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What Makes Change So Hard?

Many of today’s companies realize that getting a competitive advantage and perhaps even surviving goes well beyond good processes, technology and people. Though these factors are relevant, if the culture drives the “good people” out of the company or does not encourage high engagement, suboptimal results are likely to occur. The fact is we all are highly influenced by the environment we are in.

The question is whether this impact is positive, negative or neutral. Since most organizations want the effect to be positive, let’s explore what is involved in creating a culture where most of us would like to work! This is the bedrock of workforce optimization, since if this element is lacking all the proper processes, technology and people will not be able to make up the difference.

People psychology

A crucial point to emphasize is that we are talking about basic human psychology principles rather than advanced technology principles. Perhaps if we called them “human technology” principles instead, more people would be quick to embrace them.

In the mad dash to embrace the latest and greatest in technology, the non-technical aspects of human behavior are frequently ignored. This is a mistake. To get the best out of our people, we must focus on how human beings are designed to think and behave. Though many of these “harnessing human potential” principles might differ with what you have been taught to believe, they are not wild theories that some crazy professor dreamed up one day. They have years of evidence supporting them.

Why change is so hard

You may be thinking, “Okay, this sounds interesting and may offer hope to create a more successful and enjoyable place to work. What would I need to do to start making this shift here and now in my own organization?” The answer is that achieving the benefits of workforce optimization begins with our willingness to challenge and shift our own mindsets and habits. As most of us know from experience, this can be a challenge for the following reasons:

  • We are often not consciously aware of how we are negatively impacting our culture.
  • Our defenses tend to do an excellent job of keeping us stuck in our current state of thought and behavior.
  • Even if we are aware of the habits that inhibit our success, we usually struggle to determine how and where to begin making positive changes.
  • When attempting to make changes, we typically fall back on our old habits unless we create an appropriate system of support and accountability to get back on the desired path when we inevitably veer off.
  • Obstacles to our improvement efforts inevitably emerge. If we do not overcome these obstacles, our efforts may fizzle out.
  • Leaders who desire change often experience resistance from others in the organization due to accumulated negative interactions.
  • Our tendency as human beings is to focus on the need for others to change rather than ourselves. This will not work since the examples we set speak louder than our words.

Okay, let’s address a rational concern that enters most people’s minds when they consider making dramatic and transformational positive change — skepticism. Most of us who are past the age of 10 have witnessed more trends, fads, over-hyped concepts and simply bad ideas than we can count. Being skeptical is a wise and rational tactic when we are presented with a philosophy that may run counter to our current beliefs.

What workforce optimization is

Before proceeding further let’s address any skepticism with a summary of what workforce optimization is and the benefits of this approach. Workforce optimization is:

  • A process of shifting our mindsets and developing new habits in how we view and relate to other people. This is really the heart or core of what is involved.
  • A willingness to understand how human beings are wired to think and behave rather than how we would prefer they were wired to think and behave.
  • Less work and effort than the traditional way of working. This is because we are not constantly fighting the way people are. After all, how effective have your past efforts been to get people to change and do things the way you would like?
  • Creating an environment where people are encouraged to be open about their weaknesses or areas of development. This frees people of the tension and stress of trying to hide who they really are. How well has denying developmental areas worked so far?
  • A shift of energy from negative, disengaged behaviors to positive, engaged behavior.
  • Creating a culture that is more productive, profitable, fun and satisfying than the traditional way that organizations operate.
  • Creating a culture that promotes business success along with personal growth and development since as people grow they become more capable. Thus, productivity and profitability increase.
  • Creating a culture that becomes an effective recruiting tool and competitive edge in the war for talent.

Workforce optimization is not:

  • Magic or a quick fix.
  • A cure for everything that ails your organization.
  • Something we can implement as a “technique” without authenticity.
  • Successful for perfect people who are committed to looking good and being right.

In summary, developing a great culture is not fast and easy and certainly not for those who wish to remain in their comfort zones. The willingness to be authentic enough to allow our true selves (including our weaknesses) to emerge takes courage. It also takes time, patience and skillful guidance so that it can become the norm that is encouraged and rewarded. When this occurs, we have laid the foundation for a great culture and workforce optimization.

This article was first published at

About the Author

Hire and Retention Consultant | Workforce Optimization Adviser | Success CoachBrad Wolff is Managing Director for JumpVine, an Atlanta-based recruitment firm whose science-based Hire2Retain approach results in a reduction in turnover from 46 percent to 10 percent over 18 months. It also reduces the number of interviews per hire by 50-75 percent. Wolff’s method measures whether people’s innate characteristics match a company’s open position and corporate culture.

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