Forrester research indicates that digital transformations and large organizational change efforts fail at a rate of over 70%, and one serious predictor of transformation failure is a lack of employee engagement. Establishing employee buy-in is a considerable investment, but the knowledge that your organizational change effort has full support from the workforce is priceless. While some employees may welcome the new transition, many will be hesitant to embrace major change for fear of unknown consequences. "Will the shift result in more work for me?" "Will my position be eliminated?" Many of these fears can be eased through communication, which allows employees to regain a sense of investment in the organization even as it undergoes a major transformation. Here are 8 steps to help establish employee engagement during your transformation.
- Don’t Keep the Possibility of Transformation a Secret Even though the final decision to undergo a transformation was probably made in a private meeting of high-level executives, don’t surprise your workforce by one day announcing that a series of serious changes are going to be made. Solicit buy-in prior to making the final decision. During the consideration cycle, hold focus groups or take employee opinion polls to make them feel that they have a vested interest in supporting major organizational change.
- Communicate Continually Transformation is rarely a straightforward process. It is likely that decisions will be made along the way that will have a significant impact on your workforce. Make sure that they don’t feel disoriented because they weren’t expecting bumps along the way. You are the pilot. Let your passengers know that this is simply a little turbulence—the plane is not going into freefall.
- Invite Collaboration Ensuring that all employees feel their voice is valued and taken seriously can be established in a number of ways. Group meetings can provide a forum for feedback, as can a continual dialogue between employees and managers. Another increasingly popular way to engage employees is to provide a digital platform where people can provide suggestions and feedback on projects in real time.
- Provide Consistent Support and Positive Reinforcement For better or worse, humans are hardwired to seek out instantaneous results. This helps explain the prevalence of weight loss systems that claim to work in a matter of days. Remember that your workforce will be similarly impatient. They may have expected results already and may be ready to give up on the process. Remind them that their efforts have not been for nothing and that the transformation journey is as important as the destination.
- Help Employees Feel Responsible Set up a system of accountability to help enforce the shift in employee habits. It is easy for people to slip into old habits, so make it worth their while to establish new ones. Stay up-to-date with your employees by setting up a series of one-on-one or small group meetings to discuss the ongoing collaboration and investment in organizational change. In some cases, peer pressure is the most useful tool at your disposal just as long as people aren’t being asked to police one another.
- Inspire Senior Employees to Lead by Example The change begins at the highest levels. Lower-level employees will eventually lose interest in supporting your transformation if they feel that their managers aren’t invested. In the same way, your managers won’t feel inspired to support major organizational change if their leader can’t walk the walk. Lead by example to foster support and trust among employees.
- Set Sub-Goals and Measure Continually Large transformations take many years, and it is easy to become discouraged when projects aren’t running smoothly. To prevent this inevitability, set a number of smaller sub-goals to keep your team motivated. Publish the sub-goals internally and keep the progress updated so that employees are constantly reminded about how far they have come.
- Celebrate Progress Celebrating incremental achievements along the way keeps motivation high and encourages continual investment in the larger transformation. Give your team the satisfaction that comes along with a job well done!
Has your organization successfully completed a large organizational transformation? How did you keep your employees engaged?