If you want to get better in anything, you’re going to have to change a few things, and businesses are no exception.
Change within an organization is often uncomfortable for everyone involved, but is a necessary step for anyone looking for a focus on continuous improvement and innovation. Still, it can only be successful if there’s a culture in place among employees that both understands and accepts it.
Culture in business is a culmination of many things, and altering and attempting to strengthen certain characteristics of that culture is often met with hesitation by those that have lived inside it for possibly decades. As we said above there’s no improvement without change, and a sometimes monumental task of management is to communicate why those changes are necessary and to get their employees on board with your innovation strategies. The “why” side of things varies from employee to employee, so it’s exceedingly important to understand the “why” of the company first.
Without a strong organizational backbone to relate your innovative changes to, widespread buy-in for new initiatives will be difficult. 64% of employees don’t believe they have a strong culture at work, so a proper understanding and definition of the company’s culture on management’s part is a must.
It’s necessary for you to start by defining the core beliefs, goals, and purpose behind the organization, or redefine them to be more applicable to the new initiatives or direction. A lack of focus on this crucial first step keeps you from truly aligning initiatives with the roots of the organization, reflects poorly on employees when they are introduced to any new initiatives, and derails all efforts to get people on-board for changes.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Ben Franklin. Those are words to live by, whether you’re studying for an exam or instilling a new sense of culture at your company of 500 employees!
After getting a better understanding and definition of your organization’s culture, preparation is crucial to setting up successful innovation strategies. Buy-in won’t be synonymous across every employee, so setting goals and milestones for different individuals and departments helps delegate the handling of problems that may arise from implementation, and can provide opportunities for new leaders to rise through the ranks.
A huge piece of proper preparation for even the smallest changes is communication with your audience (employees) every step of the way. You don’t just drop changes on someone all at once. That leads to apprehension, hostility, and mutiny.
Instead, explain what’s going on, the goals that everyone should get behind, be transparent with the steps you’re taking and why, and take the first steps to gradually wean them off their old, inefficient, stagnant ways. Only 17% of employees believe their organization has a focus on open communication, so making an effort to spark conversation before any concrete steps are taken gets people thinking and can open up insights and ideas that could be better than what you were thinking.
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Preparation and communication improve exponentially when you can personalize your interactions with those involved. From segmenting departments to empowering individuals to help along the way, treating the workforce like “people” helps.
Employees that are engaged with their work will jump at the opportunity to push the company forward if they feel the message is tailored to them, especially Millenials. 87% see career development as an important aspect of their job, so any chance they see to expand on their strengths and weaknesses will make them more likely to buy-in to innovative initiatives.
The entire reason behind analyzing your culture and establishing a proper implementation strategy is to get people up to date and on board with the changes you’re making, but no one is going to react well to a “do this” command, followed by you turning around, hoping for the right outcome.
Continued communication and support on a personal level show that you’re serious about your innovation strategies moving the company in the right direction as one well-oiled machine. Be there to answer their questions, help them along the way, collaborate on problems, and encourage them to do the same with their fellow employees around the organization to build a closer, more trusting environment for everyone.
New measures need to be put in place to test and guarantee success on both an operational and participant level. Feedback should be bountiful for everyone. Those struggling or refusing to buy-in to the cultural shift should be held accountable for their inability to accept their new responsibilities, and given attention to help improve their situation before it gets worse.
On an operational level, monitoring a situation is worthless if you aren’t committed to taking action and improving it. Don’t be afraid to change the change based on feedback from others and your own observations. Not everything is going to work, and to commit to a continuous improvement mindset you’ve got to be prepared to rinse and repeat new initiatives and ideas as you see fit.
Holding people accountable for their new responsibilities isn’t always comfortable, but you can’t back down from those who don’t want to get on board. You’re attempting to strengthen culture company-wide, but that doesn’t mean becoming everyone’s best friend.
Buy-in is hard enough as it is, but it only takes a few agitators to unravel the work that’s done. That’s why it’s necessary to build a more personal environment. Without a stronger connection with employees, one-on-one education and discipline can push troubled individuals away from the mission and can cause them to disengage even further in a fit of rebellion.
For the employees going above and beyond in their new duties, rewards and recognition can stand as a great moment to get those on the fence to strengthen their commitment to the organization’s new direction.
Rewards don’t have to be incredibly prestigious, but it’s human nature to appreciate being recognized in front of your peers, and it motivates others to mimic behavior in hopes of similar treatment by their superiors. A crowdsourcing innovation platform or basic gamification systems should be considered, even if offline. They can be used to track and reward individuals for specific behaviors, have been proven to be huge game-changers for innovative organizations, and 89% of employees say that it motivates them to stay engaged in their work.
BONUS – Terminate
Fire everyone! But seriously, almost 70% of employees aren’t engaged in their work in US companies on any given day, so if you’ve got some of those troublemakers, they aren’t getting on board, and you’ve tried to deal with them, more drastic measures should be considered.
These employees aren’t just dragging themselves down but everyone else as well. Buy-in is difficult when you have individuals fighting against the organization’s vision, and they have no place at your company. Obviously this is a worst-case scenario, and could affect other employees negatively as well, but shouldn’t be ruled out if you’re serious about getting employees to take the next step with your mission.
Have you struggled to get buy-in for any changes in your organization?
How did you deal with getting employees on board?