Lobue News: May 01, 2012

LoBue Real Spotlight - 2Q 2012: Sustaining the Benefits of Change

Effective employee engagement, education and vocational training is not an end in itself – it is the means to delivering sustainable and successful change as part of any coherent change program.

Effecting change in any organization, subject of course to rational decision making and careful planning, can be relatively quick.  However, in today’s more demanding environments, sustainable transformation carries a premium over ‘quick fixes’.  Typically, change is situational and outcome-oriented. Transformation is predicated on meaningful psychological engagement.

When employees are effectively engaged, the whole organization wins.  A recent survey of 90,000 employees worldwide found that only 21% felt fully engaged at work while nearly 40% were disenchanted or disengaged.  Disenchantment and disengagement have a direct impact on the bottom line.  Multiple studies demonstrate that intuitive: organizations with engaged staff have more satisfied customers and are more profitable than those that don’t.

The first and most important point is that change is a challenge to most organizations primarily because of the great comfort individuals take in the status quo.  After all, the status quo is safe.  Change is unsettling and causes most people to feel threatened and stressed, leading to unproductive behavior and overall resistance to change.  Most changes aren’t accidents; they are planned, purposeful, proactive and top-down. The challenge lies in the fact that safe organizational cultures aren’t dynamic environments where change is utilized as tool to be competitive and profitable.

A critical early step is to ensure confidence and productivity by a work group faced with change, but this will not happen without structured management action.  Employees must first be convinced that the change is not another ‘doomed-to-fail’ initiative that absorbs much of their time without any realized benefit.  They must play a critical role as change agents in the effort, recognizing that their behavior and attitudes are very much linked to its success.  Further, by understanding how their day-to-day activities have a direct impact on the business and its customers, individuals are more likely to make the transition to behaviors and attitudes that will promote a dynamic and progressive business environment.  Fully engaged employees look for ways to improve upon their own initiative.  They trust the organization and are proud to be a part of it.  They enjoy working within, and have commitment to the success of the organization.  It is by securing the commitment of workers that change becomes sustainable, and therefore truly transformational.

All too often in large organizations, change is imposed on staff with little more than a cursory explanation.  Change without clear objectives causes a lack of understanding and confused direction.   Engaging employees in a process of continual change towards an overall objective is supportive of a sustainable business transformation program.  Transformation should include a structured management process that requires participation.  The following are minimal requirements for any successful change program:

  • Top-down messaging articulating the initiative, the desired outcomes and who it will affect; Confirmation of management support will lead people to take note.
  • Relating change to specific overall business objectives; This makes it clear to the organization why an initiative is undertaken.
  • Utilizing key performance indicators to measure against the performance of those objectives; Understanding constantly where we are provides constant reminders and transparency.  Good or bad, this will signify commitment.
  • Training for staff to provide: certainty of objectives, their role in the change initiative and tools for identifying further benefit opportunities.  Above all else, this ensures the maximum of participation which supports the simple concept of success in numbers.

Sustaining change is a challenge in every organization. Not effectively tackling the human element in any initiative has been proven to be the single biggest oversight and cause of program failure.