Burning questions from the ‘How to bring your people through change’ Webinar
Last week we really enjoyed talking with Sarah McPake from TSB and Jo Moffatt from Engage for Success, on the webinar “Transforming culture: How to bring your people through change.” It was really popular and there were some great questions – not all we got time to answer, so we’ve posted our responses here.
Is cultural change possible if the leaders of the business aren’t on board?
Jo Moffatt: Sadly I’d say the answer is definitely no!
People Insight: Leaders are probably the most important stakeholders and highly influential in shaping culture – they have multiple levers of culture change at their disposal. So it’s vital to get them onboard!
Whose role should you see as the ‘hinge pin’ for developing successful change to the business culture?
People Insight: Clearly the CEO sets the tone, and if you could wish for one person to be fully onboard then that’s the one. But others are important too, influencing culture in different ways. It makes sense to think strategically about which roles/people are having an impact on culture and how you can influence them to help shape things constructively.
There are probably a number of leaders at different levels, and also influencers (vocal engaging ‘mavens’ that people listen to.) So, it’s worth considering both the formal and informal organisation influencers as you build the strategy. To quote Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
How do you get managers to also take responsibility for changing culture and it not just being a HR project/issue?
Jo Moffatt: As always, it’s about communicating with them about it which recognises ‘what’s in it for them’ and providing them with the necessary tools and support to engage their teams.
People Insight: Middle/front-line managers can be a much-maligned group and often have a really challenging job in culture change, with little support. It’s well worth investing time and effort in training, workshops and briefings to build line management support and capability to manage through change. Ensuring they too have the support and access to information they need to be a positive influence.
Sarah McPake: Involve them. A sense of ownership is essential for people to take responsibility. None of us like to just be told to do something differently, especially if we’re also being asked to lead others to do the same. Help them understand the challenge – why does the culture need to change? Then as Jo says, help them understand what will be different, why is that better, and give them the tools and support to articulate that to their teams in a way that feels genuine to them.
How do you balance the involvement (listening) of employees in change with the need to provide direction, focus and intention of the change?
Sarah McPake: We’ve been working hard to ensure our listening is intentional. I’ve learned the hard way in the past when we included the question “Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?” and then had to work out how to theme and prioritise the huge range of different comments, and ultimately let people down as there was just no way to respond to and act on all the feedback.
You can ask questions that communicate priorities whilst listening – for example at the moment we’re asking lots of questions about how employees feel about the customer experience. That means we’re getting great, actionable feedback, employees are having their say and shaping change, but we’re also clearly demonstrating what’s important in our strategy.
How do you avoid negative opinions from long service employees who have resisted change, morphing new starters into having that negative opinion too?
People Insight: Talk to long service employees to understand what’s behind this attitude. Have changes been promised before that didn’t happen?
This is probably a case for reviewing the real employee experience to ensure that the day-to-day reality really does reinforce the go-to culture you’re trying to create. ‘It’s different this time’ will only be believed once people see change actually happen (so you’ll need to act AND communicate the actions effectively).
How do you engage unskilled or semi-skilled, remote operational workers, with values of the organisation and inputting to engagement surveys? Uptake of engagement surveys by the operational workforce can be so low so the results are skewed to managers and office-based staff.
People Insight: A key learning from one facilities management organisation we’ve worked with is to make sure you ensure people can complete your surveys and engage with values communications on paid work time, not outside it. Create events like team meetings or lunches (food is always a draw!) for this to happen.
We’ve worked with some agricultural and factory floor environments. One organisation has invested in technology to reach and engage remote agricultural colleagues, using mobile devices and apps that are easily accessible and engaging.
Does a hunger for profit jar with treating your employees well?
Jo Moffatt: It shouldn’t have to as all the evidence points to a clear bottom line benefit from an engaged workforce or great employee experience – not least the link to great customer experience and lifetime value.
People Insight: It really comes back to the question of ‘purpose’. If the profit motive is all-consuming and the organisation’s sole reason for being is to make money, that creates a real risk that decisions may become short-term and have a negative impact on employees. But organisations that have a clear, compelling more meaningful sense of purpose, aligned with a focus on succeeding commercially, are less likely to have this kind of problem. There’s some great examples in the annual reports of organisations with strong purpose, treating employees well, with a healthy focus on profit.
Sarah McPake: There is also an increasing view from stakeholders that profit and share price aren’t the only indicators of value. This can support the case for delivering a positive employee experience, in two ways:
- It’s leading to a trend more broadly for organisations and leaders to look beyond profit to social impact both internally and externally.
- The pressure to report on culture, means that alongside profit it’s increasingly important to take employee experience and engagement levels seriously.
How resilient is the ‘Listening Habit’ to TSB’s recent IT challenges?
Sarah McPake: Our model really developed over the period of challenge. We learned that having an established habit can set you up to be resilient to change and increased levels of pressure.
The foundations – the annual survey and employee forum were already in place, and one to ones and team meetings were being used effectively to listen to our partners. That meant that when our partner and customer experiences were under increased pressure we had existing trusted channels for leaders to connect with partners, understand the challenges, and prioritise action. So, the model itself remained resilient as people already trusted in it.
What has been the impact at TSB of the Listening Habit?
Sarah McPake: Like many organisations we’re exploring how to align our business performance data with engagement data to more effectively demonstrate outcomes. But we do currently review the impact of our engagement activity, including the listening strategy, on our people metrics.
More qualitatively we’re surfacing genuine changes and action through these channels. Each quarter the employee forum take forward business recommendations to the Executive, and annually to the Board. And we’re currently implementing a large number of small improvements to our customer processes based on employee ideas which will have immediate impact.
The listening strategy can support culture change in a range of ways. Listening to employees up front to understand current culture, then involve them as you develop desired culture, connect leaders with employees with leaders to inspire the change, and also check in along the way. We talk a lot about current state and desired state and its important to acknowledge that the period in between can be quite messy. So keeping listening channels open can maintain levels of trust, provide a genuine view of current reality, and provide measures (both quant and qual) to track progress of the initiative.
Do you have a view on the success of employee engagement apps – Yammer/Workplace etc.?
People Insight: We have heard about their use in a number of focus groups and can get a mixed response. Sometimes there are people who simply just don’t engage much on such platforms (even those who sometimes request them!).
Generally, however we hear favourable views about them. From our experience they always start off slow however with the right push at the start we see them being embedded successfully. Having some key active people can help with that early push and momentum.
At People Insight we use ‘Workplace’, and at first it was a bit slow however it has now become a great tool for us all to share and learn from. I wouldn’t say these platforms should replace all comms/collaboration strategy, but it certainly enhances such strategies!
How would you support employees through a major building workplace refurbishment which will last for at least 2 years? Employees are being displaced in multiple locations which is a challenge.
Jo Moffatt: Definitely involve employees in process – we’ve seen some great practice with a client who did exactly this and worked brilliantly.
People Insight: There’s clearly a longer-term benefit for employees here, so, yes, in part it’s about ensuring that people see and buy-into that positive vision. But of course, that doesn’t remove the short-term pain for people.
We’d also be looking at ways to ensure that there are open, effective, accessible feedback channels where people can raise issues they are facing day-to-day. Critically, you need resource and authority to identify and address issues on the ground quickly, rather than requiring people to go through a bureaucratic process to fix problems that arise. People need to see their concerns responded to, which will help them feel their voice is heard and the change isn’t being done to them.
I work in a mixed manufacturing production/warehouse/office site and the CEO is not keen on having an employee survey or employee focus groups. What’s the best way to approach the way to challenge him on how to introduce employee voice strategy?
People Insight: I’d certainly start with the business issues that s/he is finding challenging. Are they struggling with a pressing need to increase productivity, improve safety or introduce new working practices? If so, it’d probably help to have a better understanding of employees’ attitudes to these things, to be able to identify and overcome the barriers. Perhaps a pilot in a smaller part of the organisation can feel less of a ‘risk’ the first time.
It’s also well worth considering what concerns or fears might lie behind their reluctance. Sometimes leaders feel that giving a voice to employees means relinquishing their authority, or they are worried about opening a Pandora’s box of issues that can’t be addressed. It may help to discuss these concerns and how they can be addressed.
People Insight are trusted by many leading organisations to advise and support them as they develop the cultures they need to effectively navigate transformational change. Get in touch to find out how our organisation scientists can help you:
- Design and implement listening strategies
Regular surveys, listening groups and 360 feedback design, implementation and coaching.
- Develop your desired company culture
Including creating values and behavioural frameworks.
- Align employee experience to your desired culture
Through employee experience lifecycle mapping workshops.
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