“People resist change. If these people are your senior executives and mid managers, and employees, the upset is often expressed as resistance and this explains why out of every 100 change efforts, more than 66 fail. People do not champion what they resist” –Engagement, Retention & Growth.

In a recent blog, 2013 Business Trends, I expressed my viewpoint on business culture trends for 2013. However, I only touched on the three trends briefly and am now expanding on each of them….with this blog expanding on the 2nd trend…I provide a broader perspective and “how to” advice for organizations as they emerge from this current historic recession. Previous ways of doing business are antiquated and executives seeking new strategies, business models, and are restructuring their workplace culture. What is the key ingredient these leaders need to succeed? Employees who initiate and catalyze change! 

Successful organizations share 5 traits

Before we get into how to catalyze change, let’s take a look back at a year-long study conducted by The Harvard Business Review (HBR). They analyzed the strategies and performance of corporate organizations from the past three recessions. The findings revealed 5 characteristics of successful businesses that emerged unscathed after a recession. What made the difference between success and failure?

  • Leaders were transparent (communicated effectively and often to all employees)  and took care in how they downsized to cut costs…saving jobs and livelihoods.
  • Leaders invested more than their rivals on marketing, assets, and R&D to position themselves for growth coming out of a recession.
  • Organizations refined systems to operate more efficiently. They took a long hard look at standard procedures, streamlined processes, and cut the fat from operations.
  • Boards of Directors placed the right leaders in the right seats. Individuals with leadership skill sets bring emotional intelligence and intuitive applications to the table for a successful change effort. Change execution requires high levels of strategic communications that is driven from the c-suite down and from the front line up.
  • Employees were empowered to champion change. When company cultures are progressive, employees are empowered to make day to day decisions about their work, how it is accomplished, and to correct problems when they see them.

These 5 characteristics all involve change within the organizational structure to survive and then thrive coming out of a recession. Most importantly, their employees championed the change instead of resisting the effort bringing cohesion to the organization. How did these organizations encourage employees to catalyze change and provide the momentum to carry it forward?

  • They created processes for defining behaviors that build cooperation. Employees were given the opportunity to voice their opinions and contribute insights through surveys and face-to-face meetings with leaders and C-suite executives.
  • Processes were designed to monitor the effectiveness of a group’s progress and help employees experience success with problem solving initiatives and action planning. This empowered employees with daily job performance and strategic planning.
  • Milestones were set and results reported to keep employees abreast of the progress. Instead of swallowing the entire change effort whole, small bites in the form of milestones were put in place to mark progress and keep the momentum moving forward.
  • Cooperative teams, individuals, and groups were recognized as they achieved success in their milestones. A little recognition and respect shown to employees by executives and mid managers goes a long way in building individual and team unity.

What’s the bottom line?

Not surprising, these organizations also experienced less employee turnover as the economy improved from a recession. They had less expenditures in hiring and training than their peers. Valuable employees remained committed to their employers after surviving a recession because these exceptional employers were transparent and empowering throughout economic downturns. In essence…what these organizations had done versus their peers was build employee loyalty.

According to Diane Bergeron, assistant professor at Case Western’s Weatherhead School of Management, “Loyal employees are the heart of successful companies. When people feel fulfilled at their jobs, they go above and beyond to help the organization improve. They share expertise, resolve conflicts, suggest improvements, boost morale, help co-workers, and conserve resources. Those behaviors make groups and organizations more effective – sales are better and production loss is lower.”

Change is inevitable. Organizations can embrace it or resist it. Those businesses that apply the 5 characteristics of successful organizations will create empowered, loyal employees that champion the change initiative and provide the momentum to carry it forward…increasing productivity and the corporate bottom line.

Copyright TIGERS Success Series by Dianne Crampton

About TIGERS Success Series

TIGERS Success Series is a team development consultancy based on 6 core principles that anchor high performance team dynamics. These principles are trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk and success. TIGERS offers licensing and certification to team building trainers and consultants interested in expanding their practice to serve organizational leaders from the break room to the boardroom. .Learn more.