Change can be scary, intimidating and frustrating to employees. But it can also be exciting, rewarding and full of opportunity. Recently, the Talent Development and Org Dev & Change SIG’s came together to share several case studies where companies found opportunities to develop employees during change initiatives. Below are some of the key learnings from the event.
1) Know People's Career Goals - Whether it is because there is a change in leadership, an M&A event or a reorganization of a department, there will be opportunities for your strong performers. It is extremely helpful to know ahead of time the career goals of those individuals so you can proactively work with them to help them find opportunities during the change. Finding the right role or learning opportunity for an employee internally will boost engagement, performance and overall morale for the broader population. It shows the company wants to invest in their people and not lose them to an external opportunity. The best way to do this is through talent planning. A program like talent planning will help avoid only listening to the loudest voice or being too reactive to a request before you know the full picture.
2) Be Willing to Think Outside the Box - The perfect answer is not going to be there during significant change. One must be willing to take a risk both organizationally and with individuals. If you have several hiring gaps, you may have to create an interim structure. As long as everyone knows this is just a temporary solution, people will be less likely to think something is "being taken away from them" if the new responsibilities are reassigned once the environment settles. Often you may find that something you didn't think would work long term, does, and you have added new value to the business. Additionally, you may want to consider a stretch opportunity for an individual. Especially during change, a team will look to people they trust and respect for leadership. You may have someone who has never managed, but is interested in leading a team. This is the time to give them that opportunity to spread their wings and take on more sooner than you would have normally planned. It will either work out, and they are able to stay in the larger role, or if it doesn’t, it was only a temporary solution so it will feel like less of a failure.
3) Watch for Burn Out...and Recognize Employees Who Thrived - Hopefully you have a team of people that are willing to do whatever it takes to make it through the change. However, often people will lose sight of their own limitations and burn out. Make sure their manager, or a trusted mentor, is keeping an eye on their stress levels. The team may need to reprioritize projects or bring in temp support so you don't burn people out, and create more change through turnover. And then don’t forget to recognize the people who stepped up once you have made it through the change! It may be a promotion, a bonus or just a public form of recognition. When you know what motivates your employees, you will know the most impactful way to reward them.
4) Align Training and Opportunities with Strategic and Cultural Change - During change, a company's culture and/or values is even more important to people. They see it as the foundation of the organization they love, so change will be less intimidating or less foreign if you can root it in some current values or cultural elements.
If culture change itself is the goal (think less bureaucracy or silo thinking to become more customer focused and results driven), then training and development opportunities should reflect the new culture. In other words, it’s ok if that feels somewhat uncomfortable for employees and management to reinforce other behavior, especially if it is aligned with business needs.
Whether in a sales transformation, acquisition, departmental disruption, it’s important to relate the changing culture to the business strategy. Most of us work in a for profit business and need to think about the needs of the business, strategy, markets, and shareholders first. The rest will follow in providing development opportunities that match the culture.
Lastly, focus on the positive and acknowledge that there are things that went well in the past that will remain important. If it is an M&A situation, find common language that ties the two companies together. When changing a process, tie it to a successful change in the past. In training on a new product or process, align the delivery of the training with your culture (live, webinar, follow up group work, etc).
If you would like to hear more about the cases or any of the specific take aways, please feel free to reach out to Karen Weeks, Jen White, Anita van Burken or Ray Vollmer.