Re-Tooling Your Employees for Change

Re-Tooling Your Employees for Change©
Suzanne Simpson, Ph.D., C.Psych.

Change is a fact of life. Successful organizations must have employees who can adapt to changing market trends, new technologies, new ways of doing business, an increasingly global market and heavier demands for higher levels of skills and education. They must constantly strive to meet and exceed customer expectations, while doing more with less. Managing change and assisting employees to adapt to change is therefore a must for any organization to survive in the long term.

If you don’t know where you are going how will you know when you get there?

A plan is needed to manage change. A plan is simply a road map designed to provide direction to where you want to go. The first step is to determine your "destination", or the vision and goals for your organization. Defining your organization’s vision and goals will involve addressing questions such as: what type of business will your organization be doing; how much business will you have; how will the work be organized; what kind of service should your customers expect; what values must be in place to achieve your goals? Once these questions are answered, it is then possible to determine how the organization is going to achieve that vision.

What Kind of Employees Will be Needed to Achieve the Vision?

Employees are the key to making the change a success. Unless employees are equipped to participate in the change, your goals likely won’t be achieved. The next step therefore is to determine the “ideal” employee group needed to achieve your vision and goals. A number of questions will have to be addressed:

• How many and what types of employees will be needed?
• How adaptable must they be? Will they need generalist or highly specialized skill sets?
• Will special educational, certification or licensing requirements have to be met?
• Will they operate independently, or as part of a team?

How do my current employees measure up?

Having defined your "ideal" employee group, the next question to ask is how your current employees measure up. To be successful, this must be done in a very systematic way. The needed skills, competencies, knowledge and educational requirements must be clearly defined, and your current group of employees evaluated against these requirements. This can be done through an employee skills inventory completed as a collaborative effort between employees and their managers.

Getting from Here to There

The results of the employee skills inventory can be used to create individual action plans for addressing any gaps in skills identified. Options include:

• Do Nothing
• The employee is judged to precisely meet the requirements defined in your "ideal" target organization.
• Train/Develop

The employee has some of the skills to meet the goals of the organization, but there are gaps to be addressed through training, development or coaching.


The employee may have many of the skills needed to meet the organizational goals but is in the wrong job, or the employee’s current job will no longer exist in a re-designed structure, yet the employee is valued and capable of contributing to the organization’s success.

Offer Support Tools

Some employees may require additional resources or new equipment to perform to their full potential.


The gap between current skills and future requirements may be so great that it cannot be resolved through the means identified above. Therefore it may be necessary to release employees. This, however, should be the option of last resort. Many organizations that have used large scale employee cuts and lay offs, in some cases indiscriminately, have put themselves out of business, since no talent pool was available to bring them back to profitability. This option also sends the message to employees that the organization cannot be trusted. Finally, replacing the employee with a new hire can be much more costly than anticipated. Hiring the right person the first time has been estimated to cost between $10,000 to $30,000. If a mistake is made the cost will be much greater. A lot of retraining can be done for $10,000.

Group Trends

Finally, the individual skills inventory results can be analyzed for group trends to determine where there is a common need. This will allow the organization to put in place cost-efficient action and training programs to address common needs among employees.

Managing the “Fear Factor”

Change of any sort can be stressful. It is important therefore that employees be kept up to date about the change underway, and be treated with respect and dignity. Present the change in a positive light and point out the benefits for both employees and the organization. The aim is to come out of the process a better organization, prepared to meet the challenges of the future and to achieve the organization’s vision and goals.