Change Management Part I: Monumental Changes Ahead
The Monumental Changes Ahead for U.S. Businesses
While the “information age” has transformed the way we do business and has led to increased productivity, a reduction in labor costs and significantly impacted the way information is disseminated within an organization, it’s also led to more of an impersonal method of communicating and altered the ability to build relationships with an open and honest exchange of ideas. As a result, the human capital component hasn’t flourished with the advent of technology.
Since the term “change” has been thrust upon U.S. Businesses – whether willingly or begrudgingly, the word “change” up to this point meant changing a strategic direction, launching a new product/service or modifying a tactical plan; however, with the unprecedented changes that are beginning to take place within the economy – particularly with today’s workforce and society at large, the “human capital” component must become not only part of the equation, but “the” fundamental central function.
While the past twenty years has presented most senior executives with unfamiliar challenges, they’re been relatively small and minor when compared to those that await them in the next decade as hundreds of thousands of baby-boomers retire and are replaced with the Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials (the later was recently coined by Sociologist’s as those born since 1980).
In other words, while the information age revolutionized the way companies function and do business, the human capital changes that are just beginning will surpass those of the past two decades in a number of ways. Consequently, business leaders must possess an intimate understanding of the human side of change management — the alignment of the company’s culture, values, people, and behaviors — to encourage the desired results.
The best laid plans, themselves, do not capture value; value is realized only through the sustained, collective actions of the thousands — perhaps the tens of thousands — of employees who are responsible for designing, executing, and living with the changing and evolving environment. While many workplace environments have already seen enormous change, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, within just the two or three years, employers are going to be forced to make employee satisfaction as much – if not more – of a priority as that of client satisfaction if they want to remain competitive.
At no time in history have business leaders found themselves forced into roles of social worker, therapist, coach, mentor and perhaps even parent. Because of the impending shortage of talent, managers must adapt impeccable people skills and become an expert on relationship building in order to attract, hire, retain and satisfy their workers.
Unfortunately for today’s businesses, the changing demographics and competition for qualified talent is only part of the problem. Sociologist’s and other contemporary scholars theorize that Dr. Spock and Mr. Rogers are to blame as well; they fostered parenting philosophies built on every child being special – a winner, no one was a loser. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to point out that all one had to do was show up (whether it was school or little league) and they were showered with praise, attention and adulation.
Accordingly, every child has been taught to believe that he/she is special, unique and talented. Spock and Rogers discouraged, if not repudiated, the parenting methods that most baby-boomers grew up with where a child was disciplined – even spanked – and not all children were special, unique or talented. While boomers were raised to “work hard… get ahead” and that “nothing comes easy,” the Spock and Rogers generation has been so sheltered and coddled that they’ve never been faced with harsh criticism or told that they were not good enough – whether it was school, sports or entering the workplace.
Consequently, those same parenting philosophies are now following kids to college and into the workplace. Prior to just recently, it was unheard of for a parent to call their child’s Professor, or boss, and complain about a grade or a performance review that wasn’t completely positive, affirming and tailored to their child’s unique skills and gifts; however, it’s beginning to happen more and more across this country. It’s also becoming quite common for parents to write cover letters, send in job applications and even schedule interviews for their recent college graduate. Meanwhile, their offspring are living at home, going to the beach, getting an allowance and still being told that they’re “special.”
This “helicopter” parent syndrome where today’s youth have never received harsh criticism or told that they lacked certain skills or competencies combined with an ever increasingly shortage of skilled talent in the workforce is leading to the elimination of the old carrot and stick approach for managing workers and replacing it with the two carrot approach.
And, while companies are going to need to “change” by finding creative methods to attract and retain their talent that will most likely include things like flexible work arrangements, greater perks and considerably more positive reinforcement and “stroking”, it’s also going to be a rude awakening and a stark change for the Millennials as they discover that they aren’t “perfect” or “unique” and that the world does not revolve around them.
Some economist’s predict that the shortage of talent could lead to even further and more drastic changes such as on-site day-care and gyms, more paid time off and a reduced work week as ways to keep and retain employees. On the other hand, should our economy suffer severe economic setbacks or enter into a deep recession with double digit unemployment and inflation like we saw in the 70’s and early 80’s, the Millennials will have one rude awakening; no longer will they be in the drivers seat, thus, finding and keeping a job will be exceptionally difficult and the “bubble” that they’ve existed in up until that time will be popped.
As a result, it’s in the best interest of both employer’s and those entering the workforce to prepare for the inevitable. For employer’s, a good starting point is investing in some reliable methods to solicit information from your employee’s… what to they think about their work environment and culture? The most obvious methods would include things like employee surveys, focus groups and team-building – all of which can be provided by a skilled Consultant.
At the same time, however, today’s younger workers would be wise to attend some job seeking skills seminars that teach them how to apply for jobs, write thank-you notes (an almost forgotten art), how to dress, respond to questions appropriately and how to sell themselves in the interview with confidence AND humility. While it’s not going to be an easy path to chart as both parties seek common ground and try to understand the other parties perspective, the sooner everyone realizes what’s occurring and begins to change and modify their respective paradigms the more successful they will be in the long run.
Since “change” and “change management” is a core competency of this Consultant, please take a moment to view the attached “ice-breaker” that’s used widely with clients in the course of planning for change within their organization. It’s always an eye-opener and a great illustration – especially for senior management.
Mike Russell is a seasoned professional with three decades of experience in the fields of HR and OD. In addition to having a career trajectory of HR Generalist to a VP within ten years, Mike also has a long and successful background as a Consultant/Business Partner to CEO’s, Presidents and Executive Directors in both the private and non-profit communities across a wide spectrum of industries.
As the sole-proprietor and owner of Organizational Development Solutions (ODS), Mike partners with business leaders committed to insulating their organization(s) from potential liability, increasing organizational effectiveness and adding shareholder value.