by Karin Bonev

February 23, 2021

2021 will be another year of extreme organizational change due to an active M&A market, continued economic uncertainty, discussions around the future of work, potential talent shifts, much-needed discussions around diversity, equity and inclusion and the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations among other factors.

Last week we convened a panel of senior leaders to share how their organizations managed change in 2020 and how they are preparing for 2021. Our experts included:

  • Andrean Horton, executive vice president, chief legal officer and secretary at Myers Industries
  • Duff Milkie, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Cedar Fair
  • George Sample, assistant vice president, diversity, equity, inclusion and opportunity at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Are you wondering if your organization is ready for change? Take our complimentary assessment to find out.

Here are the five most significant takeaways from the session:

1. Associates continue to be a top priority. At the start of the pandemic, organizations had to adapt quickly. Clear and consistent communications were critical to ensure safety, implement rapid-fire changes, address business issues head on and, most importantly, provide reassurance and support. We saw leaders communicate with more authenticity, transparency and consistency than ever before. In addition, leaders and managers purposefully reached out to individual associates to check in and help them balance new demands at work and at home. And it made a difference.

Heading into 2021, frequent, transparent and authentic communication and purposeful interactions with associates continue to be incredibly important. Organizations that do it well will experience increased loyalty and engagement and will be better positioned in both the short- and long-term.

2. Decisions made in 2021 will permanently shape the future of your culture and your organization. While we didn’t have control over the impact of the pandemic, we could control how we responded in the short term. Safety, health and well-being became extremely important. Leaders developed and rolled out policies designed to support associates while balancing business needs.

We have even greater control in how we rebound in 2021, and we need to do so thoughtfully. How we reopen our organizations, recruit new talent, manage remote workforces and develop vaccination policies will impact our people, our organizational culture and our organizations for the long term.

3. Work will look different and managers need more tools. Our personal and professional lives melded for better or for worse in 2020. They aren’t splitting any time soon. With this new understanding of associates’ personal lives, organizations will need to start accounting for different needs. How can they help associates be productive and find their individual balance regardless of their situation? In addition, organizations with office associates will need to determine how to create a fair and equitable future of work that balances the many different needs of employees.

While the answer is different for each organization, we do know that most managers aren’t equipped with the tools or training to navigate these new worlds. We did what we needed to do in 2020 to survive. Now, we need to think about how we can thrive in this new world of work.

4. Every organization’s vaccine journey is different. Some organizations are surveying their associates about their thoughts around the vaccine; others are ensuring that their workforce and their families have access to information to make the choice that is best for them. Some are providing PTO to support their workforce so they can make time to get vaccinated. And other organizations are opening their facilities to be vaccination centers for the local community. Regardless of the approach, every organization needs to clear about its expectations and policies and make sure associates at every level understand.

5. Assessing where you are helps ensure success of future change. 2020 was a tough year and organizations went through a lot. And we know that the coming months will bring more change. Now is a great time to assess where your organization is so that you can better manage organizational change in 2021. Our new complimentary assessment will help organizations make the most of 2021 and the change that is inevitably ahead.

Thank you to our great panelists for openly sharing their experiences and to those who listened in and posed great questions. If you’d like to talk about how to navigate changes in your organization, I’d love to hear from you.