repeatedly, and, in both upward and downward direction — is necessary during the change process.


5. Manage the emotional response — yours and your employees: Leadership effectiveness in times of change has been found to be critically related to the use of emotional intelligence. Employee emotions have a strong influence on how they approach to change, and, leaders need to be as analytical and strategize as much about their emotional messages as their cognitive ones.


6. Examples of well-defined cultures and aligned workforces: We have seen how essential it is for organisations to go through change, E.g. Toyota, GE, Coca-Cola, etc.


Witnessing success among these organisations in defining their culture and workforce, we at Diebold Nixdorf also felt that there is a real need to focus on several foundational imperatives that would improve how we do our work, and, how we serve our customers. The global market is changing and is all about VUCA. So, we had to respond appropriately to change along with it. Change begins with people and so focus on our people, and, constantly working on our organisational structure, process and design, is proving to be the reasons that have made us the global leaders in our domain. The thing that stands out with our approach is that it changes the relationships focused on the new culture, engagement and values. It is a transition to a place where we can successfully measure and achieve our results and be competitive in the market. Our ability to drive significant change rests on the positive attributes of our people. It is energized by our employee’s passion for their work and also their willingness to change to build our company and our brand. We work together as one company with purpose, agility, transparency and mutual respect.

Indrani Saha is Director-HR, Diebold Nixdorf India Pvt. Ltd. She carries an experience of twenty five years and has previously various industry domains such as Automobiles, Transmission, IT, Airlines etc. Indrani has a Master's Degree in Industrial Psychology from the University of Mumbai and has a certification in Executive Management Development Programme, CEIBS (Shanghai,China).


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