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Developing a Change Muscle across The Organization

Jessica Amsler, Vice President, Change Enablement, Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.

At Stanley Black & Decker, we’re For Those Who Make The World TM.  As the world evolves and innovates at an increasing pace, so do we.  As the leader of a Change Enablement Center of Excellence at SBD, my team and I have supported change strategy planning & execution for a number of technology implementations, process-focused transformations, and sourcing reorganizations. My focus is to provide embedded resources within largescale change efforts across the company, but more than that, to help create a stronger ‘change muscle’ throughout our employee base, which is the true driver of sustained long-term transformation and a key aid in helping people become more agile and digest higher volumes of simultaneous change (which we see across all industries these days.)

In support of helping HR strengthen that change muscle and become more resilient & strategic business partners, here are a few key Change Enablement tenets that can help drive more seamless transitions from current to future state.

Identify and Engage The Face of The Change

People prefer to hear change messages from two sources: an executive-level leader (for general, broadannouncements) and their immediate supervisor (specific change impacts.) I’ve seen Human Resources frequently be a default - and at times unwilling - messenger of change. Help program leaders or teams identify the correct sponsors of change up front and impress upon those sponsors the importance of not only communicating visibly about the change and why it’s needed, but role modeling and publicly committing to doing something different post-change (will they alter their operating cadences, measure performance using new KPIs, leverage a new organizational structure to accomplish objectives, etc.) This reassures employees that the change isn’t simply a short-term ‘flavor of the month’ and reinforces the fact that the sustaining solution will become part of business-as-usual going forward.

Communicate Early and Often – And Build an Agent Network

I’ve spoken to countless leaders who don’t want to communicate until the point at which they have all the answers. In today’s world, employees have so many channels to information (or misinformation) that it’s most beneficial to share what you know and cut down on the ‘noise’ and then commit to following up with more information when able to do so. 

Individuals respond to change fairly predictably (to varying degrees); the typical pattern of emotions experienced during times of change is described by the Kubler-Ross Change Curve. Communicating early & often also allows employees time for a progressive journey emotionally in assimilating their current state to a future state (the x-axis driver of the Change Curve is time.)

Establishing a network of change agents, with whom you preview solution design, change impacts / benefits, and discuss questions & concerns, can also be helpful as it allows represented individuals to move through their individual change curves earlier on, and then help cascade information more broadly throughout the organization to drive greater awareness & buy-in. Having local influencers help ‘tailor’ messaging makes concepts more real, which aids in accelerating stakeholder groups through the change curve to earlier Commitment (which means earlier adoption and realized benefits.) We typically meet once or twice per month with our networks to highlight new information and solicit their feedback regarding successes or gaps, and aim to give this group tangible resources to be able to cascade.

Don’t Stop Engaging Once Change Occurs

Define and align on a combination of objective & subjective people-related success metrics early on, and measure at a level of actionable accountability. We typically leverage performance KPIs for objective indicators of where we have adoption gaps, and conduct listening activities to root cause and action plan those gaps. Is there lack of clarity regarding an organizational model? Maybe further illustration is needed. A break in process compliance or technology usage?Additional education or training sessions may be beneficial. 

Also, level-set expectations up front to expect a ‘dip’ in performance as people face the imminent realization that the future state has arrived and establish reasonable time-bound targets regarding adoption (i.e., you would not expect 100% adoption in month two post-deployment.)

Having focused change professionals embedded in projects is beneficial but is not always feasible (and not always enough.)  Building our collective ‘change muscle’ to help employees transition to new ways of working, and to help program leaders consider how best to prepare those employees, is something we can all do to help sustain long-term change for our companies and ourselves.

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