The greatest challenge any CEO faces with a new business strategy is getting traction. In terms of developing an engagement and change strategy, determing strategies for how to deal with leaders that publicly support the change but in reality don’t is the first issue you need to deal with.
Here are some reasons organizations fail to get traction with leaders and employees on business strategy and what to do about it.
1. A divided leadership team
2. Launch with huge fan fare then no messages on actual updates or achievement
3. Change fatigue – organizations that appear to constantly change direction
4. Organization has a poor track record in successfully sustaining change
5. Waiting too long to implement employee engagement strategies
So let’s tackle each point and identify some things we can do as employee engagement specialists to minimize the impact of these impediments to successfully implementing change.
A divided leadership team
One of the most overlooked aspects of change management is alignment of the leadership team with the new business strategy. One quick tip is to facilitate a session on how the successful implementation of change is largely dependent on a united leadership team. They need to understand their role in engaging employees in the change process and what employees will be looking for in terms of signs of support and commitment. This is the key message, whilst the leadership team may not all be in agreement, and it should be noted that they rarely are, they must be aligned. That is, they will give 100% commitment to the new strategy and what they need to communicate and do to engage their teams. This is important because the first thing employees look for is a divided leadership team to discredit the new strategy.
Launch with huge fan fare then no messages on actual updates or traction
Another important tip is to make sure that as the “expert” on change management you are able to convince the CEO and their executive team of your strategy. Often they are so excited that they tell you what they want in terms of employee communication and usually this involves major announcements and forums when they have finally reached alignment on the new business strategy. However the significant risk is that the time between the launch and the actual first visible achievement of some change is too long and employees begin to believe that change will never happen. Loss of credibility is an enormous risk for the leadership team when implementing change so you need to provide convincing reasons for your employee engagement approach. Drawing a timeline indicating the gaps between the launch and expected first actual achievement of a project milestone should be enough to convince any leadership team of the importance of taking a strategic approach to employee engagement.
Change fatigue – organizations that appear to constantly change direction
Leaders and employees become increasingly disengaged when they do not understand why the organization seems to continue to change direction on business strategy without giving the prior change strategy enough time to work. Often these are not new strategies but enhancements or the next progression of the original business strategy. When developing your employe engagement strategy you need to establish the links between each business strategy and be able to demonstrate to leaders and employees what these links are. The best way to do this is to design activities that engage employees in the process of change as it relates to them. There are many change strategies that you can implement that are focussed on activities that will ensure leaders and employees will finally say, “Aha, now I get it!”
Organization has a poor track record in successfully sustaining change
Employees have a long memory and if the organization has a poor track record of successfully sustaining change they will be quick to justify why they shouldn’t become engaged with this latest change in business strategy. Therefore part of the engagement strategy needs to include specific data and facts about what is different this time and how the changes being introduced will be sustained; reverting back to the “old ways” of doing things will not be possible. Where ever possible real examples that demonstrate the each step of implementation need to be communicated, not only emphasizing why employees can’t revert back to previous processes but also the benefits of the new changes.
Waiting too long to implement employee engagement strategies
Finally waiting too long to engage leaders and employees will also risk traction on business strategy. At the outset of any discussion of change in business strategy, the employee engagement expert needs to be involved to understand timeframes, key milestones and impact. It is only then that you can develop meaningful strategies that focus not just on information and key messages about what is happening and when; but also engagement strategies that focus on the individual and how the changes will impact them and the way they do their work. By implementing employee engagement strategies early on, rather than what most change strategies focus on which is information, employees will feel some ownership and connection to the new business strategy from the beginning.
Whenever an organization embarks on a new business strategy, whether for a division or the whole of organization, and this includes government departments, leaders and employees react in exactly the same way. There will be those groups that support the new strategy even without all the facts at hand, those that preach the mantra, “it will never happen” and those that wont support the strategy until they see some commitment and evidence that it will happen. The challenge for change managers is to focus on the leadership team first and develop a strategy to deal with each of these three groups.
I look forward to hearing more about how you have managed to ensure traction with new business strategy.