Feature Article - May/June 2013

Pivoting in the New Economy

Managing Change in the Workplace

By Rick Dandes

In a shifting business landscape where constant change is the "new" norm, corporations have learned that effectively managing change in the workplace is critical to success. Changing an organization's strategy is never easy, but in the fast-paced shifting global economy in which companies now must compete, the ability to pivot and shift gears can be a critical factor in attaining operational efficiencies and competitive advantages.

The central issue, suggested Mike Ryan, senior vice president, marketing and strategy, Madison Performance Group, based in New York City, has to do with competition. "It is coming from everywhere," he said. "Every day, or so it seems, there are new threats to established businesses, especially given the low barriers to entry into the marketplace, thanks to the web and globalization. The bottom line is, companies that want to survive will need to recalibrate their business models constantly, and this means many changes, new procedures and quite often new supporting technologies."

That's a lot to be absorbed and acted upon by employees.

A common problem for many organizations when they do try to implement these sorts of changes is waning momentum when employees do not immediately buy into the new process. Sometimes employees simply don't want to change, or the problem is a poorly structured plan that makes change harder for employees or customers to embrace.

In general, explained Ira Ozer, founder and president, Engagement Partners, Chappaqua, N.Y., "people are afraid of change, and most of the changes required of them will take effort to learn and time to change behaviors."

If not done in an intelligent way, a company's best people might leave for better offers, leaving the company with second-tier people who feel that changing is less risky than their prospects at finding a new job. Inspiring and coaching people through effective leadership, educating them through proper training and motivating them with incentive awards and recognition programs is very important.

To avoid pitfalls, create and apply a well-thought-out, structured plan—a plan that takes into consideration all the factors that might influence or derail the change, and includes initiatives to accelerate support for, and mitigate challenges to, the planned change.

Your plan should proceed in an organized and deliberate fashion, said Michelle Smith, vice president, business development, O.C. Tanner, of Salt Lake City, Utah. "At its core," she noted, "managing change is about reducing risk and unexpected consequences, and optimizing the opportunities that the change presents."