The majority of companies today are going through varying degrees of transformation to remain competitive. The changes range from improving efficiencies through new technologies and processes to rethinking supply chain in order to gain greater value. Irrespective of the degree or area of change, the biggest challenge in ensuring organizational change is executed quickly is the ability of employees to embrace the initiative.
Having managed major programs over the past 30 years, we have identified five tips that will minimize the potential challenges leadership may face and ensure employees embrace the idea of change.
Tip One: Visualize the End State
The old saying that “to see is to believe” relates perfectly to the whole process of transformation. Our experience has demonstrated the use of PowerPoint slides with charts, graphs and statistics do very little to motivate people to embrace major transformational programs. To properly engage employees, it’s critical that management creates a visual representation of the end state, supported by strong storytelling. To win employees’ commitment, you must first win their hearts and then the mind will follow. Images are the doorway into people’s hearts and videos put this principle on steroids. Just ask yourself, when is the last time you enjoyed a PowerPoint presentation?
Tip Two: Answer the “What’s In It For Me?” Question
Most transformational programs are managed by a select group of individuals with outcomes being shared through selective meetings. Your employees very often only get a narrow understanding of the full picture, leading them to guess how the changes will impact their daily work routine. It’s imperative that the benefits of the program are highlighted to employees along with how the changes will impact their responsibilities or corporate reporting structure. Being up front and engaging from the start helps avoid water cooler talk and is more likely to gain support.
Tip Three: Clarity on Linking Behaviour to Transformation End-State
Once you have helped answer the WIFM question the next important factor is to link the employee’s desired behaviour to some key measurable and easily understood metrics. A sure way of shifting and embracing behaviour is to link the needs for change to the meritocracy factors supporting employee reviews, compensation and bonuses. Ensuring the key individual performance soft and hard metrics are strongly linked to your overall transformational goals can provide an important incentive to those within the company.
Tip Four: Create an Experience, Not a New Process
The mere fact that your organization is implementing a transformation indicates “business as usual” is no longer the norm. However, how you deliver the need and the steps towards transformation will set the tone for the entire journey. Leveraging your company intranet and new aspirational work environment wayfinding can serve as a visual reminder of the need and direction for change. The images need to support the vision and storytelling content found in our first tip while reflecting the actual situation within the workspace. For example, meeting rooms should be rebranded to reinforce the key transformational words and hallways could highlight various stages and goals of the transformation. All employee brand touch-points should be converted into a coherent experience.
Tip Five: Communicate, Communicate and then Communicate Again
We have learned you either lead and create the narrative employees share in social and business settings or they will fill in the gaps based on their own perspective. The transformational program needs to get ahead and anticipate the type of questions employees will have in order to provide them with the right messaging. Through repetition, consistency and strong visibility from the senior leadership team, in addition to mid-management transformation ambassadors, much confusion and ill information can be avoided.
As a client once said during one of our many brand transformation workshops, “Change is great and welcomed…as long as it does not impact me.” The mere uttering of the word transformation can lead to some very negative connotations such as upsizing, downsizing, restructuring, mergers and sales. By leveraging these tips, you can minimize the risk and ensure the transformation process is handled properly. Ultimately the whole goal of a transformational program is to remain relevant and drive greater loyalty with customers. Engaged employees are the organization’s most effective tool to achieve these goals.