Empower Employee Decision Making In Times Of Change

November 05, 2019

Contributor: Jordan Bryan

As business models evolve and priorities change, decisions that used to be second nature become harder. Help employees make the right decisions and improve their performance.

Customer reps at one home security company had always been proud of the quality of their customer interactions. After a recent acquisition, the merged organization started to focus on costs, and the reps felt pressured to spend less time with customers. What should be their priority?

This type of confusion is common during any type of transformation if the organization fails to properly articulate strategic choices and inform employees how to make trade-offs, especially when they are conflicted between two good things (e.g., being cost-focused or customer-centric).

“ An employee’s ability to navigate and make trade-offs between cultural norms is the biggest driver of transformation-aligned performance”

“Over 80% of employees going through a transformation experience cultural tensions or competing priorities they don’t know how to balance,” says Elizabeth Barrett, Vice President, Team Manager at Gartner. “Both create stress and worsen performance.”

To enable an organizational culture that drives employee performance and delivers results, senior leaders must reflect the desired culture in organizational systems, processes and strategies. Communications leaders have a critical role to play in making it clear to employees how to navigate and resolve cultural tensions and accelerate the development of culture-informed judgment.

Biggest driver of performance

Gartner identified five factors that drive transformation-aligned performance — the extent to which employees are effective in their jobs and the degree to which they actively align their efforts to changing company priorities.

Culture-informed judgment — an employee’s ability to navigate and make trade-offs between cultural norms — is the biggest driver of transformation-aligned performance. It helps employees deal with difficult decision making and minimizes second guessing during a time of transformation. Lifting the burden of conscious decision making enables employees to create mental shortcuts and make correct choices based on habit.

“Of the five factors, culture-informed judgment had almost twice as much impact on transformation-aligned performance compared to the next most powerful driver, capability,” says Barrett.

Judgment building

Employees build judgment through a cycle of guidance, practice and feedback. To set a foundation, leaders must instill guiding principles that help to simplify and structure complex and ambiguous decisions. Organizations should provide employees opportunities to practice decision making to test and refine their judgment. Feedback from leadership on decisions helps to reinforce desired behaviors and force reflection on less-successful decisions.

After participation in the judgment-building game, 95% of employees agreed they better understood their role in growing the business

Leveraging this cycle, one multinational insurance company encouraged employees to adapt to its transformation through the creation of a game to build judgment. Employees were given business scenarios and asked to make decisions between two seemingly good options that forced them to weigh trade-offs and use their judgment. Decision choices that were not aligned to new business objectives were immediately corrected with feedback to clarify priorities and improve future judgment.

The game illuminated individual and teamwide tendencies, setting the foundation for team and employee reflection and adjustment to better support priorities. After participating, 95% of employees agreed they better understood their role in growing the business.

Download whitepaper: Diagnosing Cultural Tensions in Times of Change

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