Top tips for successful transformational change

Change is a constant in organisations and yet failure rates remain high, according to Julia Balogun, professor of strategic management at the University of Bath School of Management.

Chairing a session on innovative approaches to transformational change at the CIPD’s annual conference in Manchester, Prof Balogun suggested that HR hasn’t yet cracked the formula for delivering successful change.

But she was hopeful for the future with the emergence of “a new generation of business leaders who better understand the challenges of their task in leading transformational change”.

Session speakers Gill Nicholson, head of talent, employee engagement and diversity at HMRC, and Kirstin Furber, people director at BBC Worldwide, shared their innovative approaches to driving successful organisational change.

Your staff have the answers

“I truly believe an organisation’s best competitive advantage is its culture,” said Furber. But, she said for the BBC, a well-established organisation, with a globally recognised brand, it was important not to go back to the drawing board and “lose all of that history and good work”.“The question we had to ask was: ‘How do we dial up our culture for competitive advantage?’”

BBC Worldwide held Working Together workshops, with 1,400 people to find out what inspired them to come and work at the corporation. Employees were also asked: ‘What are the two or three things you would suggest we need to do as an organisation to be successful?’Furber and her team used this information to design ‘The Commitment’, the organisation’s blueprint for change.

When Nicholson put the same questions to HMRC’s 60,000 employees, HR received 50,000 pieces of feedback. She said: “We then invited staff to improve their data analytics skills by helping us sift through the information and designing our change vision. This way, all of our staff felt part of, and believed in, the change programme.”

Change needs to resonate with frontline staff

According to Professor Balogun: “Previously, senior managers and business leaders have struggled to translate their rhetoric for change into something meaningful for people in organisations. “Now, there is a recognition that if you want to change your organisation, your strategies have to be pushed down to the frontline.”

At HMRC, Nicholson and her team designed a ‘Once and Done’ programme for employees in the tax advisory department, which promised that customer queries would be sorted with just one communication. Now all staff recognise the organisation’s vision for the future: to put the customers at the heart of everything, she explained.

Transformation doesn’t stop at restructuring

Professor Balogun highlighted research that suggests traditional change programmes often stop at “restructuring”. But she explained: “Change is required in people if an organisation is actually going to change.”Furber added that it was up to HR to “keep change on the agenda”. “With any transformational programme, HR still has a day job to do, as well as difficult conversations to tackle, but it is our job to keep the ideas burning so it becomes a long-term sustainable commitment,” she said.

Lead from behind the scenes

Nicholson said that both HR and senior leaders need to understand their role in the change process: “As an HR professional, you are not front of stage. Your part is behind the scenes, facilitating the change. It’s all about subtly encouraging leaders to own the vision,” she said.

Source – CIPD

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