Turnabout Is Fair Play
People Before Strategy: Four Types of Employees that Help or Hinder a Changing Corporate Culture
While people are a company's most important asset, they are also a company's biggest obstacle when it comes to changing strategy. In this era when organizations need to be flexible, innovative and always ready to adapt, changing a stodgy corporate culture into a nimble one is a Herculean challenge for any organizational leader.
"Before a company can begin to implement a strategy, its leaders must evaluate whether they have the right people in place. If they don't, their strategy is doomed," says David Hofrichter, a Vice President of the Hay Group, a worldwide management consulting firm that aids organizations in design work, developing, managing, motivating, rewarding and retaining employees.
Hofrichter stresses that a sharp assessment of a company's employees, coupled with quick and aggressive action is required when the corporate culture is so deeply ingrained with old ways.
Hay group research found that there are four groups that employees fall into when looking at attitudes and behaviors: Superstars, Open-Minders, Skeptics and Recalcitrants. "Treat them all the same at your peril," Hofrichter says.
"We spend all our time on people," Jack Welch, CEO of GE comments. "The day we screw up the people thing, this company is over." In Fortune's recent "Why CEOs Fail" article, Welch is held up as an example of a CEO who utilizes immense amounts of information to follow the progress of employees, as well as determining how beliefs align with GE's six-sigma values. If employees are out of alignment with GE and its standards, they are asked to leave.
According to Paul LeBlanc, an HR manager with Doubletex, "We need at least 25-40 percent of the "open-minders. These are who will really try, go along with and assume things will work until it is clearly demonstrated otherwise over time."
LeBlanc goes on to say that the "skeptics" are in some ways the most difficult group because they appear to or feign acceptance, but many times sabotage by their silence or inaction or pretense of support.
LeBlanc finishes by using an example of the "recalitrants." He is amazed at how this category of individuals can get away with their behavior.
"Imagine that an organization wants to install a more participative leadership/management style. This group [recalcitrants] bucks at the thought and is allowed to be recalcitrant due to their seniority, age, experience, relationship with the leaders, etc. Yet they wouldn't be allowed to contravene the budget, business/marketing plan! This makes me question when I see this just how committed the leadership is to new initiatives," LeBlanc concludes.
"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," Hofrichter from Hay's says. "It's pretty basic: think people before strategy. The new reality is to shape your strategy around the key assets you have."