Change management is role for human resources professionals

Change management skills are a key part of the job for most Human Resources practitioners, according to a study by Personnel Today’s sister publication, Employment Review.


WarningWarning: This research was published in 2007.

Find more recent statistics on change management and HR below.

XpertHR managing change survey 2010: the role of HR


More than four-fifths (83%) of the HR practitioners taking part said their organisation had undertaken initiatives requiring change management skills in the previous two years, with most reporting multiple change initiatives.

In all, the 93 respondents who reported major changes within their organisation had been involved in 659 separate initiatives – an average of seven each in 24 months.

Although few organisations (17%) had someone in their HR department devoted full time to change management, most (53%) had one or more practitioners with recognised expertise in the subject.

The survey found that the HR function was most commonly involved in change management programmes at the planning stage (46%) – once a decision to go ahead had been made, but before it was more widely announced.

At a further four out of 10 organisations (40%) taking part in the survey, HR was involved earlier – in initiating change and before a decision was made on whether or not to proceed.

Just 10% were not involved until the implementation stage, and only 4% played no part in change.

The survey shows that while HR was involved equally in initiating change in both public and private sector services (both 48%), it was most likely to be excluded from involvement in major change in manufacturing companies (15%).

The survey involved a total of 114 organisations employing a total of just under half a million people.

…but few employers bother to try and measure if it has an impact

HR practitioners typically take a leading role in assessing the likely impact of change on employees as well as supporting them through the process, the Employment Review survey shows.

Nine out of 10 (90%) HR practitioners taking part in the study said their role was to support employees during a change programme, with more than eight out of 10 (83%) preparing information to help them cope with the process.

A similar number (77%) were also involved in developing the timeline for change and in making the initial announcement to affected employees (65%).

But rather fewer HR practitioners played a part in assessing whether the change programme had been successful (40%) or whether it produced the required return on investment (15%).

Overall, about two-thirds of practitioners (67%) said HR was responsible for developing training programmes to support change. Such programmes were particularly common in larger organisations and in the public sector than elsewhere.

…and change management models are rarely used by HR

Almost all managers are trained in basic change management models, but the survey suggests these seldom survive outside the classroom environment.

Just four HR practitioners taking part in the Employment Review study said their organisation used one of the standard change models – although three of these did rate it as extremely effective.

Among the relatively small number of organisations where HR was involved in assessing the success of the change programme, the most common measure was employee satisfaction (73%).

Other common measures used to assess the impact of change include an assessment of whether changes in processes had actually taken place (64%), and employee understanding of the changes (58%).

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