Business transformation, for most companies, has moved beyond optional to expected. We share four OCM points to consider before diving into your next company-wide change.
Business is in a constant state of transformational change right now, and this state appears to be here to stay. Companies are now rapidly changing how they work by investing in and embracing the benefits of cloud technology and new hybrid work approaches at an unprecedented rate.
Organizations that were previously skeptical of working from the cloud now realize the cloud is their future, whether they planned for it or not. The virtual or hybrid working model completely upended the traditional model of in-person working and is likely to be the standard for many organizations moving forward.
All of these changes are impacting organizations’ people, processes, technology and data. No matter how organizations want to transform themselves, then we cannot understate the focus on the people side of the equation. This area is also where many organizations are currently failing – leaving those driving their talent management strategy and functions scrambling to address pressing issues.
Many organizations believe focusing on people (i.e., organizational change management (OCM)) means only communications and training. The truth is that communications and training are usually only a small (albeit important) part of enabling effective and sustained change. In this blog, we will focus on four key OCM considerations all organizations need to consider as you transform both the how and where your people best work in this new environment.
1. Align Leadership to One Overall Transformational Vision, Direction and Story
Have you ever experienced working for an organization with a lack of clarity around why various transformations are occurring, what the objectives are, or what they consider to be a success? Odds are, many of you have probably experienced, or are currently experiencing, transformations like this.
Furthermore, you have likely observed transformations that tend to be unsuccessful or face tremendous challenges throughout their duration because the core intent and planned objectives were never thoroughly thought out or communicated by leadership. Now, add the complication of most organizations’ employees currently working largely remote.
Regardless of the size of the transformation or even where people are working, project sponsors and leadership’s alignment to the purpose, vision, objectives, guiding principles, and overall success criteria at the start of an initiative is critical to obtaining the expected desired outcomes. Aligning leadership early on and continuously around these factors establishes and maintains the framework for any transformation.
More importantly, it sets the stage for the OCM team to effectively communicate and engage with the different stakeholder groups across the organization to drive them from awareness to sustainment. Leadership alignment to these factors becomes the bedrock for enabling effective change as part of any transformation and helping to provide and reinforce clear direction and guidelines across the entire organization.
2. Build or Enhance Your Ability to Effectively Enable Change within Your Organization
If your organization has struggled to bring about change in the past effectively, odds are one of the items you overlooked was the overall ability to enable change effectively. With a re-invigorated interest in the cloud and the rise of virtual and hybrid work models, organizations need to take a serious look at their ability to effectively enable change when they are about to embark on those transformations. Key questions your organization should ask include:
- Do we have historical success with effectively enabling change? (What did and did not work and why?)
- Are the desired transformation outcomes realistic for the time frame set?
- Does our organization have effective internal OCM capabilities (i.e., leadership alignment, communications, training, impact assessments, readiness tracking, and so on) with dedicated and skilled resources (i.e., experienced OCM practitioners) performing them? (Tip: This does not mean only communications resources.)
- Do our leaders and people managers have the necessary skills to support, enable and sustain change effectively?
- Does our culture and core values openly foster change and adaptability?
- Does our culture and core values enable us to work effectively in a remote setting?
If you answered “no” or “not really” to any of the above questions, chances are your organization’s ability to effectively enable change is not as strong as you would like it to be. Suppose your organization is like many others and goes through transformative initiatives regularly. In that case, you might want to consider establishing a dedicated OCM office to establish the governance, processes, tools, capabilities and dedicated skilled OCM resources to support and enable your people through change effectively.
Additionally, it is important to consider the degree to which your organization’s leaders and people managers are skilled to effectively (and with empathy) navigate your workforce through change. No matter the size of the transformation, it is essential you consider your organization’s change capability before you begin, so you can ensure you have the right capabilities and resources in place to help effectively enable your organization and workforce change.
3. Focus on the Customer and Employee Experience When Transforming Your Organization
Over the past decade, a dramatic shift in focus has occurred in the design of systems, applications and processes. “Moments That Matter,” “Customer Experience” and “Workforce (or Employee) Experience” are all terms that have come to play and now, more often than not, serve as a competitive differentiator for many organizations. What do all these terms have in common?
Plain and simple, the focus of each of these is on designing key processes, interactions and experiences with the customer or employee in mind. The objective is to design the “event” to enable the external customer or internal employee to receive the information, service or product they require in what they consider to be an efficient, effective and overall positive experience for themselves.
Organizations that fail to do this will struggle in the areas of both customer and employee joy. Focusing on overall “joy” is going the extra step beyond customer and employee satisfaction, and it is a differentiator that will enable you to beat the competition. Whatever the change is to the process, technology or experience, companies must have the customer and employee in mind and design their experiences in such a way that promises to leave them feeling happiness and or joy with their experience.
Companies that do this effectively will see a smoother transition and faster adoption of the desired future state, resulting in quicker ROI realization and, overall, more satisfied customers and employees.
4. Providing Transparent Communication Builds Trust in Times of Ambiguity
How many times have you experienced a project in your organization where leadership was not transparent regarding the workforce’s implications? When it occurs, the result is often frustrated workers who lose their trust in the organization and begin looking for other employment options.
In any transformation, early-on transparent communication to the organization is essential. When you first start a transformation, your leaders must clearly communicate the purpose, vision and objectives of the initiative. Furthermore, leadership must be transparent with the organization as to what it should expect from the transformation in terms of timing and potential workforce implications (i.e., job or role changes, headcount reductions, organizational structure changes, and so on).
One common challenge many leaders have with providing timely and transparent communication is feeling like they don’t have all the answers. When this occurs, it is perfectly acceptable for leaders to communicate “they are still making decisions” or that “they don’t have the answers yet but will share more information once available.” The key is maintaining regular, relevant and transparent communication with the organization.
Another way to further enable transparency is for leaders to recognize communication is a two-way street and encourage open dialogue with their organization. Employees should feel encouraged and empowered to bring their ideas, comments and questions forward. Transparent communication pays dividends in terms of employee satisfaction, trust and overall support for the change.
Transparency ultimately leads to trust, and when your employees have in their leadership, they are more likely to support and actively contribute to the strategic direction and change initiatives you are implementing.
Closing Thoughts on OCM
We have outlined some of the most common and important people change components to consider when planning for a transformation. It is important to note that while we have identified a handful of items for you to consider, there could be others as well, such as:
- Your organization’s appetite for change: For many organizations, their people have experienced so much change over two to three years that they are simply tapped out.
- Your culture: For many organizations, you need to consider your cultural considerations (attitudes and expected behaviors, values, and more) for your workers to accept and successfully adopt the change.
Regardless of the type of transformation you are embarking on, you need to consider your people and the impact it will have on them. Begin your transformation with considerations that include having:
- An aligned leadership team to the transformation purpose, vision, objectives, and success criteria
- An understanding of your organization’s ability to enable effective change
- Guiding principles to design the transformation solution with the customer and employee experience in mind
- Transparent communication with the organization throughout the transformation.
If you keep the above considerations in mind, you will undoubtedly see an increased likelihood of successful change and quicker achievement of your intended transformation objectives.