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Wednesday, 17 April 2013 18:34

The Employee Perspective, Part II: This isn't the job I was hired for

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In Part I of our series on the Employee Perspective on change, we talked about what to do when you find the company's values no longer align with yours as an individual employee.  In Part II, we discuss what happens when you're hired to 'transform' or 'change' an organization - but then discover that no one actually wants those transformations or changes.

Q:  I've been offered what looks like a terrific opportunity to make a real difference:  I'll be heading up a new department and spearheading some major changes.  But I haven't met with the executive team yet and I'm concerned that the company isn't quite as committed to these changes as they say they are.  How can I ensure I don't end up 'spearheading' a spectacular failure?

Answer:

Ah, the age-old question.  You've just been offered your dream job:  You were recruited from your previous position with promises of a promotion, a great title, and the opportunity to make some exciting changes.  The people with whom you interviewed have told you that the organization is 'desperate for action' and you'll be given 'a free hand' to 'transform' the company.  It sounds fantastic.

But so far, you've only interviewed with the HR department and a handful of senior leaders, and the word on the street is that the executive team has been talking about making changes for years but have never managed to take decisive action.

Here's how to determine whether the position on offer is all it's cracked up to be - and whether you'll actually be in a position to successfully spearhead the changes they've told you they need:

  1. Listen for 'red flag' statements:  When you hear terms like 'newly-created role' and 'catalyst for change' during the recruiting and interviewing process, you can be fairly certain you're about to dive into uncharted territory.  This could be a great opportunity - or it could mean that not everyone in the organization is supportive of (or even knows about) this new role and its stated mandate.  It's a cue to probe deeper to find out if there's been a stated corporate mandate for specific change, whether it's been clearly articulated as part of a recent organization-wide business initiative, and who's been involved in creating this new role.
     
  2. Look for gaps between the job description and the organizational culture:  For example, if you're being hired as the Head of Digital Transformation with a mandate to help the company become 'more visionary', but the corporate website spends a lot of time talking about 'old-fashioned values' and the people you meet during the interview process crack jokes about how your fancy iPhone means you must be a hipster, you may be in for trouble.

    Again, these are cues to probe for more information.  Don't be afraid to ask, for example, how this 'Digital Transformation' role will align with the values stated on the website.  The response you get will tell you a lot about how the organization really sees this new role they've created and how committed they are to change.

    (I was once hired by a pharmaceutical company with a mandate to create 'new and innovative' approaches which could 'really drive change' in a computer training program.  When the first person I spoke to on my first day of work said, "We shouldn't waste our time on PCs - they're just a fad...", I knew I was in for a rough ride.)
     
  3. Ask if they've tried to establish this role before:  Have they tried to hire for this role in the past, but been either unable to do so or unable to keep the person (people?) they've hired?  This could be a good indication that the role isn't properly defined or isn't well-supported within the organization.
     
  4. Ask what success looks like - specifically:  If the role doesn't come with clearly defined goals ("Well, we're looking for you to tell us what we should be shooting for here..."), you'll likely find yourself at the mercy of competing priorities - and you'll never be able to get anything done.  What's more, you may have difficulty gaining consensus and support for your changes, because you won't be able to refer back to a central mandate.
     
  5. Ask about the budget and resourcing assigned to the role or project:  If the person interviewing you says "Oh, we haven't assigned any funding" or "Well, we're waiting for the person we hire to tell us how much money and staff we'll need", it's probably time to run the other way, because no one is taking the role or project seriously.
     
  6. Ask for examples of previous change initiatives - and their results:  If the organization can point to a recent 'transformation' in another area that went well, it's a good indication that the company copes well with change.  If all you hear are stories about how previous change initiatives haven't gone over well ("But I'm sure with you in this new role it'll all be different!"), you may want to rethink whether you're going to be set up for success.
     
  7. Go with your gut:  If you've been in the working world for a few years, and something about the opportunity just doesn't seem right to you, it may be that your subconscious is picking up on clues your conscious brain is missing.  

    In business, we're often told to ignore our 'feelings' and stick to the facts, but our gut reactions are our life experience talking - and that's worth something.  

    So step back, take some time to reflect on what you've been told about the role, and then see how you feel.
     

Don't get me wrong - sometimes you have to take big risks in order to achieve big things, and jumping into a whole new role with a big mandate could be a fantastic opportunity for you to make a big splash and take a big leap forward in your career.  I'm simply suggesting you take a calculated risk rather than a reckless one.

 

 

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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