Change Management has a definite place in the HR suite

John Whitaker

Change Management has a definite place in the HR suite_business managers crowded around a keyboard

Change Management has a definite place in the Human Resources suite. An entire industry was borne from the “people piece” of change; integrations, mergers, divestitures, out-sourcing are all part of the business climate in which we live; as a result, we have processes in place for integration, communications, outsourcing and SWOT teams to help employees through the change.

That’s how you plan for change.

But the ability to plan is not always a luxury you are afforded. Sometimes the change is thrust upon you without warning – that’s when your ability to respond is truly tested.

Change Management

A prime example - The war for talent is real, and in some cases it’s less a “war” than it is an ambush. In Denver, my team is in the midst of what will eventually be a Case Study for how to respond to an upside-down job market. An established and thriving region flipped on its head in a period of six months. It’s become the perfect storm: Low supply, high demand, and an increase in competition. Our offering is trying to compete in a market that no longer exists, but how does this happen?

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The “how” is like a lesson in Economics 101. The Denver population is rapidly growing – locals even refer to it as the “city of cranes,” as the infrastructure tries to catch up to the influx of new residents. In addition to the economic growth and employment market boom you have quality of life variables that speak to the post-Boomer generations. There’s a reason he didn’t name himself John Fargo.

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So a huge influx of new people, and now they need a dentist – knowing that, the construction of new dental practices increased in earnest. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, if you have enough qualified people to staff the roles in a dental practice. And when you don’t?

Regardless of how it happened, it’s your job to fix it – and fix it quickly.

Time to go to the data.

According to the EMSI (economic modeling) data, this all started “April, 2018.” That was when the first spike in competitive postings was seen. Year-over-year, the demand was over double that of April, 2017. March was even worse (or better if you’re a candidate), and by the time you get to October, 2018 – the demand for hygienists has increased by over five times the demand in 2017. The hygienist population remained static during the same time frame.

So what do you do when you’re thrown into a dogfight for talent? Here are the three actions you need to begin

  1. Arm yourself with data – Hunches aren’t allowed. At some point, you may need to change your offering. This isn’t the budget phase or planning phase, this is intel that you need to make an immediate case for action. No data, no case. The “easy” solution is always to recommend higher compensation, and it may be the accurate recommendation, but not without something to back it up. Data speaks to your Compensation and Finance colleagues, learn the language.
  2. Go back to your Exit Interviews. Didn’t do one? Interview those who may be in the know. Check out Glassdoor and LinkedIn – where did they go? Why did they go? If you don’t know, pick up the phone and ask that awkward question – “why didn’t you stay?”
  3. Re-evaluate your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) – If you have people leaving at a higher rate than they are coming in, you could have one of a few possibilities:
    1. Your EVP to new hires is not competitive
    2. Your EVP has a lack of “stickiness”
    3. You’re not delivering what you’ve been selling, i.e. this means your EVP has a disconnect. That’s a nice way to say it’s false.

No better way to accommodate this than to host a meeting with your hiring leaders. How would they define the value proposition? Does it jibe with the information you’ve garnered from Exit Interviews, employee ratings, turnover reports? This can be an eye-opening experience for everyone involved and may require some very direct straight-talk when perceptions are misaligned with reality.

Change can and will come quickly. Change management is a helpful (and sometimes hopeful) way to plan the actions and responses needed during a change process. But you must take advantage of those times where you are thrown into a chaotic situation without the benefit of planning – remember, medals are won during times of war.

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