When a business experiences sudden growth, it creates a myriad of emotions from joy and excitement to dread and fear. The progressive mind-set that stimulates growth can inadvertently cause us to be less sensitive to the negative emotions that might emerge as a result.
Because we are creatures of habit, it is probably not surprising that some of the increased complexity and ambiguity can be quite unsettling. Paradoxically, this emergent fear can start to hinder growth, as leaders pick up on it and start taking preventative measures to avoid damaging customer relations, reducing service quality, and minimize the mounting pressure on operations.
The reality is that progress is part of doing business, and with some careful planning and forward-thinking, the growth period does not have to be ridden with pain. The right IT infrastructure can help to facilitate some of these big changes and make the process a lot smoother.
Recent research conducted by Epicor has explored the different approaches organisations take to growth. It’s been found that the three priorities tend to be in turnover and sales, profits, and expansion into new industries and product areas. The outlook for 2016 is positive. 70% of respondents expect growth in 2016, and 79% have made (or are making) investments in integrated IT infrastructure as a key to supporting growth.
But what happens if the growth is unforeseen, or experienced as a surge? Leaders can find themselves on their back foot if they have not developed the appropriate skillset to handle the new changes.
Rob Morris, head of innovation and thought leadership at YSC, the premier global leadership development firm, believes that hiring for and developing the right skillset for growth goes a long way in dealing with the excessive demands placed on the workplace.
He said: “Although we plan for growth in linear and rational ways, it often looks more like chaos in practice. When growth happens at such an unpredictable pace and scale, you don’t usually hire for that growth. As a result, you will not have the people resources to deliver on the new scale that you have created for yourself. The downside is people end up doing more than they expected, and often outside of the roles they were hired or trained for.”
Growing can hinder satisfaction
A risk associated with business progress is employees becoming increasingly disengaged in the workplace due to heavier workloads, pressures, and deadlines. According to the Epicor research, 43% of leaders are concerned that as their business grows, workloads may increase to a level that places too much pressure on staff, prompting key personnel to leave the organisation.
Morris believes that a key predictor of job satisfaction is whether employees find ‘meaning’ in their work and warns that an employee’s personal values and missions can become misaligned with the company’s goals once the company starts growing.
He explained: “If I am asked to do things outside of the boundaries with which I joined the company, suddenly I may be less committed to it. If employees have less of a connection with the tasks involved or when they take on too many new tasks, too fast then it creates job dissatisfaction.”
It is vital to have the right infrastructure in place to support employees during growth. If technology can be used to ease the strain of increased workloads, employees can even find themselves empowered by growth. They may, for example, find themselves working on a wider variety of tasks, working closely with leadership to drive growth, and gaining more access to corporate knowledge if their roles are facilitated by the right technology.
Reduce pain by planning ahead
Any big change in a business – especially a surge in growth – can be disruptive and can filter through the organisation. According to Morris, this collective expression of pain typically manifests as resistance or disengagement. But businesses can get ahead of this curve by planning for any potential problems and ensuring they have enough resources to cater to increasing demands by the workforce.
Our survey findings revealed that the top two stimulants for growth are ‘technology leadership’ (40%) and ‘skilled workforce’ (39%). This can be a two-edged sword. Organisations that are stuck with legacy systems might find themselves falling behind, unable to adapt to new business processes, or meet the demands of employees who expect modern technology in order to do their jobs. On the other hand, the organisations that leap onto new technology, will find themselves ahead of their competitors, ready to embrace new challenges.
A key facilitator in managing this process smoothly is to make investments in the right technology as the “demand for quick communication and transaction” increases.
Many progressive businesses are already doing this – according to the Epicor research 79% of businesses have made or are making investments in integrated IT infrastructure. Increased data visibility, for example through the use of the latest enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, can allow businesses to perform in-depth analysis of key KPIs, so that they can manage costings and profitability more confidently. Customer relationships can likewise continue to prosper during the growth period with agile and scalable ERP and manufacturing execution systems (MES) that meet their demands.
According to Morris, employees need “emotional support to withstand the pressures of growing.” He also recommends “fostering a robust culture so people can be resilient throughout the growth surge.” It’s clear that this culture can be more robust if people are supported by the technology they need to do their jobs. Although it seems counter-intuitive, e.g., deploying technology in support of an emotional challenge, investment in the right IT infrastructure is therefore essential, and will help maintain the emotional well-being of employees throughout this transitionary period.
By Sabby Gill, executive vice president at Epicor Software International.