Managing Change with Agile Structures and Employees Who Show Sense of Responsibility

Digitalization. Globalization. Demographic Change. Our society and our world of work is undergoing change – radical, long-term change. A purely hierarchical organizational structure is no longer compatible with the demands of a volatile market and the world of work and is no longer in keeping with the reality as experienced by most employees and managers alike. This is clearly shown by the Haufe Quadrant.

Companies are now forced to make their structures more agile in order to create more scope for innovation, to become flexible in the long term and to keep pace with the changes happening around them. So change must be seen as an ongoing learning process for everyone concerned. That brings new challenges – both for employees and for managers.


Challenge for employees: The new “self-management”

Greater agility of structure means on the one hand more freedom of maneuver and motivation, but at the same time greater individual responsibility for every member of the organization on the other: planning, organization, responsibility, self-motivation, objectives. What used to be the sole concern of senior management now falls to specialists on the operative side: yep, self-management. Our study shows that 62 percent of employees in recent years see themselves confronted more often with the challenge of having to gain further qualifications. The pressure of performance and change that further training brings generates a lot of stress for many employees.

So, it is all the more important that employees are supported in taking on more responsibility for themselves, with the aid, for instance, of eLearning programs. These kinds of training platforms allow the employees of today to gain by means of self-study precisely the further qualifications they need to get ahead. What is vitally important is that they get a springboard that will propel their development into the long term: The requirements of job descriptions will change radically in the future. The same position will demand in the foreseeable future different competencies to those asked for today. Employees need to react by gaining the right qualifications now. Acquiring management expertise, for instance, can take months or even years. In an agile structure, personalized, informal learning, supported by formal training programs, will become more and more important.


A challenge for managers: The new concept of leadership

These turbulent times are characterized by instability. Leaders must therefore be able to create a secure environment and build the trust that change will be managed sensibly – only then employees will be able to do their jobs as well as possible.

Managers today must be more transparent about results and should not try to steer in one particular direction. Leadership means steering in the sense of “walking alongside”: One of the toughest challenges is selecting teams in which the right people work alongside each other at the right places. It is the responsibility of managers to create the right conditions in which employees can develop and realize their potential. The manager is on hand to serve as mentor and coach and takes on co-responsibility for the self-management of their employees – if someone is inundated, or rushes into something, or wastes their energy on the wrong things, it is the task of the manager to intervene and rectify this imbalance. And managers must not lose sight of the long-term employee development we have mentioned.


There is not a company in the world which can avoid change and the requirements that go with it. The only way to remain successful in spite of this change is to keep pace with the change – by becoming more agile. This requires high error tolerance, a large amount of capacity to reflect, constant willingness to change and appropriate self-management.


Do you practice self-management in your organization? If so, how? Do you support your employees to manage themselves? What opportunities do you offer for further training?


Photo Credit: Ryan McGuire via Gratisography

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