Human Resources

Effectively managing change in a volatile environment

7 Apr, 2009 By: Contributor Hotel and Motel Management

By Cheryl Tyler

We all know change is inevitable, but when change happens in an organization and is not managed effectively, it can lead to a drop in productivity and chaos among employees.

Change in the workplace is a disruptive force. With today’s economic after-effects, change is continuous and, in these times, often perceived as negative because acquisitions, mergers and reorganizations bring on most of today’s changes. Triggers of change might be as simple as a new point-of-sale system or a change in leadership, or they may be more serious—layoffs or downsizing.

But whatever the trigger, the natural human response is emotional.

Even if the changes people are asked to implement are positive and important to the survival or growth of the organization, the initiatives often are greeted with blank stares, muttering, feet-dragging and subtle sabotage that turn a perfectly good plan into an unworkable mess.

Managers need to be able to shepherd their people through change quickly. Here’s my definition for effectively managed change: “A planned, managed, systemic process to change the culture, structure, leadership, systems, and/or behavior of an organization.”

To break this down: Planned change involves a series of reinforcing activities undertaken with purpose and intent rather than something that happens accidentally and without forethought; managed change refers to consciously shepherding people through the ambiguous gap between the old and the new; and systemic change includes examining all the elements of an organization’s effectiveness.
In order to increase the chances of success in a workplace change, it’s important for the organization’s leadership to focus on a holistic approach to the process. Too often leadership is reactive rather than proactive and the effects of how the initiatives are going to affect the rest of the organization are not considered.

During a recent cultural change initiative that required rebranding an existing hotel/casino in Las Vegas, we guided leadership two years in advance of the transition and ensured they aligned at the board and executive level to create a vision, mission and mantra for the new brand.

A coalition of existing employees perceived as committed to the idea of a better future was named as “the mission transition team.” The team and the leadership helped filter communication throughout the property through creative messages like skits.

Recruitment for new employees was culturally branded, and a two-day orientation filled with activities and team building focused on the 10 WOW factors that would engrain the desired new culture. Reward programs also aligned with the new desired behaviors to sustain and anchor the change.

We had leadership participation at all levels, and these experiences formed a belief system in employees that anchored the change within the culture. The result was a smooth transition, one that people at all levels of the organization could get behind and productivity was maintained.

Cheryl Tyler is President of Tyler Training and Development Solutions in Las Vegas. She is a member of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (


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