This quote is applicable to life in general, but even more so to the process of creating lasting change within a business. Rather than look at the metrics of the desired state and training accordingly, a new paradigm is necessary. By looking at how change is traditionally done, leaders can gain a new perspective to elicit change.
It is difficult for organisations to initiate change and this challenge has existed for the last two decades. In fact, businesses today face the same difficulties in creating change as they did ten or fifteen years ago.
Yet, change is the very thing necessary for achieving growth in today’s economy and fast paced, technology driven industry. The problem is that organisations face the same, if not larger obstacles and try to solve them in the same ways they always have. They do not employ innovative problem solving by changing their thinking.
To elicit lasting change, organisations need to think about the following five challenges and then globally shift their mindset and approach to overcome them.
1. Overwhelming Workload
Statistically it has been found that people can’t cope with more than a 10% additional workload.
Challenge: Business thrives on iteration and change is a constant factor. To keep employees up to date, managers and leaders plan extensive training and processes for rolling it out. These trainings often include lectures, webinars, workshops and additional reading, incorporating additional time and energy. They extend the workload of employees.
Solution: Instead of rolling out large, encompassing change, leaders should honour the 10% statistic and create change in bite-sized chunks. Rather than planning cumbersome trainings, leaders could plan what the desired change they are looking for requires. Those requirements can then be broken down into small steps.
Giving workers sequential learning targets that will eventually come together to reach the end goal prevents them from becoming overwhelmed. It allows them to maintain their current workload and add a little bit at a time.
Incremental work also leads to lasting change. Not only is it easier to incorporate the change, it becomes part of the process itself.
As The New York Times suggests, “the best path to long term change is slow…”. Shift from excitedly over-preparing a massive training program and focus on the small behaviours that need to be mastered to eventually create that change overall.
2. Motivational Hurdle
For change to be effective, all levels need to move en masse. Critical mass is key.
Challenge: Multiple individuals working together is what makes an organisation. These individuals are inherently different in many ways. In fact, differences such as learning style, rate of learning, communication preference and type of intelligence are integral to having a well-rounded team.
Yet, these differences also lead to complications when new methods, processes or paradigms need to be incorporated.
As Fortune Magazine acknowledged, it is a challenge to meet everyone’s needs while delivering a training program and as a result some people feel less motivated and engaged. Intended changes decrease or plateau when all team members aren’t on board.
Solution: To achieve the desired hockey curve of progressive change, everyone needs to come together as a community. Creating spaces and groups for people to discuss and implement the desired behaviours allows for organic, organisation-wide change. When this is paired with small chunks of change at a time, it is possible to have critical mass and all members motivated toward reaching the objective.
Actual change comes from the workers who will be carrying out the tasks. Understanding their individual needs and providing a community of support with the end goal in mind is essential. Shift from focusing solely on what each individual will learn, to the culture of the community and shaping their attitude towards change.
3. Cognitive Shift
People need to think differently.
Challenge: Behavioural psychologists note that one reason change is difficult relies on the difference between exploration and exploitation. In their younger years people explore the world around them with little preconceived notions and expectations.
Then as time goes on, they exploit their known options and come to rely on what they already know as a guide. This makes change extremely difficult. Oftentimes leaders are faced with the obstacle of employees being set in their habits and ways even when they understand the benefits that change could bring.
Solution: Another finding popular with behaviour psychologists is the effect of novelty. When a new program, format, process or technology is presented, it can kick people back into exploration. While learning about it they are more open to change. It becomes a tangible avenue that allows them to engage in a different way of thinking.
Learning is a result of a cognitive shift in thinking.
Just as employees engage more readily when they are presented with new ways of doing and thinking, HR and training professionals could reflect this in their design of change programmes. Instead of focusing on the what to teach, business leaders will see significant results by focusing on how to deliver the learning.
4. Positive psychology
Engagement can significantly impact productivity.
Challenge: An employee’s attitude shapes their work output. An article published by Management Issues chronicles the detrimental effects of a bad mood on a worker’s productivity. Though it doesn’t take research to see it play out in action.
There’s an old saying that “it only takes one rotten egg to spoil the bunch” for a reason. Progress toward goals cannot occur without a positive work environment that fosters creativity.
Solution: Establish a positive work environment by building a community. Just as socialisation and flexibility aids in getting everyone to move en masse toward change, it helps maintain positivity. The same spaces and teams that keep everyone moving together can also serve to keep them productive.
When planning training programs with the goal of change, spend extra time thinking about how it will be presented and discussed. Instead of focusing on the specific, tangible indicators of success shift towards prioritising the creation of an outlook that views how the new learning will be good for everyone as individuals, not just as a business.
Individuals have different needs and motivations.
Challenge: Primarily, businesses choose to create behaviour change from the top down. It incorporates some model of turn-key training, or committee planning that is eventually rolled out on the whole.
The issue is that it is nearly impossible to incorporate everyone’s needs with this approach. Much in the same way it is difficult to reach critical mass toward change with traditional ways of implementation.
Solution: Hyper personalisation offers the opportunity for businesses to give employees autonomy in the process.
This type of choice and individualisation is just what organisations need to be effective according to Forbes. Rolling out change works best when it is tailored to the individuals. This can happen with innovative technology, flexible learning schedules and a culture of change.
The integration of change needs to consider the people who will be putting it into action. Shift from focusing on how to educate members on change to understanding the key players individually and focusing on different ways to lead them toward the final objective.
Focus on specific behaviours in groups and look to see how you can build scale — don’t attempt to change too many behaviours at the same time — this is a critical component to success.
You need to understand individual drivers of motivation and attach your comms/ process and efforts into delivering — small habits that influence people each day with the broader goal in mind.