Invest In People to Best Manage Through Disruption

Employee development may be a complex, long-term priority, but it’s more effective than short-term responses to disruption.

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Faster product development cycles and rapidly evolving technologies are accelerating business disruptions. Companies facing recurring transitions typically respond by cutting costs, exiting a geographic area, streamlining supply chains, or revamping their brand. But which of these strategies is the most effective response to disruption?

We surveyed 954 managers in North America and Europe to better understand the keys to surviving disruption and found that a majority of respondents felt they had successfully managed through upheavals. Surprisingly, most deemed the above strategies as less important to their success than investment in their work cultures to develop workforces capable of reacting nimbly to the blistering pace of disruption.

To become more resilient in the face of sudden change, most respondents felt it was just as important to improve the way their people work and to update their skills as it was to introduce new technologies. Specifically, they thought it was important that employees help to deliver their corporate strategies — and that leaders act as positive role models and promote a work environment based on trust.

Integrate People and Strategy

Many survey participants felt they were effective at managing disruption. Of these, 77% reported that their business and people strategies were closely linked. In contrast, only 35% who said that their business and people strategies were minimally integrated reported high success.

One bank we worked with, for example, executed a successful digital transformation by linking its business and people strategies through crowdsourced ideas from their employees. When the management team held an innovation competition that allowed employees to voice their aspirations, it sparked hundreds of suggestions (many of which were implemented) and boosted employees’ investment in realizing the bank’s goals. By putting people first, the bank came up with a system that benefited its customers.

Show Employees They Are Valued

Empowered and engaged employees are more likely to go the extra mile to help their company succeed in times of adversity. Indeed, 80% of respondents to our survey who felt they successfully managed disruption believed that employee communication and engagement were highly important to their success.

Clearly, business leaders who persistently demonstrate their commitment to employees through words and actions are more likely to earn trust and loyalty. And those qualities help companies survive disruptions and thrive thereafter.

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Comments (2)
Ed van Sluijs
This article was out just before the Covid crisis, I hope businesses will still see the opportunities to use these lessons now that the disruption has severely taken place.
Gamaliel Noel
Very Informative article and makes me wonder if I'm making the right choices in life.