It’s good to talk

As businesses seek to redefine themselves during this period of (seemingly) never ending change, we as consultants are increasingly finding ourselves tasked with supporting programmes of organisational transformation. Change programmes we typically see appear to focus on engagement, resilience and embedding organisational identity, where company culture allows colleagues to thrive, whilst being given the right support in order to so.

Organisational transformation works when colleagues, in particular those doing the work, are engaged with the process and support the direction of travel. As the people who will ultimately live and breathe any new ways of working, it is vital that these individuals believe in the culture that leaders seek to create. The challenge, therefore, is: how do I ensure that my people are supported, so that they can actively engage with the change process?

In helping organisations to hit “reset”, and so create a solid foundation for continuous improvement, colleague engagement and resilience, there are a couple of commonalities that, in our experience, are critical to ensuring success and sustainability and allow leaders to address this ever important question.

First line management are an important tool with which to embed successful change…

An easy mistake to make is one where first line management roles are viewed as an administrative function only, or as a conduit which to feed information through. The reality is that line managers, supervisors or team leaders are often well respected and influential leaders in their own right. In our experience, they should be utilised as such, and so given the task of understanding their people’s readiness for change (as well as providing a forum for discussion and relaying the needs of their staff up the chain of command). Whilst company-wide communications are often a necessity, first line management are best placed to understand their team on an individual basis, and can therefore tailor the approach to deliver with real impact.

Understand and address the issues, no matter how small…

There are a multitude of levers to pull in order to ensure that organisational transformation lands well, and that it self-sustains throughout periods of attrition or changes in personnel and roles. One of the most powerful is successfully capturing and resolving issues. These may relate to day-to-day issues with the work being done, or perhaps to the changes being proposed specifically. Either way, listening to staff across the business, allowing them to have their say, and then successfully delivering incremental change to satisfy their needs, is vital both from a performance perspective and from a behavioural change perspective. Why? There is an ever-present constant that exists, in the form of give and take, or of cost versus benefit, which can never be removed from the employee to employer relationship. Colleagues generally want to see change, but they need to feel there is something in it for them. Removing frustrations, resolving issues and addressing the many challenges they face on a daily basis will bring them onside and improve performance along the way. This sentiment needs to be echoed from first line management, right the way through to senior leadership.

Whilst there are plenty of other wins, both tactical and strategic, that will support a change programme in its effectiveness – the importance of the first line managers talking to their people, understanding their frustrations and doing something about them, is invaluable.