We often hear how important it is for the HR function of becoming more agile, innovating and positioning itself at the locus of organizational transformation. However, an organizational transformation is hard to achieve: there are personal concerns to manage, organizational hurdles to overcome, simultaneous movements to orchestrate…

Not only can the HR function position itself at the heart of transformations, it can also act as an accelerator.

What levers can HR use to accelerate an organizational transformation? Here we suggest three that may seem simple, but that are surprising powerful.

1. Meaning: why change?

Do we ever really take the time to ask why we should change and in what way? Why is the current transformation necessary, and what is the desired outcome?

Does your organization want to transform to promote a culture of collaboration? Don’t be afraid to ask questions to understand what is behind this seemingly arbitrary wish for collaboration. Is it to break down silos, promote innovation, or jump on a fashion bandwagon? Tease out the meaning that underlies the transformation and communicate it: you may be surprised at the results.

To tease out the meaning:

2. Dialogue: how do you have frank discussions?

When was the last time you had a frank discussion at work? A real conversation based on trust?

In the professional world, too often we stay in zones that are risk-free for ourselves or others, or in conversations with agreed-upon, superficial themes. People are afraid to challenge accepted ideas or just don’t have to time to engage in real discussions with colleagues.

HR leaders can play a key role by helping create the psychologically safe space required for people to feel free to engage in authentic, in-depth debates and by fostering real conversations about the issues and new behaviours that the organization would like to see as part of its transformation.

To generate frank discussions:

3. Openness: what are we prepared to let go?

Organizations, like personal agendas, can be like garages filled to the rafters with stuff that has piled up for years: people are busy, there are many projects on the go, time is money… There is no more room to add anything else. How can we generate movement with so much in the way?

In a transformation, you need to create space, otherwise you can’t manage. To create openness, you need to ask what you are prepared to let go.

To create openness:

The art of asking the right questions

The role of the HR leader in an organization undergoing transformation is not to provide the answers, but rather to ask the right questions of organizational leaders and employees. Using these three complementary levers (meaning, dialogue and openness), you can transform your HR function. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as an HR leader:

Will you be a catalyst for transformation in your organization?