In my role as HR director I spend a significant amount of time thinking about and preparing for change – the only true constant in our lives. As the Human Resource (HR) Director of a growing firm, being able to not only respond to but actually anticipate change is critical given the importance we place on people in delivering value for our clients.

In early September, I had the great opportunity to attend a summer networking event put on by Feldman Daxon Partners. It was their first 1st Annual Summer Social and a variety of HR professionals were invited to socialize and engage on a topic we are all familiar with – the ability to pivot in business. The event, which was held at the beautiful One King West Hotel in Toronto, was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the challenges unique to the role of HR in their organizations. I also had the chance to catch up with former colleagues and reminisce about some of the truly unbelievable HR-related experiences we shared and the issues we were tasked with managing.

The keynote speaker was Leigh Lightfoot, who is currently leading the Human Resources team at Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation/Ontario Cannabis Store after previous stints with Canada Post, National Logistics Services and others. As the Liquor Control of Ontario (LCBO) moves into the cannabis business through a newly created subsidiary, the ability to pivot is critical to Leigh, and her team’s, success. Leigh spoke about the ever-changing legal landscape in the new business of legally selling cannabis and how that has required agility in adapting to change. Some of the highlights from the talk were:

  • Change is the only constant thing 
  • You need to be fluid in your thinking so you can easily adapt to change
  • Encourage your employees to embrace change and see it as a challenge, not a barrier
  • Communicate clearly and frequently to your employees to support them through major changes in an organization’s direction, especially when it’s not expected

It reminded me of a similar discussion, many years ago, when I participated in a course called Business As Unusual. It was designed to help managers and supervisors “survive” during times of change. At the time, it was very new thinking and most of those who took the course with me thought that it was good information and education to “get us through” a point in time, such as industry regulatory changes, major acquisitions, significant internal reorganizations, or large growth spurts that drove up our head counts.

Since then, and leading up to the summer event a few weeks ago, I can say with certainty that constant change is definitely the new normal and is entirely unavoidable in today’s business world, for businesses and organizations of all sizes regardless of sector and industry. Change and disruption are all around us.

Many of the challenges we faced then are similar to the challenges we face now but the pace of change is increasing all around us! New technologies that enable remote workforces were novel a few years ago but are de rigueur now; evolving attitudes toward work, particularly given generational differences, demand new ways of structuring the work place and nurturing our teams; fluctuating political and government priorities create an ever shifting foundation for our corporate programs and policies; and – of course – the ever-increasing demands for more customer-focused products and services all contribute to this environment of constant change.

Being able to pivot is a therefore a critical skill in today’s business world. At Gevity, we pride ourselves on being agile and able to adapt quickly – so much so that it now feels less like pivoting and more like business as usual. Given the wide spectrum of needs among our clients – some of whom ask us to take on complex strategic or operational projects while others rely on us to provide specific skills through staff augmentation – we need to ensure that we are able to support a global and varied work force today and tomorrow.

Perhaps the most important message I want to share is that being able to pivot in business is not a one-time event but rather a way of thinking and key component of organizational culture. If we can then move from a rapid response to change to anticipating change, that’s knocking it out of the park!