Survival of the Fittest: Adapting to Change

Posted by April

Oct 7, 2013 9:51:00 AM

2020_workforcebreakdownWith the changing of the season to autumn, the temperature has already begun to drop, the leaves have begun to change colors, and soon the leaves will fall. If you’re lucky enough, you get to see the changing of the seasons and experience all four seasons, depending on your geographic location. When you experience all of these changes, one must adapt to their new surroundings.

In the winter, you have to bundle up to keep warm. You have to put on your winter coat, wool scarf, hat, and gloves on before heading out the door. Then the season changes again to spring and it starts to warm up and then you prepare for the heat of summer. No longer do you need the heavy coat, scarf, gloves, and hat! Instead you pull out your shorts and sunscreen! Then the cycle starts over again when fall rolls around and you start wearing jackets and jeans again.

If we didn’t adapt to these changes each season, we would suffer the consequences: frost bite in the winter and sun poisoning in the summer. Just as we have to adapt to the changing of the seasons, employees must also adapt according to changes of the workforce, company culture, and a fast-paced market. In a sense, employees have to adapt to the constantly changing “seasons” of innovation, creativity and technology. These changes occur because of the rapidly changing market. There are always technology advances and newer, faster ways of achieving tasks. In order to keep up, employees must be readily adaptable to the different factors of the ever-changing market.

As Charles Darwin said, “In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”

If one is not willing to adapt to the changes around them, then they are left behind without the most up to date knowledge of how to succeed.

At TEDS, we provide talent management solutions to a variety of companies and organizations. This allows them to manage employees’ competencies, performance, talent acquisition, learning, etc., in one integrated system. One of TEDS slogans is “Success is not permanent. Innovation is not optional. Change or die.” You must be adaptable as processes and technologies change.

One change that is rapidly occurring in the US market is the presence of professionals known as millennials or Gen Y. For some, the influx of millennials may be a difficult adjustment.

According to a CNN article, by the end of the decade, the workforce will be comprised of 50% millennials and only 25% Baby Boomers, which is opposite of what the workforce looks like now.

With that in mind, the workforce is about to change drastically, which is why it’s best to be proactive now and make the necessary changes to prepare for the shift from majority Baby Boomers to millennials.

First, let’s examine some differences between the two generations. The US Department of Defense provides a great chart of the differences between all generations that comprise the US workforce, but we will just look at the two. (You can find the entire table at dodcio.defense.gov).

Baby Boomer

Key characteristics: pragmatic, conservative, conformist

Key values: accountability, tradition, stability.

VERSUS

Gen Y

Key characteristics: tech-savvy & diverse, media saturated, fluid lifestyle

Key values: diversity, flexibility, empowerment, service-oriented.

With these differences, there are bound to be clashes in opinion of how the workplace should function. As Gen Y’s presence in the workforce grows, it’s important to understand them and to embrace them. Not only are they the future of the workforce, but they are also the future consumer (Forbes). If a business knows who their future consumer will be, why not make changes now to accommodate the Gen Ys so that businesses can be more profitable in the future?

Two changes that need to happen: get out of the mindset of “this is the way things have always been.” Guess what? It’s not the 1960s anymore. If you haven’t noticed, there have been tons of technological advances since then. We have tablets instead of enormous desktops, we have cell phones instead of landlines, and because of the internet we can observe how the market changes, every second of the day! So get out of 1960, because it’s 2013. Second, quit being an overbearing supervisor. There’s no need to hover. No one likes someone else, especially a manager, to interfere with their space. Why not let employees do their job? As long as they are working diligently and completing all tasks, is it necessary to nag?

Keep in mind though, that millennials crave engagement and feedback. They want insight on how to be successful in their position and how they can better themselves professionally. They also want to fit in with their company.

The Chicago Tribune published an article recently that spoke to this stating that “most millennials leave the company because they don’t consider it a ‘good cultural fit.’”

When hiring a new employee, the hope as a supervisor is that they won’t quit in the foreseeable future; but if people leave the company because it’s not a good cultural fit, there’s a problem. If a company can’t retain their employees, then the costs associated with those losses will add up quickly. It’s a no win situation for both the employer and the employee.

So in order to create a win-win for everyone, here are a few tips to remember as the workforce changes:

Be accepting of change and welcome diversity. The workforce is changing with or without anyone’s approval. That’s just a cold hard fact! So get with the workforce or be forced out! Be willing to adapt to new environments that foster new ideals and challenge yourself to understand different perspectives than what you are used to.

Be engaged with millennials. Surveys show that Gen Ys are more concerned about engagement and culture than they are with their annual salary. Stay engaged with them and turnover will be less. Is it really worth the financial loss to keep things the way they’ve always been?

Be flexible. Why should employees be evaluated based on hours logged instead of their performance? Allowing people to work with flexibility illustrates to employees that they are trusted in the company and that they are doing great work.

Finally, Don’t be a control freak! Mainly for supervisors, no one (especially millennials) wants to work for someone who tries to control their every move. So move aside and let employees do what they were hired to do. Offer constructive feedback as needed. What’s the point of managing a person’s every move when they are meeting expectations? Besides, don’t you have a job to do as well?

Keeping these tidbits in mind, you’ll be less likely to be left in the dust. In the survival of the fittest, those who are willing to make the necessary changes will ultimately succeed.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from The Hunger Games, a 21st Century illustration that demonstrates the scenario of survival of the fittest at its best, “May the odds be ever in your favor!” –Effie Trinket

Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Recruitment and Retention, Empowering Your Workforce, Talent Management