Managing During Transformation

Attracting and retaining talent are among the most important capabilities of a human resources function, regardless of what a business is going through. Whether managing internal talent or acquiring talent during a transformation, it is important to define the company’s future vision.  

Above all, companies need to assess where they are, be clear about where they are going and measure the gap between the present state and future state.  

Once a company identifies the “from” and “to,” this allows employees and candidates to understand if they can succeed in the current culture and thrive in the direction the company is headed.

Some employees may introduce more process and work for themselves to prove their value during a time of transformation. That defeats the purpose of transformation — companies need to reduce complexity, not create more. 

As companies seek new talent, finding candidates with continuous improvement capabilities and confidence in their own capabilities could help accelerate through a transformation. In transition, change moves fast or should be moving fast, and continuous improvement is at the core. 

Behaviors should fuel that acceleration, not impede it. Check-ins with employees amid transformation should increase, as information is the ultimate antidote to uncertainty. Often leaders, because they don’t have complete answers during a transformation, have a propensity to stand back.

Resist that temptation. Instead, tell people what you know, what you don’t know and when you will know it. This helps to provide ongoing transparency in the midst of uncertainty and helps minimize distractions amid the needing to deliver results.

In light of the changes and high expectations, working in a company going through a transformation is a great place to develop a career.

Many people tend to pull back when change and uncertainty are present, but this is actually an opportunity to reach out to employees and ask for great ideas. 

This is also a time to identify key talent and offer them action-learning assignments that address critical aspects of the changes needed, using your succession planning process not only to develop them but also get critical problems resolved with a more empowering approach. 

This can be featured when recruiting the kind of talent you want to join the company. Empowerment might seem harder during transformation because people are being cautious. It is critical to nurture talent who will in turn embrace these challenging opportunities. 

Talent managers also want to be sure that employees have access to good career planning and development tools. This is an opportunity for people in any role to look at themselves, measure against where they are, and assess what it will take to develop to fit the future state of the organization.

Although organizations manage career and succession planning processes, it’s especially critical during transformation to have employees feel they own their careers.

Both action learning assignments and proactive career tools give employees a chance to show their value without greatly impeding the velocity of change.

Talent managers have a chance to find talent who are aware of the challenges this journey entails. You’re asking them to help the company get to where it needs to be and are most aligned already to this future state. Typically, this is the time to ensure interviewers are doing “realistic job preview” interviews. 

Finally, hiring both internal and external talent into dedicated transformation office roles is a great way to accelerate a company transformation. If you’re interested in moving fast, these dedicated positions are a way to ensure the core business doesn’t suffer. 

Transformation roles are highly visible opportunities to make significant impact in a short time period for internal talent. These roles can also be a great way to find external talent to fill capability gaps for the organization your company aspires to be.

 One of my early career mentors was a president in a Fortune 100 company and a very popular speaker at onboarding sessions. He would give the same advice: “Go somewhere where things are broken — where things are not what they need to be — and help fix them. That is what makes real career success as you grow your capabilities beyond what a steady state role can offer.”