Engaged employees generate 43% more revenue than disengaged ones (Hay Group) and Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year. If this is the case in business running as usual, imagine the added impact that a strategy or restructure change has to the organisation.
Many strategies and restructures are failing to deliver their full potential because organisations do not factor in the people dimension to a deep enough extent. Often the change engagement program is aimed at the workforce. Key stakeholders from senior leaders to middle managers must buy in, own it and believe in it before ‘delivering’ it to employees.
Start with leadership
People are very perceptive. They know when their leaders and managers have not bought into a change and this has more impact on ongoing engagement and enablement in the business than any other factor. When there’s change, they look for honesty and openness from their leaders and expect them to connect personally to help with the change.
In project parlance set up ‘risk or issue management’ meetings, but go way deeper. It’s up to the Change team to create a space for honesty and trust so that uncertainty can be brought to the surface. In these meetings delve into the negative, issues and challenges. Discuss what won’t work. Leaders are solutions people and they bounce off each other. They have the knowledge, experience and ideas to create solutions that will enable the change to achieve its outcomes. This process also allows them to clear the resistances and get on board.
What’s their personal role in the change?
Employees want to know that the change will lead to something better, that there is a clear plan and that they have capable leaders that believe in the change outcomes. Yes, they want guidance, but they also want to have a say in the change.
Test the change on employee groups. I ran employee workshops for a bank changing its retail structure. We workshopped new roles and processes and their feedback transformed roles to much more than the strategy envisioned. Participants became the change champions. They took the strategy story back and helped engage their peers. Although people had to skill up and change roles, they felt they had been heard, been part of the strategy and overall there was little contention or industrial involvement.
Emails don’t make the change happen
Of course emails and communications keep everyone informed. But people want to know what’s really going on, how the change is going and how they’re to be involved. Basically, what’s in it for them. Employees scrutinise communications for openness and transparency, especially in emails or newsletters where they tend to try to read between the lines.
Communications need to connect people with the change. Use all communication forms: face-to-face is still the preference – add the change to meeting agendas, do town halls, videos, road shows, and talk about it at team drinks. Utilise social media, especially internal blogs ensuring that comments are answered quickly with direct, honest feedback. If it’s a question of discontent write an answer and call the person.
Set up a Change champions team of senior leaders, managers and team members. Have regular check-ins – what’s on their mind, rumblings, improvements, good news stories. They too should have check-ins with the people around them and provide communications.
Thank you, thank you!
What are you giving me in return for all my hard work? It’s the day-to-day recognition when going through change that makes the difference, rather than leaving it to annual reviews. Appreciate people in newsletters, say thank you in passing, recognise change champs and those who have helped, note those who provide feedback.
In this change saturated world of business, by connecting with the hearts and minds of people through involvement, communication and recognition there is a greater level of leader, manager and employee engagement. They then help create an environment where there is openness, innovation and feedback to enabling the organisation to be successful.