HR as a Catalyst: Revisiting your Role

Author: Nipsy Jhamb | Categories: HR Management

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything – George Bernard Shaw

While the world around us is constantly changing (read evolving), it is important that we replicate the changes even within our organizations. We sure can’t keep our personal lives isolated from the professional ones. As an HR professional for more than a decade now, I have always felt the need to balance the changes – both, within and outside of the organizations that I have been associated with.

Why is the HR function in organizations viewed as a catalyst for change?

It is important for businesses to keep pace with the changing structure of the society as a whole. Organizations need to match the evolution by implementing company-wide changes that may affect the product, process, and people associated with it.

Why HR is viewed as the vehicle carrying this change is simply because as a facilitator, the HR function holds the reins. From building strategies to implementing them and from making adjustments in the hiring process to bending the rules to retain the best, deserving employees, the human resource function has its hands full round the clock.

For a catalyst to instigate changes in the workplace, it is required to have the attributes needed to influence and encourage employees to follow it. A catalyst’s role spans the three phases:

  • Before a change

  • The actual change itself

  • Once the change has taken place

In the first phase, the HR function has to prepare the grounds for bringing in the organizational change. Planning, projection, and training to manage the change is done at this level. Towards the end of this phase, an awareness drive is run to make employees aware of the imminent changes in the structure.

In the second phase, the actual changes are implemented – discussions, debates, and further interactions – are all a part of this phase. Successful implementation of the change depends mostly on how the key people in the HR function view it. If the preparations are thorough, the rate of success is higher.

The post-change phase involves the catalyst hand-holding or steering the entire organization towards executing the change. It’s important to keep the momentum consistent to ensure the implemented change is applied/ practiced/ adhered to at all time.

Changes that HR brings in as a catalyst

Sure, HR leaders play an instrumental role in driving changes. But, what is this change all about? What sort of change is expected at an organizational level? HR, for the most part, is the catalyst for all structural and cultural changes within an organization. These changes can be observed across three levels: sustainable innovation, proactive change, and digital change.

HR as a catalyst for sustainable innovation

Different people may view innovation differently; hence it is imperative for an organization to enable the HR to provide strategic value and an organizational transition that is needed to build a company-wide innovation capability. HR leaders are capable of turning a company’s planned intent about innovation into tangible action on a day-to-day basis. Because HR is the bridge between employees and the organization, they can make the necessary changes when it comes to fostering the cultural and constitutional state, such as maximum diversity in the structure of innovation teams and a connection and conversation amongst the employees of an organization. It goes without saying that the level and nature of HR’s contribution to innovation vary from company to company.

HR as a catalyst for proactive change

Proactive change is initiated by an organization because it is desirable to do so. For instance, when a company introduces a new employee benefits scheme, it is called proactive because the management believes that this will enhance employee satisfaction and motivation. Involving employees in changes that could affect them is one way to start with, since, senior management alone cannot bring about any significant change. Also, it will involve the HR working hand-in-hand with the company’s communication and executive teams. HR brings unity and stability to such initiatives by encouraging a systematic revolution. The function also helps to step up the challenges and go beyond its role of being an advocate to the employees – it further becomes an active sponsor who can inspire innovation throughout the organization.

HR as a catalyst for digital change

Today, it is impossible for a company to advance without implementing digital transformation throughout their business. And this change is driven by the people and for the people. Technology in the workplace not only allows businesses to expand quickly but also efficiently. The role of the HR in digital transformation is far more critical than we may think. HR must identify new ways to engage employees, hire the right talent to drive transformation efforts, and ensure a technology-driven shift.

Many studies have shown that delivering learning through a digital platform, such as video-based, is more effective regarding reach and ease of delivering content. Take, for example, an organization with an e-learning platform in place for employees, which they can use to connect with other professionals globally, for collaboration and learning. This is how digital transformation is altering the way employees connect and engage themselves in new ways to ensure development and growth.


In any organization, an HR team, with its existing toolsets of training and connections, can be a vital catalyst for aligning and executing different processes with an absolute purpose. They are in an extremely advantageous position from where they can drive their companies towards success. Sadly, the truth remains that the potential of HR goes unnoticed in several companies, and what they do not realize is that by doing so, they are treading on thin ice.

HR takes the centre stage when it comes to employee satisfaction; nonetheless, many organizations still think of it in terms of a function that manages regulatory compliance, employee comfort, hiring and firing, and compensation and benefits. However, as the primary lead in finding and nurturing in-house talent (across the different functions), only the HR function is capable of introducing and driving changes in an organization. With the society as a whole constantly undergoing changes, HR leaders too need to interpret the changing timelines in their organizations. Don’t miss to share with us an instance where you were instrumental in driving a remarkable change in your organization.