The Positive Impact of Career Development on Change Management
Change management, as we have learned it, is missing a big component—continuous development. No offense to Kotter, and the other experts on leading change and best practices around accelerating organizations, but change itself is changing. How much we change, what is changing, and how we prepare for change are all rapidly evolving. In fact, change has become a part of daily life for most people. While we have come to expect it, change can still be stressful.
It’s late at night and I’ve just set my alarm to get up the next day. As I lock my phone, a reminder pops up that while it’s plugged in tonight, it will do me the courtesy of updating my operating system. Drat. Immediately, I check my latest backup. I check my schedule for the morning. Do I have time to relearn where and how everything works or even get used to a new font? If I’m not prepared for the inevitability of change, even these inconveniences can be stressful.
HR as agents of change
As HR leaders, we are, by nature, change agents. Thus, change methodologies must empower our employees to be constantly developing and give them the tools and resources to adequately keep up with persistent change. When employee learning is at the forefront of our organizational focus, HR is empowered to acquire the resources needed to help employees establish ongoing learning habits and gain value from their learning opportunities. Critical learning and development tools include a means to identify interests, exercises to help employees see which skills they will need to be successful in the future, access to learning platforms, and guidance to close those skills gaps.
Time for learning is also an important part of a development culture. People desperately want to learn, develop and try new things at work. According to LinkedIn, 94 percent of employees indicated they would stay at their company longer if it invested in their career development. In the same study, workers cited that their employer doesn’t give them sufficient time to learn.
While learning and development activities don’t require a hard and fast policy, such as a set time every week for everyone to attend school, it does require a commitment by the organization and its senior leaders to protect and promote internal learning and development (L&D) initiatives. Learning opportunities come in many forms. For instance, learning can be integrated with other essential work functions through internal gigs or project teams. No matter how learning opportunities are made available, L&D programs cannot be successful unless HR has the buy-in from senior leaders who must agree to fund and make time for learning and career development systems and support and fund employee attendance at conferences.
Technology is driving the need to learn
Advances in technology are driving rapid change in how we interact with computers. Moore’s law has made computer chips so efficient that engineers are now designing computers more like the human brain. All of this change can be a little mind-boggling and make people feel like the world is just beyond their control. No wonder change is stressful.
Jim is a 49-year-old sales operations specialist. He likes his job and has been a loyal employee for 16 years. In his job, he’s gone from Lotus Notes to Excel for managing the sales data and this system has worked well for his 200-person privately-held organization. Then change happens. The sole owner decides to sell the company to an oversees competitor. Every system used by the sales team is updated and Jim finds himself about 5 steps behind his coworkers in skills readiness for his job. Now Jim realizes that he could have been preparing for this change, if he’d had the time, resources, and guidance to do so. Although he may blame himself for his unpreparedness, he may also blame the employer that didn’t make sure he and his team were using the most recent tools and best practices.
If we can empower employees, like Jim, with the tools and resources to continually develop their professional skills, they will not only have control over their future destinies, they will be prepared to lead the company into the future with up to date abilities and knowledge. Often, these are the qualities we value the most when we look to bringing in “fresh thinking” with external hires. Providing learning tools can inspire innovation from the people who know your company best, your current employees.
Learning to ‘future-proof’ organizations
Companies who run a culture of continuous learning are also shown to be more profitable, according to The Association for Talent Development. With the rate of aggressive growth expected by investors and shareholders today, companies must explore every competitive edge for profitability. Therefore, many organizations who are transforming their businesses are also finding they need to alter the way they think about learning. Microsoft’s CPO, Kathleen Hogan, recently said they are shifting from a “know-it-all” culture to a “learn-it-all” culture. She, and other leaders at Microsoft, are creating a growth mindset in their culture in order to achieve their business transformation.
A culture of on-going development can also help ‘future-proof’ employees and companies to change by building their resilience. Rich Fernandez of the Google-founded Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, says resilience comes from learning. “Most resilient individuals and teams aren’t the ones that don’t fail, but rather the ones that fail, learn and thrive because of it. Being challenged — sometimes severely — is part of what activates resilience as a skill set.” Challenging employees through learning and development opportunities gives them this resilience.
Back to our phone example. If I accept that there will always be a new app update and new IOS, then by owning a phone, I accept that I will need to continuously re-learn how to operate it. By accepting this, I take back my power to control my device which, admittedly controls my time. I can get my power back by committing to learn.
Empowering your employees through development tools can help them feel less anxious about a change they’re experiencing today and changes to come. When employees own the ability to upskill themselves and continuously learn, they own the power over their own careers and future. Having this power builds their resilience. With resilience, they can be better engaged and are more apt to expend incremental effort. This helps us all—as HR leaders, as members of strategic leadership teams and as employees who want to find challenge in our work.