Preparing Your People for Change

COVID changed the goalposts. In fact, COVID took those goalposts, set fire to them and completely removed all field markings and boundaries completely!

As we reflect on the positive outcomes so far from the COVID crisis (and, let’s face it, we need all the positivity we can get at the moment!) one thing which has struck me is our individual and collective ability to rapidly and, most importantly, effectively change in the face of adversity.

Up to now, if as an organisation we tell our staff that we’re implementing new procedures, new ways of working and new collaborative approaches, especially leveraging new technology (or technology new to the organisation), there is an expectation of resistance.

But COVID changed the goalposts on that. In fact, COVID took those goalposts, set fire to them and completely removed all field markings and boundaries completely! We were looking at a brand new field with no useful markers directing us as to where to go and how to do it best.

And, I will stick my neck out here and say, after the initial panic, we all managed to do it pretty well.

Organisations found that as long as there was clear communication led from the top and there was engagement and support with all the individuals which make up an organisation, the path to rapid change was much quicker and much more effective than it would normally be expected to be.

So what can we take from this? We can take the knowledge that if we expect a process to be long and arduous, it will be. A self-fulfilling organisational prophesy.

But it is using that knowledge to direct our approaches in future which is going to be key.

We can now recognise that the individuals within our organisations are able to change and embed that change effectively as long as there are some key phases and stages which are followed, communicated and they feel supported.

By investing in the preparation of our people and by equipping them with the skills to understand the context of change and be part of the change path, we can see far quicker returns on investment and more effective and permanent business change with fuller engagement and enthusiasm from our team members.

There are three cornerstones to business change in the context of how we support our clients – People, Process and Technology. These are the triangulation points of digital business transformation. How organisations leverage technology to transform their business and operational processes. Organisations that simply focus on a technology change but do not invest in reviewing process and engaging with their people in a structured manner will not achieve the full benefits that could be delivered and are more likely to be unsuccessful.

Many organisations over the years have spent years developing and investing vast sums in the Process and Technology triangulation points, and now COVID has shown us that with some thought and development in People, a company is able to successfully implement its digital transformation strategy effectively, efficiently and efficaciously (the three ‘F’s!).

So why is People Development so important?

Research published by the CIPD has shown that change management matters because there is significant evidence that around 60% of organisations find their change initiatives often fail to meet their stated objectives (usually bottom line improvement) and this can lead to high impact consequences – loss of market position, removal of senior management, loss of credibility amongst the organisation’s stakeholders, loss of key employees and reduction in employee engagement and motivation[1].

The phrase “false economy” rings itself around that failure and we therefore have to look at why those change initiatives fail and why economies implemented around the initiatives have caused a false sense of return of investment potential.

The key to it all is very simple: people development.

Organisations which fail to plan its development and engagement with its people as part of any change initiative may as well throw, sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds, down the drain. If your people are not engaged and enthusiastic about the proposed change, they will simply refuse (either passively or actively) to follow the new procedures and use the new systems effectively.

That phrase so often bandied about, “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it”, will start to be heard echoing down the corridors of organisations across the UK who have failed to account for the third cornerstone. People. Without essential, planned and cohesive communication and people development strategy, senior management can reply “Just because you did it that way in the past doesn’t mean you should do it that way in the future” but it will simply fall on deaf ears.

Organisations will have invested substantial amounts in the Process and Technology aspects, but by ignoring the third cornerstone, People, the triangle of success will simply fail to connect and fall apart.

At Embridge Consulting, we have spent a long time developing Industry leading best practice businesses processes and identifying and implementing what we deem to the most suitable technology for our clients. We have taken our demonstrably successful methodology and approach to project management, governance, solution design and delivery and applied those techniques to work in tandem with the key techniques and pitfall resolution mechanisms surrounding business change management.

In short, we are able to assist our clients in identifying the correct business change strategy and change management processes suitable for them and for their digital transformation. We enable your digital future and that means all of it – the people, the process and the technology.

There are many drivers to organisational change and here in a series of articles I intend to publish over the coming weeks I will start to look at the key phases, stages, pitfalls and resolution mechanisms essential for successful digital business transformation based on our experience. I hope you find it useful when applying thought and strategy to your own organisations. If you are considering a large investment at some point in the next 2 years, now is the time to start thinking about how you can prepare your people.

Whatever digital transformation path you are looking at undertaking, you need to work through the four milestones of people development in preparation for a successful programme of change:

k

Prepare

Engage

1

Involve

I

Embed

I hope that my series of articles will provide useful direction and information on areas businesses can consider and where investment can be made for the most fruitful return.

The four milestones encapsulate the ten key impacts of business change, and I look forward to showing you how you can successfully enable your digital future.

Develop your people; develop your digital future.

Emma O’brien, Founder of Embridge Consulting, Entrepreneur, Leader, Women in Business
6 articles

[1] CIPD Factsheet “Change Management”, published 25th November 2019

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