People are Our Greatest Resource

Last month’s column was about dealing effectively with change. I discussed driving the change, selling the change and implementing the change. As I promised in that column, this month will focus on some of the personnel issues that must be addressed when we implement change.

While Human Resource Specialists point out that people are our greatest resource, and that is true, they can also be an organization’s greatest obstacles to the successful implementation of change.

Before implementing a change in strategy or in organizational culture, an organization’s leaders need to ensure they have the right people in place. Changing a deeply ingrained organizational culture requires keen assessment of a company’s employees, followed by prompt and aggressive action.

Research by The Hay Group, a world-wide human resources firm, has identified four types of employees based upon how they adapt to change. Those are the Superstars, the Open-minders, the Skeptics, and the Recalcitrant. Let’s look at each of these groups and how to deal with each of them.


The Superstars

Who are they?–The Superstars are the most desirable group. They “get it.” These people have internalized the organization’s vision and have the right behaviors and competencies for success. They deliver results in the right way. They create value and leverage themselves and others’ talents.

 What should you do about this group?—Set this group up as examples of what the organization can be. Do whatever it takes to retain them. Reward them handsomely. Make sure they receive the most in the way of promotions, special assignments, etc.

 The Open-Minders

Who are they? — Even though these employees may have under-performed in the past because of poor skills and weak competencies, they are ready to align themselves with the new culture and are eager to be part of the plan. They have the basic “raw material” and with development could be contributors. These are the ones who will really try, go along with and assume things will work until it is clearly demonstrated otherwise over time.

 What should you do about this group? – Offer coaching, formal training and development and provide rewards for improved performance.


The Skeptics

Who are they? — These employees perform well, but they are doubtful about changes being touted from top management and have taken a “wait and see” attitude. Their ability to deliver results is clear. They need to learn how to do it in new ways. Many times, these are the people who get results but have a lot of “dead bodies” in the course of the process.

 What should you do about this group? – This is a critical group, so start by identifying which individuals are worth developing. Provide those who are worth developing with mentoring and coaching and tie their rewards to changes in behaviors and attitudes. Make your expectations clear and let them know that it is not only what they do, but how well they do

it that matters.

If you hold firm to the expectations you laid out, roughly one-half will see the light, want to change and will become Superstars. The rest (approximately one-half) will move into the fourth grouping and become dead weight.


The Recalcitrant

Who are they? These employees may have performed adequately, or even well, in the past, but they are entrenched in the way things have been done and are likely to resist, or even sabotage, change efforts. They worship the status quo. The Hay Group points out, “In most organizations, this group will always comprise about 15% of employees.”

 What should you do about this group?—Concentrate on developing the other three groups. Don’t try to “save” these people since you will be wasting your investment and will be sending out the wrong message to the rest of the organization. Hire new people who are behaviorally and emotionally in sync with the desired culture.

 “Imagine that a probation department wants to implement Evidence-Based Practices and this group [recalcitrants] bucks at the thought and is allowed to be recalcitrant due to their seniority, age, experience, contributions in the past, relationship with the leaders, etc. This is going to have an extremely negative impact on the success of the department in implementing programming that research shows are effective with offenders.

 The organization needs to ensure that the personnel within the organization are compatible with the direction in which the organization is going.

 Jack Welch, former CEO of GE stated, “We spend all our time on people. The day we screw up the people thing, this company is over.”

In a Fortune Magazine article entitled, “Why CEOs Fail,” Welch is held up as an example of a CEO who relies on reams of information to track the progress of employees and, particularly, to determine how their beliefs align with GE’s six-sigma values. Those who are out of sync are soon told that GE is not the right place for them.

According to David Hofrichter, Vice-President of The Hay Group, “No strategy will ever succeed if the people are unwilling or unable to implement it. Too many companies have focused on implementing strategy and ignored the basic concept of whether they have the right people to make it work . . . It’s pretty basic: think people before strategy. The new reality is to shape your strategy around the key assets you have.”

As you attempt to change the culture of your organization, take an assessment the staff of your organization and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do we have the right people in the right jobs?
  2. Are we using our Superstars the way we should and letting them help drive the change?
  3. Are we providing the Open-Minders, who have already bought into the new concepts, with the skills, knowledge and abilities that they will need to be effective in the new way of doing things?
  4. Have we identified the Skeptics who are worth developing and laid out our expectations to them and started holding them accountable to meeting the expectations we laid out?
  5. Why are we allowing the Recalcitrants to sabotage and undermine the direction we have decided to take the organization?
Do you have the right people in place for change?