TECH, BUSINESS AND CAREER INSIGHTS

The One Thing We Can Always Count on is Change

By: Chris Skaggs | @chrislskaggs

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Job duties shift, pay is altered (for better or for worse), and expectations and workloads are adjusted. I know it’s incredibly cliché, but it’s also incredibly true – in today’s rapidly-evolving business climate the one constant in this world is change.

Companies who aren’t staying ahead of the curve will be left in the dust. Many examples of this are evident just by a quick trip down memory lane. Who remembers waiting in the Blockbuster line to pick-up that newest release? Or what about the album, I mean cassette – oh check that, compact disc – at Tower Records?

ON-DEMAND CULTURE
Service-oriented businesses must be particularly nimble as their customer base is constantly shifting with the markets, answering to shareholders, and demanding more and more from their supplier base. And typically, those demands “for more” come with an expectation of “for less.”

For example, companies kept IT support in-house for years until they realized they could outsource that expertise to a business specializing in IT services. This outsourced business model allowed those companies to focus on their core business objectives and leave IT to the experts.

However, outsourced IT services are not exclusive to this business model. Many companies have shifted risk and cost by outsourcing other services, such as HR and public relations, to third-party entities. Now, outsourced service partnerships are no longer enough – we’re in the middle of the next large shift as the on-demand culture makes its way into the vendor and supplier relationship.

ANY GAME OF THRONES FANS?
Think about the way we interact with cable content. Consumers no longer have to pay for an entire year of HBO just to watch the latest season of their favorite show. Today, you only have to pay for the HBO NOW monthly subscription while you anxiously wait to see who’ll sit on the Iron Throne next. Added bonus: once the season ends, you can simply cancel your subscription, paying only for what you actually want (I mean need).

Service partnerships with client companies have begun to shift as well. The on-demand service model means customers only pay for services as they use. The annual service contract is dwindling and customers are navigating to a per-incidence or per-dispatch model.

FULL-TIME WORKFORCE; PART-TIME SERVICE
This new change is exceedingly difficult for third-party service companies to adapt to. How can a company build a full-time workforce when customers only want to pay for part-time service?

To remain relevant and competitive, third-party service companies must be flexible enough to scale to this new expectation. If they don’t, I guarantee another company is eagerly waiting to pounce. Changes to the way things have always been done are not a matter of “if” but only a matter of “when”.

PERCEPTION VS. REALITY
While we’re talking about impending changes, it’s worth noting changes that make things different than they previously were (at your company) vs. changes with how things are (in the marketplace). Companies that tout a low turnover rate can have additional trouble with their employees accepting change.

Take a company with low turnover and a fantastic benefits package. Like most companies, strategic and difficult decisions have been made in recent years to alter benefit offerings to combat the rising cost of healthcare. Employees at this company might see a 10% increase per year – which is not fun for anyone – but if those increases still maintain the company at-or-below other benchmarked organizations, you have a perception vs. reality issue.

The perception of how benefits were versus how they are now conflicts with what the true market cost of insurance is if the employees were at a different company. As creatures of habit, we all can become accustomed to certain things, and when those things change, we are often faced with a new reality.

Change is never easy, but as I see it, we as employees can react to this change in a few different ways.

NEGATIVE NATE
We all know these employees, and most of us prefer to not be around them. You know who I’m talking about – those who complain, yet do nothing about it. These folks are stuck in the past and can’t embrace change. They focus all their energy on fighting the old instead of building the new.

These employees can think of nothing positive to say; however, they stick around. Negativity is the only thing they can cultivate, and they want to bring down everyone else around them to make them as unhappy as they are.

Unsolicited Advice:  Keep moving. Life is too short to be miserable. If employees like Negative Nate can only focus on the negative, maybe it’s time they started looking at other opportunities.

This might have been a tougher pill to swallow when the economy was in flux and the job market was tight. However today, according to a recent Fast Company article, “Workers are feeling optimistic about their prospects. The U.S. economy keeps adding jobs at a healthy clip and unemployment remains at pre-Recession lows, making this a jobseekers’ market.”

As harsh as it may sound, moving on might be the best thing for all those Negative Nates.

CONSTRUCTIVE CARLY
For most people, criticism is often hard to take; yet, when criticism is constructive, it can be extremely valuable. When faced with changes, employees that provide feedback in a constructive manner often uncover things that perhaps the employer didn’t fully consider.

Implementing change is tough and leadership wants to believe they have thought of everything, but that’s typically impossible. Employees like Carly want to make improvements, and candid and constructive feedback is necessary for those improvements to take place.

Unsolicited Advice: Keep it coming and keep employers honest. Contrary to Negative Nate, Carly can get her points across and valid concerns heard. She understands that how she delivers criticism is often more important than what she says. Remember: it’s not what you say, but how you say it.

Need more tips on providing constructive criticism? According to Bustle.com, here are nine ways to give constructive criticism that will truly change the game: 1. Use the “Feedback Sandwich” method, 2. Focus on the situation, not the person, 3. Think about timing, 4. Use a “Straw Man,” 5. Offer specific suggestions, 6. Keep your language positive, 7. Stick to “I” statements, 8. Be conscious of your tone, and lastly 9. Think about if it really needs to be said.

ALL-IN ALEX
Two-bits, four-bits, six-bits a dollar…there he is, the company cheerleader. This type of employee is on-board for anything. Co-workers can count on Alex to lead the way, and managers can count on Alex to be the champion of change.

Every company needs employees like Alex – eternally optimistic; but, too much of anything can be dangerous.

Unsolicited Advice: Keep it real. It can’t always be rainbows and butterflies. If you’re too positive all the time, you run the risk of adopting a Pollyanna view of the world.

In a 1990 book, University of Pennsylvania Psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman warned that optimism “may sometimes keep us from seeing reality with the necessary clarity.” It’s unrealistic to be optimistic all the time – that’s not being negative, that’s living a full and real emotional life.

WHO ARE YOU?
Whether you are a Nate, a Carly or an Alex, you’re guaranteed that things are going to change and they are going to change rapidly – especially if you’re part of a growing company. While many things are completely out of employees’ control, the one thing we all can control in our ever-changing world is our attitude towards change.

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