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5 Top Organization Development Priorities for 2023

Monday, February 6, 2023

This year is expected to usher in a period of self-reflection. According to the lunar calendar, the Year of the Rabbit symbolizes intellect and caution. An interesting contrast to 2022, the Year of the Tiger, which was packed with action and impulsivity. With talks of an economic recession and turbulent talent markets coming our way, organization development (OD) professionals must take this messaging to heart and proceed carefully. What can OD professionals do to help organizations deal with change, uncertainty, and complexity? Here are five ways to set yourself up for success in 2023.

1. Put Employees at the Heart of Organizational Transformation

“Our people are our greatest asset.” Does this adage sound familiar? We’ve heard CEOs say this so many times, but it often rings hollow during challenging times.

For OD practitioners in organizations that claim to value their employees, this is the time to put employees at the heart of change, especially when it’s driven by economic factors or digital transformation. Organizations often fail to leverage employees’ energy and skills to create value for both parties. Addressing this starts with treating employees as powerful and respected partners in the change process. Don’t just announce a change—explain why it is happening. Regular transparent communication with employees makes it easier for them to buy into change and make it successful.

Prepare employees to deal with change effectively. A recent ATD research report revealed that while two-thirds of organizations expect the number of change initiatives to increase over the next five years, only about half provide any change management training to their employees. How can employees help drive change when they’re not equipped to do so?

2. Embed Flexibility Into the Workplace

Every OD professional knows that flexibility is important in our post-COVID-19 world. One dimension of this flexibility, which employees have consistently made clear throughout the pandemic, is that they want more autonomy. Autonomy over the work they do, how they do it, and where they do it. Many CEOs are resisting this worker demand for flexibility and autonomy.


OD professionals need to help address an issue at the heart of this challenge: managing employee performance. A recent Gallup article makes a strong case for re-engineering the performance management system, arguing that most existing systems are too rigid for these uncertain times. Therefore, OD professionals should help organizations craft agile goals that change as the economic and organizational landscape shift. To make this work, managers need flexibility. They should be encouraged and empowered to make changes to performance metrics and incentives when necessary. Business leaders need to embrace these new realities, and OD professionals should help them make flexibility (and worker autonomy) the rule, not the exception.

3. Design for Equity

As diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has featured prominently on the business and political agenda in recent years, DEI professionals have intensified efforts to diagnose and resolve workplace inequities. This renewed focus on addressing inequality has produced a backlash, as many question the relevance, usefulness, and effectiveness of such initiatives. While OD professionals have played a critical role in advancing DEI, they can and should do more.

One powerful way to do this, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, is to frame DEI initiatives as solutions to systemic issues in the organization rather than individual-level problems. By focusing change efforts on organization-level systems (fair and equitable recruitment processes, for instance) instead of individuals (like mandatory unconscious bias training), organizations can reduce resistance to equity initiatives. OD professionals, with their expertise in systems thinking and change management, can help DEI managers and business leaders institutionalize equity and overcome resistance to DEI change.


4. Recognize and Overcome Change Fatigue

After nearly three years of living with the pandemic and so much uncertainty, many employees are experiencing change saturation, fatigue, and burnout. Since we expect economic uncertainty and organizational change to persist in 2023, it’s important to learn how to deal with these issues. The Prosci Change Saturation Model provides a powerful and systematic method to handle change saturation, which it presents as a function of capacity and disruption.

OD professionals should help business leaders realize that an organization’s culture, history, structure, perceived need for change, and change management competency can limit their capacity to execute change. To fix change saturation, organizations can either focus on increasing their capacity or reducing disruptions that come their way. The practical implication, particularly for organizations that have undergone unsuccessful changes in recent times, is to communicate the need for change to organizational stakeholders and consider whether it’s the right time to embark on yet another (major) change initiative. This year you want to do more by doing less. Focus on the most important change initiative—employees’ mental health and well-being.

5. Take Evaluation and Accountability Seriously

The fifth phase of the OD process includes entry, diagnosis, feedback, solution, and evaluation, per the ATD OD Model. The evaluation phase, which involves collecting and analyzing data to ascertain if the initiative is achieving the desired results, is where OD practitioners struggle the most. Given the often-cited statistic that 70 percent of change initiatives fail, we need to take evaluation and accountability more seriously.

Evaluation must be an ongoing process that uses rigorous scientific methods to provide recommendations for continuous improvement. Resist the temptation to be transparent about organizational initiatives only when results showcase success. And hold business leaders and employees accountable. During the Year of the Rabbit, let us renew our commitment to working with caution, intellect, and self-reflection.

About the Author

Dr. Ed Hasan is an author, speaker, coach, and professor. He is the founder and CEO of Kaizen Human Capital and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Additionally, he is a subject matter expert for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Association for Talent Development (ATD) and serves as an IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility) practitioner for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). His expertise includes organization development, change management, and workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Dr. Ed was recognized as one of George Mason University’s Prominent Patriots in Business, exemplifying his engagement as a well-rounded scholar and a person prepared to act through innovation. He was a recipient of Georgetown University’s Outstanding Faculty Award, which recognized him as a consummate professor and a role model for inclusive excellence.

Dr. Ed received a doctoral degree in education from the University of Southern California, where his research focus was religious inclusion in the workplace. He received his MBA from the University of Scranton and a BS in Decision Sciences & Management Information Systems from George Mason University. He is a SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) and a Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). He also holds the SHRM Inclusive Workplace Specialty Credential and the SHRM California Law HR Specialty Credential.

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