Feature Article - July/August 2012

Sailing the Seas of Change

In a Fast-Moving Economy, Change Management Is Paramount

By Rick Dandes

Companies today operate in a highly volatile global marketplace, one that often requires swift shifts in marketing and operational strategies. But enterprise-wide, high-speed changes can present personnel challenges to executives, who may need to retrain employees and change entire workplace environments in order to survive and thrive. That's where reward and incentive programs can play a significant motivational role, according to human resource experts.

"The reality is, even with those big, company-wide change initiatives, you also have those micro-level change initiatives," said Mike Ryan, senior vice president, marketing and strategy, Madison Performance Group, based in New York City. "When you think about it," he added, "we are now in a rapidly morphing business arena. You've got low barriers to entry, competitors coming at you from everywhere, shifting market forces, and many new technical advances. All of these things can trigger changes in both strategies and operations."

This means you have a working population dealing with change at both the macro and micro level, at high levels of volume and high levels of velocity. "And as a result," Ryan said, "I think it is incumbent upon organizations to recognize that they need to do more when it comes to making people respond to change initiatives."

Change Management

Change management is the process that companies use to deal with those changes, as executives shift employees from one job or function to another, or reorganize completely, added Ira Ozer, president, Motivational Partners, based in Chappaqua, N.Y. "There are several important ways that incentives and recognition can support it and ensure success," he said. The key to this transition is that people need to feel like they are part of the change process and recognized for their accomplishments.

One of the biggest challenges in adjusting to change, however, is that people don't always know what they need to do in the new order. So think of recognition and incentive programs as communication programs with rewards as a giant exclamation point.

Organizations, architecturally, understand the basic concept of change, said Ryan, of Madison Performance. "They know how change management works in terms of systems feeding data to one another; they understand how it works in terms of the operational mechanics of the organization. But more and more they are recognizing that what is lacking in their planning is the persuasive communications that employees need to understand the change. And not just to understand the rationale behind the change and why it is necessary, but more importantly, how they fall into carrying it forward and what's in it for them personally?"