The growth of advanced technologies and new, more complex regulations have companies seeking aggressive new ways of remaining competitive. Unfortunately, many organizations stumble because they don’t make the link between preparing employees for change and effective implementation of new initiatives.
Change is tough because human nature is to resist it and many people lack specific behavior traits that allow them to easily adapt to changing circumstances. Communication is a key factor in effective change management. Information is power and the more people have, the less threatened they feel and are better able to adapt.
A couple of years ago, my employer (American Electric Power Co. Inc.) underwent a “repositioning” that eliminated, combined or redefined jobs for many employees. The restructuring was in response to a slow economic recovery, flat demand for electricity, the increasing cost of compliance with new regulations and changing dynamics of electricity markets. We all knew there would be major changes and employees were terrified of losing their jobs. My team, which received direct support from two other departments, took a big hit – a 50 percent reduction in staff support. My own group was reduced by a third.
I have always had an open door policy, sharing information, brainstorming ideas for process improvements and collaborating for maximum results. This time, it was more important than ever if I was to keep the team focused and moving forward. It was a difficult time but I believe that because I was open about what was changing and why and sought their input on how we would do it, we were able to adapt quickly. I’m not saying it was easy or painless. In the end, it taught us how to remain agile and embrace change. Today, we are often the voices pushing the envelope to try new things that make the company more competitive and a leader in our industry. It’s still not easy, but we look at it as an opportunity for growth.