In an era of non-stop business transformation, many organizations are meeting the challenge by improving processes, more strategically utilizing their internal HR talent, and creating an employee experience that serves as a competitive advantage in the war for talent.

So much simultaneous change can result in a holistic strategy to update HR systems and approaches across the entire business, even on a global scale. But all this change can also cause serious negative impact to employees, operations, customers, and even business results. What are the keys to holistic HR transformation success? Here are a few insights.

Leader alignment across all levels.

Alignment—between executive and HR leadership teams as well as other functional leaders—is imperative to a successful transformation.

The most successful HR transformations are led by business leaders—not just VPs and above, but all employees who lead within the organization. HR systems, tools, and resources are invaluable to successful leaders, but leadership is the job of the leader, not the HR department. High-performing organizations reinforce this by involving leaders at all levels in the transformation and engaging them as primary change agents in the transition to new ways of working.

Transparent, direct, and authentic communication.

Employees want to know what the leadership team knows. They want to understand the business reasons behind the decisions as they’re made, as well as what the potential changes will be and how these will impact them personally. Not all three messages can be shared at the beginning of the project, but sharing available information as soon as possible builds trust and credibility with employees.

Communicating a clear and consistent message aligned to the business strategy is critical to retaining key talent, maintaining operational effectiveness, and positive customer experience during the transformation.

Comprehensive program management and resourcing.

Typically HR teams leverage their own functional leaders to lead the transformation workstreams, such as third-party outsourcing of daily HR activities including benefits provisioning for employees. Additional workstreams include talent and performance management activities, recruiting systems, and strategic HR support to executives. What is often missing, however, is active management across all HR transformation workstreams.

Though HR leadership may meet regularly to review progress and make decisions, often they do so workstream by workstream. It’s critical to look at all activity across the HR transformation spectrum to understand the potential impact to the full organization, customers, employees, and product /service quality. Often that responsibility falls to an HR transformation program manager, who makes sure any and all risks are surfaced and discussed, and solutions are deployed. Any negative impact anticipated should have an associated action to minimize disruption and reinforce positive behaviors.

It’s tempting not to appoint a transformation lead and just add the transformation to the already-taxed leaders in place. But the risks in this approach are high. Identifying a transformation lead for a full-time assignment until the transformation has reached its goals is a key success factor, as are sufficient resources to support the transformation.

Above all, the most critical key to HR transformation success is leader alignment beyond HR to all divisions. “Leader-led change” can’t just be a slogan. It has to be a reality—one that is measured and rewarded.

Gagen MacDonald was proud to sponsor The Conference Board’s 16th annual conference on Change & Transformation in New York City, where our CEO and founder, Maril Gagen MacDonald, provided the keynote address. Read Maril’s three insights on successful business transformation.