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How Can HR Managers Become Change Agents?

The role of a human resources (HR) executive is more complex today than ever before. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and initiatives, along with increasing workplace demands, advancing technologies and numerous other factors, impact most every aspect of modern HR management.

An HR department may have once focused primarily on recruiting and retaining employees. But HR’s duties have since evolved to include training, increasing productivity, managing health and safety, integrating hybrid work models, improving the employee experience and fostering a positive workplace environment and culture.

In recent years, HR executives have functioned as change agents for corporations, helping them adapt to the social and economic challenges of a dynamic marketplace as well as large-scale disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital to fully understand these emerging facets of human resources if you are considering a career in the field.

What Is a Change Agent?

Senior management has high expectations of HR administrators whose work stems from the following directives:

  • Find and retain the best talent
  • Manage benefits and workplace safety
  • Oversee training
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Implement employment policy
  • Lead the transformation of corporate culture and processes

As a change agent, you’ll help the workforce prepare for, and better adapt to, any potential changes your organization may experience. You may even initiate changes for a more cohesive company culture and greater productivity.

HR specialists make excellent change agents because they oversee and deal directly with a company’s most important resource — its people. As they often have a better sense of societal shifts and cultural politics, they can better predict the need for change — be it in company culture, employee motivation or workplace productivity — and propose ways to implement it.

How You Can Be an Organization’s Agent for Change

— Understand your company’s short- and long-term goals
Having this understanding will help you hire the right people, foster employee development and create a positive work environment. Knowing what drives the company can help you play a key part in realizing its vision and its strategies for success.

— Make hiring decisions with an eye to the future
Be sure to look beyond a job outline’s strict parameters when you select employees. The goal is to develop a cohesive workforce that can help a company meet not only its present needs but also reach its potential.

Know your company’s growth plans to better understand the training and staff development you’ll need to provide.

— Take a proactive role in directing change
Because the HR department is in touch with all levels of staff, it may have a more nuanced sense of productivity issues, including possible workplace discontent. Leverage your communication and interpersonal skills to succinctly communicate staff ideas and issues to management as well as management’s goals to the workforce. Change is much easier to accept and navigate when employees trust and respect you.

What Education Can Best Prepare You to Be a Change Agent?

The emerging responsibilities of HR executives are not lost on institutes of higher learning. Southeastern Oklahoma State University (SOSU), for example, offers an online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Human Resources. The degree provides a foundation of core courses that all MBA students take, covering essential aspects of business and management such as accounting, economics, research methods and data analysis. The human resources specialization includes four additional courses outlined below.

The Human Resources Management course acquaints students with Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) regulations, employee development, performance reviews and personnel problems. The Employment Law course familiarizes students with myriad legal aspects involved in HR management policy and practice. A course on Training and Development delves further into adult education, instructional design and performance improvement. Finally, the Compensation course explores the various reward systems and models used to improve recruiting, employee engagement, performance and retention while also covering legally required benefits.

Through these courses, you can gain the HR skills you’ll need to be an effective change agent for any organization. Keep in mind that SOSU’s MBA is flexible. The program’s online format means you can continue to work or volunteer and gain real-world experience that will complement your degree.

It takes talent and commitment to succeed in human resources. It also takes preparation. Advancing your education can help you develop the expertise you’ll need to help companies succeed.

Learn more about the Southeastern Oklahoma State University online MBA in HR degree program.

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