Disruption during transformation
With COVID causing continual disruption across the last two years, as well as creating new ways of working and interacting with customers, organisations have had to put their best foot forward and adapt in order to continue operating as smoothly as possible.
It’s not surprising then that, whilst many projects have been put on hold due to COVID, transformation and change projects, especially digital transformation, have continued, if not accelerated. This is especially true for NFP organisations, who, from our experience, are often more cautious of this kind of organisational change compared with the commercial sector.
Employee engagement: The key to success
Organisation transformation can be tough for any business but when done successfully, it can increase revenue, improve stakeholder satisfaction, and reduce operating costs. For NFP organisations, there is also the core ambition, through transformation, to significantly increase the impact they have and the contribution they make to society. However, to ensure the success of this type of project, staff engagement throughout the process is essential.
Research shows that organisations that successfully engage their employees deliver a more successful transformation. In fact, according to Smarp, companies with high staff engagement are 22% more profitable, and three times more likely to be successful when it comes to implementing digital transformation. In a recent study of top performing businesses, the Harvard Business Review found that companies that had transformed themselves successfully all prioritised employee-focused initiatives.
Despite this, leaders constantly underestimate just how disruptive transformation can be for their staff. Understanding and acknowledging that transformation will be messy is the first place to start. NFP leaders need to utilise their internal communications to make sure that their staff are engaged and assisting with the transformation if they hope to be successful.
Recently, Moir Group hosted an event with Penny Lovett, HR Director at the Salvation Army, who shared with us some key insights she gleaned from a major transformation process the organisation undertook. One key insight was the clear need to continuously engage employee hearts and minds to help counteract the “change fatigue”. The best way to do this is to ensure that you take your staff on the transformation journey. Communication is key here. But how to do this effectively?
Take your staff on the journey
Implementing transparent communications is the most effective way to increase staff engagement. Doing so allows them to be included in the transformation process. Poor communication is a leading factor as to why projects fail; and leaders that fail to bring their employees along with them on the journey will find it harder to succeed.
Below, we have outlined four key ways you can prioritise getting your employees onboard early in the process and keeping them engaged till its conclusion:-
1. Set clear goals and expectations
When rolling out any transformation project, it’s important to outline clear, achievable goals for your staff to work towards. These should include long-term and short-term objectives to create achievable milestones and maintain momentum. Too much, too fast will create confusion and reduce overall effectiveness. Having clear goals will help alleviate employee fear and uncertainty as they understand how they fit into the bigger picture.
When setting these goals, it is important to be transparent about how changes will affect your employee’s day-to-day responsibilities and give them a chance to adapt to new expectations and processes. Additionally, setting goals with different delivery times, such as utilising Sprint Goal formats, will increase the sense of engagement as staff are able to constantly work towards something that is immediately achievable.
2. Create a dialogue
Creating an open and honest dialogue with your staff is key to both transformation and ongoing staff engagement. This goes beyond the classic internal communications of a mass newsletter or email. This one-sided form of communication, while important, leaves a lot to be desired. Investing in communications like surveys, town halls, or mentoring helps generate an opportunity for real dialogue with your staff.
When undergoing transformation, it is essential to allow employees a place to freely express their comments and concerns. A true dialogue encourages staff to be part of the transformation journey, rather than feeling shoehorned into the process, which can foster resentment and disengagement. It also provides the organisation with the opportunity to address key issues and pain points, which, in turn, ensures a smoother transition and alleviates any issues as they arise. When you show that you listen to your staff, you build increased trust, awareness, and engagement.
3. Foster your culture through your channels
Fostering a healthy company culture is crucial to gaining a competitive advantage in your sector. To ensure this takes hold during periods of transformation, it’s important for employees to see top-down leadership. Leaders need to commit to their changes. This should mean realigning themselves to act as an example of how the transformation should be evolving.
Additionally, make sure that the business is celebrating its wins. When undergoing transformation, it’s important to acknowledge even the small wins to showcase recognition and appreciation for your employees. This would be a prime use for your communication channels. Such channels could include digital channels like Slack or Microsoft Teams, general channels like newsletters or podcasts, or formalised channels like company-wide meetings and HR check-ins.
As Penny Lovett commented, ‘Getting these channels in place should be an absolute priority, because everything will filter through them. It’s important to get them right’.
4. Invest in your employees
Investing in your employees is one of the simplest and most clear-cut ways to increase staff engagement. This is because you clearly SHOW your staff that they are valuable. With transformation, new skills are often – if not always – required. Improving staff’s digital capabilities increased in priority for NFPs in 2020 compared to 2019 and Commbank identified that a lack of skills accounted for 39% of challenges in the NFP space, especially as they related to adapting to new opportunities. Taking the time to invest and train your staff will foster their engagement and dedication to the organisation. Simultaneously, it ensures that the required skill sets, during times of change, are being developed.
Additionally, it is worth considering taking on new staff, specifically to help educate and extend your staff capabilities. This may include hiring specifically skilled staff or contract workers to help train a team while getting a project done.