The most complicated and, from a financial perspective, the most expensive part of any transformation is always the people. Who do you keep in what roles? Who do you retrain for new roles? Who do you let go and replace with new people?
Given the cost of replacing employees is very high, the cheapest thing to do would be retain and retrain everyone you already have. Of course, not everyone will want to change what they do. Just be aware that the people who might be the best candidates for replacement or retraining might not be who you think they are.
My aunt is super traditional. She wears Indian clothes every day. All her friends are Indian. She spends most of her day not speaking English or even watching English language programming, thanks to cable. Oh, she’s perfectly capable of speaking English, better than some native-born speakers I’ve heard, in fact. After all, she’s been living in the U.S. virtually my entire life. She’s even married retired civilian engineer for the Navy who served in Vietnam, though he’s always worn a turban and had a full beard.
But that’s not all there is to my aunt. Once, my Significant Other (SO) was showing her something on his Apple iPad that we thought would be a great addition to her daughter’s wedding – her only daughter’s wedding, mind you – when she totally hijacked the conversation to get his review of the newest generation device.
Even more crazy, a few days later, my SO got a text from my aunt. (She texts everybody all the time, that’s not the punch line.) The text was signed as being “sent from my iPad.” She lives in the middle of nowhere, near the Naval Air Station where my uncle used to work. Still, thanks to Amazon’s amazing delivery model, my aunt had the new version of the iPad and was already texting from it!
She is a menace at family events as she sneaks around and takes photos or videos of us in awkward poses on her iPad or iPhone and stores them on her laptop. Oh, that iPhone? She had one before her millennial daughter. In fact, research shows millennials are not especially tech savvy, even if they use technology a lot. They seemed to have no interest in it – the same way most people who drive cars have no interest in how their cars are engineered. But most people — including me until I had to manage a trio of them — just assume they are super skilled with technology.
Having worked in youthful startups, mid-size industry leaders, and a Fortune 25 giant, I can tell you that you want to avoid knee-jerk reactions like mine and find as many employees like my aunt as you can. These are employees who want to try new things, the ones who ask for new assignments, or just proactively take on additional projects that challenge them mentally. They have the type of personality that can handle the stresses of change, learning a lot of things in a short period of time, and the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what will happen.
Take the extra steps needed to support these folks because they’ll be your stars. These employees can be the credible sources we talked about in a previous blog post on change management who can convince others. They can even be trained to help teach others, given that people have different styles of learning and some folks who genuinely want to learn but just need the material presented in a different way.
The answer isn’t praying everyone will quit and you’ll magically – and inexpensively – be able to hire the perfect new people. I actually tried that early on in my career and failed miserably (the kind of people I thought I really wanted didn’t want the job).
Instead, I’ve learned to tap into the train the trainer model, which I learned about in detail from my SO’s work as an instructor teaching Community Emergency Response Teams trainers for that super complex Federal Emergency Management Agency program. It’s a lot of work up front but it works.
These superstars who get trained as trainers feel real sense of ownership over the new way. Learners can often access these trainers more easily than your team, since there will be more trainers than you. Finding and cultivating that kind of person will make a huge difference as the energy and reach they give you. These gems may not be who you expect so don’t miss out.
Comments welcome, especially those related to how you cultivated existing employees to carry out a marketing transformation.