Employees want to co-pilot your change management efforts, not take a backseat.
CHROs are prioritizing organizational design and change management to navigate continuous disruption from digital transformation, economic uncertainty and political tensions. After years of disruption, however, employee change willingness has outright collapsed and “change fatigue” is taking a toll. According to a recent Gartner survey, 74% of employees were willing to support organizational change in 2016; today, only 38% say the same. This correlates with a lower intent to stay with the organization: Only 43% of employees who experience above-average change fatigue intend to stay with their organization, compared with 74% of employees with low levels of fatigue.
Why is this? “It’s related to the fact that 82% of workers recently surveyed by Gartner say it’s important for their organization to see them as a person, not just an employee,” says Cian Ó Móráin, Director, Research at Gartner. “An open-source approach provides employees with a more human deal by actively engaging them in change initiatives.”
Traditional top-down change management is wearing thin and employees need a change management approach that is engaging, humanizing and transparent. CHROs can decrease change fatigue and support employees through periods of uncertainty with an open-source change strategy — one that is less prescriptive than top-down approaches and more collaborative, involving employees throughout the process instead of simply telling them what will happen.
3 shifts that will improve change management success
Organizations that implement open-source change strategies are 14x times more likely to achieve change success. They see the risk of change fatigue in their employees fall by 29 percentage points and the intent to stay increase by as much as 19 percentage points. Move towards this inclusive strategy by making the following three shifts:
Shift No. 1: Involve employees in decision making
This may be challenging because it’s hard to include the right people, at the right time and in the right way. But it’s a crucial step, as it increases change success by 15%.
This shift makes change management a meritocracy, not a democracy — the best ideas always win, no matter who they come from. Plus, it ensures a level of transparency on how decisions are made. Now what this doesn't mean is that we're creating a democracy, where everyone gets to vote on every change. Instead we're creating a meritocracy, where you increase the odds that the best ideas and inputs are included in decision making.
To implement this shift, create smaller employee groups for involvement based on key criteria and targeted questions. Or, at the very least, ensure that the right employee voice is an input to key decisions before they are made.
Shift No. 2: Shift implementation planning to employees
Typically, leaders own the change strategy and decide how to implement plans. Many often fail to involve employees in the initiative. Leaving the workforce out of change implementation may increase resistance and failure because employees are overwhelmed, unwilling or unable to sustain long-term change. Plus, leader implementation is also typically wrong because they can’t possibly have enough visibility into the daily workflows of their teams.
However, when employees primarily own implementation planning, change success increases by 24% and improves the odds of the initiative being well-received and sustainable.
As an example of how to implement this shift, give teams a template that crisply and clearly outlines the “from-to,” the “because” and the desired outcome of the change — then challenge them to map out their own "do’s and don'ts" in the context of their own workflows. This will empower them to own the change, and it'll quicken change adoption because the plans will be more relevant and right.
No. 3: Engage in two-way conversations throughout the process
It’s imperative to engage employees in honest conversations throughout the change process. Employees “getting it” is a driver of change success; their “liking it” isn’t. This allows them to share their questions and opinions, which drives understanding and makes them feel like part of the commitment to change.
Virtual town halls are a common feature of change communications. One way to do this is to use a question submission and voting mechanism that allows employees to engage with executive leaders during the Q&A segment of a town hall, ensuring the discussion is two-way and focused on the topics employees care most about.
Organizations must juggle more change initiatives (at a faster pace) than ever before.
Top-down change management strategies are no longer effective.
To increase change initiative success, shift to an open-source approach and involve employees in decision making and planning and through continued conversation.
Cian Ó Móráin leads Gartner for HR's research on the topics of organization design and change management. His research focuses on helping clients sustain employee engagement and productivity through change, and the design of structures, workflows, roles and networks that best unlock a responsive workforce.
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