Change Is Good:
Nearly all organizations, 96 percent, report undergoing transformative change. But fewer than half, 47 percent, feel they’re getting sustainable value from the changes being made. The gaping discrepancy between change and effective change is an omnipresent problem, and often it falls on HR’s shoulders to come up with a fix. The shift towards a more digital workplace and an increasingly flexible workforce has turned up the intensity of change over the last few years. As the business climate gets more and more change-friendly, HR professionals need to make sure their organizations are change-friendly as well. Here are some ways HR can deliver in a constantly evolving business environment.
1. Get Deep into the Business's Needs
Invest time in understanding where your organization is right now—and what it needs to achieve its goals. HR professionals should be helping to drive change within a business—not just support or react to it. The first step is to gain a high-level understanding of what the business needs. This may involve meeting with principals and executives and asking several questions. Once you know what the business needs, you can position HR as part of the solution. To do this effectively, you can:
2. Think outside the Cubicle Box
Believe it or not, there was a time when cubicles were innovative—even cutting edge. As an alternative to paying for the expensive construction of static, wall-bound office space, cubicles made workspaces modular. They can be erected in under an hour and shifted and snapped together like an erector set. But this former modularity has now been eclipsed by mobility.
“Open address” or “free address” workspaces were one of the first solutions to step out of the cubicle box. As employees were given the freedom to sit where they wanted, organizations soon saw the benefits of mobility. Free address workspaces also revealed some of the drawbacks of a static, office-based workforce: fewer interactions across departments, with little to no benefit gained from having everyone in a single physical space.
Now, aided by advancing telecommunications and mobile computing, some of the most effective models incorporate an external freelance workforce. Many organizations have learned this by accident: when employees are forced to work from home, leaders see an uptick in productivity. Higher productivity combined with lower office overhead means a more attractive balance sheet.
HR can capitalize on a freelance workforce by doing the following:
3. Have Real Conversations During Times of Change
Conversation is 95 percent listening. As an HR professional, another 4 percent should be responding in ways that show you were listening. That leaves you about 1 percent to express yourself. And that’s OK. When conversing with a worker, your objective should be to listen to gain an insight into what makes them tick, their values, and their “superpowers.” You can’t really do this with SurveyMonkey. While surveys can be useful to establish satisfaction and engagement metrics, the most a survey can be is the start of a conversation.
Whether your workforce is mostly in-house or remote, you should set aside time to have meaningful conversations. Here are some tips to help make conversations both productive and genuine:
4. Use Concrete Goals to Help Manage Performance
You can’t improve performance in retrospect, especially during times of change. Reflection is helpful, but hindsight is, in reality, rarely 20/20. Things are too easily skewed and forgotten. Your time would be better spent using goals to motivate future performance instead of troubleshooting what’s already happened. Try the following:
Weave their goals into other conversations from time to time but always in a supportive way. Again, use supportive language like, “Tell me what kind of support you need with X.”
This kind of goal-based approach to management can help an organization become more agile. As the business changes, so do its goals. If you follow this approach, performance management will be built on goals. This makes it easier to align performance with the ever-evolving goals of a constantly changing business. As you converse with members of the workforce, it’s OK for conversations to reflect and embrace this change. When you welcome change instead of merely tolerate it, it goes from being an obstacle to an asset.
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5. Incorporate a Flexible, Accessible Budget System
The direction of an organization often has the budget as one of its building blocks. So what happens when plans change? Your budget and budget management system need to be flexible. This means you can, at a glance:
However, budget flexibility is more than just something that helps you deal with change: it can create opportunities for greater agility. With a flexible budget, you can quickly deploy funds to meet a business necessity or invest in a potential opportunity. For example, there may be an emerging need your business can satisfy by adding a product or service to its portfolio. If you wait until the next hiring cycle, the opportunity may vanish. However, with a flexible budget, you can quickly deploy funds to hire people who can develop the product or service the market demands.
If you’re in the 4 percent of businesses not undergoing significant change, then the status quo may be good enough. For the other 96 percent, business is going to be anything but “usual.” By using a hybrid workforce and adjusting how you have conversations, manage performance, and manage your budget, you can attain genuine agility in a business world defined by change.