The Basics of Organizational Change
You need to better engage people for successful change.

No one should undertake an organizational change initiative lightly. This is especially true for complex organizational change initiatives where the majority (up to 70% by most accounts) fail.

Why do they fail? One of the main reasons is inadequate preparation on the part of senior leaders.  They have not gained enough understanding or spent enough time engaging their employees to get behind the initiative.  Too many employees are left on the shore with no compelling reason to dive in and pull the company in the new direction.

Why People Resist Change
People naturally resist change. They accept the current situation and they are comfortable with that familiarity. In general, we feel fear and anxiety about the unknown, as well as uncertainty about whether the future will be an improvement over the status quo.

Overcoming Resistance
The key to successful change is getting stakeholders involved early on and earning their support.   The challenge then becomes how to engage stakeholders which should include employees, customers, partners, and suppliers.

Five Tips to Better Engage People for Successful Change

1. Find a Shared Purpose
Work together to define common goals and a compelling vision of the future benefits of the change. Until employees understand what’s in it for them and how they are united in their purpose, it will be hard to persuade them that the change is in their best interests.

2. Include Employees at the Outset
If employees are involved in the design and planning from the beginning, they will have a sense of ownership and skin in the game. Too many leaders leave employees out of the early planning sessions and are surprised that, when they inform the workforce of the change, there is not universal support.

3. Craft the Solution
With the vision in mind and the employees at the table, put together the steps required to implement the change. Solicit the input of front-line workers so you can consider carefully the effect of each step and prioritize and sequence the work in a coordinated fashion.  Establish some principles that will guide you all going forward.

4. Provide Forums to Air Concerns
You will need to proactively seek feedback from employees as you begin the execution phase. Whether you conduct a survey, have one-on-one conversations with key individuals or set up meetings where ideas and questions are encouraged, find a way that works in your culture to listen well to your constituents.

5. Solicit, Listen to and Deal with Contrary Thinking
Most employees will probably agree with the way things are unfolding. But you really need to listen to those who question what’s happening.  Be open to their criticisms so you can evaluate whether you need to tweak the plan or explain what is realistic and feasible.

The Bottom Line
Put people at the center of organizational change.  They are the ones who can ensure your change initiative is truly successful.

To learn more about how to better engage people for successful change, download 5 Science-Backed Lenses of Change Leadership

On-the-Job Training to Reinforce Learning
On-the-job training to reinforce learning has significant advantages over the kind of old-school training that occurs in a classroom environment.  But it, too, can be a waste of time unless it’s done right.

Most training gurus agree that on-the-job training is the most effective way to learn the skills, knowledge and competencies required for a specific job.  It’s real-time practice and learning as opposed to just hearing about or role playing your way through theoretical workplace situations.  However, like any training, if it is not targeted to specific and relevant skills, measured for effective application, and continually encouraged, it will have little effect on improving overall performance.

Structure Is Needed
Just having a less experienced employee shadow a more experienced employee does not ensure that the best learning is being passed along in the most effective way.  Training or observation “by itself” will not drive tangible change or lasting business results.  In fact, after measuring over 800 training programs, we know that only 1-in-5 people will change their behavior and performance on-the-job from training alone.  For training to work, you need careful planning and structure.

4 Critical Factors of Effective On-the-job training

1. Identifying what success looks like for a specific role

2. Determining what competencies are needed to be successful for a specific role

3. Knowing what opportunities are needed for learning those competencies

4. Measuring that the competencies have been learned and successfully applied on-the-job

Profile of Success
What makes someone successful in the role?  Define what would constitute undeniably high performance and then look carefully at your star performers to define what they do – their responsibilities, their activities, their results.  What competencies do they demonstrate that account for their job proficiency and high performance?  These, then, are the competencies toward which you need to train, practice, coach, measure, and reinforce.

More than Exposure
It is not enough to simply expose a learner to the job.  You need to create opportunities for hands-on learning and feedback.  The learner needs to experience the actual challenges of the job and absorb how to perform required tasks reliably.  Provide frequent and relevant opportunities to use real work and to get real work done while learning.

Proof of Capability
Is the learner competent to complete the job activities at the required level of proficiency?  This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of performance and accountability.

The learner needs to perform the job consistently at an acceptable level.  This is a key aspect of their ongoing performance management.  Without metrics, how can you know if more training or coaching is needed?

The only way to ensure that participants learn the skills and knowledge is to require them to demonstrate proficiency when it counts.  Then as the learner demonstrates performance, they can opt out of practice on a specific competency and progress to the next level.

The Bottom Line
We know that training “by itself” will not drive tangible change or lasting business results.  Be sure you plan to train to the right competencies, provide meaningful opportunities for learning, and measure accountability for execution.

To learn more about how to improve your training outcomes, download the Top 10 Training Best Practices not to Miss

Externally Focused Culture vs. Internally Focused
An important cultural dimension for many companies to define is the balance between having an internally or externally focused culture.  We define workplace culture as how and why things truly get done in an organization. Depending upon your corporate strategy, sometimes it makes more sense to primarily focus on internal systems and processes (e.g. Wal-Mart), and sometimes it makes more sense to primarily focus externally on customers and market trends.

This article is for leaders hoping to have their companies culturally focus more on customers and market trends to better execute their go-to-market strategies.

An Internally Focused Corporate Culture
Let’s start by defining an internally focused corporate culture as an organization that primarily focuses on internal systems, processes, and conformance to internal standards.  A culture that is internally focused looks inward for answers and solutions.  This often makes sense if your strategy is to cut costs, reduce waste, or quickly scale repeatable solutions.

An Externally Focused Corporate Culture
An externally focused culture is an organization that primarily focuses on customers and market trends.  A corporate culture that is externally focused looks outward, happily adjusts any internal process to meet customer demands, prioritizes customer experiences, and relies heavily on external sources of information.  This often makes sense if your strategy is gain market share, grow revenue, improve customer intimacy, or to increase your market positioning.

Two Tips to Create a More Externally Focused Culture
If you want to become a more externally focused culture, here are two good, research-backed places to start:

1. Consistently Analyze the External Environment
Define the factors that need to be monitored so the organization can strategically respond in a timely manner.  This includes developing ways to detect changes in the external environment, having strong sales and marketing feedback loops, and creating deeper and more regular opportunities to learn about the needs, thoughts and feelings of customers, competitors, partners, and suppliers.

2. Hiring, Rewarding, Supporting, and Promoting Externally Focused People
Look for individuals who are flexible and externally-oriented. Reward those who have a keen insight into what others need and a history of responding quickly to meet those needs. And finally, empower customer-facing people and those that support them with flexible solutions, pricing, options, and tools to effectively respond to changing, and often very different, customer needs.

The Bottom Line
If your strategy is to gain market share, grow revenue, improve customer intimacy, or to increase your market positioning, the chances are high that you need to culturally focus more externally than your current norms.  That means improving your ability to consistently analyze the external environment and how you hire, reward, support, and promote your entire workforce.   Is your culture externally focused enough to help move your strategy forward?

To learn more about how to align your culture with your strategy, download Aligned Cultures Count for 40% of the Performance Difference

Decrease Organizational Complexity
Overly complex processes, procedures, and systems hamper organizational effectiveness and decrease employee engagement.  To improve business performance and retain top talent, it is critical to make it easier to get the right work done in the right way.

Unfortunately, a large number of companies waste time on simplifying complexities that are not the real culprits of making it difficult to get work dome in a way that makes sense.  We believe that the first step to decrease organizational complexity is to understand where changing how work gets done will have the greatest impact on your strategic imperatives.

Understand Different Perspectives
What seem like barriers to effective business practices to leaders are not likely to be the same for individual contributors.  Leaders are apt to consider complexity from a broader point of view – the number of employees, the number of divisions, the number of facilities, the number of countries they operate in, etc.  Employees, on the other hand, often think of complexity as specific hurdles to overcome as they do their job – confusion over role, ambiguity over scope, unnecessarily cumbersome processes, too many levels of bureaucracy, etc.

What You Need to Do and How
If your goal is to reduce complexity and to make it easier to get stuff done, you first need to identify where the complexity exists. Senior leaders need to take a fresh look at the company’s org chart and re-think where assignments and priorities could be improved.  And they need to canvas employees, whether by survey, focus groups, or one-on-one interviews.  Collect the data to find out where time and resources are being wasted and where organizational conflicts exist.

  • Executives will need to tackle the more systemic problems. Is there unnecessary duplication in employees and facilities?  Can you streamline production so there’s less overlap?  Can you justify operating in as many countries as you currently do?  Are you trying to do too many things at once?
  • Then you need to look at the complexities that keep employees from performing at their peak. Is there a lack of role clarity that causes confusion or duplication of effort?  Are there systems and processes that unnecessarily hinder efficient and satisfactory job execution?  Are efforts being wasted in areas that are not a top priority?

The Goal
The goal is organizational effectiveness.  The solution?  Remove confusion over accountability, useless bureaucracy, and unnecessary costs.  To get a handle on complexity, executives need to learn what’s driving it and eliminate complexity where it does not add value.

The Bottom Line
The best leaders know how to create a strategy that outlines clear and compelling choices about where to play and what actions to take – both on the executive and employee levels.  Done right, a successful strategic plan sets a company up to perform beyond just the sum of its parts as a smoothly running machine with minimal waste and friction.

Is your strategy or ways of doing business too complex?  Download 7 Ways to Stress Test Your Strategy Now

Measure Manager Engagement Effectiveness – You Need to Know What Employees REALLY Think
It may be scary to learn what employees really think about you and your company, but you need to know if you want to truly engage and retain them.

Employees who are dissatisfied with their company or their manager think seriously about giving less discretionary effort and about leaving for greener pastures.  In fact, more employee attrition is due to dissatisfaction with managers than any other reason.  Are you willing to risk losing team members when you still have a chance to find better ways to lead and work together?

Engaging Employees
Based upon over 500,000 annual employee engagement surveys per year, we know that management effectiveness – how well managers perform their jobs and how much respect employees have for their managers – has an extremely strong correlation to employee engagement.  Employees who believe that their managers and supervisors truly care are more likely to be engaged in their work.  And engaged employees are productive employees.

Ask the Right Questions
You need to ask the employee engagement questions – the right questions to see how highly your employees rate your managers.  We know what questions to ask because we know what areas correlate most to higher levels of employee loyalty, discretionary effort and advocacy.  Do not fall into the trap of using questions that do not correlate to increased levels of employee engagement and retention.

The Top 16 Questions that Measure Employees’ Satisfaction with their Managers

About Overall Management

1. Do you regularly receive constructive performance feedback from your manager?

2. Do you understand how your performance is measured?

3. Do you think your manager cares about you as a person?

4. Does your manager care about your development?

About Manager Communication

5. Does management clearly communicate expectations?

6. Does your manager effectively communicate the information you need to understand?

7. Does management explain the reasons behind decisions made?

8. Do managers handle disagreements professionally?

9. Does your manager explain how the organization’s future plans affect you?

About Manager Trust and Respect

10. Does your manager create a trusting and open environment?

11. Does your manager treat everyone on the team fairly?

12. Is your manager responsive to your ideas, requests, and suggestions?

About Manager Business Acumen and Skills

13. Are you confident in the overall effectiveness of your immediate manager?

14. Does your manager have the expertise and ability to help you and your team to succeed?

About Employee Career Development

15. Do you and your manager discuss your career within this organization?

About Work-Life Balance

16. Does your manager recognize the importance of your personal and family life?

The Bottom Line
How leaders and managers work with their teams has an extremely strong impact on employee engagement, performance, and retention.  Since talent accounts for 29% of the difference between high and low performing teams, don’t you think you should keep a finger on the pulse of how good management is at engaging employees at your organization? You need to measure manager engagement effectiveness.

To learn more about how to manage for greater level of employee engagement, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

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