How Do We Get Organizations and Employees Back on Track Again?

© iQoncept -
© iQoncept -

Mega change!!!

Those were the words that came back from a friend who is the Chief Human Resources Officer of a major global company in New York City. That was her prognosis of what she and the company were facing. The business model that her company had been successfully built on was now in total shambles because the marketplace had changed.

That same day my former employer, Martha Stewart Living, where I served as the VP of Human Resources/OD announced they were seeking “advice and council” by hiring an investment banking firm to gauge the market for a possible sale.

The publishing industry has taken a severe hit with the onslaught of digital media. Advertising revenues took a plunge and the repercussions were severe.

As the day was coming to end, which is always my time for reflection, I got a text from a friend who is a designer for a top flight design firm. As we exchanged texts, I felt that there was an underlying issue. When I peeled back the cover with some searing questions, she told me that she was thinking of changing careers.

Design, which she had loved since a child was no longer fun.

For better or for worse, organizations are being reengineered, restructured and reorganized. More importantly employees are feeling the whiplash.

Life is changing at warp speed

As I headed in for the day, CHANGE was seared into my brain. Looking out the window and mindlessly watching the traffic pass by, I surmised that everything in life now is basically changing at warp speed:

  • Change in our lives;
  • Change in our careers;
  • Organizational change;
  • Social media change;
  • Business model change;

Change and innovation are two words that are on all of our minds today. Because of the economic crisis, change has become the new normal. In order to solve this conundrum, innovation is a must. Whether it is in our personal lives or in the corporate entity that we work in every day, innovation and change are wedded together.

People want change, or do they?

In the Chinese language, the character for the word crisis is a combination of the characters for danger and opportunity. So if that is the case, we can relate to change or crisis in possibly two different ways.

So many lives have been sidetracked or derailed the last few years, and this was not according to plan. This has caused change in our lives and in our outlook. This has caused both rebranding and reinventions of careers. This has caused people to rethink everything that, years before, they would not have given second thought to.

Some of us will welcome the opportunity and some of us will fear the danger.

The common wisdom is that people don’t want change, but I tend to question that.

Research shows that most employees are open to change — an astounding 78 percent in fact. That’s according to research of more than 5,000 mid-to-upper level managers.

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Employees are constantly seeking promotions. They are changing jobs and they are changing companies. Some are changing careers en masse. Self-help books are always on the best seller list. People are starting their own businesses. This is change in large caps.

Why? The norm has becomes an unsatisfying routine. People want change.

Organizations and change

The economic crisis has caused numerous corporate initiatives to go awry

  • Strategic plans have not met expectations.
  • Restructuring has caused productivity to plummet.
  • Employee engagement levels hit rock-bottom.
  • Employees are looking to flee when the opportunity presents itself.

Getting the organization and the employee back together

So if we both want change, how do we get them both together? How do we repair the broken relationships? How do we get the sides talking again?

While I may welcome and embrace change, you are still faced with the employees who will gravitate to the danger aspect.

This is such a ripe opportunity for this new marriage between the organizational needs and the employee needs. It will take a lot of soul searching in making or dressing them both up to date again.

The one constant in getting it on is communication between the two at every stage. Schedule time for employee meetings — not just when there is an issue, but sometimes just to talk to get a sense of where they are.

Use every occasion to tell the corporate story. Seek input from your employees, because they are the ones that will carry these plans out. Get them involved in the planning process. Bring other levels of the organization into the development process. Seek input.

Sometimes you may find that the smartest person may not be in the room. In a lot of cases, they may in the trenches and have a more insightful view.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


1 Comment on “How Do We Get Organizations and Employees Back on Track Again?

  1. Ron, important post. I agree, to an extent. I don’t think people necessarily want “change” — the people of Joplin sure got change I’m sure they don’t want. I do think people want “better,” “different,” “more” — and often that’s the best definition they can give for what it is they are seeking. In the workplace, it’s up to conscientious managers, mentors and leaders to help those seeking “better, etc.” to define more precisely what it is they’re seeking and how the team/company can help them realize that desire. Or, if the company cannot, help the employee on their path to finding it.

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