by Crystal Kadakia
07 Nov 2019
Focus on your people to survive business transformation
In today’s world, disruption has become the norm. The introduction of digital technology has caused wave after wave of unforeseen circumstances for businesses of every industry (no one is immune!). This disruption comes in the form of new products, competitors, work processes, automation, and employee and customer expectations. In the world of rapid change where seemingly unrelated factors combine in unexpected ways, what does your business need to know to survive?
The answer is this: focus on your people.
By focusing on employees, organizations can create the sustainable performance improvement and cultural change required to survive and thrive in a transforming world. You won’t be able to predict what the next disruption will be, but you can be prepared with an agile, engaged, and ready to learn workforce.
Here are a few ways you can ready your culture to respond to disruptions, not just maintain operational excellence.
Knit a Strong Social Fabric
Workplace communities are vital to engaging in transformation as ONE organization and executing strategy at the pace of change. If you had to face a major disruptor to your business, who would you want to go to battle with? Employees just showing up for a paycheck or a community of people working together to take on the challenge?
Here’s the reality: Warm bodies won’t help you face challenges, but a thriving, coordinated community will.
Of course, building a tight-knit community can be easier said than done, especially when employees today are more likely to leap-frog roles in, out, up, and across your company. Not to mention that more and more companies are embracing remote workers, adding the hurdle of physical distance for community building. It’s easy to blame digital tools for creating a world where the modus operandi for communication is now a text message rather than a warm smile and a “Hello”.
However, the same digital tools that make us feel less human-connection can be turned around to empower us and create the connection we crave. Talent management tools can be one of your best bets for community building; use them to create standard, efficient onboarding not just for new hires, but any role transitions that happen in your community. And don’t stop at the standard technical or skill-related onboarding; make sure to include relational and organizational onboarding as well. A lack of onboarding that fails to introduce and connect people together is one of the weakest links in sustaining communities at work today.
Secondly, communicate over digital tools with the same personality and intention to connect as in face to face communication (i.e. don’t respond with “k”). All it takes to bring remote employees into the fold is the understanding that there is a person, a real live human, on the other end.
Stop me if this sounds familiar: you have a great idea that will move your company forward in an innovative way or there’s a great tool that will make processes run more efficiently, so you make the case for change and adoption of new practices……..and then you wait, and wait, and wait for it to (maybe) never happen.
Isn’t it fascinating that we have more data than ever before and yet we make decisions slower than ever? It’s ironic that leaders look for the business case in everything, but yet, the inundation of information often leads to decision paralysis.
To become disruption ready, we need to develop leaders who can navigate through information overload, make sense of data, prioritize, and most importantly, move towards testing and action. Many leaders get caught in a frozen state and continually ask for more data to move forward. Instead of helping, more data can lead to feeling overwhelmed and actually perpetuate decision paralysis. Leaders need to know when there is enough data to prioritize actions and take the next step of testing and action.
The best way to develop this skill in your leaders is to encourage them to pilot small changes and stay on top of the results. As projects scale, adjust the process or even revert to the starting point as needed. Include change management courses for your leadership in your development strategy for the future.
Reduce organizational anxiety
Resilience towards disruption requires people giving their best performance day after day. However, disruption is also cause for anxiety and fear for the future. “What’s going to happen to my job? What if I don’t have the skills to survive this?”
Organizational anxiety can create a strong barrier to employees contributing their best and helping your company navigate transformation. The key to creating any transformation strategy is to think about how you will address the people element before adding new automations or shiny new streamlined processes. If people are afraid of being left behind, they are less likely to contribute to the organization’s transformation.
When in doubt, start with learning and development. Nothing quells anxiety like feeling prepared and ready for the challenge.
- Create learning plans segmented by the new skills and roles.
- Create a timeline of skill acquisition by person and role.
- L&D is often the least invested part of an organization and hence, has a long way to go to modernize. It goes without saying that you need the right tools to really make learning a part of your company and transformation action plan. Learning can’t be cumbersome.
Culture is Crucial
While we would like to focus simply on a strong strategy and a robust financial position to build resistance to disruption, it would be a mistake to neglect the talent and culture it takes to deliver on the vision. It takes more traditional leadership and operational excellence. It requires truly understanding your culture’s collective common behaviors, responses, and strengths and, then as a leader, building the systems that encourage adaptation.
As we approach 2020, we are at a crucial time where AI, automation, VR, Big Data, and other technology trends are exponentially building on one another and intersecting with industries across the board. You don’t have to read much to know that by 2030 the landscape IS going to be vastly different than it is today. As you look to your budget allocations, what are you doing to support your culture? Your culture can either become a barrier or an enabler to your organization’s success.