Merel de Smit (HR Advisor @ ASICS): “If you see the benefit of change, it’s easier to deal with it.”

10 Aug ‘22
3 min
Lisanne van Marrewijk
merel de smit over change management

Change is the only constant in many companies. Growth and progress always involve change. Research carried out by consulting company Gartner shows that, in an average organization, a total of five organization-wide changes will take place every three years. That’s a significant amount. So, how do you deal with this as a professional?

 

Merel de Smit, HR Advisor at ASICS, shares her insights and experiences related to this topic. “Change is important and even necessary. Nothing stays the same. It’s good to be able to handle these changes.”

 

Hi Merel, change causes discomfort and resistance on the one hand, but on the other hand, it’s very energizing. How does change affect you?

 

“By nature, I’m the kind of person who thrives on stability. Because of this, I don’t always find it easy to deal with change at first. But in recent years, I’ve realized that change also has a lot of benefits. Change is important and even necessary. Nothing stays the same and it’s good to be able to handle these changes.

 

What I’m saying is: I’m naturally a little reluctant at first, but then I see the good things that come about as a result of change.”

 

What kind of advantages do you think change brings?

“ASICS is a dynamic organization in which things often change. While working here, I’ve seen how this brings about advantages and good things. For example, I’m talking about certain procedures becoming easier and more efficient. But the point when we all had to shift to working from home was obviously also a huge change.

 

At first, you think: ‘Oh no, how are we going to do this?’ Everything has to change. But once you’ve settled in and got procedures in place for everything, a change like this is positive. It turned out to be efficient.”

 

 

As someone who works in HR, how did you deal with this then?

 

“”The most important thing is communicating regularly, answering questions, and giving clear instructions. Our CEO communicates a lot via video and email. Employees have the option to send in questions, which he then answers. During the pandemic, senior management began communicating even more extensively.”

 

Which changes have had a profound impact on you?

 

“It might sound a bit cliché, but the most profound change in my life was becoming a mother. It forces you to manage your time better. While I used to be able to stay at the office until 7pm if I needed to, I suddenly had to leave by at least 5.30pm so I’d have time to pick up my children. This means I had to find a way to fit everything in. It took some time, but in the long run it turned out to be a good thing. Since you have no other choice in a situation like that, you just have to make it work.”

 

How do you cope with mental challenges, such as stress and worrying that occur as the result of changes like this?

 

“Finding a good work-life balance is very important to me. Particularly if you’re in a dynamic environment where things are often changing. To make sure I can cope with this, I schedule plenty of time for myself to just rest. But a game of tennis is what works best for me. There’s nothing like clearing your head and getting completely immersed in the game. That’s actually what we’re all about at ASICS: a sound mind in a sound body.”

 

You’ve taught yourself to take a conscious approach to change and, as a result, to view it positively. How did you do this?

 

“I think it’s about taking a step back and looking at the situation from a broader perspective. How big actually is this change? And what opportunities might it bring to me? If you can see the point of a change, then it’s usually a lot easier to deal with it. Ultimately, it generally results in a lot of positive things and new energy.”

 

These moments of change are often learning moments. What have you learned as a result of changes at work?

 

“That it’s important to look at things from different perspectives. Obviously, it’s always hard to step out of your comfort zone, but only when you do this do you see the positives and opportunities it brings.”

 

What has been the most difficult or impactful change within ASICS in recent times? As someone who works in HR, how did you deal with this?

 

“As with many companies, I think it was the moment when we all had to start working from home. At first, we didn’t think it was going to be possible, but it actually turned out to be a great opportunity. For example, it reduced that sense of distance between head office and branches in other countries. The fact that everyone was communicating online made it easier to involve everyone, regardless of location.

 

It also freed up more time in people’s schedules, because they no longer had to factor in travel. We encouraged people to make the most of this by offering online fitness and yoga classes. In general, there was a greater focus on the physical and mental well-being of our employees, which was a nice by-product of the very difficult situation we all found ourselves in.”

 

How do you deal with resistance to change?

 

“First I want to understand where this resistance comes from. Then I try to provide enough context to create an understanding. I’ll try to explain the situation and underline the importance of the choices that have been made so that people can see why they matter.”

 

Do you have any tips for other HR professionals who might need help coping with change?

 

“Create as much insight as possible into why you’re doing something and ensure clear communication. Stay clear and consistent about what the change entails and what you expect from other people. And be sincerely open to feedback.”

 

Do you find it difficult to cope with changes and are you dealing with a challenging situation right now? We are happy to help you. Plan a session with one of our psychologists.