Managing change and development within an organization can be tough. Not only does developing a strategy takes considerable thought and time, but it also requires enabling and supporting individuals to adopt the change. And the change itself must drive measurable and positive business outcomes.
Now, what lies ahead may seem hard to achieve. However, these days we have so much data at our disposal to make sure we’re doing the right thing. We can ensure our change management strategies actually deliver the results we want them to. So how do we do that?
Today we’re going to talk about strategies that facilitate change within an organization. And we’ll look at ways to develop and validate a change management strategy using data.
Let’s start by looking at some common change management strategies and see how we can make them data-driven.
One common strategy of driving change involves incentives. For the employee, incentives either motivate intrinsically or extrinsically.
Intrinsic incentives focus on internal tenets like purpose, autonomy, and mastery. Let’s go into these a bit further.
With purpose, we look at why employees would want to change. We sell a vision of change as not only being possible but as something that motivates our employees to want the change. Ultimately, it requires you to inspire your people to propel the change themselves.
To drive purpose using data, we can turn to quick surveys to see whether employees feel motivated about the change. We can also measure direct actions to see if employees are, in fact, changing their processes or outlook. For this to work well, you must allow employees to quickly and anonymously report how inspired they are.
You should also make these surveys small and meaningful. Decide what you really want to know and ask only those questions. Otherwise, you’ll end up with surveys that disengage the employee because they’re too long or repetitive. The surveys can be in an e-mail, on an intranet site, or through an external survey vendor. Or, you can do what one company I’ve worked with does: have a kiosk that employees can walk by and click on a happy, sad, or meh icon to rate the general mood of the team or organization.
We can also determine how engaged our employees are with the new initiatives. For example, we can track how many employees even read e-mails or announcements regarding a change. And we can determine how many ignored them. If most of your employees are clicking delete without reading, they’re not engaged. This also presents another opportunity to solicit feedback. Again, it shouldn’t be anything lengthy—perhaps something as simple as asking if employees are feeling positive, neutral, or negative. Or you could ask them to rate their understanding of what they read from 1 to 5.
People thrive in autonomous environments where they feel they have control. For your change management strategy to work, employees should feel they have a choice and that they can implement the change easily. This often requires work by management to reduce approvals, bottlenecks, and silos and let employees make more decisions themselves.
In addition to the surveys mentioned above, we can measure how much time tasks take both before and after the change initiative. We can also measure communication between teams and time spent getting approvals to locate any bottlenecks in a process. If you find that getting common tasks done takes a long time and a lot of cross-team communication, then your team doesn’t have autonomy.
Mastery involves letting people develop their skills. We can do this in various ways. For example, we can provide access to optional training that’s relevant to the employee. Alternatively, we can let our employees take on new opportunities and positions within the organization to expose them to further changes and incentives.
Once again, we’re able to measure how mastery incentives make people feel. We can also track employee promotions and movement between departments. And we can measure how many employees take advantage of training.
Let’s consider an example. Organizations sometimes provide free access to online courses. However, if only a small percentage of employees take them, we may be using the wrong incentive. Perhaps we need to put more emphasis on incentives related to purpose instead.
Extrinsic incentives go the traditional route for rewarding employees. These incentives can include bonuses, raises, extra time off, and prizes.
You’ve probably heard conflicting information about monetary rewards. Some say employees value these the most. Others say they don’t keep people motivated or prevent them from leaving. So how do we know what works and what doesn’t? Here’s our friend data to the rescue again!
One of the great things about extrinsic incentives involves ease of measurement. Take a look across your organization to see how bonuses affect retention rates. Is there a correlation? Or is there not? Use data to know for sure. After rewarding employees with prizes or recognition, take a quick survey to see how motivated they feel. And check again in a few weeks to see if monetary rewards wear off quickly.
With the incentive of additional time off, we can measure how many employees actually take that time off. Or we can look at retention rates again. Heck, we can even combine these measurements with our handy employee surveys from above.
To sum these up, whether their motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic, it’s essential to reward employees when they work toward change. You should also provide incentives quickly—don’t wait until next year’s review. Provide small incentives using recognition and prizes throughout the year.
2. Change Cultural Values
Another change management strategy relates to cultural values. Here we enact steps to modify the beliefs and behaviors of our organization.
For example, creating a culture of continuous improvement will motivate employees to change autonomously. Oh, hey—looks like we’re talking about autonomy again. That seems to be an overarching thread.
Let’s look at a few ways we can change values:
- Define the culture’s values and behaviors. Don’t assume that just because a value is obvious to you, that it’s also obvious to all your employees. Take Netflix’s approach of publishing a culture document, for example. They don’t ask anyone inside or outside the company to guess what culture they’re building. They share it up front.
- Align culture with processes. If your organization values autonomy and team ownership, don’t create a maze of processes and approvals to get through in order to fulfill a required business function.
- Give the culture time to grow. We can’t change culture overnight. It can take years for culture to permeate all aspects of your organization. So don’t get frustrated when change doesn’t happen fast enough. Look for small wins and general trends to see if it’s working.
- Measure it. In addition to surveys, you can measure culture by looking at the gap between desired behavior and the actual behavior of your teams. If you strive for simple procurement processes for getting hardware or software, but teams end up waiting weeks to get what they need, you have a gap. And now you can work to close that gap.
3. Assert Authority
Driving change through authority by throwing your weight around shouldn’t be chosen lightly as a strategy. It can cause frustration and resentment among employees. It takes away their autonomy and could conflict with their purpose.
However, sometimes using an authoritative strategy and imposing a change can be the quickest way to implement a new policy or procedure. And sometimes that speed is necessary. For example, changes in laws or regulations often necessitate an authoritative change management strategy. Processes must change swiftly and within a firm timeline to make sure your company stays compliant.
Again, with data, we can see how effective the new policies are and how much time they take, and we can get feedback on what’s working and what can be improved. We can also measure pushback and resentment from employees and customers.
4. Shake Up the Structure
The “structure” type of strategy really shakes things up. For this one, we take existing employees and throw them into a completely new environment. The move takes advantage of their adaptability, which they might not have even known they had.
When changing the corporate structure, we’re free to create new teams, organizations, and workflows. Then, over time, we can spread this change over the rest of the organization.
Here, we can drive structure change using data. We can look at other change initiatives to see if there’s a subset of employees who have a successful track record with change initiatives. In fact, ASPE has a course where one section teaches how to develop teams using data.
Additionally, we can look at teams to see who works well together and how good they are at sharing culture change with others. And finally, we can use this data for our next section and find our change champions.
5. Use Change Champions
To make culture change not feel like a top-down directive, we can use change champions to help simultaneously drive the culture from the bottom up. For this, find employees who are willing and able to change. Perhaps they’re the ones who always volunteer for new projects or assignments. Or they’re passionate about sharing their learnings with the rest of the organization.
To make change champions effective, help them see the benefits of change and let them evangelize the ideas throughout their teams. This improves buy-in and gives you boots-on-the-ground mechanisms for gathering feedback.
Now that you have some ideas of what strategies to employ, what’s the next step? Implementation. To implement these change strategies, we must share the vision, the incentives, and the “why” with our organization. Then we can roll out any new processes or a team structure that’s necessary. After that, we must measure.
Without measurement, we can only guess at how the initiatives affect our employees or processes. So another critical component requires setting up dashboards to track all the metrics we talked about earlier. And if trends aren’t going in the right direction, we must make changes based on the data we collect.
To wrap up, many strategies for change management exist. And they don’t all work the same way all the time. If we gather data, we can see what strategies work best for what type of change. And then we can iterate and really drive change through data.