OK, no one really likes change. Author W. Gary Gore suggests that even though an employee’s perspective of their workplace culture might be “crummy” at least it is their personal “crummy”. They know it, they deal with it, and as bad as it may be, it is at least, a comfortable bad. It is hard to believe that even a lousy culture, low engagement numbers, rapid turnover and declining productivity are more comfortable for many employees than the fears and anxieties of dealing with a changing culture. Just put that into perspective.
The term “Silos” refer to the walls of territorialism that seem to exist in all organizations. I am always a little apprehensive when executives suggest to me that they do not have Silos, it is just not realistic. Moreover, as soon as you attempt to begin to modify a culture the anxieties will in most cases put the walls of the Silos higher and deeper than ever before. Yes, change can be that scary to our employees especially with the levels of “trust” in all organizations at an all time low. The Silos can come in many forms.
Perhaps the most obvious Silos are departmental in nature. If you are not sure what we are saying, go and ask the Operations Department how they feel about the ethics and professionalism of their Sales Department. Or ask the Sales folks about the A/R Department. “Birds of a feather…etc.” This is even more of a dynamic in organizations where each group has their own goals, or Mission, or incentive plans that are inconsistent with a single common mission, but departmental missions. Or what if we were to describe them as departmental individual agendas.
Age and Generational Silos
Never before has the work environment faced the subtle Silos of four different generations working side by side. I truly enjoy my research on this topic, as the perspectives are often so radically different and interesting. Clearly the values and expectations are far different for a Gen X employee or Millenial, than the Boomers or Traditionalists. Each of the generations has a unique perspective of change management. And although you might expect the younger generations to be more receptive regarding true cultural change it is not always the case. However how each of the generations perceives the process and tempo for changing a culture is radically different and these types of perspectives can grow into huge Silos.
Tenure Silos in your organization may be the subtlest Silos but can also be prohibitive barriers to successful change management. This is especially true in organizations that have been successful. The longer-term employees are well aware of the success, translating into no real sense of urgency regarding change. Not to mention perhaps eroding trust in management. Those who may not have been with the organization as long will often perceive the change as opportunity, in both positive and negative ways.
The answer goes deeper than strong communication. The easiest road home on this issue is taking steps before the change management initiative to unify the common mission. Taking a step towards a mission-centric culture, beginning from the interview process, orientations through reviews and compensation packages will begin to reduce the barrier-affects of these and other types of Silos.
Common mission can turn barriers into allies without spending a ton of resources.