Designing quality change experiences

Designing quality change experiences

Successfully achieving business outcomes through change requires good people change experiences.  A good employee change experience means that he/she is more likely to be engaged and more able to deliver a great customer experience.

How does one go about designing and crafting this experience?  To achieve accolades in people experience one needs to think broadly about a range of experiences.  This could involve anything ranging from manager discussions, online discussions, avenues for peer conversations, senior leadership behavior and supporting collateral.

Designing a great change experience for employees working in an organization is no different than designing a great quality of life for dwellers living in a particular city.  A city needs to focus on having a vibrant economy, happening retail scene, good access to parks and nature, great transportation links, and developed sports and arts scenes.  All of these contribute to the quality of life of those who call the city home. In a similar way, in organizations we need to focus on designing a range of experiences so that employees are not only engaged but supportive where the organization would like to move to.

There are foundational ways of engaging with employees during change that apply for all organizations, such as manager-employee conversations, authenticity, and clarity of the message, and involvement in the change process.  On the other hand, progressive ways to engage with employees using technology can also contribute to making a great change experience.

Here we outline 7 ways to design great employee experiences.

  1. A dynamic change champion network supporting various change initiatives.

A well-organized change champion network provides great development opportunities for employees to get involved in change initiatives. This is a forum for grass-roots action to drive organizational change.  Employees come to share their ideas, work on preparing their respective teams for change, and help disseminate critical information.  Change champions are preachers who internalize the accountability to sell to their colleagues the end state of where the change is going.  They also see it their role to provide feedback from the frontline so that upper levels understand their concerns and input.  Change champions that support the business across a range of changes can mean that they have the ability to mature and grow in capability over time.

  1. Active social network channels to discuss, share and support one another during change.

Active social network channels such as Yammer is a great way to engage employees and encourage idea sharing.  Like any social network channel it needs to be monitored, however the benefits greatly outweigh any disadvantages.  Those who may not have the time to attend town halls or too shy to speak up can leverage digital channels to be heard.  There are some great examples of employees leveraging social network channels to come up with suggestions of how best to address customer needs, creating a hotbed of ideas for continuous improvement.  Employees can also share their experiences in using the new system and raise any questions they may need help with.

  1. Effective learning processes

Progressive organizations are realizing that effective learning outcomes can be achieved by providing different options for employees to learn in their own terms.  In standard face to face learning settings, there is always some employees who breeze through the content and do not require a lot of time to digest the learning. At the same time, there are always those who need a lot more clarification, support, and hands-on experience to feel confident.  Self-paced online learning is a good option to cater for varying speed of learning. Change champions can also be leveraged to provide any face to face support.  Sand-pits (or training environment) may also be made available so that employees may get their hands dirty and play with the new system, process or way of working prior to the release of the change.

  1. Effective air-traffic control of changes to manage change capacity

A great change experience requires careful planning and coordination.  Most employees experience multiple changes at any given time.  Careful thought needs to be given to how the organization coordinates the ‘air-traffic’ of change initiatives so that we don’t have multiple things landing at the same time.  There needs to be one-view of change impacts so that employee experiences may be carefully designed.  This involves having the right forum and routines to review the change impact data so that effective sequencing decisions can be made.  To read more about how to do this and how to manage multiple initiatives click here.

  1. Engaging manager behaviours throughout the change process

Manager behavior is probably the most critical part of an effective change experience.  A manager who is open, authentic and engages in open conversations with the employee about change has significant influence in the employee’s change experience.  We all know managers who are absent, who don’t have one-on-ones with the employee, not share information, and who do not gage for feedback or concerns regarding the change.  These managers contribute to a significantly negative experience for the employee.   Senior managers have a strong role to play as do formal sponsors of the change.  They are tasked with selling the change and ramping up support and momentum within the organization to transition to the new state.

  1. Engaging and interesting collateral about the change

Change marketing is a key success criterion for creating engaging employees experiences about the change.  To support the marketing process effective collateral needs to be designed to send the right messages to the right channels.  Visual imagery, quotes, infographic, and slogans through engaging mediums such as videos and posters can go a long way.  With so much information clouding the employee on a daily basis, the collateral needs to stand out.  The collateral needs to aim to simplify the message and clearly articulates what the employee needs to know, whether it is the ‘why’ of the change, or what the employee needs to do.

  1. Positive and fun events to generate buzz and excitement

In the corporate world, there is the standard show-case or meeting to talk about what the change is and demonstrate what the new changes are. After a while, these can become ho-hum and do not contribute to a positive and energetic employee experience. Think fun, loud and even un-conventional ways of designing events to generate buzz.  Examples could be costume characters aligned with the change theme, theme dress days, fun competitions or morning/afternoon tea events.


If you enjoyed reading this article please share this with your contacts.

To learn more about the change practices of companies download our benchmark report here.

Five ways to use soft power to influence your initiative stakeholders

Five ways to use soft power to influence your initiative stakeholders

In business literature having senior leader sponsorship and buy-in is always highlighted as one of the most if not the most important factor in determining successful initiative outcome.  It is touted that without senior leaders to drive the initiative, it is difficult to get traction.  The respective senior leaders that own the initiative are identified as the most important stakeholders to engage.   As a result, most project managers and change managers spend significant amount of time aligning and influencing the senior leader.

What happens if your particular senior leader(s) are not along the journey, do not engage employees, or are simply absent?  Sounds familiar?  Does this mean that the initiative will definitely fail?  According to research that McKinsey and others have conducted yes there will be a significant risk of failure.  So what is one to do in this situation?  In fact, in our recent change practice benchmarking study (click here to find out more) many respondents stated that their biggest challenge is to influence senior stakeholders.

Project or change managers will most likely not have the hierarchical status in the organization to influence senior stakeholders based on power or rank. However, do not give up.  There is another way …. using soft power.  What is soft power?  In the field of international relations, soft power is the ability to attract or co-opt rather than coerce (hard power) as a means of persuasion (according to Wikipedia).  It is having the ability to influence the behavior or thinking of others through the power of attraction and ideas.

Across the globe some countries are great at using soft power to influence other nations. How?  Having strong business brands, artists/designers/musicians who are popular, etc.  People all over the world are influenced by soft power through the brands they interact with every day.  Apple users interact with their iPhone, iWatch, iPads or iMacs and know its Californian ideals. K-pop music lovers across Asia are influenced by the fashion trends from Korea.  Ikea furniture owners experience a piece of Sweden when they walk into an Ikea store, Swedish food, Swedish minimalist design, and modern sensibilities.

So how do we leverage soft power to influence a range of stakeholders including senior stakeholders?

  1. Leverage your ‘popular stars’. Just as Taylor Swift and Eminem popularize trends and attitudes across the global audience, leverage your organization’s stars. They can be popular bloggers on your internal company social networks such as Yammer.  They can also be well-respected figures who have established famous personal brands that are not necessarily the most senior.  They can have interesting job titles or particular insights, or are just well-connected.  Enlist these figures to help you influence your stakeholders through their presence and visible actions.
  2. Design an effective internal marketing campaign. Global artists weren’t born popular.  They are popularized by marketing machines.  Don’t be shy about marketing your selected stars and their messages.  Leverage the various corporate channels to market their messages, including intranet articles, posters, emails, videos, blogs, talks, etc.  Work on your branding consistency, consistency of messaging, and ensure there is an alignment of different communication channels used.
  3. To influence key stakeholders such as senior executives, conduct detailed social network analysis. Social network analysis is the mapping and measuring of relationships and flows between people, groups and organizations. Interview those who are close to the chosen targets and start to map out those who are connected and how they are connected.  Identify and leverage the targeted network to influence your senior executives.   Find out what turns them on and what their pet peeves are.  Then, leverage your selected network to influence.
  4. Attract your stakeholders. Soft power is not about coercion or using carrot or stick.  It is about attracting someone to your perspective.   How do we do this?  From a messaging perspective, appeal to the emotional core of what the stakeholders are attracted to, rather than relying purely on logical arguments.  For example, if there is a history of employees jumping in to help one another in times of crisis, then leverage this history and theme to arouse the emotional connection.  Tie your message to this theme.  Also, work on your visual attraction.  Use video imagery, infographic, photographs, and charts to tell a compelling and memorable story.  Your stakeholders will remember these a lot more than a long speech or an article.
  5. Create and leverage your change champions network. In the new world, employees no longer only look to their leader for instruction and information.  They leverage their social network to stay informed and engaged.  A good change champion network with members that are carefully selected can do just this – pollinate, broadcast and engage a broad range of audience.  An effective change champion network that is well-supported can drive significant change across the organization.  There are examples of initiatives with poor senior leader sponsorship but have resulted in significant impact due to its change champions at various levels.

Ghandi popularized a non-violent struggle against Great Britain’s colonization of India. Using peaceful means, Ghandi managed to empower the masses to overthrow a dominant superpower.  Martin Luther King is another fantastic example of the power of soft power.  Using his oration and people motivation skills he was able to amass a large number of people to march for civil rights.  This is the magnitude of soft power.  While for organizations we may not have such grand ambitions for initiatives, it is worth calling out that one should not underestimate the force of soft power.  For Generation Z hierarchy and coercion will not work as well as for previous generations.  They want to be inspired to change the world.  As a result, how we influence and drive change initiatives will also need to change – from that which is focused on top-down command and control to one that leverages soft power.