In the first article in our Reaching Your North Star series, we discussed how visionaries can help companies not only define their vision, but also keep on the right course even as technologies and business models evolve. But engaging visionaries is only one piece of the transformation puzzle. Another critical success factor in reaching a North Star vision is a company’s people approach.
People can make or break a transformation. To get it right, companies need to proactively engage and manage their people throughout the change journey – engaging them from the get-go to generate awareness and a desire to contribute, providing the enablement needed to help employees embrace change, and reinforcing the change by incentivizing desired behaviours and rewarding contributions.
Including people from the get-go
Given the significant benefits typically associated with major transformation initiatives, companies need to make sure that they are turning their biggest roadblock – non-engaged people – into their biggest opportunity. This means making sure that anyone affected by a transformation is informed, engaged, enabled, and rewarded from the get-go. This includes helping them understand why changes are required, the impact of the changes on their role, and the WIIFM (What’s in it for me) for the company and them personally.
Four activities that can enhance engagement include:
- Get leadership engaged
Executives should provide strong leadership as to the company’s transformation objectives. They need to become the primary Change Agents and Evangelists for a transformation – fully engaged, enthusiastic, and able to communicate the overarching vision and updates on progress. This can help show a company’s people and project teams that change efforts are important, valuable, and meaningful. When employees see that change is a leadership priority, they will be more likely to buy-in themselves.
- Make people part of the solution
Companies should find ways to engage people in transformation activities. For example, asking them to provide feedback on a new technology or tool, involving them in project teams, or celebrating first-movers. By giving people the chance to contribute, companies can encourage a stronger sense of ownership and interest in achieving desired results.
- Communicate early and often
To achieve a North Star vision, companies need everyone to contribute to their success, including those who aren’t natural visionaries and those who are skeptical of technological changes or their potential impact. To address these challenges, companies should communicate early and often with their employees, providing detailed information as to what changes are occurring, why, and how changes will affect individual roles and day-to-day activities. By providing clarity and constant communication throughout a change, companies can decrease their people’s anxiety while building excitement for the end result.
- Incorporate the vision into recruitment activities
When companies set a North Star vision, they need to anchor it fully into the awareness of all their employees, including those that join the company over time. Companies can do this by embedding their North Star vision into their recruitment activities, employee onboarding programs, and ongoing training activities. This can help make the vision a part of the fabric of the company’s corporate culture.
Providing the enablement needed to help employees embrace change
Transformative change programs often involve an exciting mix of innovative technologies aimed at making work more efficient – such as automation, AI, machine learning, or deep data analytics. The challenge is that many employees see these types of technologies as a risk to their own jobs and livelihood. To help mitigate employee concerns and help them embrace changes, companies need to provide robust training. For example, this could include:
- Creating awareness about the change
Sharing information about the transformation with people in a very transparent and upfront manner in order to build awareness and reduce anxiety. This includes providing details as to the what, why, who, how, where, and when associated with specific changes that will occur.
- Building knowledge of the what, why, who, how, where, and when
Helping people understand why processes, tools, and technologies are changing; how changes will impact them; and how the organization will enable them to be successful in the new world. This includes helping people think differently about what they do and how they do it.
- Upskilling people step-by-step
Training current employees in the skills or capabilities they need to succeed in the company’s North Star future. Given that transformation will likely occur over time, companies can provide training in building blocks – providing people with the foundation required to use the minimum viable scope of a solution before helping them gain capabilities they might require later in the change journey. By making upskilling approachable, companies can help employees realize that they are fully capable of being successful regardless of how much change is occurring.
Reinforcing the change by incentivising desired behaviours and rewarding contributions
To encourage the right culture and day-to-day work behaviours, companies should focus on finding ways to incentivize and reward change. When people feel like their change efforts are being rewarded, they will be more inclined to keep adapting as the organization continues along their North Star journey. As a starting point, companies should evaluate the outcomes they want to achieve, determine how people can contribute to these outcomes, and then incentivize or reward people for making specific changes or achieving specific outcomes.
Connecting all the dots
In our next article, we’ll look at rewards and metrics in more detail, highlighting how companies can use an outcomes-driven approach to make sure any transformation activities they undertake will move them closer towards their North Star.
About the Author
Stephen Thomas, Vice President, Consulting and Solutions at Illumiti
A graduate of the University of Waterloo, Stephen is a senior consulting executive with more than 20 years of SAP software implementation experience across a diverse range of industries including high tech, chemicals, commodities, mining, Mill and EC&O.