Change Management

Now is the Time to Reskill and Upskill. Tips for Employers and Employees.

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I recently met a consultant who shared a very profound statement with me. She said someone once told her, “I can meet you in the middle, but we can’t stay here.” In a world of constant change and turbulence, that statement made me realize that no matter what the change is, whether it is on a professional or personal level, we all need to work together to drive towards a future that makes sense and works for that situation.

“We all know as learning professionals that adoption of new skills/behaviors does not happen overnight and that training programs incorporating change management will ultimately achieve long lasting results.”

As we approach the end of 2021, we continue to hear about the growing skills gap and shortage of labor occurring in the workforce. Looking at this from the perspective of professional development, now is a great time to focus on reskilling and upskilling the core (hard or functional skills needed to accomplish a job) and power (soft or people skills needed for interpersonal relationships) skills. Employers should take this time to offer opportunities for employees to strengthen or gain both core and power skills. On the other hand, employees should not only look at development opportunities being offered by their employers, but also take control of their own development.

Employers should:

  • Understand the gap in core and power skills within their organization at all levels.
  • Create a strategy that will address upskilling or, perhaps, reskilling their existing employees.
  • Design and implement a plan that will have immediate impact as well as address future gaps.
  • Continually evaluate and adjust the plan over time. Don’t let your strategy become stagnant. It needs to shift as technology and the way we do business continues to change.

As an employee, you should:

  • Assess and determine what skills you would like to develop whether it is related to your current role (upskilling) or for a different role (reskilling).
  • Take advantage of what your employer has to offer. Have conversations with your manager/employer to ensure you are all on the same page with your goals.
  • Not rely only on what your employer is providing. Research and look for your own development opportunities. Whether that is taking classes, attending conferences, taking on projects, etc. Not only will it help you enhance the skills needed for your current role, it may also offer you an opportunity to take on stretch assignments or move into a new career path.

For example, as a learning professional, maybe you are looking to enhance your eLearning skills. Why not check out Tim Slade’s eLearning Designer Academy? He offers an 8-week guided program including cohorts, hands-on activities, and more. Or perhaps you are looking at complimentary skills such as change management; check out Prosci. We all know as learning professionals that adoption of new skills/behaviors does not happen overnight and that training programs incorporating change management will ultimately achieve long lasting results.

From my personal perspective, I recently stepped into a new role, and I was not prepared to take on a direct report or to build out a new function. While my employer will provide me with tools, resources, and coaching, I also need to take charge of my own development path and look for ways to help me achieve these goals. So, we are meeting each other half-way to move forward down a path that will be mutually beneficial.

Technology will continue to change and the way we work will too. So as employers and employees, why not work together to ensure we all continue to move forward from the middle?

Source: eLearning Academy

Three Tips for Implementing Successful Pulse Surveys

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Pulse surveys are a critical resource for our ongoing organizational change management efforts. Our core stakeholders tell us what is – and what is not – working through these assessments. As a result, we can plan, implement, and succeed in our change efforts.

“The ongoing feedback that we receive from our leaders, managers, and employees is a real treasure for our organizational change management efforts.”

A recent email that I received was a friendly reminder of the importance of pulse surveys. A key stakeholder responded to some deployment pulse survey results that I had sent. He stated, “This is a very good survey to know where we stand … Thanks for the valuable information/feedback. This is a treasure for us.”

My initial response was, “Is this a treasure?” His site’s assessment had highlighted specific knowledge gaps for some of our end users. I was initially skeptical that communicating areas of improvement could really be considered a gift.

However, after pondering the response some more, I recognized that this type of feedback really IS a treasure. Understanding where our teams are from an engagement standpoint- at any phase of deployment- ultimately sets us all up for long-term success.

So, what are some strategies that we can use to continue this type of engagement with our core stakeholders? There are three key steps that you can easily build into your transformation efforts to engage this type of feedback.

Here are three key tips that I highlight with clients when implementing pulse surveys:
  • Develop a baseline. It is important to develop an initial baseline to effectively manage your transformation. Do not forget to send out an initial survey to establish what your baseline is, prior to your change efforts!
  • Continue to manage the change by monitoring through pulse surveys. Pulse surveys can help you manage the change. The information that is gleaned through these types of assessments can help your team quickly respond and pivot when necessary.
  • Celebrate success. As you make progress in your change initiative, make sure that you celebrate your success. Pulse surveys are an extremely effective tool to highlight your progress with sponsors and core stakeholders.

This email from my colleague really was a great reminder. The ongoing feedback that we receive from our leaders, managers, and employees is a real treasure for our organizational change management efforts. These gifts can benefit any phase of our change initiatives- from original identification, into deployment and even in establishing lessons learned.

What can you do now?

Over the next few weeks and months, evaluate how you are gathering feedback from your core stakeholders. Where can you add in different strategies to assess your change initiatives? In addition, please feel free to reach out if you would like to think through your strategies and develop different methods to gather input.

Image of teamwork puzzles with caption committed to your future

Collaborating and Solving Problems Together: CARA’s Consultant Connect

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My vision has always been to build a community within CARA where our consultants could learn from and connect with each other. I believed from the start that this kind of community would help them to develop the skills that were important and relevant in our changing business landscape. I knew that dream would need to be realized by taking baby steps along the way. Here is the story of how we began, where we are today, and lessons learned along the way.

“How do we build a true community within our talent community? How do we engage with them and provide them the opportunity to engage between and among themselves?”


The first step we took was to ask ourselves “How do we build a true community within our talent community? How do we engage with them and provide them the opportunity to engage between and among themselves?”

The answer to that question was to initiate our Change, Learn, Grow program in 2017. We offered webinars on relevant topics that our consultants needed to learn about and found interesting. In 2019 we held a weeklong event with the culmination being a full day of in-person learning and growing. We were on track to do the same in 2020 but the pandemic forced us to change our plans. The webinars continued during the week but, obviously, no in person event was held.

At the end of 2020, I decided I wanted to shift gears a little bit and add another approach to how our community could learn about interesting topics. The idea was to put the focus on bringing our brilliant consultants together to learn from each other.

CARA Consultant Connect

The result is what we call CARA Consultant Connect, introduced in 2021. The model is a very interactive, virtual information sharing and ‘networking’ session. The concept involves, first, selecting a relevant topic, then providing a bit of researched information to the participants, and then proactively using most of the time for breakouts. We break out and throw our collective consultant brain trust against challenges that are currently happening all around us.

We have now held three Consultant Connects. It’s been so fun to see things unfold!

The three topics we have tackled this year:

  • Q1- Success in a virtual environment.
  • Q2- The Return to the workplace challenge.
  • Q3- Hybrid is here to stay: What can we do to remain effective in our new hybrid world?

It’s funny to see how our topics this year have mirrored our hopes and expectations for what we thought was to come, however, as is life, there is so much out of our control, and we are all just riding this wave.

So, what did we talk about in our most recent session?

Here are some of the most relevant points discussed:

  • Ambiguity is part of life and change. Most of us are fixers when it comes to how we respond and a good reminder is that you can’t control what happens to you but it’s healthier to focus on what we DO have control over, which is our own reactions.
  • What are the positives that have come out of the hybrid work model?
    • Personal flexibility of time
    • More movement opportunities like walking the dog mid-day
    • Remote collaboration CAN work and be super effective
    • Less commuting, convenience, and congestion
    • Greater freedom but the need to communicate and set boundaries better
    • People of all ages are now more technically astute
  • What are some unintended consequences?
    • Loss of natural time barriers (when are we NOT “at work”)
    • Fostering relationships can be more difficult
    • Mentoring for early career workers is not as easy when not in an office
    • Hard to make and develop a social network and make friends
    • Businesses that have relied upon office workers or traveling consultants, e.g., airlines, rental cars, restaurants, have not returned to normal
  • What are your predictions for the skills you will need to add or sharpen?
    • Technology skills, communication, and writing
    • Listening and emotional intelligence
    • Developing a stronger camera presence
    • Running a ‘focused’ meeting
    • Building relationships in a non-traditional way
    • Time management
    • Ending meetings on a positive note as a way of continuing to work on culture
Lessons Learned Along the Way

As always, our consultants brought such wonderful and diverse perspectives to things that we are all encountering on the daily.

We have learned a lot since Q1, but one thing has stayed the same: we have the best team of consultants and it is energizing to come together, connect and brainstorm to solve problems.

What’s up next? I’ll keep you posted.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share your comments with me. And if you are interested in joining CARA’s Talent Community, check out our current openings.

Change Management’s Role in Preserving the Island Vibe: Reflections from Key West, FL

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Sharing an observational essay by CARA’s Director, Organizational Change Management Andrew Barnitz

Many professionals take vacations to escape the daily grind of their jobs and careers. But in my line of work, I am surrounded by examples of change management both on and off the clock. A ‘good’ example of change management occurred on a recent trip to Key West, FL. Key West is the southernmost point of the continental US and is known for its island vibe, remarkable sunsets, live music, and Conch Fritters (a local delicacy). But because it is a destination of choice, it is often over-run by tourists (like me). But despite the overcrowded nature of this ‘key’, natives and visitors alike treat this beautiful piece of Earth as their own.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Barnitz

Why? Well, there are several contributing factors. But perhaps the most visible example is the use of sidewalk signage that accompanies most, if not all, sewers along the famed Duval Street. This is a simple, yet effective, example of ‘change management’. For one, the use of the ‘dolphin’ image tugs at the hearts of visitors (and natives, too). Secondly, the use of the language ‘DRAINS TO OCEAN’ resonates with locals who recognize that much of their livelihood and leisure activities are directly linked to the ocean.


As change professionals, we strive to minimize change resistance but accelerate adoption. And we recognize that in order to achieve meaningful behavior change (i.e., ‘no dumping’), it is imperative that we communicate with purpose, we tailor our messages, and we enroll our stakeholders (i.e. natives and tourists) in our collective mission.


Would Key West be able to achieve similar results if this alternative sewer signage was used: “$100 FINE FOR DUMPING”? Let me know your thoughts.

“The Great Workforce Realization”: Employee Influence on the Future of Work

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For the last 500+ days, many of us have had the privilege of working from the comfort of our own homes – productively, I might add. While I reflect on this most unique period of my career, I have had the pleasure of experiencing six changing seasons, the joy of hearing my two boys interact with eLearning or the periodic disruptions when they bust through my office door, and watched the sun rise and set before my eyes for nearly 18 months! Most recently, however, these experiences have changed with the ‘newest normal’, as I hear and see neighbors interacting and children playing. As we now broaden our perspective to contemplate work life outside of our homes, feelings such as excitement, relief, and yes, uncertainty, are conjured up.

And so, I ask: What does this mean for us as leaders and employees?


As millions of employees, managers, and leaders set their sights on returning to a physical workplace, there is a collective sigh that work-life will never be the same. No matter where you sit on the return-to-work continuum, there are no prior experiences to draw from or instruction manuals to follow on how and when we return to a physical workplace. While there is no shortage of blogs highlighting this critical employee migration on LinkedIn and many other social platforms, there is one common theme across all articles and that is that there are more unknowns than knowns. Collectively, millions of us are in a state of flux. The future of our next work location is ambiguous, uncertain, and, yes, complex. And while many employees are anxious about the future, many employers are seeing significant turnover. “The Great Resignation” is a term I recently read in an article from Tech Republic1 which highlights organizations who are experiencing much churn over organizational decisions that do not reflect this newest normal. Consequently, employees are now having the greatest influence over the future of work than ever before.

And while many have coined this new future of work as “The Great Migration,” and “The Great Resignation,” etc. – at CARA, we believe that what we are experiencing should be called “The Great Workforce Realization”. A realization that:

  • A hybrid workforce is here to stay.
  • Office workers can be as productive, if not more productive, from home as they are in the office.
  • Employees will influence the new future of work like never before.
  • Organizations who fail to adapt to a flexible workplace model may struggle to compete for top talent.
  • Employees are taking ownership of their careers and seeking flexible work environments.
  • Leaders have less leverage and influence over the workforce of the future than prior years.


For many organizations, this is their watershed moment: an opportunity to set themselves apart and demonstrate an intentional focus on the needs of the employees and their desire to operate in a hybrid workforce. With that in mind, The CARA Group hosted a virtual interactive session in late May 2021 to address many of these same questions about our ‘newest normal’ and the future of work. We posed two questions to our CARA talent community and crowdsourced a collective response. For question #1 below, we tackled this discussion from four unique perspectives: HR, Employees, Leadership and Logistics. See the results below.


What are the biggest challenges facing our clients as we re-enter a physical workplace?


  • Understanding migration HR ramifications.
  • Defining protocols for infected employees.
  • Resolving employee conflict.
  • Sourcing talent not interested in a physical workplace.


  • Misalignment of desire between employee and leadership to return to the office.
  • Belief that work/life balance is a best practice.
  • Shift in employee dynamic due to employee conflict.
  • Letting go of unprofessional habits formed during pandemic.


  • Lack of coordinated change management and communication strategy.
  • Executives’ discomfort leading a hybrid workforce.
  • Low trust by employees for colleagues not in physical space.
  • Decreased employee retention without flexible work arrangements.


  • Lack of clear expectations for on-site/off-site.
  • Lack of a vaccination policy(ies).
  • Lack of vaccine compliance.
  • Office configuration to accommodate social distancing guidelines.
  • New safety protocols required to accommodate a hybrid workforce.


At CARA, we proactively consult with our clients to address the many challenges that lie ahead. Below is a subset of ways that we are helping our clients navigate their return to a physical workplace. Our approach to this challenge, addressed in our second interactive session question with our consultants, falls within four key areas of focus: Change Management, Leadership Alignment, Change Readiness and Employee Engagement.


How do we consult with our clients knowing they are facing new ways of working?


  • Develop thoughtful change management strategies
    and blueprints.
  • Provide flexible content and delivery options to
    accommodate a hybrid learning experience.
  • Offer high level change management 101 coaching
    enabling leaders to guide employees through their return
    to the office journey.
  • Coach leaders and employees to develop a
    case for change.
  • Develop robust communication strategies that are
    tailored to the unique needs of leaders, managers, and
  • Reestablish collaboration norms and best practices as
    cross-functional teams begin to reconvene in joint


  • Encourage leaders, managers, and employees to verbalize,
    accept and acknowledge return to work challenges.
  • Coach executives to shift their POV and expectations
    around in-office work.
  • Coach executives to abandon the notion that employees
    need to be present to produce results.
  • Coach executives on building a corporate culture in a
    hybrid work environment.
  • Encourage leaders to acknowledge the impacts of a hybrid workforce from both domestic and global perspectives.
  • Survey leadership to capture their voice and align on a set
    of hybrid workforce norms.


  • Define key success factors and success metrics to measure
    employee adoption goals.
  • Encourage executives to capture employees and managers
    POV as part of their transition back to the office.
  • Coach employees to be open-minded and to show empathy
    for colleagues who are struggling to transition to this newest norm.
  • Ensure continuous messaging to employees that highlight safety precautions.
  • Leverage CARA’s “Storytelling As A Service” capability to engage employees and rally support.


  • Conduct an initial survey to establish a baseline for measuring success.
  • Leverage CARA’s Survey Focus Group capability to capture
    the voice of leaders, managers, and employees.
  • Develop targeted stakeholder action plans to address unique
    needs of each employee.
  • Produce various communication materials that highlight
    benefits of collaboration in the office.
  • Develop and socialize hybrid workforce success stories.

As the CARA team highlighted above, we have only just begun to understand the challenges that lie ahead as organizations migrate employees and leaders back to the physical workplace. But what we do know is that the implications of an organization’s return to physical workplace decisions, protocols, and policies will be far-reaching. We also recognize that the way organizations treat employees and leaders during this migration will serve as a game changer over the long-term. For example, companies who subscribe to a flexible workplace approach may find themselves organically acquiring top talent like never before. At CARA, it is our belief that organizations who develop a coordinated change management approach, listen, and empathize with their employees, and proactively gauge employee readiness will stand to reap the most benefits from this employee migration.

As a professional services partner to the Fortune 500, CARA is here to help you navigate this uncharted journey. Contact us to learn how we can partner with you to help you navigate.



  1. Source: Tech Republic –

Vitamin or Vaccine – The Role of Change Management in a Post Pandemic World

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Like many of you, I have unpleasant memories of my first vaccines as a child. To this day, I remember sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office – fearful they would call my name. I recall sitting there quietly as I nervously turned the pages of the “Highlights” magazine – a staple in the doctor’s office in the 80s. For me, getting shots was a dreadful experience. And, frankly, my worst nightmare coming true. I lost sleep the night before and woke with cold sweats throughout the evening.

On the other hand, I have fond memories of my first vitamins – Flintstone’s, as I recall. Despite a chalky after taste, I found them to be very enjoyable. Each morning, I would look forward to that flavorful treat and immediately run around the house pretending to fly. In an instant, I felt that I had more strength, more energy, and felt like Superman – able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

While both vitamins and vaccines play a critical role in our human development and overall well-being, I think my experience as a child helps to illustrate that, as children and even as adults, we look forward to taking our vitamins much more than we would receiving a vaccine.

While vitamins and vaccines are essential to our collective well-being, the delivery of each varies. Vitamins are a proactive, often daily, way to provide your body with nutrients to help it grow and thrive. Alternatively, a vaccine is preventative in nature administered once or twice in a lifetime to keep you immune.

Change Management: Is it a Vitamin or a Vaccine?

The perception of change also varies widely based on the sponsor, or a person’s knowledge of the change management discipline altogether. To some sponsors, change management serves as a project’s vitamin – operating as an essential and proactive component to the project’s success. Deployed frequently and consistently, this approach leads to healthy outcomes of adoption, utilization, and proficiency. Other project sponsors approach change management by deploying it like a vaccine. This one-and-done approach may seem efficient, but it does not change the behaviors required for sustainability. With this in mind, change management as a practice requires daily intake to ensure individual and business transformation.

Change management as a discipline is intended to enable organizational success at the individual level.

When sponsors view change management as a ‘vitamin’ for the projects they lead, the discipline and mindset of change management will be seamlessly and successfully embedded within all project work. However, if change management is approached as a ‘vaccine,’ the sponsor may discover that a one-and-done approach does not create the transformation they desire.

Key Elements of a Vitamin-Based Change Management Approach

So, vitamin-based change management is more than taking your daily Flintstone. Without all these key ingredients you may not have the full benefits of a change-management affecting your program health.

  • Collaborative: Are you engaging across teams and gaining input from others?
  • Human Centered: Are you considering impacts to the individual or just overall program success?
  • Integrated: Are the change management activities aligned to the program objectives and plan?
  • Iterative: Are you adjusting to resistance, obstacles, and feedback?
  • Outcome Focused: Are the change management activities focused on ensuring people and business outcomes?
  • Planned: Do you have an upfront approach to change management?
  • Proactive: Are you anticipating the need to continuously update your change management plan and adjusting accordingly?

Vitamin-based Change Management: Benefits

When CARA clients deploy a ‘vitamin-based’ approach to their most critical change initiatives, they report experiencing:

  • Enhanced employee and leader engagement
  • Increased sustainability of the change enterprise wide
  • Realization of people ROI (return on investment) for the project
  • Avoidance of change saturation across the enterprise
  • Increased speed to productivity
  • Accelerated process and technology adoption
  • Highly aligned and empowered workforce

At The CARA Group, we offer Change Management solutions through the thoughtful development of a roadmap, framework, and/or toolkit. With this approach, our focus is on the adoption, utilization, and proficiency achieved by employees. We do this by unlocking client insights and leveraging CARA differentiators to accelerate adoption of the change across the enterprise. For example, using CARA’s two distinct change management capabilities Storytelling As A Service and Survey Focus Groups to identify and unearth critical client insights that might otherwise go unnoticed or undetected, we helped a client achieve long-term success and sustainable change; read here to learn more.

The client insights are leveraged to both inform and influence our change management strategy. Further, we have experience working with organizations who subscribe to either a vitamin or a vaccine-based change management approach. With that said, we are known for ‘meeting clients where they are’ and can navigate the change landscape at all points of the project life cycle. Please contact me directly if you would like to discuss CARA’s change management capabilities, or to discuss your business transformation needs. (

Reflections on International Women’s Day 2021

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Reflecting on International Women’s Day, the #ChoosetoChallenge theme, and Women’s History month overall, I am proud of how CARA continues to evolve and strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion. As I look back to when we founded our firm in 2002, and where we are today, women have consistently held leadership positions at CARA, mirroring the industry statistics. According to an article on, Women Lead the Way in Learning and Development, by Taryn Oesch, CPTM, nearly 60% of leaders across change management, learning, and communications are women. However, there is still an inherent gender bias resulting in a pay gap ranging from 6% to 20%, depending on which practice a woman works in and what age a woman enters the workforce. Whether bias is implicit or explicit, we need to continuously challenge our own policies and procedures against inequities in hiring and pay. CARA’s current leadership team is vigilant about workforce equity, and regularly benchmarks our talent pay scales against industry standards.

One of the decisions I am most proud of was in 2018 when CARA’s Board of Directors unanimously decided to appoint our first woman President and CEO, Michelle Reid-Powell. Michelle was the right person to strategically lead our organization and be the standard bearer of our values that drive how we do business. With Michelle’s appointment, CARA earned its certification as a woman owned business under the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). With support from the WBENC, CARA continues to #ChoosetoChallenge the status quo and do our part to ensure equity for women in the workforce.

I am honored to have founded CARA and remain its co-owner. As CARA focuses on enabling the workforce of the future, I know we will recognize and celebrate the achievements of women beyond this one day. To our clients, our consultants and our staff – all my CARA friends – happy Women’s Day!





car side mirror showing looking back

Hindsight is 2020 – Looking Back, Looking Forward and Looking in a Mirror

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Whew! 2020 is finally behind us! And what a tumultuous year it was. As we reflect on how the world has changed and, more importantly, how the world has changed us – 2020 will leave an indelible mark on all of us for generations to come. Whether it is the way we consume goods and services, the way we work, interact with family and friends, or the way we live our daily lives, 2020 has changed these norms forever. And while economic depression, political unrest, or worldwide pandemics are not new – 2020 seemed different, unique, and exceptional, to say the least.

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering”.

Friedrich Nietzsche (19th Century German Philosopher)

1.1.21 is the dawning of a new day for all of us. A fresh perspective, a clean slate and yes, an even ‘newer normal’. And, as we embark on the new year, we have a unique opportunity to gain insights from the unfortunate events, untimely tragedies and invaluable lessons learned from 2020. Recognizing that hindsight is always ‘2020’, we would be remiss if we did not learn from a year that was – with every intent to ‘find some meaning in the suffering’ that we experienced. To best illustrate these points, I will present my perspective through three distinct lenses: “Looking Back, Looking Forward, and Looking in a Mirror”. At the end of this article, please take a moment to check-out the organizational self-assessment on your company’s change journey in 2020.


Nearly a year ago, I wrote an article on ‘Leading Organizations Through a Virtual Workforce Transition – 10 Keys to Success’. The premise of the article was to prepare, equip, support, and enable managers to lead in an unfamiliar, new, all-remote work environment. This virtual workforce environment brought about by the COVID-19 crisis forced over 42% of a remote-enabled workforce to permanently work in a home office environment globally.[1] As I reflect on that article, I was both surprised, yet encouraged, by the nimble way Corporate America responded, pivoted, and, ultimately, adapted to a ‘remote-first’ work environment.

I also discussed the importance of developing a change plan to aid in flattening the (change) curve for employees and leaders as they transitioned to their new normal. Shortly after the ‘shelter-in-place’ order in March 2020, the conversations I was having with Fortune 100 clients were also abruptly shifting. In many cases, our clients challenged us to shift the scope of our engagements from OCM leadership and solution delivery to upskilling managers and leaders globally. With an emphasis and goal to rapidly prepare managers to lead in a virtual workforce environment, our OCM consultants carefully modeled best practices for how managers and leaders would lead – representing a fundamental change in the way traditional managers led.

This shift in our operating model was a necessary evil for The CARA Group, CARA consultants, and our clients during such critical and uncertain times. While no one had a crystal ball and the future of our business was truly unknown, CARA’s ability to adapt our consulting model toward changing client business needs proved to be mutually beneficial. Looking back, our clients acknowledged that pivoting our consulting approach toward leader upskilling was paramount to the long-term transformational work currently underway. With that said, let us take a look at some key learnings from 2020:



  • We pushed technology to the brink (and lived to tell about it)
  • We learned to multi-task like never before
  • We learned to adjust, adapt, and even exceed in our day to day activities and beyond
  • We learned that we could work remotely and be productive, as well
  • We learned that remote work is here to stay, and that traditional “remote Fridays” are a thing of the past
  • We learned to appreciate each other and the strength of our work relationships
  • We wore more hats than ever before (i.e. professional, home schoolteacher, technical support, coach, counselor, Wi-Fi helpdesk, etc.)
  • We chose empathy when dogs barked, children interrupted or Wi-Fi crashed
  • We learned that the mute button is a blessing and a curse with web meetings




Before the pandemic, the world was experiencing significant growth and prosperity. The norm for employees was to work in an office building setting, technology was an accelerator for work productivity, and we went about our lives mask free. In a matter of weeks, progress was halted, and productivity stifled. A new normal was thrusted upon us with no handbook to help us navigate the months to come. But with a new year comes a new perspective, a new direction, and a new lease on life. But how do we get from here to there?

To survive elementary school, we were taught the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic). Timeless skills that are still foundational to the way we work, live and play today. However, 2021 brings about a more appropriate meaning for the 3Rs: Resilience, Reinvention and Reflection. These modern-day survival skills are critical to leaders and employees in a pandemic world.

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

George Santayana (Spanish Philosopher and Novelist)


If 2020 taught us anything, it was that the will of employees and leaders is unmatched in the face of a seemingly insurmountable crises like a pandemic. And, as we embark on 2021, we must look for inspiration from front-line workers who work tirelessly to care for patients stricken by COVID-19. We need to address ‘Zoom-fatigue’ with newer, more creative ways to work and collaborate. And we must adapt to our surroundings, maximize our relationships, and have the toughness and grit to tackle new challenges that come our way.


If 2020 was about invention – 2021 will be about reinvention and the need to continuously evolve the way we work. In March 2020, leaders and employees alike ‘reacted’ to the environment they were handed – with very little opportunity to develop a thoughtful plan and strategy for business continuity. In 2021, it will be incumbent on all leaders and employees to reexamine and reimagine how they work, how they lead and how they produce desired outcomes. With a continuous emphasis on productivity, reinvention will be a lifeline for many organizations in 2021 and beyond.


Empathy will be a critical skill for employees and leaders in 2021. A key component of empathy is the ability to reflect and understand the feelings of another. The pace of change in 2020 was so rapid and so unparalleled, there was little time for reflection; we were all reacting. For leaders and employees, taking time to reflect on the year that was and recognizing the challenges of the year ahead will be vital to organizational productivity and success in 2021. For employees, what has worked and not worked. Where have employees made huge productive leaps and where have they stagnated, tripped or fallen short. From a leader perspective, which virtual leadership techniques were effective and which management approaches proved to be ineffectual.

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR: Organizational Self-Assessment (Virtual Workforce)

Below is an organizational self-assessment to gauge how you and your organization adapted to the cultural and operational changes brought about by COVID-19 in 2020. The foundation for this virtual workforce assessment includes the ’10 Keys to Success’ that I highlighted in my article at the start of the pandemic. While an assessment score is arbitrary by design, this assessment may help you identify gaps and ultimately guide you toward a successful and productive virtual workforce transition.

Please contact me directly if you have any questions regarding your assessment results below or to discuss your path forward (


2020 Virtual Workforce Transition Tip YES / NO POINTS

We established virtual role models to serve as virtual workforce transition champions


We determined KPIs upfront and defined ‘what success looks like’ with a transition to a virtual workforce


We developed a virtual workforce communication plan with targeted messaging and FAQs

We developed a change plan to manage leader / employee transition to a virtual workforce +1
We conducted a stakeholder assessment to capture hearts, minds, and fears of leaders / employees going through this transition +1
We executed a change impact analysis to determine traditional work environment vs. a virtual workforce +1
We conducted a training needs analysis to identify skill gaps between traditional work and virtual work +1
We conducted a readiness assessment to gauge leader/employee preparation to operate in a virtual workforce environment +1
We developed a training plan to ensure adequate employee and leader skill building throughout the virtual workforce transition +1
We continually surveyed virtual leaders, people managers and employees to gauge awareness, acceptance, and adoption +1



  • If you scored at least 8 points, you implemented a thoughtful approach and have likely enjoyed a seamless transition to a productive virtual workforce.
  • If you scored between 5 and 7 points, you are experiencing a learning curve and some employee resistance, but are making significant progress on your virtual workforce journey.
  • If you scored less than 5 points, you are likely experiencing daily frustration and much virtual workforce resistance. Thus, now is a good time to reset expectations, reestablish your virtual workforce strategy and reexamine your change management plan.


How to Equip Leaders to Be More Inclusive: Overcoming Individual and Organizational Ghosts

By | Change Management, Learning | No Comments

Inclusion may not be rocket science, but it is human science. And, in today’s environment, it is non-negotiable. Inclusion is imperative for leaders to drive up innovation and drive out institutional racism. A Deloitte Insights article by Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon, “The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths,” reveals that organizations with inclusive cultures are eight times as likely to achieve better business outcomes and six times more likely to be innovative and agile.

Daniel Sanchez Reina, Senior Director Analyst for Gartner, in the article Diversity and Inclusion Build High-Performance Teams, notes that diversity and innovation are correlated, “but inclusion is the key to leveraging diversity.” And, leaders are the linchpins to inclusion. In the Deloitte Insights article, Bourke and Dillon highlight what they call the “power of a leader’s shadow.” Leadership behaviors can “drive up to 70 percentage points of difference between the proportion of employees who feel highly included and the proportion of those who do not.”

Individual Ghosts
But, for many leaders, exactly how to be inclusive is elusive. In an HBR article, The Key to Inclusive Leadership, Juliet Bourke and Andrea Titus cite their research indicating “only one in three leaders holds an accurate view about their inclusive leadership capabilities.”
Every leader has the potential to be radically inclusive; creating a culture where people feel safe, valued, and a sense of belonging. Inclusive leadership is everyday actions done with eyes open and ears engaged. Inclusion happens when leaders know and treat each person like the unique and valuable human they are.

“Inclusion happens when leaders know and treat each person like the unique and valuable human they are.”

A truly inclusive culture begins with leaders with truly inclusive habits. Organizations can move the needle on inclusion by equipping leaders to act inclusively as part of their routine interactions with employees. Most people are just not aware of the biases that get in their way. It’s like being tripped up by invisible ghosts – you’re stumbling and just not sure why. This is where the human science comes into play.

Neuroscience in Action
Neuroscientist Beau Lotto in his book Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently teaches us that “Every decision you make in the future will remain grounded in history.” We draw on experiences to inform our actions and decisions today. How we treat others may be the result of perceptions formed by past events. Lotto’s research provides insight into how we can “use our brains to change our brains” by re-writing our past perceptions, so we make better decisions in the future.

The first step for leaders looking to act more inclusively is learning to surface, question, and recognize the impact of assumptions and biases on their behavior in certain situations or with particular people. Seeing the implications of assumptions and biases kick starts an intrinsic drive; motivating leaders to ask questions like “what else might be true?” to replace unproductive perceptions with possibility thinking. They have formed a “new past” to reference when faced with these situations or groups.

With potentially limiting assumptions neutralized or replaced, leaders now need to get comfortable selecting and tailoring inclusive actions to fit their situations and the unique humans in their care.
Finally, leaders need methods and practice in the formation of habits to promote daily use of these inclusive intentional actions. To ensure habits stay ingrained, organizations are wise to design requiring environments rich with accountability and recognition for inclusive leadership.

Institutional Ghosts
Which brings us to the organization itself. Just as leaders desiring to behave inclusively bump into personal ghosts, organizations are haunted by the institutional ghosts of historic and systemic racism. In her Forbes post, Four Strategies For Moving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion And Belonging Beyond Lip Service, L’Wana Harris explains, “It’s your responsibility to reimagine and redesign your organization to create an environment where all of your employees can thrive. We must go beyond simple “inclusion” work and venture into the work that reforms and disrupts. Conduct an enterprise-wide audit for bias and discrimination.”

Organizations must identify and address the myriad causes of imbalance among employee groups. The key question to go after is, what are the business practices, systems, and processes tripping up the progress, engagement, and productivity of people of color, women, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented employee groups in our organization? Organizations with an inclusive culture spearheaded by inclusive leaders unlock the power of diversity to drive innovation needed for market success and for identifying and unseating inequitable business practices.


“The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution: Eight powerful truths by Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon, Deloitte Review, Issue 22
Diversity and Inclusion Build High Performance Teams, Gartner, IT Leadership, September 2019
Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently by Beau Lotto


Book on table

Driving Double-Digit Client Engagement Through Storytelling

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“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
– Ancient Proverb

This is the story of how our client, a global manufacturing company, partnered with The CARA Group to incorporate storytelling and metrics to achieve double-digit increases in total employee engagement (over a five month period)…

ONCE UPON A TIME, a global medical devices client implemented a global manufacturing production system impacting several thousand employees worldwide. The new production system had a goal to standardize manufacturing processes, simplify communications and transform their manufacturing culture globally. While the production system was delivered on-time, within budget and scope, our client faced numerous post-implementation challenges from an employee adoption and acceptance perspective:

  • Low adoption given a perception that global initiatives are driven from headquarters (vs. being driven at a local level)
  • Low compliance as managers and employees felt ill-equipped to follow new global standards
  • Low awareness as local HR did not have the necessary tools to effectively manage this change
  • High resistance as this new initiative was viewed as the ‘flavor of the month’

Given the many adoption and acceptance challenges above, The CARA Group engaged with our client to deliver change management thought-partnership and guidance over a 20-week period with a goal for leaders, managers and employees to embrace the new manufacturing production system as ‘the way they work’. Using CARA’s proprietary ‘6D Solutions Framework’, we successfully delivered a long-term OCM solution resulting in double-digit growth in 12 of 13 engagement areas (over a five-month period). While all phases of our framework were leveraged, two critical phases in particular led to significant client success: “Diagnosis” and “Destination”.


Our “Diagnosis” phase is the process of collecting supporting data and developing key findings. For this engagement, we synthesized and assessed data collected and leveraged it to inform our Change Management, Training and Communication strategies. Unique to CARA is the use of “Survey Focus Groups” to capture the hearts and minds of those impacted by various change initiatives. Survey Focus Groups involves a complement of two data collection techniques: confidential real time survey response (using CARA’s survey technology) and small group meeting facilitation.


  • We conducted six Survey Focus Groups as a precursor to the start of our client engagement (each focus group had an average of 20 employees and managers per session representing 25% of the total plant population)
  • The results from the Survey Focus Groups served as a baseline and were leveraged to understand employee and manager levels of awareness, engagement and adoption
  • Upon completion of our engagement, we conducted six additional Survey Focus Groups to re-assess employee engagement as compared to the baseline (five months prior)
  • We developed a comparative analysis to measure post-engagement survey results (and analyzed pre & post engagement results)


  • Leaders and employees were not involved in the initial design of the new production system leading to low engagement
  • Employees lacked the capabilities and skills to operate within the new operating model leading to confusion and low process compliance
  • Leadership was unable to measure employee adoption of the production system as the future of work
  • Leaders and employees had not fully embraced the new production model and supporting processes
  • Leaders lacked the capability and change leadership training to support the new operating model


The “Destination” phase of our Solution Framework included the transfer of knowledge to internal client
teams including 30-60-90-180 day action plans and recommendations for ensuring long-term sustainable results. With that said, we provided the following deliverables with a goal for employees and managers to embrace the new production system as ‘the way they work’. Each of the following OCM tools addressed specific competency gaps (at both the manager and employee levels), coupled with creative solutions for providing specific action plans for managers to drive long-term adoption and acceptance.

  • Storytelling As A Service
  • Change Management Leader Training
  • Change Sustainability Planning
  • Continuous Improvement Recommendations
  • Leadership Action Planning


Unique to this client solution offering was the design, development and delivery of ‘change stories’. The purpose of the change stories was to partner with our client to tell their story as it related to the new manufacturing production system. Our goal was to capture the hearts and minds of client employees and managers resulting in change stories that represented the employee-base of each location. As a result, each change story would be prominently displayed at various plant locations company-wide.

At the completion of our engagement, 10% of plant employees and managers collaborated to understand the global production system vision and committed to making it relevant to their local plant. As a result, each plant location voted on the change story that best represented their personal journey. In total, eight change stories were developed in the form of poster boards, videos, photo albums and even a creative poem penned by a plant employee. These stories were displayed throughout each plant and served as a visual reminder of “why” and “how” the new production system was transforming their company.

The table below represents double-digit growth when comparing survey results at the inception and conclusion of the client engagement. And while we are pleased with the results from our Storytelling as a Service approach and delighted with the business outcomes, we could not have anticipated the energy, collaboration, partnership and passion of the employees and leaders who volunteered to tell their stories using various medium. This engagement inspired employees and leaders to write the next chapters of their own personal change stories; stories that will live on within each plant location for many years to come…

CARA / CLIENT ENGAGEMENT RESULTS: (Comparing Survey Data Between Sep, ’19 and Feb, ‘20)

Client Engagement Survey Metric* Post CARA Engagement Results
Employee ability to CONTRIBUTE to new production system success + 45%
CONFIDENCE that the new production system was the right approach + 34%
AGGREGATE SURVEY scores between pre-engagement and post-engagement + 30%
Employee INVOLVEMENT in new production system success + 21%
Perception that new production system would improve client COMPETITIVENESS + 18%
Perception that new production system will improve product QUALITY + 10%

*Results provided represent a subset of outcomes achieved

For more information on CARA’s 6D Solutions Framework, our Storytelling as a Service model or for insight into the 13 indices we measured for this client engagement, please contact us at