During Rapid Change, It’s Not Just About The Tools — It’s About The People

Takeaways from the Conference Board’s Change and Transformation Conference

The world is changing; change is changing in the digital age. With the arrival of the cloud, big data, and social, we are seeing that it’s not just about one-off change anymore — it’s about transformation.

The 14th annual Change and Transformation Conference took place on June 16–17 in New York City. A small group of approximately 200 change professionals came together to discuss, well you guessed it … change. This year, we were challenged to confront our inherent beliefs about change.

The biggest takeaway was something we, at Blue Beyond, talk about and model in almost everything we do and say: It’s no longer just about the tools, it’s about the people. See below to read about some of my other key takeaways:

On Change:

  • Change management is no longer about the tools, it’s about who YOU are—and how you show up. It’s a different way of thinking that requires you to know yourself. – Kent Greenes, Program Director, Conference Board
  • Get clear on language. Words mean different things to different people, so be clear on your current and future state, use storytelling and imagery, and make it memorable.
  • Clarity is the anchor for decisions. Equipping individuals to be successful at change is about bringing a common, shared understanding to the table. Tim Creasey, Chief Development Officer, Prosci
  • Change doesn’t cause organizational dysfunction, it exposes it. William Perry, Managing Director, Accenture Strategy, Talent & Organization
  • People have an identity crisis every time change occurs. They have a fear of judgement, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of looking stupid, fear of being discovered, fear of letting go of the past. It’s really all a fear of losing one’s self. So, change the narrative. Lior Arussy, President at Strativity.

On Leadership:

  • Fred Kiel, PhD, author, researcher and consultant, found in his 7-year study on character that high-character leadership correlates to higher profits, higher engagement, and stronger leadership skills in all sectors and industries. Character is defined as your intentions matching up with your behaviors (integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion, among others).
  • Trust in leadership = Best insurance for change. William Perry, Managing Director, Accenture Strategy, Talent & Organization
  • Most change focuses on training and communications, but there’s another factor that’s more important: Effective business and team leadership. The C-Suite isn’t enough.

On Conversations:

  • Two-thirds of Managers are uncomfortable communicating with employees (HBR)
  • Managers are critical to the success of a company. Oftentimes, they aren’t equipped to have strategic conversations with their people. They don’t know what to say, don’t feel like they have time, and don’t know how. Manager communication is key during times of change.
  • Companies do a bad job managing FEAR. It’s normal to have fear and frustration, but what do you do with it? Companies usually do nothing or over communicate, which can both increase fear, not decrease it. Data shows the only thing that will decrease fear is trusted conversations.
  • Don’t forget to ask people: How do you feel? Lior Arussy, President at Strativity.

On the Tech Revolution:

  • Every industry will need to learn how to ride the “tech wave.” The cloud revolution (mobile, social and big data) is here. Look at Uber and Airbnb. Who would’ve thought the taxi and hotel industry would be dominated by companies that don’t own any cars or hotels? So how do companies ride the “tech wave”? It takes leadership challenging the status quo, putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to innovation, and customer engagement. Norman Merritt, Former CEO, ShopKeep and iQor
  • There are almost as many cell-phone subscriptions as there are people on this earth. Think about how this fact is changing our world.

On Talent and the Workforce:

  • There’s a talent shortage, or a “war for talent” as Matt Tokorcheck, Managing Director, HR Planning & Technology, FedEx Ground, put it. This shortage is accounting for an increase in spend on talent acquisition, which in turn, puts pressure on profits. We need to get strategic about the lifecycle of employees – it’s about attracting, developing and keeping talent, not just about e-learning.
  • There are different skills needed to thrive in the 21st century:
  1. Curious, passionate life-long learner;
  2. Meaning-makers: self-aware, market-aware;
  3. Collaborative, team player;
  4. Agile, resilient and adaptive;
  5. Positive growth mindset; and
  6. Multi-skilled: business, management, tech.
  • The workplace is no longer about specializing in one area—it’s about going up, sideways and diagonally.
  • Start thinking about how we will work in 2022. It’s the next big things companies need to think about. Brenda Brinson, AVP Empowerment, USAA, says, “Ten years ago, Facebook didn’t even exist. Ten years before that, we didn’t have the Web. 24% increase in tech sector jobs over the next 7 years; 10/10 of the top business schools have design/innovation initiatives; 7/10 college students believe being in an office regularly in unnecessary; 81% think they should be able to set their own working hours.”
  • A few of Brenda’s predictions about the future workforce… gender neutral paid parental leave, unlimited vacation, smart productivity tracking, results vs. hours, work .from anywhere, anytime, demand-based compensation, sabbaticals without medical need, dial-up, dial-down career progression, and next gen best in class benefits.

On Engagement:

  • Employee Engagement vs. Strategic Engagement. What’s the difference? Gary Magenta, Sr. Vice President from Root Inc. says you can be engaged at work—fulfilled, happy and have friends—but not be engaged in the business and company strategy. People are showing up on surveys as “engaged” but they may not be engaged in the right things.
  • So, how do you focus on strategic engagement?
  1. Clarify and align. Be clear on what the strategy is;
  2. Launch and implement the strategy to everyone. Don’t just talk about it with the leadership team; and
  3. Refine and sustain. Strategy isn’t a once and done communication, it’s something that happens overtime.