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Bersin: It’s time to rethink how we approach change

Josh Bersin explains why thinking has the most important shifts to adapt well to change, and emphasizes how organizations gain change agility.

Business leaders typically worked on change initiatives using project management tools such as spreadsheets, assigned deliverables, and rigorous timelines. But now, the pace of constant change, coupled with current workforce challenges, requires repetitive and agile practices, employee impact, and new approaches based on humanity.

Combined with Josh Bersin Academy’s recent research and conversations taking place as part of the ongoing Big Reset working group, traditional approaches to change management are no longer sufficient for rapidly changing businesses in all sectors. Is shown.

This is because traditional change management projects are designed as a one-off initiative. However, changes must change business processes, duties and assignments, related employee behavior, etc. all at the same time. Not only is it a big bang approach outside the realm of humanity, but the pace of change today does not enable long and complex planning.

Older modified models can provide some comfort in providing a structured approach, but they also lead to false reassurance. Even if you follow the “to T” change management methodology, something will happen that will confuse your plan. We need to change the paradigm from a management focus to one that drives change and supports employees along the way.

In a company that manages change well, leaders and high performers reinforce the company’s mission and objectives. They explain how the reinvented business model works. Create a cross-functional team to design and implement changes. And they admit that the initiative will never take place. In other words, changes to the change process are inevitable. This study shows how companies that build agility to change can increase profitability, increase employee engagement and retention, and make their customers happier.

Our research presents 10 lessons on change agility that apply not only to the massive business changes brought about by pandemics, but also to any change. These include transparent communication, human-centered leadership, a clear mission to drive all actions, and rewarding and recognizing behavioral changes. All of these practices are very important, but this article will cover only two practices.

Microchange brings macro transformation

When thinking about major changes, the magnitude of the associated changes may seem overwhelming. Big Bang change projects are usually organized to facilitate the work done by different teams. However, they usually do not take humanity into account for change and often do not include affected employees in the process. The simple fact is that we humans find it difficult to accept many changes at once. In addition, people adapt to change at different speeds. The answer is to find a way to make gradual changes that can make significant changes over time.

For example, Spectrum Health, a healthcare provider with more than 30,000 employees, has adapted to hybrid work with a “virtual fishbowl” experiment. The leadership team chose three groups to observe and experiment, rather than designing strict policies that mandate specific attendance rules. Managers observed how employees were navigating new styles of work, shared best practices, and identified changes in the tools, strategies, and ways of thinking they needed. With this knowledge, the organization expanded into new groups and eventually the entire organization. Such step-by-step experiments are the key to testing changes and give people the opportunity to learn in the process.

HR function that promotes change agility is important

For the past two years, the HR team has been responsible for seamlessly and effectively facilitating employee change while addressing changes in their roles and personal lives. In fact, respondents to our Global HR Capability Assessment make change and transformation a top priority for HR professionals. However, 40% of HR professionals say they lack the skills needed to lead effective transformation. Human resources organizations need to provide staff with development opportunities to build muscle for change management.

Here’s how to get started:

Evaluate functional gaps. Evaluate the current state of your organization’s HR capabilities and prioritize development opportunities. As explained above, the most important features include continuous listening. Ability to analyze, interpret and act on data. Design thinking; fosters human-centered leadership.

HR values ​​and coaching required: Our competence assessment requires HR professionals to present development opportunities that they consider most important to their career. Coaching and mentoring have emerged as developmental opportunities that HR professionals consider to be of paramount importance in improving their skills and abilities. HR leaders need to provide teams with coaching tailored to their short-term ability needs and focus on mentoring to support the abilities that are critical to long-term career growth and business success.

Leverage functional academies and communities: Ability Academy focuses on the development of business capabilities and usually includes development assignments and networks of people to share knowledge and information. Kaiser Permanente brings together a change management practice community of nearly 100 people from HR, IT, and business operations to share success stories, learn from each other, and support while addressing various change initiatives. .. The community of practice shares knowledge and tools at monthly meetings and online discussions, with a focus on improving overall ability to change.

In conclusion, the most important shift to adapt well to change is thinking. We must recognize that every interaction, from seemingly trivial moments to “big” moments, is an interaction of change. And we need to create smaller moments more carefully than big moments. It is these little moments that can generate change and readiness and acceptance for change.


By Josh Bersin, Global Industry Analyst and CEO of Josh Bersin Company.This article was first published Human Resources Executive..

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