The Fourth Prong: Where Do People Fit in the Modernization Framework?

by | Jul 5, 2018

In a recent CVP blog series, we discussed CVP’s Modernization Framework, and how CVP helps our clients modernize to overcome the various challenges associated with the rapid and continuously changing technology environment. CVP’s Modernization Framework is based on a three-pronged approach: 1. Make the Shift to Continuous Everything, 2. Slay or Split the Monolith, and 3. Build an Adaptable Infrastructure.

But I would venture to say that we could add a fourth prong that looks at the people side of modernization. We all know the current workforce is witnessing a constant and ever-changing environment; some call it the “Technology Tsunami” or the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” which suggests we are having to survive the new world without the necessary skills to master our surroundings.

Whatever you choose to call it, we know that now more than ever, technology and tools are changing faster than workers can learn how to use them.

“Innovators” such as, Unilever, and JNJ Innovation Centers look at the world and focus on a company’s mission and valuse, a strategy that not only brings success and innovation to the company, but also identifies ways to address changes needed in the world.

How do the “Transformers,” “Disruptors,” and “Innovators” Handle the People Side of Modernization?

Forward thinking and innovative companies provide a continuously changing world for their employees. They amplify their teams, use a personalized approach with their employees by asking them what is important, and empower and trust their employees to do the right thing.

With modernization, companies need to be proactive and take a critical look at how they recruit, hire, train, and treat their employees to keep good talent and stay competitive in a changing world. Successful companies make recruiting a competitive advantage. For example, using pre-recruiting survey management tools is becoming a necessary process. As organizations continue to implement new technology at a faster rate, the people side of change emerges as an important element to achieve success and limit resistance to change.

With that being said, companies must manage their talent and Learning and Development (L&D) differently if they want to keep pace with the constantly changing technology environment. For example: six out of ten millennials continue to search for jobs even after they are hired; however, if they are hired and provided with continuous learning, especially around change, they are more likely to stay with the company. Automation is the #1 change element for L&D – it has always been there, but the pace has picked up; therefore, human resources and L&D need to kick it up a notch and move at the same pace.

L&D is Key to People Side of Modernization

Having been in the L&D world for over 30 years, I’ve seen a huge shift in how companies train their employees, and rightly so. Training, or L&D, needs to move at an accelerated pace in order to keep the company’s talent current. Promoting the development of people, awarding creativity and innovation, and using multiple training modes to provide the skills necessary to keep up with this continuous change environment is vital.

As the demographics of the workforce change, L&D must become more skills-based and relationship-centric, and it must provide a more flexible and automated approach to learning. The strategy for learning management needs to provide employees with accountability for their learning, and it has to be highly engaging and interactive, as well as less job-intrusive; L&D needs to be a part of employees’ workflow.

L&D is necessary to train leadership, sponsors, change agents, and all employees about the change or modernization of their organization. It needs to provide additional materials and knowledge throughout the entire change process, whether it be topics such as “How to be an Effective Leader during the Change Process” or “How this Change will Affect You” (addressing the impact of the change on the different roles within the organization, etc.). Training on new systems or processes, as well as how to deal with change, are also keys to success. An effective L&D program trains employees on how to succeed in a continuously changing environment.

As with any change, there will be resistance. That is the norm. People like being comfortable. The new generation of workers will be more flexible and nimble regarding change because they have grown up in this continuous change environment. However, resistance to change can still exist and will need to be addressed in any modernization or change project. Understanding why people resist change can make the process smoother.

Why do People Resist Change?

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” Charles Darwin

There are many reasons why people resist change. Looking at change from different perspectives will help you understand why people find change to be difficult and stressful.

Emotional perspective:  Probably the most common factor is the emotional perspective – change creates anxiety! Think about how you feel when you are approaching a change. Anxious? Fearful? People are comfortable with their current state. The possibility of losing what they have and not knowing what is to come creates worry and fear. Leaders often believe, “if they build it, the people will accept it.” However, that isn’t always the case.

Work perspective:  Besides the emotional aspect of resistance to change, you must also look at the change from the work perspective. Often in a technology implementation, the end users are not involved in the planning, building, and testing phases, and they end up with a system or application that makes their jobs harder, involves a huge learning curve, and builds resentment, as in “nobody asked me what I thought.”

Questions that need to be asked are: How engaged have the employees been with this change?  Were employees involved in designing the solution? Do they know why things are changing or were they taken by surprise? Do they believe the changes are valid? Do they trust the reasoning behind the change and understand how the change will impact them? Clear communication before, during, and after change is vital to minimizing resistance. However, the message has to come from a trusted source in order for employees to “buy-in” to what’s ahead. Communication will not be the only needed talent to minimize resistance to change.

Personal perspective:  Change also needs to be viewed from the employee’s personal perspective, which will differ with each employee based on demographics, experience, family status, financial security, health, career aspirations, education, and work successes, to name a few. Another perspective is the person’s internal value system and their “view of self.”  What motivates a person is unique to each person. We all “march to a different drummer,” and when an organization sees itself differently in the future state, people may feel they no longer fit in.

Environmental perspective:  Factor in the environmental perspective, or where the change is occurring, and resistance to change becomes even more interesting. Employees will consider the organization’s past successes with change. Was the change implemented and a few months later, everyone was back to the old way? Were there reinforcements or rewards offered in the past to encourage change? It is also important to look at how much change is occurring in the organization right now. As I mentioned earlier, change saturation is everywhere! Even millennials who tend to thrive on constant technological growth have a saturation point!

How Can You Help Your People Navigate Change?

When you include the organization’s culture, value system, and history, along with the emotional perspective, everyone’s situation, and the work environment, it is no surprise resistance to change is the norm. The important question to ask is not “will we encounter resistance to change,” but rather is “how can we support our employees through the ever-changing work environment, change process, and resistance to change?”

All technology projects are people projects and that is the case with modernization. It may begin with a focus on technology, but certainly must include the “people” part. Employees need to embrace the change to make it a success.

What will be your change management approach?  How will you minimize resistance to change and yet be successful in the future state?

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