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By: Geno Cutolo, CEO of Staffmark Group (Hunter Hamilton’s parent company)

Change Management

One thing we all can count on in business is high velocity change. Emerging technologies, new products and services, and changing market demands. The need to adapt to change at high speeds isn’t slowing down.

Whether you’re a leader within an organization or an employee, you know how challenging change can be within the workplace. It evokes many emotions – from fear and uncertainty to optimism and excitement. And I’ve witnessed and experienced this range of emotions myself as the CEO of Staffmark Group.

Like most organizations, our company has been in transition over the last several years – expansion, acquisition, integration, technology upgrades, and personnel changes, to name a few. While difficult at times, I’m proud of how our team has used effective change management strategies to meet our goals. Change has made our organization and our team stronger and better.

What is change management?

So what does change management mean, anyway? There are many definitions out there, but in the simplest terms, it is the process of moving an organization or a team from point A to point B. While it includes the tactical and strategic steps required to meet an objective, true change management focuses on the people within the organization. Organizations don’t change without people.

One of the top authorities on change management is John Kotter, former Harvard Business School professor and best-selling author. His best book Leading Change includes an eight-step method to lead a company through transition. Despite being written 25 years ago, before many of the new challenges businesses face today, his formula has stood the test of time. And we practice this model at Staffmark Group.

Kotter’s system includes these eight steps:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency and inspire your teams into action
  2. Build a guiding coalition by putting the right team together
  3. Create a vision and help everyone understand the plan
  4. Communicate the vision and get buy-in
  5. Empower people to act and remove any obstacles
  6. Create short-term wins to motivate and reward continued success
  7. Consolidate improvements to initiate change and develop people to implement it
  8. Anchor the changes and make them stick

There are many different types of change in the workplace, from acquisitions to leadership transitions to technology implementations, and this method has been used successfully for all. If your organization needs a proven strategy to fuel transition, I highly recommend Kotter’s methodology.

How can a company build a team that embraces change?

It takes more than restructuring and launching new vision statements to achieve organizational transformation. Here are five elements that every company needs to inspire change:

1. Clear vision and company goals.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? As listed in step three of Kotter’s plan, it’s important to identify your “why” and map out a plan to achieve your company’s objectives.

Within Staffmark Group, change is woven so tightly into our work that the word “change” is included in our company vision statement. Our vision is to “change the world – one life, one job, one community at a time.” We are inspired by the work we do and the lives we impact, and we have plans in place to grow our business and help more people.

2. Culture of change.

Successful organizations have created a culture that is nimble and welcomes change. Inspiring employees to accept and drive transformation is no easy feat, but the results are well worth the effort.

To develop an innovative workforce, your employees need to feel supported and trusted. This may mean that you need to remove unnecessary red tape or add efficiencies to approval processes, all with the goal of empowering your employees to quickly act in the best interest of the company. Along with this, employees need to know that if mistakes happen along the way, leadership will support and help provide swift resolution without shame. The ultimate goal should be improvement, not perfection.

3. Top-to-bottom buy-in.

While change may be initiated by upper management, everyone needs to be involved in the process. Change that is delivered as a top-driven mandate with guidelines, directives, and policies does not inspire, motivate, or empower. Instead, it must be initiated at all levels within a company.

Kotter suggests that for change to be successful, 75 percent of a company’s management team needs to embrace it. In other words, you have to spend significant time and energy building a sense of urgency and inspiring your teams.

To gain cross-departmental buy-in, transparency is key. Many organizations implement change behind closed doors, leaving their employees in the dark. If you are open about the planning process and challenges, employees will step up, offer solutions, and take ownership. Your company will solve problems faster, and employees will become more engaged. Transparency often has a ripple effect within an organization.

4. Positive mindset.

I think it’s important to be inspired by change – not only by the results, but by the boldness and courage that is required when pursuing something greater.

The people within Staffmark Group are my greatest source of inspiration. I know without question that we have the best team in the industry. Our teams are constantly creating new programs and tools to help our clients grow their businesses while also putting great people to work. They inspire me to be a better leader and a better man.

When I’m feeling stifled by set-backs, I try to remember that extraordinary results require extraordinary effort – and that everything that is good in our lives today is the result of change. To inspire a positive mindset across your organization, remind your team about your “why,” show gratitude, and celebrate the small wins. And remember, both positive and negative energy are contagious.

5. Fun.

And finally, this list would not be complete without FUN! I believe that laughter and levity can and should exist during times of great achievements and during tough times. Incorporate elements of fun into your everyday work, and encourage your team to take breaks and time off before burnout occurs.

Fun is one of our company’s core values. We believe that people do their best work when they are engaged and enjoying what they do.

In closing, I encourage you to think of the possibilities that come with change. Change isn’t a necessary evil. Change is an opportunity to grow and learn that should be embraced and explored.

It takes time, effort, and teamwork, but as Kotter wrote, “Transformation is a process, not an event.”