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Engage & Prosper
Employee engagement specialists, employee engagement consultancy, employee surveys, ERM, tailored reward and recognition programmes.
Employee engagement specialists, employee engagement consultancy, employee surveys, ERM, tailored reward and recognition programmes.


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The Real Cost of Organisational Change

The much missed martial arts expert Bruce Lee was once quoted as saying “Knowing is not enough, we must apply.  Willing is not enough, we must do.”  I suspect that in this day and age, the very spiritual Mr Lee would have a huge following on LinkedIn and Twitter and his wisdom would transcend many disciplines, not least of which would be business.  In particular, organisational change.

For the modern business, change is entirely healthy, crucial for success, inevitable and of course some change is easier than others.  Leadership teams should and do spend time specifically looking at change management in their organisations and measuring how effective they are at it.  But what is the real cost of change and how can it be measured?  Better still, is there a way to reduce the associated costs of doing things differently?

Obviously change is a wide topic but by focusing on avoiding the pitfalls and not letting change become something which is “hard and difficult”, businesses will be better equipped to navigate through the murky waters of organisational change.

It is a well known fact that in order for organisations to be truly effective, their leadership teams must have clarity of vision and values.  They must also adopt and continually develop an understanding of who they want to be and how they want to work.  And of course they must be able to communicate fully and effectively.  Only then will they be able to present a compelling case for change and one which the business really needs.

In addition and in order to further enhance the chances of success, leaders must also create the right environment, encourage others to take responsibility and achieve more accurate outputs of “how” the change is to happen.  For those of us who have been fortunate enough to work in an environment where the “team works”, the energy found within is infectious and almost anything feels achievable.  Certainly the prospect of change is rarely seen as a daunting one.

There is, though, an inevitable cost of change and this can be measured at a programme/project or organisational level.  Things like loss of production, increased employee turnover and sickness absence and customer service levels plunging should all be a concern for the active change consultant.  Damage to brand, loss of credibility to employees and general employment fatigue should also be a consideration.

But there are also the other, slightly more hidden costs of change.  The potential increases in industrial relations issues, the unlikely increase in operational sabotage (which can happen) and even the bitterness found in individual attitudes towards the company when change isn’t managed well can all have a lasting and damaging effect if not managed appropriately.

The Management of Individuals

However there are some things that can positively influence change which are centred around the building blocks of organisations.  For example, the simplicity of change is made more effective if the general management of individuals is working well.  The author and management consultant, John Humble (author of “Management by Objectives”), described the five basic needs of any manager as being:

Agree the results that you expect from me
Give me an opportunity to perform
Let me know how I am getting on
Help, train and guide me
Reward me according to contribution

Get these right then and changing things should be a lot easier.
This leads me onto my own views about approaching change in organisations.  These views have been gained from my many years of working in HR and are described below.  I recognise that they are not the only ones and there are many others like them, but these ones are mine.

Change Considerations

So, when considering a large change piece for your business that affects your teams, which includes restructures, new technology, capital investments, changes to terms etc. and before your press the “change button”, you could consider the following:

The world doesn’t owe you a living – it’s not for you to think that everyone will warmly receive your ideas for change nor will it necessarily be seen as the right thing to do by everyone.  The burden of proof, therefore, sits with you and you have to work at it.

Secrecy is a disease when changing things.  Being open and transparent and sitting on the moral high ground about such is a far safer way of changing things.  In particular, the speed of Chinese Whispers is faster than ever before so consider this when thinking about how much and when you should share.  Twitter and instant messaging can be your greatest friend or your worst foe.

Logic isn’t everything and if you think it is then you’re ignoring the fact that human beings are emotional, irrational and entrepreneurial.  Or at least they can be!  So don’t think that a logical, well thought out plan guarantees you success.  Consider that the human aspect of change requires your thought and (crucially) your attention.

All too often change projects can become a “cottage industry” of change and can, themselves, create a unique mini-organisation (often called the Project Team or Project Office etc).  Make sure that the change team are constantly aware that they are part of the organisation too (one way or another) and that their impact affects more than just those on their project plan

Change isn’t the easy option but as Ann Landers once said, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognise them.” Make sure that whenever and wherever you can you look for the opportunities within the change piece.  The hard work needed to get it right deserves some unique and innovative and exciting thinking!

Ignore the human beings at you peril.  If you haven’t got your human resources at the centre of your thinking for every aspect of your change programme, you’re likely to trip up.  Being able to bring people with you on the journey is far better than dragging them, so consider the needs of your employees and communicate fully with them.

Be flexible in your approach to change otherwise your plans may fail – refer to point 3.  Never have an entire change programme thought out by one person.  Involve others, consider different approaches and use the experience of your own team, consultants, HR and other change experts to help you navigate your way through.

Given the above, I think that the real cost of change lies in the approach you take as a business.  If you recognise that there has to be a consideration of investment requirements in order to change and that there is an inevitability in development costs for change to happen, then you will more likely avoid the pitfalls and pain that follows an ill-thought out change programme.  So the costs are relative to the investments, like a continuum.

In addition to this, the value you can gain from getting change right is far reaching.  Having been involved in successful major change programmes in many sectors including logistics, retail, civil defence, petro chemicals and renewable energy, all have demonstrated the consistent theme of a wider reaching benefit to a fully supported change programme.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way.  In fact you don’t have to invest in your change programme at all.  Alternatively you can cut corners, do the change piece on the cheap, rush things, do it with very limited resource or try to convince yourself that you know what you are doing without taking the right course of action.

And as you do this and as things start to go wrong… somewhere Bruce Lee will slowly and disapprovingly start shaking his spiritual head.

Huge thanks to Howard Sloane, Group HR Director at Peel Ports Ltd for allowing us to republish another of his utterly brilliant articles.
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Employee Engagement is common sense isn't it?

I think it was Lord Sieff of M&S fame who said “The problem with common sense is that it’s not very common.” Wise words indeed and for the most part, entirely relevant in today’s society.
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How to engage staff in business performance issues

The “Smiley Face” survey button

I’ve been attending the same hospital clinic now for several years, probably attending over 12 times now in that time, maybe even more. I have always received excellent care and staff have always in the main been attentive, competent and thorough. Today though despite all this good treatment, was the first time there was any mention of the patient satisfaction survey that they operate and that was only by chance and because I brought it up. They have just been so helpful and because I’m all for giving positive feedback as much as constructive views, I thanked them for their input again and said how much I’d be happy to push the ‘Smiley face’ button if they had one of those survey pod stands in the clinic.As we’re on first name terms now, the staff lead “Bobby” immediately mentioned they had a survey and asked, had I not been given it before coming in to her to complete or when I’d left on previous appointments. No I hadn’t. Had I EVER been asked to complete it on any of my appointments? No, I hadn’t. She was surprised and disappointed and explained that she keeps asking the receptionist responsible for receiving and processing patients through the department, to give everyone a survey to complete. When she asks the receptionist she regularly assures her that she always does indeed do that.

I proposed to her that I test this theory when I left today and to request one to complete. I’m all for teamwork, taking a utilitarian view in that the majority will benefit from any action on this subject. The staff lead agreed and was grateful that I was happy to proactively collude for the benefit of patients and the department.

When I did this as I left, the receptionist looked a little confused at my request, until the word survey computed in her brain and she remembered what this indeed was and just where these scraps of paper were and then after handing me the slip of paper and taking a momentary pause, that I might need a pen to complete it, she passed one to me.

There was no instruction offered verbally or on the form, that I needed to complete it there and then and give it back to her or where I could return it, if I wanted to give it in at a later date. When another senior colleague came past at the start of this exchange of dialogue, she feigned mock surprise and muttered, “did I not give you one when you came in? No, you didn’t. ” I then mentioned that I had never been given one before in all my visits. I decided not to comment that the four other people I has seen arrive whilst I sat waiting to be seen had not been offered one either, nor had I seen anyone on any of my other visits be given one then either as I would have requested one feeling I had missed out. I’m weird and observant like that. It seemed petty and a tad pointless as this stage to mention any more about it as I had made my point and I could tell she knew she should be giving them out. Besides I have some research to provide to Bobby by email and so I will update her then (with my recommendations too of course).
What’s the point?

The point to all this is that the staff I see in the clinic are all about patient care and it is obvious to see and feel it by the experience you have as one of their patients and that they are continually trying to find ways to improve patient experiences and outcomes, as well as operational efficiencies and effectiveness. However in this instance the sole staff member that is the very start and potential end to that individual encounter with the organisation is primarily concerned and engaged with her main role.

Whilst that is great too, she also needs to be engaged with the business, its purpose and its success in achieving its purpose. It is either because she doesn’t understand the part the surveys play in improving the overall business and level of service offered, is over worked or simply doesn’t care. I doubt it is because she doesn’t care, she may be over worked but that shouldn’t really stop the survey being given out. And she may be really engaged with her own job and excellent at it. So is she just not engaged with the business purpose or maybe she just doesn’t fully understand it?

In the nicest sense let’s say she is just ignorant to the importance of these surveys being completed and therefore how important that they be given out in the first place. Most people given the option, won’t necessarily complete the survey which is even more reason to give them out at every opportunity. It’s normally delighted or really unhappy people that wish to make their opinions known for obvious reasons. Even so, it’s a really good measure to know where you fall on the good to bad scale as a service provider. It’s important to know if the right behaviours and attitudes by staff are the norm in the business or not. A L’Oreal sample is not sufficient in my view, “73 people said their eyelashes were visibly longer when using xyz mascara.” With the volume of patient throughput in these clinics, you need to be evaluating a significant proportion of patients and as an ongoing measurement too to have any meaningful insight for planning action.
Make it a behaviour and part of the process

What’s really daft in this situation is this receptionist is always excellent on your arrival at picking up your patient record and asking you to check if your name, address and doctors details are correct. She does it at a subconscious level, you can tell, she doesn’t have to remember what to say, she points at the same area on the form she shows you that have your details on, without even looking at it or you and whilst tapping on the computer screen to log you as arrived no doubt. (A smile and a bit of eye contact wouldn’t go amiss but maybe I’m just greedy). So wouldn’t it be so easy for her to just pick up another slip of paper at the same time? The survey paper? And just make it part of the process. It’s no more work for her really, just a few extra synapses firing off, a word or two more and another hand movement.

(I have to say at this point that obviously a freestanding survey pod would be better in this particular survey example for lots of reasons not least removing obligation by the patient and awkwardness of completing it in front of someone related to the service, computing errors when individuals administer all the respondents opinions – don’t get me started on the accuracy of that or the potential for results to be lost or adjusted either!).
Take an interest and recognise their efforts

My recommendation? As a manager requesting this action (in the absence of a self-serve survey pod) to take an interest in getting this behaviour with the receptionist embedded. To first make a point of informing her of why you’re doing this, what it will mean to the department and how it will help inform appropriate actions to improve things even further. To agree and collaborate with the receptionist or people responsible for handing out and administering the surveys of the best way to introduce and manage the process, i.e. when patients arrive rather than when they leave as they just go having no need to speak with the receptionist unless they are rebooking an appointment.

To check regularly on progress of the amount of surveys being completed on perhaps a daily or weekly basis at first, to feed back results to the receptionist and department on weekly and monthly progress and where appropriate recognise individuals or teams involved in the participation rates and scores. It may be that the obstacle in this case is that the more surveys completed the more the receptionist has to administer and there is then maybe a work overload and motivation issue. That needs to be ascertained and addressed if so. Either by a different survey method or again by making the survey administration an embedded behaviour and as efficient to administer as possible. Perhaps someone else could administer the results, therefore increasing the motivation for the receptionist to hand them out safe in the knowledge that she has done her bit and there is no variable amount of work that will come back to her as if she doesn’t support the purpose of the surveys she will see it as a self defeating activity on her behalf.
Although as managers we expect we are working with grown ups and that as responsible adults they will do what we ask, will see the reason we are asking and doing it and therefore we shouldn’t have to remind them or keep asking then to do these things. Until motivation to do it exists and it becomes a habitual process unfortunately that’s exactly what we need to do, as well as encourage, recognise, appreciate their efforts and reward the right behaviours.
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Glad to be on Google+
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