Thought Leadership

Humanizing change programs for a successful transformation

For your business transformation to have any chance of success, you need your people to be engaged – which demands powerful, active leadership. What does this mean for you as a leader?

Mastering the ability to humanize your business transformation can elevate the entire change journey. Moreover, your transformation roadmap must be considered through the lens of your people – this can spell the difference between success and failure. So how can you broaden your own skill set to effectively engage people and make your transformation program a success?

As part of our Proudfoot Business Transformation Lab, our expert team conducted a masterclass and panel to discuss humanizing the change journey and how people solutions underpin the success of your transformation. Here are the key takeaways.

Humanize: 4 key takeaways for successful business transformation

1. Finding the ‘emotional connection’ for change

Whether it’s before a change program occurs or, more challengingly, in the midst of transformation, many businesses find that their people simply don’t feel the need to change. That does not necessarily mean they believe they shouldn’t change or they don’t need to do change. But rather, the emotional connection for change is lacking.

“Facts don’t change people, feelings do,” says Pamela Hackett, former CEO at Proudfoot. “Yet companies are telling people to change because they need to save money, or get better service levels, or generate more profit. That might be the endgame, but it’s not the way to get people excited about change.”

No employee wakes up in the morning and says they want to follow a transformation program because it will save the company money. From the very beginning, your business needs to explore the right ways to engage with your people – and that starts and ends with leadership.

2. Frontline leaders need a broader skill set

From Baby Boomers all the way down to Millennials and even Gen Z, we are witnessing a convergence of values. Business who successfully transform are including their people from the very beginning of the journey. They understand that for change to succeed, they need to listen to their own people first.

“People want to have a voice,” says Dr Darrin Brown, Global VP People Solutions, Proudfoot. “We’ve got to get them engaged and we’ve got to get them participating.”

But businesses that are succeeding at change also understand the value of leaders with the right skill sets.

“When you think about span of control down through an organization, a frontline leader may have dozens or more direct reports,” Darrin adds.

“They manage and supervise the vast majority of a company’s people. That means they must have a tremendous skill set, not only from a technical perspective but also from a human side. Frontline leaders need to have the ability to get people participating– they need empathy in today’s discontinuous world of change, from COVID to rapid change due to economic conditions, all the way through to digital disruption.”

Ultimately, frontline leaders need to possess a different, broader skill set compared to decades past, simply because of the more globalized, technology-led world that we live in.

3. Learning how to manage to engage

No matter what department or level of the business you are in, as a leader you need to acknowledge that your job is about engagement, particularly for those preparing to undergo a major transformation. Implementing change is challenging, so you need to look internally and see whether you and your colleagues have the right skills to bring about real transformative change.

“People struggle with pragmatic solutions around engagement,” Pamela says. “They think that it’s an HR issue. They think it’s about policies, ping-pong tables and all those things that HR can get involved in. But they don’t think about it as being a leadership issue.”

Engagement is what a good leader brings to the table in order to generate better results from their people, because engagement and productivity are intrinsically linked. If you want to get a major change program off the ground, then you need to start thinking about how you can ‘manage to engage’. And if you nail that, it will naturally flow into ‘manage to change’.

4. Implement, iterate, celebrate

The bottom line is that no transformation journey is perfect. But it doesn’t have to be perfect to make your business better. Moreover, change can be fast. You don’t have to spend a month running a pilot change program to see whether it works. It could be three days or even as short as two shifts. Once you jump into the transformation, you can measure the performance, iterate and then learn from the results.

“Speed kills, but only when it’s slow,” says Jon Wylie, Managing Partner, Americas and President Global Natural Resources at Proudfoot. “Change is really tough and it’s a sprint. You have to sprint it; you can’t marathon it. So, get stuck into it and get it done. Then iterate and do it again. And celebrate, because that gives you the energy to do it over.”

In conclusion, critically, throughout the entire change program, it’s important to continue improving yourself and your ability to engage with people.

“A lot of these lessons learnt can be run with straightaway,” Pamela says. “You don’t have to wait. You can take these to the bank and you can apply them.

It’s that ability to stay focused and engaged throughout the transformation journey that becomes the key to its success.

Proudfoot has played a vital role in change programs and transformations for countless businesses around the world. Contact Proudfoot today for expert support on how to humanize your change model and make every transformation a successful one.

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