Is your workforce 'on the bus', or have you left them behind? Our product development expert, Emmy Cottingham, shares her tips on how to implement change successfully.
Working for a people development organisation, I have often found myself helping clients implement solutions and tools to assist with the transition phase of change initiatives in their business. During recent times of change within my own organisation, it reminded me that ‘change is inevitable’ – no matter whether an organisation is large or small, we no longer have a choice; we must all change to survive and stay competitive within our market space.
There are many different reasons for organisational change and there are also many different elements. Perhaps one of the most challenging is the transformation of an organisation’s culture. To do this, you must win both the hearts and minds of your employees.
To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.
Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell's Soup
Studies have shown that companies with an adaptive culture successfully aligned to its business goals often outperform their competitors by 200% or more. There is also a wealth of research to suggest that the permanent implementation of a change in organisational culture has a continuous impact on the motivation of employees and that the biggest cause of failure to any change programme is resistance from the workforce (Amy Taylor-Bianco & John Schermerhorn Jr, 2006, Orlikowski, 1996).
If a healthy culture is crucial for any type of successful change, then it’s important to define what that looks like. Culture is a constantly evolving facet of an organisation; each time a new employee joins, they will bring with them their own set of values and opinions to the table. A strong and adaptive culture should be aligned to your organisation’s vision and goals and it is then down to strong leadership and engagement to ensure that everyone has clarity and can easily move towards this desired culture.
So how can you implement change successfully?
Many organisations will create a change plan, but rarely do they include within this a clear 'transition plan'. Transition plans deal with more of the human elements, ensuring that people issues are addressed at every level and at every stage of the process. This ensures there is a focus on both the desired cultural changes, as well as the actual process of shifting into the new desired state.
Culture is shaped by many different characteristics, such as:
- Vision and mission clarity
- Employee engagement and commitment
- Empowered employees
- Effective 360 degree communications
- Highly effective leadership
- Strong trust relationships
It is important to consistently check and assess your company culture and clear communication is the key. Opening up various channels of communication creates a more open culture, helping others to view the changes as transparent. As part of this improved communication, it is essential that when a change in culture is being implemented, the corporate vision, goals and road to success are discussed. The ability to open feedback channels raises levels of employee engagement by giving people a voice and therefore helping to build upon the foundation of trust in the organisation. This feedback and communication loop will help to assist the shift in corporate vision by bringing to life the values. If employees identify what it means to live those values then they are more likely to demonstrate the behaviours you can expect to see when those values are being lived.
It's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better.
People development opportunities are a vital method for keeping levels of employee engagement high. Too often, these programmes are one of the first things to be put on the back burner during a period of change. To ensure the continuous motivation of the workforce, it is essential to maintain development programmes by celebrating individuals’ successes and continuing to discuss potential training. Not only can such programmes provide a core indicator in measuring the success of a transition plan, but they also go a long way in making people feel valued and engaged in the business.
If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will take care of itself.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com
The first step in achieving your goals is to pause and take stock. How your employees feel about the organisation and their role is symptomatic of whether your culture is healthy or in need of an overhaul. By opening up those communication channels and fostering engagement, you’ll be taking the first steps to ensure your culture is evolving in the right way and that your workforce is ‘on the bus’ with you during your journey of change.