Change is hard. For organizations made up of disparate personalities, it’s even harder: especially when there’s a lack of buy-in from senior leadership. And in my experience as a change management and family business consultant, that’s all too often the case.
Change is necessary. It leads to growth — and not just on a “feel good” level. Studies show that companies that make transformative behavioral changes reap the benefits in their bottom line. Drucker Institute’s recent Management Top 250 report concluded that companies that excel in employee engagement and development excelled in financial strength and other measures of total effectiveness as well.
Why then, do so many leaders fail to fully buy-in on behavioral change programs? Some of it is due to lack of awareness. Some due to personality types, and some is due to a dated view of what’s important in a quickly evolving marketplace.
Senior leadership is often (and understandably) focused on the financial aspects of the business. When they think of strategies that boost the bottom line, employee happiness is rarely top of mind — but it should be. Happy employees are proven to be more productive, more engaged and more apt to “go the extra mile” at work — all things that positively affect the bottom line.
Leaders should never underestimate the value of investing in people. Improving the behavioral aspects of your organization can lead to improved productivity, employee retention, innovation, customer satisfaction and social responsibility — all of which lead to financial strength.
Change doesn’t come easy. But with the right approach, organizations can have it all — happy, productive employees and a healthy bottom line.
Five ways to drive change
1.) Assess the culture: The starting point for a successful change-management effort is figuring out exactly what that starting point is. Spend time with all stakeholders to get a feel for how the current culture is perceived, what concerns they have about the impact of the changes, what they would like to see change, and what they would like to retain going forward. Assessment interviews will also give you a good idea of how open or how resistant stakeholders may be toward sweeping cultural changes.
2.) Set goals: This should go without saying, but setting goals requires more than a faint idea of what you want your change-management program to yield. Set goals that are realistic and measurable. Setting measurable goals will help you to devise actionable strategies that will help you achieve those goals — and allow you to track progress throughout the entire transition.
3.) Interactive workshops: Getting senior leadership to buy-in on behavior change takes more than lip service. Hold interactive workshops where leaders can learn behavioral strategies for implementing beliefs, behaviors and skills — and turn them into actions that will help them lead employees to achieve the organization’s new cultural expectations. Making sure leaders are on the front line of change management efforts is paramount to success. Preparing those leaders to lead should be one of your top priorities.
4.) Behavioral toolbox: Behavior change may seem like an abstract concept, but there are specific tools you can put in place that will allow both employees and leadership to make real, measurable strides throughout the process. These tools, which may include techniques such as identifying key influencers who embrace the change as role models to be peer mentors and teaching cognitive behavioral strategies for supporting positive thinking and minimizing negative beliefs, will help reinforce what was taught in workshops or seminars and will make it easier for employees and leadership to achieve the stated goals.
5.) Individual and group coaching: Not every employee — or every leader for that matter — will readily accept change. For those struggling to adapt a new culture, you might consider implementing individual or group coaching to help pinpoint issues and offer strategies to overcome them. For true culture change to occur, everyone must be on board. Targeted coaching will help everyone get on the same page.
Change has never been easy, but it’s always necessary to move an organization forward in a rapidly changing world. If your organization plans on making a sweeping cultural change, make sure that you are prepared to put in the work, and that leadership are prepared to take the wheel. With the right plan and leadership driving it, you can create a cultural change that improves the health of your company.
Denise P. Federer, Ph.D. is founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group. She has 27 years of experience working with key executives, business leaders and Fortune 500 companies as a behavioral psychologist, consultant, coach and trainer. Contact her at: [email protected]