Dollars and Sense: Employers must be agents for change

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Change is a constant in today&8217;s business world. Organizations that don&8217;t change with the times, or respond to change quickly, very often fail.

One of leadership&8217;s most significant challenges is helping people deal with and manage change, in a way that enhances and improves productivity and operating results.

In the 20th century, most organizations were structured in a bureaucratic and functional manner. The structure of 21st century organizations continues to change from the 20th-century model as the pace of change has accelerated rapidly due to the development of the global economy.

Today&8217;s top organizations tend to be more flexible, innovative and entrepreneurial focused. Providing real and measurable value while responding quickly to customer needs is an essential requirement of the modern organization.

Reactions to change typically fall into one of four categories. A small number (typically no more than 20 percent) of employees will accept change and move forward enthusiastically. The remaining 80 percent will be either reluctant to change and thus must be convinced, will outright reject and resist change or will be non-committal and hope that it all blows over and goes away.

The leader&8217;s challenge is to provide focus and support in such a way that employees effectively handle and accept the change. We create focus on the change process through such activities as communicating thoroughly the reasons for change, making available all the resources that employees need to facilitate and execute the change, providing training as needed and introducing specific and measurable goals that will be achieved through a successful change initiative.

Employees also need a heavy dose of inspiration to help them deal with change, and this is where leadership often falls short. When handling change, start by generating some excitement so employees can see the benefits of change.

Encourage innovation and risk taking to get employee buy-in to change. Listen to employee concerns and then facilitate problem solving to address issues identified. As the change process occurs, leaders need to share success stories.

We all know that change is hard. Successful leaders, though, do not shy away from change; they embrace it