Workplace change is inevitable—and it can be exhilarating. When I accepted the role of CEO in 2009, I was energized by ideas and opportunities for organizational change. In the past several years Lucas Group has restructured our functional practice groups and leadership teams, rebranded our firm and sold our company to new investors. Those are big changes, and they required diligent focus and a commitment to change management best practices.
But from the outside, workplace changes don’t always appear monumental. Some shifts in policy or procedure may seem simple and almost irrelevant, yet they too can create transformative change and demand managing change in the workplace with the same principles.
This month marked one of those seemingly straightforward corporate changes. We pivoted from a business to a casual dress code—a first in our company’s 45-year history. Deceptively simple, this cultural shift did not come lightly or without unease.
Facts First; Then Decisions
When considering whether to change the dress code, I faced a dilemma: Should we continue operating within the policies that have worked for us for over four decades? Or, do we recognize the changing landscape of corporate life and innovate, helping to ensure we continue to lead and not follow?
I turned to the facts to support my decision. Millennials already form 25% of the American workforce and by 2020, will encompass 50% of the global workforce.Generation Y is transforming global workplaces at a dizzying pace. With Instagram, Facebook and blogging, many naturally share their personal lives with peers and personal friends alike. The lines between our home and professional selves have blurred in the age of the “selfie”.
I realized that requiring daily business attire was no longer appropriate in the casual environment we are recruiting in today. Our candidates and clients increasingly prefer to work with people who present their most authentic selves at work. Employees are also most engaged when they work for companies with values that align with their own. We were out of step and needed to recalibrate.
Three Keys to Successful Change Management
At first, I thought my idea would be met with jubilation. But some members of my team weren’t convinced. Managing through change starts with leadership, and even seemingly natural modifications require adherence to three, long-standing change management principles:
1. Communication – When I announced our new guidelines, I was direct and forthcoming. I shared the facts, explained my reasoning and expressed my belief that this was a change whose time had come. We were ready for it.
2. Transparency – Being visible and approachable has always been a key part of my leadership strategy, and a change in dress code required nothing different. In my experience of managing people through change, I have learned that it can be challenging and uncomfortable. If you’re not open about it, people will think you have something to hide.
3. Reinforcement – Leaders must live the change they seek, and in support, I have been coming to work in jeans! When I began my career, the idea that I would someday lead a company in casual attire was unthinkable. But every day my own comfort level and satisfaction grow, and I’m witnessing that same transformation in my team.
Whether big or small, costly or free, change in the workplace requires management AND leadership. These alterations to our dress code are already strengthening relationships and encouraging teamwork. Our metamorphosis from a conservative brand to a vibrant and authentic environment aligns much more with who we are today…and positions us for the workplace of the future.
Have you experienced challenges in change management? What did you learn? Share your story with us.