Leading Change – Part 3: Engaging Your Team

Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%, according to a recent Gallup study on employee engagement. This indicates the significance of employee engagement in the workplace and the difference it can make between a thriving change process built on a shared vision and a change attempt riddled with reluctance and resistance.

This is the third article in our leading change series which will focus on how to engage your team by developing an effective communication plan that includes sharing short-term wins. Now that you know how important it is to create the right team, you should also know how important it is to keep those players engaged so that real progress can be made.

Many organizations may feel they do their due diligence in accounting for how a change will affect those at an individual level, but how much time is truly spent on engaging people in the change? Sixty-eight percent of managers said they are “getting the message” about reasons for major organizational changes. That figure falls to 53% for middle managers and 40% for front-line supervisors. Guess who matters most in implementing any change?

The people closest to the line. How can these individuals help lead the change if they don’t know what they are expected to do differently or why they are expected to change? Why does this lack of effective communication occur? Two reasons: one is that in most change efforts, there is significant focus on projects (new product launches, new software, new positions created) and not enough focus on the people themselves and really engaging each and every person. The second reason is that the people at the top talk about the change so much that they feel everyone knows about it and is tired of hearing it. In fact, senior leaders are the only ones who are tired of hearing about it. As you can see from the statistics above, much of the organization still doesn’t understand why the change is occurring.

So what can you do? First, spend time talking with people at all levels to get a sense of how they believe they fit into the proposed vision. This can take the form of focus groups, town halls, one on one discussion, anonymous feedback forms, etc. Second, don’t worry about over-communicating. Instead, always assume that not everyone is as informed as for the senior leaders. This will allow you to communicate well-detailed information on a consistent basis. Third, understand that successful change is impossible without the middle and front-line group, but engaging these individuals takes significant time and effort. We suggest to our clients that they have a specific project designed for employee engagement at all levels. I know a CEO who led significant organizational change over a span of several years. He utilized his employee surveys which told him that more than 90% of his employees not only understood the reason for the change but that they felt part of it. Once the group has that level of engagement, the change is fully embedded and unlikely to slide backward.

Generating and communicating short-term wins are another way to keep individuals engaged. People need to feel like there are progress and good news. No matter how small the win, don’t keep it bottled up. Share it with others. These short-term wins accumulate over time and lead to tangible business results. They also help people see the benefits the change is having on the organization, which in turn will prompt them to begin changing their own behavior to keep propelling the change forward.

Don’t just focus on the plan for change. Spend time engaging your people and giving them the encouragement which will build their self-confidence to be effective agents of change.

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