When big changes are proposed within a business, some companies focus on the wrong things. Take a look at the recent P&O Ferries staffing disaster in the UK. Whether it was the correct move to make so many people redundant or not is perhaps a matter for the business strategists and financial experts out there. Still, it’s clear to all that the way P&O communicated its decision could have been better. Though delivering bad news is never easy, to simply rock up and tell 786 loyal workers that they no longer have a job is rather cut-throat.
There was no effort to find alternative roles for these workers within the company, and no support offered as they search for another job. No wonder there’s been such a backlash from the public. And the company faces paying these ex-employees up to £36.5m in compensation and redundancy packages—which doesn’t sound like much of a money-saving move if the company is indeed as financially stricken as it claims.
The bosses at P&O were only concerned with the savings they were set to make if they got rid of these employees and replaced them with much cheaper staff from countries without employment laws and which don’t enforce a minimum wage. Given how much P&O is set to payout, as well as all the negative PR they now have to overcome, only time will tell if their plan comes off.
We are all individuals
This is an extreme example of how not to engage your staff (or, rather, how to not even try). In many companies, even when much smaller changes are afoot, communication, in ways that everyone can understand and appropriately deal with, doesn’t happen. Instead, a blanket approach tends to be taken, and whilst some employees may find little issue with this, there will likely be other employees who need help to process the information, and questions they will need answering to help them make sense of the changes and how they will impact upon them.
The reason for this…and it’s common sense…is that we’re all individuals. We all have our preferences when it comes to absorbing, digesting and acting on new information. Some people may steam ahead, excited by the opportunities and challenges whilst their colleagues may have questions and need to see the details and evidence that the ideas will work for the better. Some people don’t need to know why things are changing to get on board; others, however, will be much more engaged if they can see the bigger picture. Some people may be worried that this change could lead to more changes and that their jobs and livelihoods are under threat; these people would benefit from some reassurance. Some people may feel the changes aren’t conducive to their working patterns, their ambitions, their connection with the company…and these employees may silently search for another position.
If you only implement changes to processes and procedures on an operational level and don’t take the time to understand the lived experience and undercurrent that may sweep through your workforce, you’ll only see the fallout from all these scenarios, which is what can make changes so difficult to push through.
A little pre-planning, lots of understanding, plenty of communication, and the knowledge of how different behavioural preferences react to change and experience the transition process, will go a long, long way towards seamless change within your company.
Let’s look at communication preferences, for example. I’m someone who can communicate with people in a multitude of ways: email, phone, Zoom, in person, individually, and to groups of all sizes…that’s just one benefit of my many years of coaching. I have a friend who actively avoids using the telephone. They prefer to receive communications and information by email/in-writing, which they can then process and digest at their pace. They’ve even left jobs if there’s been a reliance on the telephone to transfer information; they feel flustered and ‘on the spot’ in a phone conversation, which can lead to them stuttering and the frustration that they can’t get their point of view across. I know other people like this; it’s not a generational thing, and this is just one example surrounding just one method of communication.
To my friend, an email is to the point, without any fluff, and something that can be referred to again and again. The information it contains, to them, is more trustworthy, too, as it’s there in black and white. An email can be read at a time of their choosing when they can properly focus and they’re ready to take information on board.
What does ROI mean to you?
I’ve just compared the two of us and one of our differences when it comes to communication…imagine how many different communication preferences, there are within your team or workforce, and that’s before we have even started to consider how some words resonate more for some people than others. It’s not difficult to see that one method/style of communication and/or delivery will not fit, suit or engage all. By having an increased awareness and understanding of team members’ behavioural preferences, leaders can communicate in such a way that will land with everyone, engaging and motivating employees to take action.
One of my favourite examples that really makes the point is…….. when you see ROI, what does it mean to you?
If you are with the majority of people, you probably answered Return on Investment!
When leaders talk about ROI in terms of return on investment, for some people their interest will increase as it is a language they can relate to, it has meaning for them and is aligned to their personal values and drivers. However for many others as soon as they hear the words return on investment they switch off. But there are other ways of thinking of ROI, that will enable everyone to engage and appreciate the likely benefits of an idea; return on innovation, return on interaction and return on implementation.
If you do follow the ‘one-size-fits-all approach and the situation is left to fester, once the changes get underway, only a percentage of your workforce will embrace them, and confusion may get out of hand in the early days. Whilst this will undoubtedly be addressed, retrospectively, the damage may already be done, with some members of staff already checking vacancies on the job boards. If this is the case, they’re not likely to tell you until they hand in their notice. And I don’t need to remind you about the high costs involved with hiring someone new—financially, in practical terms, and the effect this has on team morale. This scenario is particularly sad to see, because the steps needed to be taken, to ensure changes are implemented smoothly and in a collaborative manner, are incredibly simple ones.
A Gartner study showed that just 34% of changes within businesses are successful, with poor communication cited as one of the main reasons.
Leverage your knowledge of individual behavioural preferences to engage
Throw in the upheaval a two-year-plus-pandemic can bring (oh, and the fears and concerns about the conflict in Ukraine), and your employees will be uncertain about a lot of things at the moment. The cost of living won’t be helping either, with many employees worrying whether they’ll be able to pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads. Your company’s restructure, or latest change programme, may not get much buy-in because these circumstances are far, far more important to your employees. How would you know this, however, if you don’t have regular, meaningful, team and individual discussions/communication with the very people your business’s changes will affect.
It’s a natural reaction to fear change, but when people understand why it has to happen, exactly how it will impact them, and the process it will need, (including the support and training to be provided) they’ll be much more likely to engage and get on board with it.
That said, and returning to my previous point, every one of your employees is an individual, and helping them to understand the ‘why’, the ‘how’, and the ‘process’ may differ from person to person. Just as much as you need them to understand the business case for change, you need to understand them, their lived experience, and why they may oppose it.
It’s such a pity this concept sounds like mumbo-jumbo to those living in fishbowls.
‘A closed mind is a dying mind.’ ~ Edna Ferber
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The Jigsaw Discovery Tool and learning experiences answer the “So What?” question that very few management tools are capable of answering. Your understanding evolves, allowing you to develop a better understanding of your team members behavioural preferences and communication, building strong, trusting and collaborative relationships between leaders and their teams.
Jigsaw Discovery Experiences asks the best questions. The ones that will solve problems with insight, meaning that leaders know what actions to take and understand what the implications will be as they restructure and introduce changes to working processes and practices; They also know how they can best support individual team members through their lived experiences of the transition.
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