Saturday, February 11, 2012

Big Changes: Employee Buy-In

I always wonder if big organizations can change. In the business world, "Change Management" is a growing field complete with special buzzwords that accompany the M.B.A.'s and H.R. folks who are trained to facilitate this process. Non-profits and government organizations are quick to follow with numerous articles, conferences, and websites dedicated to this practice. In other words, change is not easy. It is something that requires thought, planning, and buy-in. I've read a fair amount about this process, but in my opinion, especially in a diverse government organization, change has to begin with the employees. 

When people think of change, often, the first thought that comes to mind is, "Wow, will I be asked to do a job that I feel uncomfortable, or unprepared to do?" (Well, let's be honest, the first thought is usually, "Oh no! Will I lose my job!") In my humble opinion, the way to change a large organization is to make people feel comfortable and relevant, and that means by finding out what is working and not working. And, by attempting to implement change that will make people's lives easier, and enable them to spend more time doing work that is meaningful to them. Rob Markey at the Harvard Business Review Blog had a great piece called Transform Your Employees into Passionate Advocates. One of the main points that stood out for me was that measuring employee happiness isn't so difficult. To be blunt, "They (companies) survey employees more often, ask just a few simple questions, and simplify the reporting." Hmmm... sounds pretty straightforward, right? 
But what if an organization is really big, has many locations, and has diverse clients? This is when it is especially important to work face-to-face with employees, OR another way to get as much feedback as possible before the change process starts. Even if time is limited, if this step is skipped, an organization will sacrifice buy-in from the beginning. Buy-in starts with genuine, honest, and thoughtful listening--not by top-down policies. I think the lesson is that it also means being able to rethink staff value and to be flexible with their skill sets. Asking people in these face-to-face sessions what they enjoy, and what their strengths are might lead to some very creative job titles. Don't sell someone short because of their current job title--embrace their ideas, and buy-in increases.
I've read, as well, that it's really important to work with the "gate-keepers" of information. If there are key union-members, managers, or personalities, their ideas and thoughts need to be brought to the table, and considered. If they don't buy-in, then many times, staff won't either. 
As a "Get-er-done!" type person, patience is something that I have to work at. I can usually see an immediate solution to many things, and I just want to implement it. I've learned from experiences, that "Get-er-done!" is great for last-minute-deadline-meeting issues, but not for bigger issues of employee buy-in of change. 

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