If you’re about to lead major change at your organisation, one thing’s for certain.No matter how great your vision, your plan, the enthusiasm of investors and your top team, you’re also going to need the excited engagement of your employees.
My earlier Business Matters article “Business Transformations – A Formula for Success,” covers several key ingredients to transforming an enterprise. Currently I’m excited to be re-invigorating the fortunes of ERP software vendor Forterro. It’s right up there in my duties as CEO to communicate with and inspire our 1,400 employees.
Go talk about it
To transform an enterprise demands you first define your new mission and high-level plan and communicate it to your leadership team in a meaningful and powerful way. Then you must listen to and act on quality feedback, move onto detailed plans that define actions, responsibilities and timescales. Then go out among your workforce and earn their confidence. You’re going to need to energise and empower everyone to deliver.
Signpost what will change (and what won’t). Why will it change and when? Why is it necessary? How will the changes better serve your people’s goals? You’ll need employee buy-in and for that you’ll need localised engagement models.
Personalise your employee message
Not everybody is motivated by the same things. Tailor your message for different groups, geographies and perspectives. Salespeople in the UK will be motivated by something very different to a software development team in India or a professional services group in Sweden. Some folks are driven by the potential to earn more, or by job security. Some seek an exciting growth company offering career progression. Others want more responsibility or to work with new technologies. Others will appreciate how you’re delivering something for the greater good.
At Forterro, our people are passionate about smaller manufacturers. Our mission is to help these firms succeed by serving their customers well. So how we’ll do that even better, and better than our competitors, is core to my transformation plans and the framing of my message to employees and other stakeholders.
Define the road ahead
For all the roles across your business, you’ll need to define key changes and how your people will be expected to accommodate or make those changes. What will you ask your product development, marketing, sales, customer support people and other teams to do differently? Let people know for how long things will stay ‘business as usual’ and when they can expect for change to begin.
Define how the journey will be navigated in detail and outline everyone’s part in the journey. Talk to team leaders and win their cross-company support. They’ll then communicate and promote change to their teams, be able to answer the many questions, help earn buy-in and overcome anxiety or resistance.
Lead by example
Having communicated a new mission and plan for getting there you must stick with it; as long as it continues to make clear sense. Support your leaders when difficult decisions have to be made. Stick to the plan. Try not to allow exceptions to the rule or confusion will set in diluting energy and clarity for future decisions.
At my previous turnaround CEO project, an HR software company, a vital element of the strategy was to move from a legacy on-premise product offering towards cloud-based software as a service (SaaS). This offered better value and service for customers, would be easier for us to support and free us to scale the business. But we needed to gently move our customers away from our old product, which we’d have to cease supporting. One big customer wanted to stay with the legacy platform. I led the decision to drop the customer, even though that would hit our immediate revenues. Our employees got the message that I was serious about the new strategy and our new future. It gave employees a framework by which they could act confidently. They knew they’d have my support.
People are the heart of your business. Plans for transformation only succeed if you can communicate a clear vision in a way that inspires, engages and enables every employee to both visualise and deliver change. It can be a huge challenge. But win the hearts and minds of your employee community and success will follow