Leading Change: If It Doesn’t Bring Value, We Shouldn’t be Doing It

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“We cannot solve problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

That quote is from Albert Einstein. That is such a poignant quote when we think of change, new solutions, and how we approach problems.

I figured out a long time ago that it takes the same amount of energy to be negative as to be positive. But, I have also noticed a pattern that when some new idea or new approach comes out, people come out of the woodwork with skepticism.

Give credit for a new approach

Just the other day I read about Zappos restructuring their recruitment process. Almost immediately, all the naysayers came out of the woodwork about how it was not going to work.

This reminded me of an article I wrote a while back on an HR site in London about analytics and how it is a “new frontier” opportunity for HR. Like clockwork, the naysayers came out in force totally against the concept of people equating to numbers.

When Amazon said they would pay people $5,000 to leave, it started again. But the time has come to realize that there are still  vestiges of the organization that was designed, in a lot of cases, back during the Industrial Revolution.

So, some company decides to do away with performance management and people get in an uproar one way or the other. Every time there is a new approach with what we do, this always happens.

However, we should give this a thought. A lot of our HR processes were created in another era. We think nothing of remodeling things as they become outdated, so why should this be an issue with HR?

It’ s a new world

It’s possible that we’re near a turning point from the financial collapse which wreaked havoc on careers, organizations and life. The global calamity has ended, and for the most part, businesses are getting back on the growth track.

But what snuck in over those years of uncertainty is a different work climate. Workforces will probably never reach the same mass as before because the demographics of today’s workforce are different. And because of that, there is a yearning for new approaches to managing the organization.

This means that the old way of doing business is over. The old processes that were the backbone of corporate culture need to be looked at, redesigned or done away with.

In other words, if it does not bring value, why are you doing it?

Leadership styles, talent acquisition, learning and development, and analytics all are part of HR transformation. The disrupters of mobile, social and the cloud has transformed what was once a pretty stable environment. HR pros that grew up in this stable environment are going to need to be re-work their skills, for the most part. Some will adjust, but some unfortunately, some will not.

We are no different

As I notice all the calamity going on in our profession, I realize that we are no different from other functions. Marketing is being re-learned, IT is managing social and the cloud, and business development is grasping the new era of competitiveness with globalization on the road map.

Finance is struggling with business models that look nothing like the models of the past. Big Data has entered the executive suite in a bold way, and companies are struggling as to how to grasp the treasure trove of information and make decisions as a result. So in HR, we are not the only one in turbulent waters trying to find the calmer way.

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I get a sense, however, that our sense of normalcy will never return. The calmness that so many are awaiting and yearning for will never return. So, we need to get over it and begin the transformation process.

We have a workforce that is getting younger AND older, with many generations under one roof. These new pillars of the workplace will cause everything that we do from the Human Capital prospective to change our strategy for dealing with this new workforce.

And, this is on top of all the changes throughout our economy. So we are not alone.

These changes in the workplace and within our workforce are significant while also being disruptive. On every critical issue we will need to take the lead to examine, take action, and develop new strategies to address these foundational cracks.

But this is going to require a new level of thinking, a new approach to change. More importantly it is going to take a new style of leadership within HR. This new style will gladly anticipate change and will be willing to tinker with dated models of operation.

It starts with each of us as individuals

Many people try everything they can to avoid new experiences. The greatest danger to the workplace is the notion that “we have always done it that way.” Yet there are good reasons why we should all attempt to take ourselves and our business out of the comfort zone.

Trying new things increases our adaptability and our ability to develop new skill sets — which is what it will take to survive.

If we continue to walk down the same road and have the same experiences, how will we grow as human beings? Life is such that whether we like it or not, it will change over time. This will allow us to adapt more when those changes as they occur.

So as change approaches, be sure and welcome it with open arms because it just could be life as well as career that is changing. A year ago I was working in New York, and now I live in Saudi Arabia and travel throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Yes, change is good.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.