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5 Ways COVID-19 Will Continue to Change HR

Many companies and job titles will go through drastic changes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The HR sector and the people working in it will undoubtedly experience some of them. Here are five things people can anticipate regarding HR after COVID-19 — as well as during it:

1. Companies Will Show Employee Appreciation Differently

Even while people love working from home, many find it difficult to get through their days without the fist bumps, handshakes and pats on the back that often accompanied their most productive, successful days in offices. These changes mean HR departments may need to find alternative ways to thank employees for their hard work. 

Hani Goldstein is the co-founder and CEO of Snappy Gifts, a company specializing in employee recognition products. She noted, “Working from home can be an isolating and disorienting experience for most of today’s workforce who are used to seeing their peers every day at the office.”

It’s also more challenging for employees to strike that all-important work-life balance. “Hours that were once dedicated to fun activities have been replaced with more work and increased responsibilities,” Goldstein explained. These things mean employers need to show their gratitude differently. Whether that means having team appreciation parties over virtual platforms or sending workers online gift cards, HR representatives must figure out safe, effective ways to express thanks. 

2. Remote Hiring and Recruitment Practices Will Gain Momentum

Some analysts predicted remote methods would change hiring and recruitment methods long before COVID-19 impacted the world. They were right to some extent, especially as HR professionals realized doing things remotely cut out potential hassles like travel arrangements. Remote platforms let companies extend their hiring and recruitment reach instead of only looking for candidates in the immediate area. 

HR after COVID-19 will likely prominently feature remote platforms and approaches. Suppose a human resources professional or recruitment expert can gauge a person’s candidacy for a role via a teleconferencing platform. That method saves time compared to bringing a person into the office. 

Some remote interviews are for work-at-home jobs. However, if a person gets hired for a position at a physical location, companies may require that the new hire tests negative for the novel coronavirus before arriving. 

3. Contracts Will Include COVID-19-Related Specifications More Often

As professionals navigate this new normal and ponder what it means for the future of HR, they should consider how the pandemic might impact their employment contracts. For example, a company might remove a line that guarantees the worker a certain number of hours per week to work, especially if the industry will experience the effects of the pandemic for the foreseeable future. 

One emerging trend — especially seen in the construction sector — concerns the addition of force majeure clauses related to the pandemic in contracts. Those cover the natural and unavoidable disasters preventing a party from fulfilling a contract’s terms. However, it is not sufficient for that entity to claim it was inconvenient to meet the contract’s terms. Courts look at several variables, including whether the conditions made working impossible.

Contracts may also state that workers must report their COVID-19 risk or agree to get screened. Drug screenings are already commonplace, and the same could become true for coronavirus tests. Legal experts and HR representatives are still working out the specifics of contracts in light of the global health crisis. However, people should expect to see some noticeable changes in contractual language soon. 

4. HR Representatives May Need to Reserve More Time for Training

The pandemic forced workplaces to adjust rapidly to new procedures to keep people safe. Cleaning happens more thoroughly and frequently, and many companies reduce or eliminate the time employees spend in close quarters. Customer-facing businesses also must adopt new procedures for keeping guests safe. 

Human resources professionals regularly schedule training sessions. However, they may need to do that more often or for larger workforce segments due to COVID-19. Some businesses invested in robots to help workers or wearable gadgets to ensure that people stay far enough apart while on the job. It could take a while for some workers to adjust to those things, although dedicated training efforts could help. 

If all or most of a workforce shifts to remote working, HR representatives may deem it necessary to plan training sessions that spell out safe practices online and give people tips for staying productive. Many employees now have to work in ways they hadn’t imagined. HR professionals cannot remove all the obstacles, but taking the time to educate the workers about what’s new could relieve the stresses they feel. 

5. Businesses Will Adjust Their Time-Off Policies According to Government Guidance

The need to isolate confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases poses challenges for HR professionals who may already face workplace shortages for other reasons. However, following government guidance on that matter remains crucial. Workplace leaders must also stay abreast of recent changes.

For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated the guidance about workers caring for themselves at home after symptom onset. The most recent recommendation is that people can come back to work if at least 10 days pass since symptoms began and they stay fever-free for at least 24 hours after their body temperatures initially return to normal without medication. Their non-fever symptoms must also improve. 

The CDC previously set the fever-resolution component of that three-prong test at 72 hours, so the change represents a significant reduction. These specifics mean companies may begin implementing time-off periods that people can use specifically for reasons connected to the virus. Doing that keeps people safer by minimizing the likelihood that they feel tempted to work while feeling unwell. 

The Evolving Future of HR

No one knows the pandemic’s time frame, so it’s impossible to say for sure how things will change. However, the five things mentioned here are solid predictions, especially since some workplaces have already adopted the changes.

Photo: Rodion Kutsaev

#WorkTrends: Remote Working: Craving Knowledge and Skills

Is working remotely actually working? At this point, it has to. And the good news is we want it to.

Remote working was already on the rise before mandatory work from home orders. From leaders to managers to employees, we were already anticipating — and in many cases, making — the shift. So Meghan M. Biro invited SkillSoft’s CMO, Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, to #WorkTrends to discuss the nature of remote work right now. The upshot: it’s working. But there’s plenty we can do better. 

Companies need to further support remote working by providing more opportunities and channels for learning, and managers need to empower their employees to have a “growth mindset,” as Michelle said. This conversation should be both “easy to access and rich in delivery,” she added. By doing this, organizations are not only maintaining engagement and culture, they’re also giving their workforce the learning and the means to stay relevant. 

Michelle (who’s known as Michelle B.B.), said Skillsoft has opened up access to Percipio, their immersive online learning platform: 90 days for university students; 60 days for everyone else). And many are taking advantage of the access, including managers, whose hunger for remote strategies is evidenced by the record number of searches on the platform for “collaboration” and “management.” 

While employees are doing their part by finding solutions to improve as remote individuals and teams, managers must also do their part by guiding them through this transition as humanly and empathetically as possible, both Meghan and Michelle concurred. As home life, school, and workplace collide (and combine), being mindful of employees’ emotional well-being is just as key right now. That may mean informal check-ins to increase the connection. And finding out what employees want and need.   

When Meghan asked for Michelle’s perspective on what comes next, Michelle noted that shifting to remote work has taught us that “physical proximity isn’t the only way to connect.” In fact, she noted, we’re becoming more socially connected — both online and offline, and that will likely continue. The challenge and adventure of remote working during this global crisis is a reality shared by so many, she added, and it’s bringing us together. And when we have access to digital learning it’s far easier for us to do our jobs, no matter where we are. 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions                                                                                                           

Q1: Why are many organizations struggling with remote work?  #WorkTrends
Q2: How can learning platforms help improve the transition to remote work? 
Q3: What can leaders do to help create better remote workplaces? #WorkTrends

Find Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek on Linkedin and Twitter

This recap is sponsored by Skillsoft.

3 Proven Ways Successful Leaders Handle the Unexpected

Building an organization that is able to respond to “the unexpected” is one of the most challenging roles for leaders to play in today’s environment. 

Market dynamics are significantly different now than in the past where there was greater continuity and relatively less unpredictability.

Today it is commonplace to see multiple new technologies shot into markets simultaneously; each ripping into market flow with massive disruption.

In addition, customers have more power today than ever before. They are greater in magnitude and better informed of their choices than people were even 5 years ago—thanks to the internet and the hyper connected world it has created.

New businesses are formed in staggering numbers today, dominated by the opportunities made available through Internet applications. The internet of things is spawning new business ideas at a staggering rate, bringing with it competitive intensity and rivalries never seen before.

These dynamics, characterized by randomness and unpredictability define the chaos facing today’s leader.

If the leaders can’t find their way through the barrage of unexpected events that slam their organization, they will fail and their organizations will die.

Here are 3 ways for leaders to make sure they are prepared when the unexpected is poised to take their organization down.

1. The ability to adapt requires a Plan B mentality. It’s all very well to create a theoretically brilliant strategy; it’s quite another to execute it and achieve the results originally intended. There are too many forces at play during the execution phase of the plan to prevent it from succeeding.

A surprising new technology is introduced, a new competitor springs up, market pricing suddenly is reduced, government policy changes and customer demand changes without warning.

The only effective coping mechanism in the face of this dynamic is to have contingency plans on the shelf ready to go on a moment’s notice.
These “what if” plans are just as important – no, MORE important – than the base plan because they prepare the organization for a body blow; they make responding to the unexpected an integral part of the culture.

2. The ability to adapt fast requires simplicity. A real time response to the unexpected cannot occur if the organization is bound up with a complex bureaucracy.

Complex rules, systems and decision making processes slow response time when “hitting the window” is crucial.  As preparation for the unexpected, leaders must simplify organizational infrastructure in all respects to make it easy to quickly replace the base plan with the appropriate contingency.

3. The ability to adapt requires a culture of nimbleness, flexibility, love of change and the willingness to make a counter move from the current direction quickly.

In order for this to happen, leaders must have the undying trust of employees.

If there is no trust, people will likely be unprepared to shift direction, believing that when leadership changes their mind it’s a sign of uncertainty and incompetence as opposed to a strategic move.

Successful leaders know the world will not likely “unfold as it should”; that unforeseen events will be the forces that shape the strategic outcome of their organization.

And they treat contingency planning as a critical priority because they know that if they do not effectively adapt to the unexpected, their future survival is at risk.

Photo Credit: natalieraegorman Flickr via Compfight cc

What’s Next in 2017? It’s the Year to Master the New “Normal”​

Our beloved Krups coffee maker decided it would brew its last wonderful cup of coffee this week. That might not sound like much to you. However, I assure you — to the finicky beings that are my taste buds, it is. I loved that coffeemaker. Each day it brewed the perfect cup of coffee that would sustain me through many a morning meeting or assessment report.

However, I had no choice in the matter. Done. Kaput.

So, I reluctantly charged off in search of an identical replacement. The same machine was no longer available. (What? Really? Why have you messed with success?)

Change is hard. Even the small ones.

When change unceremoniously arrives in the workplace — all sorts of havoc can ensue. A little like my coffee machine dilemma, we’re not often consulted when these changes occur. Whether you are absorbing an industry shift, anticipating a new boss, a revised performance rating system or company-wide reorganization, change is always challenging. (I’ve been there. I’ve lived through lay-offs, sudden resignations and client shake-ups. I’ve also helped teams move through these very same challenges.)

Embracing change is another story — and this is difficult for most of us. On some level, we feel a bit entitled to the status quo (see more on that here), which can create real career obstacles for us.

So, let’s try a different strategy:

The New Normal: The current state of being after some dramatic change has transpired. What replaces the expected, usual, typical state after an event occurs. The new normal encourages one to deal with current situations rather than lamenting what could have been.

On some level, we simply must construct — or wait for — that “new normal” to emerge. So, while you are waiting for that “new normal” to unfold, here are a few things to consider:

  • Build resilience. Modern career paths require the ability to “bounce back” after change. This often involves looking at situations differently, which can be very difficult to do when under stress. Interestingly, recent research has shown that this is a skill we can learn.
  • Embrace a “Growth Mindset”. Sometimes we feel that we can’t bridge the chasm from where we are — and where we need to go. (See Jeff Immelt’s career advice on the topic here.) So adopt the mindset that you can adapt and learn. The work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck offers us hope. (See her TED Talk here.)
  • Embrace the need for the change. While uncomfortable, long careers demand that we appreciate and recognize precipitating factors. Organizations evolve. Customers shift. In some cases, the need to revise our course is inevitable.
  • We can maintain our identity. Remember, the qualities you personally value and bring to the table can remain — even in the midst of change. Don’t immediately assume that revisions to your work life will entirely derail you or force you to become less of a contributor (in your own eyes).
  • Try to learn more, then decide. With any change, learning more about what is about to happen can alleviate accompanying fear and anxiety. Complete a reference check on your new supervisor. Ask for the expanded explanation as to why that new procedural change is necessary. You may find a little peace.
  • Ignore the “naysayers”. The last thing you need is an individual who isn’t going to give the emerging situation one iota of a chance. Be mindful of the reactions around you and inoculate yourself against the negativity that might be spreading. It’s really not wise to borrow additional trouble.
  • Give it time. Once the changes occur, offer the situation time to settle. Some of the initial bumps that pop up do work themselves out. There is a period of “re-calibration” that must occur. Once that is complete, a clearer picture may surface. You may actually like a bit of what you see. If not, you can consider an alternative course.
  • Look for the up-side. Change often opens the door for more change — and there could be opportunities lurking there. If you have a new supervisor, for example, they may just be the person willing to listen to the pile of ideas you’ve carefully stored.

I hope you discover your “new normal” quickly. Meanwhile, our new (and improved) Krups #KM7508 12-cup programmable coffee machine sits on our counter. It has big shoes to fill.

I’ll have to admit, today it brewed a pretty mean cup of coffee.

Is change difficult for you?

How would you describe your behavior in the face of a change? What are your coping strategies?

Author’s Note: I’ll be exploring the notion of change and resilience in upcoming posts. I hope you’ll join the conversation.

Another note: This post previously appeared at my blog The Office Blend.

The 2015 Painful And Pleasurable Prediction

“We can go from boom to bust,

From dreams to a bowl of dust…”

– Neil Peart 

On December 31, 2014, I jokingly predicted on Facebook that the next day would become a new year, maybe even a happy one for many of us.

And lo and behold, my prediction came true, at least the part about being a new year the next day. A happy one remains to be seen…

No, I am no soothsayer or Jedi or outlandish wizard – I am but a mere mortal who occasionally gets visions.

Wait! I feel another coming on. Yes, there it is … oh my, this is a doozy…

How we define and live job and career is evolving rapidly, more than anytime since the 20th century.

Some of you will wake up tomorrow in the “world of work” gainfully employed full time. Others of you will wake up part time.

Both in corporate offices, co-working offices and virtually from almost anywhere in the world.

Still others will wake up temporary workers or freelancers, entrepreneurs or investors, or even stay-at-home moms or dads.

While too many others will (still) awaken unemployed and struggling to stay afloat.

And we will continuously cycle through one or more of these throughout 2015 and beyond…

All kidding aside, change will be constant, painful and pleasurable, simultaneous and relentless.

The signs are all here:

And so it is written, my friends. And so it shall be.

Happy New Year.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: Tim J Keegan via photopin cc

Looking Beyond HR

Some business improvement professionals believe the goal of their work is to make themselves redundant, to take their company to the point where improvement is self-sustaining and they are no longer needed. Is it time for us, as HR professionals, to look at our jobs the same way? To ask whether the benefits we bring can be embedded in a wider company culture? Whether we can move on from working in human resources and become something more?

I Am Not a Resource

The paradigm we currently work within, the one upon which human resources departments are built, is an early 20th century one. It comes from the era of Fordism, when the aim of industry was to reduce everyone and everything to a replaceable cog in an identical machine. When the relationship between employees and managers was a battle between the interests of labor and those of capital.

But people are not a resource, not some finite commodity to be used up and replaced, as this model assumes. And the most gifted employees are rejecting this model, demanding better conditions of work or setting out on their own to escape the stresses and discomforts that this model provides. If we want to retain the best staff, and to unleash their full energy, then we need to find a new model.

An Evidenced Need For Change

The principles behind this have been widely debated, but hard evidence is starting to build up for a need for change. A recent experiment involving hundreds of employees at a Fortune 500 company showed the value of a more human, more flexible, less centralized approach to dealing with staff needs. Employees given more control over when and where they worked, and whose supervisors were empowered to help them achieve a better work-life balance, felt a significant reduction in the conflict between their home and work lives. This reduced stress for these employees, reducing a major source of ill health and lost productivity in the American workforce. And it did so without putting an extra burden on other staff.

Many companies provide the sort of adaptations these employees sought, but they do it on a case by case basis, where employees have to negotiate exceptional treatment through managers and HR. By changing company procedures and structures, integrating flexibility into standard working, this experiment treated employees more like human beings, less like resources, dispersing power often held by the HR department.

Changing the Company, Changing the HR Department

Ruth Schwartz makes a case for taking this a step further. Her experience with High Performance and Open Book Management has led her to conclude that the best way to engage with workers, to treat them as human beings rather than resources and so get the best from them, is to treat everyone as a contributing partner in the organization. If people are rewarded not for time served but for what they contribute, if they have an active interest in the outcome for the firm beyond just keeping their job, then we will move fully beyond the idea of people as resources.

What then for the HR department? There will always be a need for professionals with the skills to improve people’s working lives. Will we become, as Schwartz suggests, the Connection Department, the Leadership Department, the Prosperity Department?

Decentralizing power over people’s working lives, transforming the role of the current HR department, these are radical steps. But all the greatest successes in business come from radical steps, from finding ways to unlock the creativity of the people around you.

Perhaps it is time for us to set our sights higher, to aim at making ourselves redundant.

About the Author: Mark Lukens is a Founding Partner of Method3, a global management consulting firm. Most of Mark’s writing involves theoretical considerations and practical application, academics, change leadership, and other topics at the intersection of business, society, and humanity.

photo credit: ckaroli via photopin cc

The Power To Lead Organizational Change

We all have the power within us to create real and lasting change. To transform the place we work into something finer and more efficient, no matter how good a position it started from. Change gives us the potential to be not just good but great, to continually aspire to more.

Somebody has to lead that change, and, if you’re willing to embrace the right attitude and values, it can be you.

Create Credibility

The first step in driving change is to build credibility, both for yourself and for the changes you want to see.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter has listed five powers that are central to this:

  • Showing up: by getting out into the field you earn the right in the eyes of others to talk about changes to their workplace.
  • Speaking up: be the one who shapes the debate, not just another voice in the crowd – stand up for the change you want to see.
  • Teaming up: very little can be achieved on your own, so get together with others to push the changes you all want.
  • Looking up: relate your work to a higher set of values, something for people to aspire to.
  • Not giving up: show that you will follow through on your promises by sticking at things even when they’re tough.

In addition to this, make sure that you’re building the right kind of energy around your changes. Talk in terms of an opportunity for something good, rather than things that are wrong or need fixing. This creates a more positive, less defensive atmosphere.

Focus On Others

You may be the one driving the change forward, but you’ll get more out of it if you take a difficult step and build the positive attention around others. Make sure to celebrate successes, but focus that celebration on the achievements of the teams you’re working with or the benefits this will bring for them, not on yourself.

This has several positive effects. It makes people feel more ownership over the changes you are leading, and so more commitment to them. The positive attention helps to balance any negative feelings they may have about outside interference and the challenges of change. And it removes any risk that you will be seen as self-aggrandizing or trying to bring change for your own benefit, either of which can damage your credibility.

Break Down the Walls

Organizations instinctively tend to separate into isolated teams working at their own separate tasks. But this is a damaging way to work, reducing flexibility and obstructing your ability to improve efficiency down the whole value stream. To make the most out of change, start by breaking down those barriers. Encourage collaboration between teams, challenge the existing boundaries between them, look to understand and correctly deploy the skills needed for each task regardless of which department they come from.

Don’t Wait

If you wait for the best time then change may never come. There are always opportunities for improvement, and there are always problems in the way. So take the bull by the horns, stand up for change and see where it can take you.

The power is yours to grasp.

About the Author: Mark Lukens is a Founding Partner of Method3, a global management consulting firm. Most of Mark’s writing involves theoretical considerations and practical application, academics, change leadership, and other topics at the intersection of business, society, and humanity.

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The Biggest Nail In Workplace Culture

Some people say that the nail that stands out will get hammered down. These are the people who want you to keep your head down and not make a fuss, just do your hours at your desk and then head home. These people fear being the nail that stands out, and they’ll share that fear.

But there’s another sort of nail that stands out. On proud display at Stanford University is a nail that united a nation – the Golden Spike, used to complete the First Transcontinental Railroad.

Because sometimes the nail that stands out gets hammered down, but sometimes it holds everything together.

Getting hammered down

We’ve all taken risks in our time, spoken up for the things we believe in. And we’ve all had moments when others have tried to stop us.

Maybe it’s a well-meaning colleague who doesn’t want to see you risk getting in trouble for rocking the boat, because they themselves fear facing any kind of scorn. Maybe it’s a manager who likes to have things done a certain way, and who fears what will happen if their orderly system is disrupted. Maybe it’s a superior who believes in the importance of hierarchy, and fears for their own position if everybody’s voice can be heard equally.

But in every case it’s not really about you and what’s good for you. It’s about their fears, about projecting those onto the world.

Now think about the times when you didn’t speak up, when you let your own fears guide you and so kept in what some might call ‘your place’. Think of all the hours spent on the drudgery of tasks that benefit no one, or on projects that you know in your heart of hearts are dead ends. Do you feel any better for having kept your head down, for having accepted that place? Did your McJob bring you any satisfaction?

The lynchpin

There’s another sort of nail that stands out, and that Seth Godin has explored in his books. That’s the lynchpin, the spike that holds a whole process or organization together.

Godin has given expression to the discomfort we all felt in our guts at not allowing ourselves to be different, at keeping our heads down out of fear. He points out how, as we all instinctively knew, giving in to that fear is not the solution. It doesn’t make us safer, it makes us more disposable, just another identical nail holding down a small corner of some organization that values rusty, battered down nails over golden spikes.

Trying to knuckle down and fit in, to be the same as everyone else, was the dream spoon fed to a previous generation. That generation was given the promise of security in return – pensions, jobs for life, an end to uncertainties. That promise is gone, and we must find another way of working.

That’s the way of the lynchpin. Daring to be different, to stand up and risk being battered down, and in the process showing just how unique and invaluable you are. It’s about being the Golden Spike.

Inspiring others

By daring to be different you can make yourself invaluable to your employers and find more satisfaction in your job. But it isn’t just about you.

Think of the effect on you of all those other people keeping their heads down and telling you to do the same. Did it inspire you to do the right thing for you, or did it just lead you to spend years working in anxious conformity? And if you continue with that conformity then what sort of example are you setting for others, for your friends, your colleagues, your children?

If we accept a life of sameness and drudgery then so will the people who take their example from us. If we excel, if we stand up, if we reach for the extraordinary then they will too.

Head held high

So how do you do this?

Start by making your voice heard. When you’re given a chance to express your opinion then do it, whether or not you think it’s what people are looking for. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results. Many leaders want to hear unusual opinions, they just aren’t used to it. If they like what they hear then they’ll come back for more, and they’ll come to you with projects worthy of the intelligence and initiative you’ve shown. If you show potential to achieve more then a good employer will make the most of you, and so give you a chance to grow.

If you’re unfortunate then maybe you will get shouted down again and again. But if that’s the case then are you really working somewhere worthy of your talents? If they don’t value your opinions enough to listen then they may not value you enough to keep you around when times get tough. So don’t waste your energy doing better for them. Move on to somewhere you can hold your head up high.

It’s scary at first, and difficult. But as you get used to voicing your opinions, showing your unique skills, being a vital part of what you do, then you’ll feel a growing sense of satisfaction. You’ll feel the weight lifted from your shoulders, even as you become vital to holding your workplace together.

Becoming the Golden Spike

Take a stand. Hold your head high and make your voice count. Make yourself a lynchpin, not just for you, but also for everyone around you.

Apply Now

(About the Author: Mark Lukens is a Founding Partner of Method3, a global management consulting firm. He has 20 plus years of C-Level experience across multiple sectors including healthcare, education, government, and people and potential (aka HR). In addition, Mark currently serves as Chairman of the Board for Behavioral Health Service North, a large behavioral health services provider in New York. He also actively serves on the faculty of the State University of New York (SUNY) and teaches in the School of Business and Economics; Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship and the Department of Management, International Business and Information Systems. Mark holds an MBA and is highly recognized in the technology and healthcare space with credentials including MCSE and Paramedic. Most of Mark’s writing involves theoretical considerations and practical application, academics, change leadership, and other topics at the intersection of business, society, and humanity. Mark resides in New York with his wife Lynn, two children, and two Labradors. The greatest pursuit; “To be more in the Service of Others.”)


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Workplace Technology and Innovation: BFFs?

Technology and innovation. How do these terms fit together in your mind?

If you’re like me, you tend to lump them into a fuzzy “whole.” Yet in today’s fluid world of work, each plays a distinctive role.

How do they differ? Why does it matter? And how can they co-exist in ways that add value in modern organizations?

Technology vs. Innovation — Revolution or Evolution?

Some people define technology by focusing on tools and machines. But there’s a deeper view. Technology is based on processes and skills that we mobilize to control and transform our lives. Our goal is to create and manipulate physical objects, symbols and norms. It starts with cultures that are seeking pathways to progress, but ends with solutions that are, in a sense, forced. In this regard, technology seems “revolutionary.”

Innovation, on the other hand, has been described as a better solution that is readily available to society. On the surface, innovation may seem revolutionary. But the process of innovation is more natural than contrived. So perhaps it’s more “evolutionary.”

Regardless, there clearly is an intersection between these two concepts — a symbiotic sweet spot. Therefore, it makes sense to look at them in tandem, respecting the fact that neither can exist without benefit of the other.

Do We “Like” Innovation More Than Technology?

I find it curious that people from all walks of life tend to embrace and support the concept of innovation as a beneficial part of what keeps our world turning. Yet technology often is not as well received. In fact, in some circles, technology is feared and loathed so much, it’s considered a demonic presence that requires experts to eliminate it from existence!

While technology is often equated with concrete mechanisms, innovation is more abstract — and therefore perhaps more approachable. Innovation doesn’t require advanced design, engineering or scientific proof, but can simply be a clever idea that makes life easier or more satisfying. For example, this video demonstrates how innovative ideas can add value without necessarily requiring sophisticated technology:

Change Is Good. Maybe. Sometimes. Sort of.

For some people, technology may symbolize fear of the future. The element of uncertainty can be deeply disturbing to the human psyche. Perhaps reinforced by exaggerated imagery from powerful Hollywood icons, fear surrounding the “dark side” of technology seems to persist. Of course, pop culture isn’t the only reason why our society tends to be apprehensive about accepting technology.

Why do many of us struggle with actually translating an idea from concept to application? And what keeps us from seeing the direct connection between innovation and technology? Some people claim that innovation and its outcomes are driven by a basic human urge to continue learning and expanding our understanding of ourselves and our surroundings. And yet, we all know people who defy that rule — people who never seem interested in learning anything new.

So, why do people perceive innovation and technology so differently? They could be considered two “stops” along the same path — innovation is thinking “outside the box,” while technology is the result of putting those thoughts into action. Technology is what we “make” from our ideas. And sometimes in the space between thought and result, we find resistance that can derail our progress. But the process isn’t necessarily sequential. It’s the result of continuous and sometimes nonlinear inspiration and feedback loops. We can’t dismiss how previous and existing technology and innovation lead to advanced thinking, learning and ideation.

Innovation and Technology at Work

Despite natural human resistance to change, technology solutions increasingly define the world of work. Sparked by innovative ideas, we discover and develop new ways to streamline processes, improve efficiency, speed communications, and stretch the physical and cultural boundaries that previously limited organizational performance. Since Americans work such long hours each week, don’t we owe it to ourselves to create a work culture that is not only more productive, but also connects us in ways we previously never imagined, and encourages us to dream of how we might improve tomorrow’s workplace?

If we don’t dream it, we can’t do it. Without innovation to ignite the imagination, and without technology to power these thoughts, silos can isolate and stifle us from advancing our quality of life, and our pursuit of happiness. So let’s honor both as we look to the future of work.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Talent And Transformation: A Delicate Balance

Change: It’s not what it used to be.

As the availability of new information and technology continues to proliferate, there are direct implications for how organizations adapt and grow.

Within many companies, what used to be considered radical transformation is now merely change — often thrusting smaller organizations into a world once dominated by the Fortune 500. With each “out-of-nowhere” success, we become more accustomed to watching one disruptive innovation after another arise from startup status and send status quo players to the realm of obsolescense.

With each wave of innovation comes more knowledge — and with knowledge being the byproduct of information and context, we are becoming increasingly aware of the change around us. For most people, that is scary.

Change vs. Transformation

It wasn’t long ago that businesses ran with modest, almost unnoticeable change, year after year. Business inertia meant that employment was a lifelong commitment for many employers and employees alike.

For the human psyche, this was ideal. That’s because deep down people don’t like change. It isn’t so much because change is a bad thing. Most people in fact would probably suggest that change is a good thing.

However, the same group of people will become scared, resistive, or even combative when they feel change that affects them. That is because, regardless of their opinion on change, if change is unexpected and/or unprepared for it tends to yield less than satisfactory results.

So, if change creates problem, what happens within an organization when transformation rears its beautiful yet unforgiving head?

The idea of transformation vs. change (for anyone who is wondering) is that transformation takes the very definition of change and makes it exponential across all axes.

During typical organizational transformation, employees can quickly feel lost. Sometimes this is due to their own fear of what they see coming. With fear and change looming in their minds, this can trigger a mass exodus of those affected, or perhaps even worse, the loss of key employees who are outside of the “transformation planning” sphere.

When this happens, companies must face a myriad of problems, not the least of which is turnover, which can be cancerous within a delicate corporate culture. Beyond cultural disruption, turnover is extraordinarily expensive and it slows down the transformation process, which is how we arrived here in the first place.

To add insult to injury, some organizations choose to blame the exiting employees. While this is easy (kind of like sales saying “price” is the reason you lose a deal), it is often nothing more than a scapegoat. Simply suggesting that some employees weren’t “moving with the times” reveals both a lack of character and a lack of class. Further, it is most likely not true.

Leading The Way Through Transformation

This brings us to the best course of action. First, as an organizational leaders, we must continuously evaluate our workforce, focusing on which employees demonstrate the strongest cultural fit, and ability to adapt to change. Then we must do everything in our power to motivate those who best fit our culture to align their efforts with the company’s direction.

Finally, it’s essential to re-center our thinking and focus on control. After all, as leaders we are ALWAYS responsible for setting the sails of our proverbial ships, and we all know that a ship will move faster and more true to course with all hands on deck. Just look for that “Motivation” poster in your office…you know, the one that says “Teamwork.”

Of course, we can’t control the entire domino effect that occurs as organizations shift, we most certainly have control of most of it. This includes the messaging, the process of continuous communication that is required between leadership and the team, as well as the creation and cultivation of a culture of change.

The transformational organization isn’t going away. In fact, the velocity of change and transformation is only going to continue increasing. (This is emphatic, although I have no science to prove it). Just look at what is happening around us for the cues.

While we cannot reverse the trend, we can control our outcomes. This starts with a culture of resilient people, and ends with great leaders who value and protect that culture, as it embraces the future..

Shift happens. The essential question is: how will you make the most of it?

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more…)

(Also Note: This article originally appeared at Switch & Shift. It is republished with permission)

Image Credit: From Black Swan by Fox Searchlight