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TalentCulture | April 1, 2015

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Talent And Transformation: A Delicate Balance

Talent And Transformation: A Delicate Balance
Daniel Newman
Daniel Newman
September 16, 2013

Change: It’s not what it used to be.

As the availability of new information and technology continues to proliferate, there are direct implications for how organizations adapt and grow.

Within many companies, what used to be considered radical transformation is now merely change — often thrusting smaller organizations into a world once dominated by the Fortune 500. With each “out-of-nowhere” success, we become more accustomed to watching one disruptive innovation after another arise from startup status and send status quo players to the realm of obsolescense.

With each wave of innovation comes more knowledge — and with knowledge being the byproduct of information and context, we are becoming increasingly aware of the change around us. For most people, that is scary.

Change vs. Transformation

It wasn’t long ago that businesses ran with modest, almost unnoticeable change, year after year. Business inertia meant that employment was a lifelong commitment for many employers and employees alike.

For the human psyche, this was ideal. That’s because deep down people don’t like change. It isn’t so much because change is a bad thing. Most people in fact would probably suggest that change is a good thing.

However, the same group of people will become scared, resistive, or even combative when they feel change that affects them. That is because, regardless of their opinion on change, if change is unexpected and/or unprepared for it tends to yield less than satisfactory results.

So, if change creates problem, what happens within an organization when transformation rears its beautiful yet unforgiving head?

The idea of transformation vs. change (for anyone who is wondering) is that transformation takes the very definition of change and makes it exponential across all axes.

During typical organizational transformation, employees can quickly feel lost. Sometimes this is due to their own fear of what they see coming. With fear and change looming in their minds, this can trigger a mass exodus of those affected, or perhaps even worse, the loss of key employees who are outside of the “transformation planning” sphere.

When this happens, companies must face a myriad of problems, not the least of which is turnover, which can be cancerous within a delicate corporate culture. Beyond cultural disruption, turnover is extraordinarily expensive and it slows down the transformation process, which is how we arrived here in the first place.

To add insult to injury, some organizations choose to blame the exiting employees. While this is easy (kind of like sales saying “price” is the reason you lose a deal), it is often nothing more than a scapegoat. Simply suggesting that some employees weren’t “moving with the times” reveals both a lack of character and a lack of class. Further, it is most likely not true.

Leading The Way Through Transformation

This brings us to the best course of action. First, as an organizational leaders, we must continuously evaluate our workforce, focusing on which employees demonstrate the strongest cultural fit, and ability to adapt to change. Then we must do everything in our power to motivate those who best fit our culture to align their efforts with the company’s direction.

Finally, it’s essential to re-center our thinking and focus on control. After all, as leaders we are ALWAYS responsible for setting the sails of our proverbial ships, and we all know that a ship will move faster and more true to course with all hands on deck. Just look for that “Motivation” poster in your office…you know, the one that says “Teamwork.”

Of course, we can’t control the entire domino effect that occurs as organizations shift, we most certainly have control of most of it. This includes the messaging, the process of continuous communication that is required between leadership and the team, as well as the creation and cultivation of a culture of change.

The transformational organization isn’t going away. In fact, the velocity of change and transformation is only going to continue increasing. (This is emphatic, although I have no science to prove it). Just look at what is happening around us for the cues.

While we cannot reverse the trend, we can control our outcomes. This starts with a culture of resilient people, and ends with great leaders who value and protect that culture, as it embraces the future..

Shift happens. The essential question is: how will you make the most of it?

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more…)

(Also Note: This article originally appeared at Switch & Shift. It is republished with permission)

Image Credit: From Black Swan by Fox Searchlight

  • Chantal Bechervaise

    Great post Daniel! Such an important topic to discuss as organizational change/transformation is not going away, and if anything it will probably become worse. It will need to be managed effectively for an org to survive.
    Your statement “Then we must do everything in our power to motivate those who best fit our culture to align their efforts with the company’s direction, ” is so important. I find a lot of orgs don’t do this and hope that the ‘bad’ employees will leave and the ‘good’ ones will stay but the reserve usually happens.

  • Cyndy Trivella

    Wonderful article Daniel and a very important topic, indeed. I agree that change is inevitable and IMHO, technology is boosting the speed at which transformation is happening. Especially today, if companies don’t keep evolving/transforming, especially from a technology perspective, they will cease to exist. And with the responsibility of continuous innovation comes a commitment to helping employees adapt and evolve at the same speed. For the organizations that realize this and bring along its employees in the innovation/transformation continuum, success will be theirs.

  • Christopher Demers

    Transformative change – by definition – means unmooring us from everything we accept as givens in the workplace. How unsettling is that?! Assessing employees on their level of cultural fit and the ability to manifest culture by embracing transformation is key. Well done!

  • Dan Newman

    Chantal – I feel leaders are too busy managing. Spending time with those that are not “Conforming” with the attempt to bring them into the fold. Rather, that time can be spent embracing those that are rain makers, team builders and game changers within an organization. Thanks for the read and react :)

    Cyndy – You hit it on the head. We have to embrace tech and move our people along. Build evangelists from the inside out to carry the initiatives or the leadership and organization along.

    Christopher – I never actually looked it up, so I feel pretty good that my embedded radar got me so close :) “LeadershipNavigationSystem”

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  • Catie Farrow

    I think one point that should really be hammered home in the event of a company transformation is communication. When the senior leadership remains entirely transparent and takes the rest of the company on the tranformative journey with them, everyone will fare better. Sure, it won’t be easy by any stretch, but it will ease a lot of hearts and minds to know that decisions aren’t being made and not communicated to the rest of the org.

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