If You’re Not Making Changes, You Might Already be a Dinosaur

Over the years, Bill Marriott has seen a seismic change in his business.

“Today is a whole new ballgame for me,” he says. “When I went to hotels when I was young, you went into the lobby, you checked in at the desk, and if you were hungry, you went to the restaurant and sat at the counter and had a hamburger,” he says. “Now, you check into your room, drop your luggage, log onto Wi-Fi, meet friends or colleagues for drinks in a cool space.”

“We got to be cool,” were his words.

To attract, we must be relevant, sums it up.

Being aware of what is going on

This observation from the 82-year-old chairman of the Marriott chain shows that he recognizes the hotel industry has changed. Hotels now are under pressure to cater to a younger customer base.

As I read this dated article from The Wall Street Journal I was amazed that this gentleman, who has been in this business since he was a teenager, recognized his business is shifting and was making plans to meet the challenge head on by freshening up the Marriott brand.

The market is changing

A new generation of customers is changing not only what consumers want, but also how businesses are run. Many CEOs don’t pay attention to this group that will soon constitute the majority of the workforce. In the future, that means organizations will have younger executives. The next generation will come up with new approaches to old problems, which should translate into new business strategies.

Notice that I said “should.”

Has your organization given thought to this new dynamic? Leaders today need to understand how these changes will affect not only their customer base. but their workforce as well.

Dinosaur organizations

Organizations that do not make strategic changes will become dinosaurs along with other companies that are plowing ahead blindly without adjusting for a changing market.

We all marvel at how innovatively companies such as Google and Zappos are being run. Whether or not you’re on board with these companies’ unconventional approaches to managing a younger workforce, everyone can appreciate their efforts to adjust to an evolving market.

Changes affect all industries

Your organization may not be in the most innovative industry, but these demographic changes will reverberate throughout markets and industries. I have a good friend whose father is in the mortuary business. He told me that the average age of his “clients” is much younger than when he started. He said how glad he is that his son is now at the helm of the business because he realized that he is being outpaced by younger, more innovative companies.

Smart executives see these changes on the horizon and are constantly thinking of how to change their approach in order to meet these challenges head on.

All you need do is ask. The Journal article states that, “In addition to conducting focus group research, Mr. Marriott says the company now pulls data from social media. For example, it asks guests for ideas of how to improve travel.” Social media is a powerful new tool businesses can wield to facilitate customer feedback and boost a company’s image.

Best practices may not be best for you

I have had clients that are obsessed with best practices. However, use your own discretion. I had a client with a brilliant idea: free gym memberships for his employees. He had read about all the companies with gyms on the premise, and he ‘knew’ this would work. Not only that but he was a fitness buff.

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The problem was that before this was offered there were only about five employees who used a gym regularly. Within a year of implementation, the company scrapped the program because of non-use. Had he asked his employees, the company would have saved a considerable amount of money and embarrassment.

To fix any problem, get as close as you can to the issue and seek out advice. Your employees are the experts and they often provide more valuable insights than a group of executives sitting around a conference table.

Customers and workforces are changing

I currently work in the Middle East and in some countries 40% or more of the population is under 25. That kind of demographic is effecting seismic changes in everything from products, marketing and employer branding to organizational dynamics.

Executives can no longer lead with blinders on. They must be able to see market changes, interpret those changes, then plan and act accordingly. Periodically the company will need to make adjustments to its strategy.

So strap yourself in and get ready for a bumpy ride. Pay close attention to everything that is going on around you and make appropriate adjustments. You can’t control how the market will change but you can ensure that your company is ready when it does.