Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Employees and Change: Do It With Them – Not To Them!

The Buzz of Change Management  

I was involved in big change projects before change management became such a buzzword.

While taking training from Prosci, whose popular change management approach was developed by engineers, based on research, I learned to define it this way:

Change management is the application of a structured process and tools to enable individuals or groups to transition from a current state to a future state, such that a desired outcome is achieved.

What I love about change management (CM) is that it recognizes the importance of people! Unless your organization is completely mechanical or robotic, there is no way a change can succeed without the support of your people. Aspects of CM overlap with communications and training, and the important role of leaders and coaching.

The Missing Piece

But what strikes me every time I go to any session on change management is that it is an “after-the-decision” role. Decision-makers may plan for how they want to manage people through the change, but they don’t involve enough people in the decisions that create the change in the first place! Instead, once the decision has been made, change management attempts to bring those affected along on the journey of implementing the change.

There is an earlier step that makes the work of implementing change much easier – and could also make the decision itself more likely to be the right one: engage your people in making the decision!

The most effective way to cope with change is to help create it. ~ L.W. Lynett, IBM executive in the 1960s

In fact, if you really want to pave the way for ongoing change and innovation in your organization, engage employees now! Don’t wait for a specific change or event to drive it.

The Time and Place for Engagement

Some decisions have to be made by the leadership team. An example would be a company purchase or merger. Not only does it require certain knowledge and accountability, but they also have to consider things like the potential for leaks and market impact. However, even when the initial big decision has to be made by a small number of people, planning can consider how, when and what decisions can be opened up for employee input.

When I worked at Maritime Life, I was involved in four mergers and acquisitions. While the teams doing the due diligence and announcement planning were limited, the company then looked for ways to involve employees in helping determine the changes to come. One example was the development of new, combined HR policies for the company. Teams of employees from throughout both of the “original” companies were created to look at each policy, along with an overall team, of which I was a part. Each of the teams had parameters to work within and the guidance of HR experts to draw on. Together, they developed the new roster of HR policies that were implemented by the company.

Of course, that wasn’t the first time Maritime Life had engaged with its employees. It was part of the culture. Employees had helped articulate the vision and values, and they also had the opportunity to talk to senior executives – and ask them in-person questions – every quarter.

To be clear, when I say employee engagement, I don’t mean simply “I’m interested in my job and the organization I work for.” I’m talking about involving employees meaningfully in planning, decisions and problem solving.  ~ Katherine Roberts

For employee engagement to work, you have to be sincerely interested in what employees have to say. It’s a sign the company and its leaders believe their employees have a lot to offer and don’t need to be looked after in a patriarchal manner.

And if you don’t believe that of your employees, is it about them or is it about you?