Managing Change Is More Difficult than Ever

Jan 24, 2019

Change—both anticipated and unanticipated—is rocking the business world and shows no signs of weakening. As revealed in i4cp's 2013 Critical Human Capital Issues, issues pertaining to change not only dominate the landscape but also continue to escalate in importance. In fact, three of this year's top six issues deal with this topic.

Globalization and technological advancement are resulting in increasing competition for and growing expectations among customers, and the supply and demand gap for skilled workers continues to widen. Indeed, as the pace of change continues to accelerate externally in the market, the need for agility and resilience internally within organizations has never been more important, at least in recent years.

However, while the importance of managing change related issues is on the rise, the ability to improve in this most vital capability remains highly elusive. In fact, i4cp's research reveals that only 35% of high-performance organizations (HPOs) in this study—those in the top quartile of performers in year-over-year growth in revenue, profit, market share and customer satisfaction—indicate they are highly effective at doing so. And among low-performance organizations—those in the bottom quartile—the story is even worse, with only 13% perceiving their ability to manage and cope with change as highly effective.

The divide between high and low performers
While both HPOs and LPOs struggle with the need to better manage change, the way they go about it varies dramatically:

  • HPOs plan for change with an eye to the future. These organizations have a strong focus on workforce planning; ensuring they understand where the organization is going, ascertaining gaps in critical roles and skills, and ensuring programs and processes are aligned with future objectives in mind. On the other hand, LPOs address change via short-term fixes and reaction to flavor-of-the-day initiatives. The specific topic of strategic workforce planning is so essential to business agility and competitiveness that i4cp maintains it as the subject of a dedicated Exchange (i.e., research working group) comprised of nearly 20 member companies.
  • HPOs use effective talent management practices to shape the future. These organizations focus on key elements of talent management (e.g., performance management, leadership development and succession management) in order to equip the business to best meet its future objectives. This is consistent with one of the key findings from i4cp's The Future of HR: The Transition to Performance Advisor study, which revealed how HR functions within HPOs focus less on talent management and more on helping line managers become better managers of talent. In comparison, LPOs are focused more on gaining clarity on the strategy of the business and communicating it internally. Ineptitude in these areas results in efforts in talent management that are not aligned with future-focused goals.
  • HPOs apply metrics and analytics to pinpoint gaps that impede effectiveness and impact. These organizations are focused on metrics such as quality of hire, quality of attrition, and quality of movement. They also apply analytics to the raw data collected in order to help the business make better talent-related decisions. Research from i4cp's HR Analytics: Why We're Not There Yet study provides useful insights into key strategies and pitfalls to avoid with regard to this key topic. In contrast, LPOs are far more focused on efficiency metrics (e.g., time to hire). They are also focused on strategy execution and alignment, however they often lack the leadership and/or resources to see it through.

Over the coming months, i4cp will reveal the top critical issues of 2013 and publish a series of research reports, videos and infographics that will provide deeper analysis into the vital human capital management functions that support them. These assets will outline detailed insights into improving effectiveness and impact in human capital initiatives and strategy.

For more information on this and other i4cp research, visit

You can further explore the issues discussed in this article in these AMA seminars:
Strategic Agility and Resilience: Embracing Change to Drive Growth

Strategic Planning