The hardest part of managing change is not convincing people that it's necessary or even getting the ball rolling. It's ensuring change sticks and sustaining the required behavioral shifts after implementation.
No matter how much time and energy you put into preparation and planning, your efforts will fall flat if you don't have a strategy in place to maintain the momentum. A few PowerPoint slides, new policies and procedures, and a technology investment won't be enough. To re-wire your organization and create lasting change, you'll need to inspire a movement by fostering an environment that continually motivates employees.
As a part of their Change Tour, Root Inc, a people consulting firm, stopped by Welltower (where I work) to discuss four key tactics to building a cultural movement that sustains change management initiatives. I've added some personal observations.
1. Activating the what and why.
Being transparent about the issues and educating employees on what needs to change is important. However, getting employees 100 percent bought-in takes more than building a little awareness. It requires a visceral and an emotional connection that can only be created when employees understand and relate to the 'why.'
The 'why' is not to make more money or to keep the lights on -- those are results. According to Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action, "why is your beliefs, your cause, and your purpose. It answers the questions, why does your company exist, why do you get out of bed every morning, and why should anyone care?"
The 'what' and the 'how' are common components of change management that most organizations focus on. They are important, but they won't inspire employees to make the drastic changes that most initiatives require. To do what they've never done, you'll have to motivate employees to act in ways they've never acted.
2. Inspiring new skills and habits.
You can't expect employees to shoulder all the responsibility. In many cases, new direction requires an investment in skill development, resources, and training.
But, they can't just be any skills or resources. They need to address the heart of the issue you're attempting to solve for. To narrow in on the exact gaps requires employee feedback and guidance. Plus, people are more willing to commit to changes if they are their suggestions.
When employees see the extent to which an organization will support them, they'll hold up their end of the bargain and have an easier time committing to change.
3. Listening and keeping the learning alive.
Successful change management is like tending to a garden -- it requires daily attention. Rather than pruning and watering, change management is sustained through continual learning and communication.
Change management is dynamic. It will never follow your original plan because it includes people -- and people aren't predictable. After the rubber meets the road, you'll need to listen to your employees and regularly tweak your approach to ensure no one or nothing is left behind. In order to sustain change, it is important to be responsive and willing to adjust where necessary.
4. Recognizing and celebrating success.
Reinforce good behavior and outcomes through rewards and recognition -- it won't go unnoticed. In theory, desired results can be vague and generalized. For example, reduce waste, or improve processes. When you finally have an illustration of successful change, celebrate it. It will serve as an example for others.
In my experience, ask the person/s responsible to teach others. People learn better from their peers. Plus, those dealing with the issues from the front lines will be more successful at implementing lasting changes.
Countless hours preparing for change can be rendered useless unless your organization is prepared to make the necessary culture changes to support your new vision. These four suggestions are great ways you can inspire a movement and make change initiatives stick.