Change or Die

One of my best candidate interviews was with a senior marketer applying for a global innovation role. We discussed how the industry was changing and the changes we were making to capitalize on new opportunities. The candidate was engaged and excited, both by our challenges and his ideas on how he could manage them. He became our lead candidate.

Some leaders and recruiters see large-scale change as a source of candidate concern. They fear candidates will be repelled by the uncertainty, instability and risk that come with transformation. I have found the opposite; an aggressive change agenda is a positive attribute that implies an environment within which candidates could thrive and perform.

A large-scale change agenda provides opportunities for new colleagues to develop leadership capabilities. It also helps them shape the future direction and culture of an organization. Companies going through big changes have more projects to manage, and most provide greater exposure. These projects also offer development opportunities with new tasks, responsibilities and roles.

It is rare when a business doesn’t have a big change to make. Most are faced with a constantly changing operating environment and are in a perpetual state of flux. Economic globalization has intensified the need to adapt and reinvent to stay competitive. Companies need to rethink and change the way they operate or suffer the consequences of poor performance, or worse, irrelevance to customers and consumers.

The ability to lead change has become a new leadership capability. All big changes require significant organizational adjustments — new attitudes, capabilities, processes, systems and relationships — and leaders must be able to demonstrate confidence, comfort with ambiguity and grace under pressure as they lead their people through changes.

To promote an organization’s change agenda as a valuable attribute to candidates:

Describe the need for change: Share why the business needs to change and identify the indicators that underscore the need. Also, share the strategic options that are on the table, including the pros and cons of each one. This will reinforce the business’s ability to assess its performance within the market. It will also provide opportunities to share stories about how leaders and their teams decide on the best direction for the business to take. This conversation has the most value when candidates are asked about their views on challenges and potential solutions because it demonstrates that the company values strategic input.

Share the company’s destination once the changes have been made: People need to know the future will be different, better and more compelling than the present. They are thinking, “How does this change make the organization better?” and “How will it make my life better?” Answering these questions for candidates helps them picture themselves having roles in the future you have described and receiving the rewards it offers.

Describe lessons learned from past change initiatives: Businesses that value organizational learning also value personal learning. Well-documented project lessons build change capacity and skills in employees. Sharing these lessons with candidates will demonstrate that the organization has developed a knowledge base to help them be successful. It will also communicate that learning and personal growth are priorities within its culture.

Profile people who have worked and are working on change projects: People are drawn to winning teams and exciting projects. They are also inspired by leaders who have excelled within an organization based on their demonstration of leadership capabilities and performance. These leaders could be future mentors to new recruits too. How you phrase their stories will convey the culture of the organization and the types of recognition and rewards that a candidate can expect to earn.

People want to do meaningful work, be given opportunities to excel and be acknowledged for the work they do. The best candidates demand it. A large-scale change agenda can drive talent attraction by demonstrating how your organization provides them with an environment in which to grow.