20 Mar. 2017 | Comments (0)

Change and transformation are inevitable realities for businesses and leaders. To make them successful, leaders need good change partners that will help them navigate and manage shifting demands. We’ve found that HR leaders can be some of the best change management partners, but business leaders must empower their HR partners to utilize their unique perspectives, skills, and abilities for organizational change.  

In our book, Mastering the Cube, we highlight the importance of every executive having a change partner—someone who can strategize with them, provide tools and frameworks, leverage past transformation experience, and act as a sounding board to work through complex change situations. Unfortunately, many HR leaders are underutilized and tasked with more traditional HR administrative and support activities rather than seen as ideal change partners.

HR Leaders Provide a Unique and Important Viewpoint

Human Resource executives have a knack for looking beyond traditional bottom-line metrics and providing insights that don’t necessarily show up in the numbers. They pinpoint factors that will have intangible strategic value and help leaders fit these factors into the organization’s broader operating and strategic context. HR leaders provide a unique—and increasingly critical—lens through which leaders can assess and align their organization for optimal performance and strategic differentiation.

HR Leaders ask Tough Questions

By virtue of an HR leader’s role, she can ask questions that nobody else in the organization may know to ask. By owning these types of questions, HR leaders can help leaders better assess their organization’s people and capabilities when looking to transform the business. By asking these questions, good HR leaders can help their organizations:

  • Attract and keep employees
  • Develop a passionate, engaged culture
  • Foster internal and external relationships critical to success
  • Compete more effectively in the marketplace

Asking the tough questions is only half of the job. Good HR leaders also help leaders find the best answers. HR leaders can help leadership think holistically about the implications of their decisions and how they will impact the entire organization. Equipped with this information, leaders can make decisions that are aligned to the organization’s strategy.  

HR Leaders Can Recast their Roles

When business leaders enable HR leaders to embrace their change management role, they will discover an ally who can add value to the organization and the transformation. Some HR leaders may be unused to a more active role in organizational changes. But, with proper encouragement, both business leaders and HR leaders themselves will find that they can be effective change management partners that create value for the organization and are well suited as trusted strategic advisors. HR leaders turned change partners can play a vital role in building consensus and turning leadership vision into action.

HR Leaders Overcome Obstacles

Good HR leaders have become excellent advocates for change in their respective organizations. They understand that they cannot make organizational changes alone and that they must build support for change efforts. They masterfully provide compelling empirical evidence to support positive change. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, they respect the human element of organizations, help leaders overcome resistance to change, and address obstacles that stand in the way of success. Where needed, they can mobilize organization resources to effectively manage the logistical aspects of making large-scale change happen.


Change and transformation are inevitable and essential for success. Human Resource leaders can become a leader’s greatest ally as their change partner if properly enabled. In many cases, these powerful HR change allies already exist, but old ways of thinking about HR keep some from achieving their potential. Before HR leaders can play their part in transformative change, they must convince their leaders, and themselves, that they have the skills and unique perspectives to help organizations adapt to a fast-changing marketplace and achieve real transformations success. 


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  • About the Author: Reed Deshler

    Reed Deshler

    As a frequent speaker of The Conference Board’s conferences and webcasts, Reed Deshler specializes in developing strategic organization designs and helping companies bring them to fruition. As a…

    Full Bio | More from Reed Deshler


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