What’s the best staff engagement strategy for sustainable change?

14 August, 2018
In a constantly changing market, organisations that pursue a defined staff engagement strategy are three times more likely to experience successful transformational change.

Change is tough, but not impossible

Why consider a staff engagement strategy? Well, in the modern business world, it’s likely that your organisation is in a continual state of transformational flux. Markets and customers are volatile and unpredictable, and you must balance the steady-state demands of what customers need today with the necessity to look forward to what they will need tomorrow.

However, you know that you can’t simply ‘install’ change; it must instead be ‘implemented’. As an example, take new software to be used in your customer management department. Simply installing it is not enough. The change must be implemented by a more human approach to realise its full potential. Coaching and training must be provided. People will need to understand the benefits it brings. In short, they will need to be fully engaged with the change, or the change will fall short of its expected outcomes. Resistance will build as your employees ask, ‘Why change what wasn’t broken?’ and revert to ‘the way things have always been done’.

How do you move from an installation mentality to an implementation culture? In this article, you’ll learn about an approach to a staff engagement strategy that could increase your organisation’s chances of success in a constantly changing, uncertain market.


How does a staff engagement strategy impact the change process?

A 2015 McKinsey & Company report based on five years of studying organisational transformations, ‘How to beat the transformation odds’, found that only 26% of transformational change initiatives achieved their goals. However, it also found that where organisations follow ‘a rigorous, action-oriented approach’ to transformation, they are three times more likely to succeed with their change initiatives – with a 79% success rate. Organisational culture and a staff engagement strategy was found to be at the heart of this huge discrepancy of rate of success.


Four key elements of organisational culture

McKinsey had asked executives about 24 specific actions supporting transformative change. They concluded that there are several practices which are associated with successful and lasting transformational change – the kind of change that could see your organisation leapfrog its competitors. Among these, the researchers uncovered four elements of organisational culture that are key to sustaining the improvements created by transformational change. The one that had the biggest effect was communication.


1.   Communicating effectively

One of the most common reasons for change failure is poor communication. Leadership teams inadvertently cause confusion by lack of clarity, and explanations packed with numbers, statistics, and technical jargon. Employees are either told too little or expected to decipher hundreds of pages of mind-boggling explanations.

A survey conducted by Fierce, Inc. found that 86% of employees blame poor collaboration and communication for workplace failures. It concludes that communication problems in the workplace ‘slow down projects, productivity, and ultimately impact client retention, employee retention, and the bottom line’.

So, what is it you need to do to transform communication within your staff engagement strategy?

Turning to the McKinsey & Company report again, they found that when senior managers communicated openly to their employees about the change and its progress, organisations are eight times more likely to experience successful change outcomesthan if this communication doesn’t happen. In fact, across all of the identified 24 transformation actions that combined to produce successful change, communication was the one that linked most closely with success.

What do your employees want to know about your change initiative?

Today, employees want to be involved in the company for whom they work. The days of turning up and doing a job for a paycheque are gone. They want to feel a part of the business, and that their effort is recognised. Our experience tells us that employees want the following questions answered, constantly:

  • What are we aiming to deliver, achieve, or avoid? (What’s the vision?)
  • How will we do it? (What’s the strategy and our values?)
  • What’s my role? (Tasks and behaviours)
  • How is it going? (Measures of success – business and behavioural)
  • Are we genuinely committed to seeing it through? (Role modelling and priorities)

How do you deliver effective communication through change?

As the McKinsey report shows, employees are more likely to respond positively to change when leaders communicate openly. However, open and honest communication is challenging to many executives, who are more comfortable managing processes than people. Yet, it is a shift in organisational culture and staff engagement strategy that has been proven to have the most impact on change success.

McKinsey found that those organisations which developed a change story and shared it across the organisation were most successful in engaging their staff with change and breaking down silos. But this is not common practice. McKinsey asked what organisations would do differently if they could wind the clock back and restart the transformation process. Nearly half (the largest proportion) said they wished they had spent more time communicating the change story.


2.   Leading actively

Transformational change requires something more than inspirational leadership. Managers of transformational change are adaptable, to both environment and people, with highly developed emotional intelligence and leadership tools. Effective development strategies should be aimed at improving both personal and team capabilities. You’ll need to help employees see how their individual values and beliefs align with those of the organisation.

The traits of good transformational change leaders include persuasion, influence, and a collaborative approach.


3.   Empowering employees

Human beings struggle with change, especially transformational change. Uncertainty can strike fear into people, especially when it is combined with new ways of doing things. This fear may lead to disengagement which, unaddressed, can evolve into resistance.

Good leadership seeks to combat this by building individual and team resilience through a comprehensive staff engagement strategy. The fear of failure is eliminated by engendering a sense of psychological safety, ensuring that people don’t fear punishment when they make a mistake. This gives them the confidence and courage to persevere through temporary setbacks as they continue towards positive outcomes. Resilient employees demonstrate:

  • Effective problem-solving skills
  • High emotional intelligence
  • An innovative approach
  • The confidence to communicate with honesty
  • Better professional relationships

Resilience is a shared attribute within teams. It leads to better collaboration, more flexibility, and greater participation towards collective goals.


4.   Create an environment for continuous improvement

In our highly technological world, the pace of change is increasing. Necessarily, business decision-making must be more agile. Organisations which implement technological change to address market fluidity are ignoring the need to implement change: it is the people who remain the beating heart of every organisation.

To create the environmental conditions for sustainable change and continuous improvement, the McKinsey report affirms the importance of:

  • Linking strategy to day-to-day work
  • Ensuring that people understand how their work links to business strategy


The power of learning maps to embed the key elements of organisational culture

As you seek to kick-start sustainable transformational change, you’ll need to ask how big the cultural change will need to be, and how your staff engagement strategy will encourage your people to think with a broader and more open mind. With a new and exciting strategy encompassing the need for transformational change, it is imperative that you engage your employees quickly and align them with your vision of the future.

We’ve worked with many companies to do just this, revealing the new vision in an interactive way that encourages staff engagement from the word go. Learning Maps, such as the one we designed for Aliaxis, bring the big picture to life. They meld strategy, objectives, values and beliefs in a seamless stream of open thinking, engaging your employees to collaborate in the change project and in realising collective goals.

The Group Head of Aliaxis Communications described the Learning Map as:

A major creative leap to replace top-down PowerPoint broadcast communications with a very creative team/interactive approach. The energy and engagement we have had has been phenomenal and has exceeded all expectation.

Your organisation could take the same leap forward. Contact The Big Picture People to discover how.

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