Shift happens

Illustration by Brad Gregg

But along the way, a lot of questions and fears arose. Looking back, Carmichael says it was communication that got everybody through it and made Variety Care Family Health what it is today.

“I learned a long time ago that adults do better with information. They almost can’t get past change if you can’t tell them the truth,” he says. “The workplace itself is in flux these days. Technology is changing everybody’s job. We all work in an environment where change is now part of the every day. I think people are kind of in a ‘change fatigue.’” Volumes of literature have been written addressing change in the workplace, but none of it truly takes the fear out of the unknown.

Local
CEOs and human resource professionals say managers need to be cautious
in how they address change. Regardless of whether the news comes in the
form of mass layoffs or the office copier policy, employees just want to
feel like they’ll be OK.

ATTITUDE SHIFT
Today’s younger workforce knows that better than anyone, says Dani Shields, director of human resources for PostRock Energy Corporation in Oklahoma City.

Gone are the days of 60-hour workweeks and a gold watch at the end of a 30-year career. Today’s workers are mobile and demand more “me” time; email, Twitter and something called “work-life balance” are today’s buzzwords.

“There’s a tremendous need for young people to have their social needs met,” says Shields. “They don’t want to work 60 or 70 hours a week. They have a need to have a life outside of work. Employees — and people in general — if they see the company is trying to work with them, they’re much more appreciative. A happy employee is a productive employee. It’s a win-win.”

A survey released in January by staffing provider OfficeTeam noted that, salary aside, employees most appreciate help juggling business and personal obligations; 28% of professionals identified work-life balance as the top contributor to their job satisfaction. Opportunities to learn and grow came in second with 27%.

Today’s 20-somethings laugh at the idea of spending their entire lives working in the same industry, much less the same company.

“These young people, specifically, have had to adapt their entire lives and really embrace change,” Shields says. “They do expect it, but they also want to be part of it. I think gone are the days in our society where upper management makes a decision and bangs their gavel and so be it.”

HEALTHY EMPLOYEE = HAPPY EMPLOYEE
Monica Tippitt, director of
human resources at the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, says that
well-balanced, healthy employees tend to cope with change better. That’s
why the business focused on health care focuses so much on the health
of its employees.

Employees are given 30
minutes of workout time each day to visit the facility’s on-site
wellness center, where they can work with a trainer, lift weights or hop
on a bike or elliptical machine.

They
also have full access to the clinic, dentist, optometrist and pharmacy
through an hour of administrative leave. All costs are billed to the
clinic’s Blue Cross Blue Shield health plan, which is provided at no
cost to each employee.

“That
prevents them at the end of the day from having to go sit at Walgreens
or CVS to wait on their prescriptions,” Tippit says.

PACKAGING IS KEY

“It starts from the top,”
Tippit says. “I have worked at previous companies where they don’t
disseminate that information to all employees, and it immediately causes
them to lose confidence in the leadership team. They need to know
everything. If they don’t know, they create their own ending to the
story.”

Delivering information
that changes an employee’s life is key. But so is getting their input,
whenever possible, before it happens.

“They
do need to feel like they have some control,” she says. “Their work is
not just a place they go for eight hours a day or whatever. It’s a
career. They have to have some ownership in what’s going on.”

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