Tips for Leading Your Company Through Rapid Change
Industry life cycles are getting shorter as the rate of technological change increases exponentially. Over the past decade or so, we’ve seen some of the world’s most venerable companies — airlines, food producers, retailers — challenged, and in some cases completely upended, by opportunistic entrepreneurs with technology on their side.
Change is constant, and many executives believe that it will become even more pervasive in the near future. According to research from HR consulting firm Mercer, 73% of business leaders expect significant disruption in their industries over the next three years. Only 26% felt that way last year.
A strong sense of organizational purpose helps leaders seize opportunities when they appear, and it’s critical to managing through disruption. Moreover, the way that leaders communicate their vision of the future can determine how employees react to sudden or unexpected change, causing employees to feel either enthusiastic or threatened.
The best leaders don’t seek to preserve the status quo; rather, they accept that change is the status quo. They’re proactive rather than reactive because they’re always focused on executing a plan. In contrast, those that aren’t prepared for change are unable to manage the negative consequences: a decline in employee engagement, a widening skills gap, and a lag in productivity, according to the Mercer report.
Four out of five executives feel they can lead their industries through the digital transformation and threat of new competition. To ensure that you’re among that number, keep these tips in mind:
1. Set your course.
Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Match Group, defines the purpose of her company as fulfilling a basic human need for relationships: “Even in a technology-driven society, people crave intimate connections, whether that means getting married or just sitting down together for coffee,” she says. “We help people make those connections.” This guiding light has enabled Match to weather the disruption of the online dating industry. From its start in the 1990s as an open-search desktop website to its current portfolio of apps including Tinder and Hinge, Match has continually evolved according to its purpose.
Your purpose amounts to unfulfilled potential if you’re unable to rally your team behind it. As you develop and refine your strategic vision for your company, share it with your team so that employees understand the part they play in bringing that vision to life. Creating a workplace culture that’s anchored in transparency will result in more and better collaboration across teams, as well as more productive employees.
3. Make learning business as usual.
Employee development is a critical component of any adaptive workforce, and it should be deeply ingrained in your company culture. The best talent expects to be challenged at work, and workers who feel like their careers are stagnating won’t wait long to seek opportunities elsewhere. Not coincidentally, many of the companies that are shaping the future are the ones that provide the most learning opportunities for employees.
Consider Amazon. The retail giant recently announced that it would spend $700 million to retrain a third of its workforce over the next five years. CEO Jeff Bezos and his team know that past success is no guarantee of future growth — and that company development is ultimately a product of employee development. Given Amazon’s track record of proactive business strategy and calculated growth, it’s no surprise that the company is willing to spend now so that employees are prepared for what the future of work holds. In fact, they’ll have a part in defining it.