If you find transformation a challenge, you’re not alone – research suggests that transformation processes have a success rate of roughly 30%. You may be surprised by how low this number is – after all, if an important decision in another area of business had a 70% chance of failure, it would hardly seem like a wise decision to undertake it in the first place.
Yet, the truth is that transformation processes are a necessary and inevitable aspect of organizational growth, even though they can leave team members feeling alienated if not managed properly. With that in mind, here’s the low-down on how to support your team through transformation processes.
Why is transformation necessary?
Naturally, organizations at any level of success will go through changes and there’s a number of reasons why such transformations may be necessary. Nevertheless, the most consistent reason for undertaking transformation processes is a desire for more efficiency and organizational effectiveness. Indeed, a 2018 research study on business transformation revealed that more than half of all organizations going through change were doing so for this very purpose.
Although transformations are often seen as a daunting prospect, it is important to also note that they offer the opportunity for organizations to realign their values and culture towards a more nurturing environment. Cultural transformations often mean placing greater support systems in place for teams, from a greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion to burnout prevention. If navigated in an empathetic way that listens to the constructive feedback given by employees, transformation processes can actually become a way of ensuring teams feel enabled and supported.
The fundamentals of successful transformation processes
It is important to note that transformation processes do not happen overnight, nor can they be seen solely as an A to B journey. Transformations are everywhere – from digital transformation and cultural alignments to a change towards remote leadership and an increased emphasis on sustainability – and require a balance of strategic data-driven focus, empathetic skills, and leadership qualities. A successful transformation process will necessarily blend open communication, and a savvy, focused plan and foster a culture where every member of the team feels they can play their part. To use a musical analogy, every musician must know their best instrument, know their music by heart and understand how the rest of the orchestra works in harmony.
Avoid top-down transformation
A top-down organizational transformation is both the most common and perhaps the least impactful way of enacting company-wide changes. Many will be familiar with the scene of a packed room with senior-level management announcing the changes they want to see across all teams, while employees huddle together, ultimately leaving scratching their heads as they try to figure out how the changes will affect their day-to-day roles – or how exactly will it be implemented to begin with.
Under this type of transformation process, employees rarely feel engaged with organizational changes as they effectively have no ownership over it. To make matters worse, communicating transformation in this manner can mean that line managers, who play a crucial role in implementing strategic change, feel excluded and undervalued. While transformations require excellent leadership, it is the employees and middle management that will ultimately enact meaningful organizational change and they must be treated as such.
Foster open communication throughout the process
When it comes to transformation processes, open communication serves the purpose of empowering employees, allowing them to adapt and engage with new roles. By conveying the thought process behind certain changes in an honest and transparent way, employers can enable teams to feel they have a meaningful say in the future course of the organization. It is often said that people need to hear the “why” behind changes several times before taking them truly on board. Should concerns or questions arise from employees during the transformation process, it is important to listen carefully and address them in a spirit of constructive feedback.
More often than not, an organization’s ability to engage openly with its employees about what changes are expected and why they are being implemented can be the difference between a successful change effort and an unsuccessful one. In fact, a recent McKinsey report has revealed that well-connected teams see a productivity increase of 20-25%. Building up a strong sense of trust and mutual respect through communication is not only helpful in improving company culture, therefore, but will also help to make broader operations more efficient, and transformation processes are the perfect moments to foster these skills throughout a workforce.
Keep a tiered approach to organizational change
While empathy, transparency, and understanding are all excellent skills for fostering a positive work environment and retaining top talent, transformation processes are heavily reliant on clarity of strategy at all organizational levels. Employees must feel their voices are heard, but it must also be communicated what is expected of them as well as how the transformation process can allow them to reach their professional goals. As such, it is fundamental to ensure that you have a clear end-state vision and communicate this effectively to ensure that all employees can steer the ship in the right direction and play their part.
One excellent way to ensure that expectations and desired outcomes are instilled in every team is to arrange workshops at each organizational level. Not only do workshops engage employees through feeling part of a larger change, but they also allow management the opportunity to tailor information in a precise way for each team based on targeted GAP analyses. Recent research has found that 97% of employees and executives feel a lack of alignment within teams negatively affects the outcome of a task or project, reflecting how commonly organizations get this initial stage of transformation wrong. When implemented correctly, workshops should make every team member and the team as a whole feel they understand and are ready to take responsibility for their changing role.
Utilize an L&D program for organizational improvement
At Sharpist, we believe that empowered, engaged, and supported employees are key to organizational change and that fostering a coaching culture can ensure employees and teams receive the tools they need to enact larger changes. Coaching is all about helping someone to reach their full potential and this, in essence, is what transformation processes are. In order for individuals to achieve their potential and adapt to change within an organization, it is vital that they are able to self-reflect on areas they find challenging and those where they find their real strengths.
By identifying the skills and challenges individual employees and teams may face in adapting to new roles and taking proactive measures to offer guidance, employers can ensure that their workforce is motivated to embrace change and align company-wide changes with their own career trajectory.
To explore the ways that a coaching culture can help guide your organization through transformation processes, watch our latest webinar on this topic here.