Change is Inevitable, Help Your People and Organization Thrive Through It


By Ben Waber, Ph.D. in Organizational Science, President and Co-Founder of Humanyze

Change is both an opportunity and a disruption. With the global changes we’re experiencing today it’s imperative to adapt the way we work to mitigate increased stress and decreased employee satisfaction. Change brings an opportunity to re-evaluate how your team, your organization, and yourself, should work moving forward. As we adapt to these changes we should focus on two aspects that are highly impacted: people and the health of the organization.

Focus On Your People

Teams need the right conditions to adapt to new situations quickly, and it’s the responsibility of everyone in the organization to set that groundwork. At the interpersonal level, we should check in daily with team members to understand what aspects of work (or life) they’re struggling with and try to provide them with the right tools or advice to help.

This approach, while fairly standard in normal times, is magnified in importance during periods of rapid change. Managers and leaders need to be equally engaged with the rest of the organization or risk throwing off progress for months. They should communicate with front line employees and other parts of the organization to understand systematic problems as they can help solve or mitigate through quick changes. Some of these problems include making sure that employees have enough focus time to accomplish their goals and are not swamped with meetings or whether new information is reaching everyone in the organization.

This focus on people will help stabilize and improve your organizational health.

Understanding Your Organizational Health

Workplace Analytics is a powerful tool for organizations undergoing change that provides objective information without being disruptive. Leveraging this type of analytics can enhance and even replace other processes that are normally used to understand work-flows and organizational health, like surveys and observation/interview initiatives that can bring added stress and distractions to employees. By using workplace analytics you can focus on understanding your organization’s health and its behavioral indicators of employee engagement, team productivity, and organizational adaptability.

The understanding that comes from these analytics, in terms of the new shape of workstyles and the overall state of the organization, will have a direct impact on how leaders improve engagement and team productivity. Specifically, it’s important to understand if people have to work overtime or during weekends, if there is the right balance of meetings and focus time and if employees are effectively connecting with other members of the organization to accomplish their goals. Warning signs in any one of these areas need to be taken seriously, as they will seriously degrade the employee experience and the organization’s overall performance.

This is all the more reason why understanding and measuring adaptability, particularly flexibility and hierarchical structure, is essential. Flexibility in this context specifically means understanding the breadth of individual networks and the degree to which they connect with managers and leaders in the broader organization. If adaptability is too low, it will be nearly impossible to change quickly enough to substantially improve engagement and performance during periods of disruption.

These indicators, engagement, productivity, and adaptability combined, give us an overall picture of how healthy their organization is. Any disruption to your organizational health will have a direct impact on the outputs and goals of the company.

Change, planned and unplanned, is inevitable. Our job as leaders is to understand our organization so that we can help our employees thrive even through the most turbulent periods. Workplace analytics, important in stable times, is that much more indispensable in times of crisis.


Ben Waber Headshot

About the Author: Ben Waber (President and co-founder of Humanyze) received his Ph.D. in Organizational Science from MIT for his work with Alex “Sandy” Pentland’s Human Dynamics group. He is a visiting scientist at the MIT Media Lab, and previously worked as a senior researcher at Harvard Business School. Waber’s work has been featured in major media outlets such as Wired, The Economist, and NPR. He has consulted for industry leaders such as LG, McKinsey & Company, and Gartner on technology trends, social networks, and organizational design. His book, People Analytics, was published by the Financial Times Press in 2013.