A healthy culture is beneficial to all and is everyone’s responsibility. The benefits can include: financial growth, retention of talent, good moral and motivation to better serve the company and customers, stronger leadership and so on and so forth. The creation of a high-performance executive team and the alignment of organizational cultures comes through a behavioural change. “Change is personal though. Not only must it start with the senior team (organizations are, after all, ‘shadows’ of their leaders), it needs to originate from moments of personal insight and must be underpinned by a common language and experience across the organisation” (Charlie Coode). We will focus on the common language for now. This is part of the first step and is probably the most important component: communication.
Change is communicated in person and by the CEO. The most effective way to address a crowd and demonstrate that people are valued is by having their leader talk in person to them. The leader will then inspire and lead by example and, only then, will employees engage in the change. This has to be followed by a communication strategy to convey a common understanding of what changes are needed. The leaders are the drivers of this initial stage. They must meet with their teams and reinforce the CEO’s ideas, through one-one discussions or larger gatherings. Emails are not effective at this stage.
Normally, it is more effective to have the employee’s supervisor deliver messages that have a direct impact on the team and have the CEO deliver the messages regarding the new vision for the business as a whole. It is crucial to have honest, open, consistent and transparent communication. Employees must feel at ease to ask questions or clarifications, but the leader must be respected and his vision, followed. In most companies, 60% of people usually buy into a new strategy, 20% are indecisive and the other 20% are simply negative and resistant to change. The people who resist change are afraid to change the status quo. They usually leave the business or they stay and influence others to resist change. A good leader will be able to identify these people rapidly and address the situation before they jeopardise the efforts to drive change. In most cases, these people end up leaving or are asked to leave the company.
The speed in which the new strategy is implemented is also key. If the leaders are not ready to cascade the new vision rapidly, they are at risk of losing their top performers. In most cases, companies going through restructuring lose their best talent because they failed at communicating their goals and were slow at implementing change. If a leader announces a new strategy, it must be implemented fast! The momentum is important and creates engagement. That is why some leaders chose to hold these meetings in a retreat with their staff, away from their day-to-day tasks.
The idea of a retreat is a good strategy and brings people together around a meal and a more human interaction. It solidifies the idea of teams and of a common goal. It also demonstrates that the leadership team is investing time and money in their employees, because they matter! I believe company retreats can be very instrumental in creating a momentum for change.
In order to support any change, a company must put in place institutional practices. This includes a review of the way of doing business. The leader must “walk the talk” by rethinking major policies (especially in HR), processes and even new technologies to sustain and support change. Employees will adhere to transformation if it is sustained by concrete actions and if their leaders are casting the right shadow.
The shadow of the leader is how the manager influences subordinates through actions and behaviours. It is a combination of personal preferences, beliefs and values, in other words, the way of doing business in the organization. Employees look upward to people they can follow or even copy so that they are able to progress in the company. If the leaders have good shadows, it will cascade down to their teams and to the rest of the company. People feel the need to fit in and this refers to the way people act and interact within teams. Some cultures are more hierarchical, or more casual and “hipsters”, some are more bureaucratic, while others are less rigid. If a person is good at their job, but is not a good cultural fit, chances are, they will not remain in the company. Now, if a person is a good cultural fit, but has limited skills, they are more likely to stay and even thrive in the company.
This raises the question of skills/competencies x cultural fit. What should a recruiter look for? Are we ready to comprise on either? The truth is, both are crucial, but one is more important than the other. Cultural fit is not easily trainable, it’s the makeup of someone – who they are and what they bring to the table. Most people can pick up new skills and be trained on the job, if necessary.
Lastly, I believe the last aspect that should be included in a change management project is the project itself. “Culture change should be approached as you would any other major transformation: managing change as a process (it takes time); having rigorous project management and governance; and using measurement to baseline, track progress and measure impact” (Charlie Coode). This is absolutely crucial and will help to keep track of the advancement made by the company. This also goes to show that this is a concrete measurable project that should be taken seriously. If a company is planning a new project it should allocate funds and personal to run it. The same applies to change management projects. There must be a team in place that will work exclusively for the advancement of the new company’s strategy. A team of people dedicated to making change happen. Ideally a team of people with a good level of seniority and knowledge of human resources management.
If a company is successful in managing these aspects of the project, then change is on the way!
Thank you, Rebeca Gelencser