Realigning and Responding to Unforeseen Change

Every unexpected business challenge an organization encounters is a test of its current level of adaptability and agility. The key to fast-tracking recovery is for the organization to embark on positive change during times of enforced slowdown, rather than having to wait until the end of the crisis.

The learning and development (L&D) leadership at PSAV has adopted this proactive approach as part of its response to the organizational impact of COVID-19. As a leading global provider of event experiences across the hotel, resort, and conference center industry, PSAV’s operations have been significantly affected by the sudden shutdowns across the hospitality and travel sectors in response to the pandemic.

“No one had ever predicted that hotels would basically close, and meetings come to a screeching halt, at least in a face-to-face presence,” said Derek Blake, divisional vice president, global learning & development at PSAV. Derek oversees the organization’s learning efforts around the world.

Embrace change during times of transformation

While facing the business impact of COVID-19, PSAV has had to address the needs of its active team members, while also factoring the requirements of currently furloughed employees. Derek assembled his active team and asked them, “If we were to focus 75 percent of our time on our value proposition for when team members come back, what would you like to do?” He invited his team to dust off the list of “Big Rock” L&D items they had always wanted to address but had previously lacked the time to do.

Derek has discovered that, in a time of uncertainty and massive change, employees are more open to and welcoming of transformation. “Change management in this time is easier,” he said. “People are interested in change and seeing how that change works.”

One initiative PSAV is undertaking is realignment or a “level setting” of its five internal academies so that all of the certifications and hierarchies match up across each of the schools. Going forward, Derek expects the organization to place an even greater emphasis on providing a “blended approach” to learning. So, employees will have multiple ways in which to consume training, including face-to-face classroom courses, virtual instructor-led training (VILT), and on-demand learning.

How to kickstart a significant transformation

Once organizations have decided to move ahead with major change, they can get stuck on how they begin that journey. It can be daunting to look out across an entire organization at the total number of employees and the different jobs they do. Some advice Derek shares all the time with his peers is the importance of picking where you’re going to start from and choosing a task that’s “doable.”

For PSAV, what helped focus the progress of a previous significant project was to assign competencies across the entire organization by adopting an 80/20 approach. The organization took a tally of all of its jobs by incumbent count and then stack ranked them. “What we quickly realized is the top 50 jobs represented 80 percent of our workforce,” Derek said. “So, we just said, ‘Let’s focus on that.’” Within nine months, PSAV was able to successfully complete a redo of all of those job descriptions, competencies, and skills.

Reset for the future

As organizations revisit how to deploy existing or furloughed employees in the wake of the pandemic, one important consideration Derek notes is the number of roles an individual has held over the years. “You need to be thinking not only about what do people do today but what they did last year before they got promoted.” he said.

In a continually-changing world, it’s critical to “think outside the box a little bit” in terms of the best new fit for an employee in an organization’s shifting infrastructure, according to Derek.

Here’s how you can access more insights on L&D leadership.

Tune in to hear the complete conversation between Derek and host SumTotal’s Brent Colescott, which is titled Organizational Adaptability and Talent Agility.