Report: HR is instrumental to creating culture of resilience

Dive Brief:

  • Traditional change management practices, which tend to be linear, top-down and process-oriented, no longer fit today’s rapidly evolving workplaces, according to O.C. Tanner’s 2024 Global Culture Report. Employees at organizations that shift to a people-oriented approach — meaning they empower leaders at all levels, provide transparency and involve employees in the plans — are more than 12x more likely to say their experience with change was well-managed and positive, the Oct. 5 report found.
  • HR leaders can be instrumental to one integral shift — helping their cultures become more adaptable and innovative, what O.C. Tanner calls creating a “culture of nimble resilience.” This requires organizations to center on people, celebrate diverse perspectives and foster cross-disciplinary collaboration, the report said. Leaders at all levels should also practice “practical empathy,” which involves understanding the problem and following up with supportive action, such as offering greater flexibility, giving employees a stronger voice or autonomy or connecting them with additional resources, according to the report.
  • Proactive changes don’t have to be dramatic to be effective, so long as organizations keep employees at the forefront of decision-making, the report emphasized. It found that employees who perceive their leaders to have the tools to help them make changes are: 5x more likely to feel a sense of community; 6x more likely to thrive at work; 10x more likely to feel a strong sense of trust; and 76% less likely to experience burnout. 

Dive Insight:

Stasis and conformity can sink innovation and sustained growth, a talent consultant warned in a recent interview with HR Dive. Companies that focus on repeating the same processes and what always worked in the past lose the ability to plan for tomorrow, the consultant explained.

That’s a clear red flag now, given the rapid and disruptive changes to workplace culture over the past three years, the O.C. Tanner report noted. Ironically, in light of this, traditional change management practices need to change themselves because they’re not focused on people and employee wellbeing, a necessary component of effective change management, the report pointed out.

HR plays a key role in getting people’s voices heard — ultimately enabling them to be “nimble” during change because they’re able to be part of the planning, O.C. Tanner emphasized. If employees don’t feel comfortable surfacing their ideas or they feel a leader or manager is going to shoot them down, then that’s a problem, the consultant said.

A director of culture — the “human guide” to company pillars and values driving an organization — can be critical to the process. That’s how an experienced global staffing director who became her company’s first director of culture described the role to HR Dive last year. The role’s informal nature allows her to emphasize employee listening, an extremely important element of workplace culture following the pandemic, she said.

Active listening, practical empathy and making sure employees have a voice in the process — all crucial leadership tools for effective change management, according to O.C. Tanner — may be particularly acute heading into 2024, as employers deal with return-to-office mandates.

“People now expect greater flexibility in when, where and how they work,” the report pointed out. “However, incorporating flexibility equitably and without compromising an organization’s needs is a significant challenge. The key is tailoring flexibility to employees in their many, varied roles,” O.C. Tanner said.

Research seems to support this: Companies that create flexible and supportive environments appear to have the most successful remote work arrangements, according to a report released this summer by the Georgia Institute of Technology. There are other benefits as well, the report found. Companies with a positive culture for remote work are more likely to empower employees to pursue their own goals, give employees freedom to make their own decisions and enable them to work in a collaborative environment, it said.