Many of us are wrestling with the extraordinary shift in our ways of working. After making big changes as COVID-19 first hit, we are now contemplating how organisations need to work going forward. How much time in the office? Where do we do our best work? How much face to face, if any, interaction is essential to getting the job done? Is the role of the office changing? Do we need different tools? Do we need to think differently? And really, all this coming together in one big question – How do we best support our people through the change to a ‘new normal’, which works best for our business?
Changes to ways of working in any context require careful thought to make them sustainable. Many agree that a 100% return to the office is not the way forward. However, we are all highly conscious of colleagues who do not have a choice, because their roles are front line, customer facing, operational, or related to critical services. Also, working from home is much more challenging for some than for others. Space may be cramped and noisy. Young children will need attention. If you are on your own, you may find yourself feeling lonely.
What we do not want is a “them and us” culture, where flexible working is regarded as a “perk” for those in a certain type of role, creating divisions and tensions. It is a delicate path to tread. Our challenge is to get all of this settled down to a new way of working which bests suits our businesses.
And of course, we are not just talking about agile working: accelerating digitalisation; increasing the emphasise on the online offering; re-orgs; front end customer-facing process changes; acceleration of some projects; disbanding and re-forming decision-making structures; greater integration between IT Services and functions. There is also an ongoing learning and development challenge – getting people familiar with how to share files, work digital whiteboards, hold workshops.
At Afiniti, we have many years’ experience helping organisations clarify and implement sustainable ways of working changes designed to achieve specific outcomes. Some of what we have learned, and some of what we have witnessed at our clients more recently, is summarised here into five key factors for successfully and sustainably embedding the changes you need to make:
Clear & Transparent
A key factor in achieving and sustaining ways of working changes is being clear what is being asked and why. This may sound obvious, but how many times have your ways of working been mentioned as an afterthought, and then not been followed up? It saves so much time and effort later, if the desired change is clearly defined, including the (honest) reasons. Ways of working changes will be far more successful, and far more likely to be sustained, if they are presented in a way which tells it as it is. No spin, no euphemisms, no missing stuff out because its uncomfortable. Only plain, straight forward language. In the context of coming out of COVID, there will naturally be a lot of uncertainty, so it will be really important to be specific about the end goal (the way we want to work), and why (why it’s good for you, and why it’s good for the business). It will be equally important to be honest about the uncertainty in the meantime. Let’s not try and control what we can’t.
What’s in it for me? This is often missed and can be a basic failure of “top-down” communication. When changes are defined without understanding the impact on each role, credibility is lost, engagement suffers, and the change doesn’t stick. So, why is it specifically good for me? How will my working life improve as a result? And if there is anything, I won’t be able to do, that I used to be able to do? Please be honest and tell me.
This is the one that is most often the difference between success and failure. Changes to behaviour / working patterns will not be made or sustained, unless all the influencing levers are intentionally and fully addressed. This usually includes how people are led, measured, supported, influenced by peers, and rewarded. Put another way, ways of working changes don’t result from a directive, supported by a comms campaign. That’s important, but only a small part of what is required. If you want to change something, change something! Do not just talk about it, or simply set a new “policy”.
How will you know if you and your colleagues have been successful? Is it clear where you are starting from? Afiniti recently worked with a client planning to move to more agile ways of working (pre COVID) who spent time measuring current practices, so there was a clear baseline to move forward from. It was quite surprising how tricky it was to answer simple questions such as how many people on average are in the office each day, between which times, etc? However, this provided really important information for establishing a clear starting point, and surprising insights for determining priorities.
One of the most common problems in implementing change is stopping too early. Ultimately, the intended benefits and outcomes are often eroded over time when people gradually creep back to the old ways of working. Keeping a strong focus on measurement and support networks for an extended period is critical to embedding changes and making it stick. At the end of the day, it’s a journey, and continuing to manage that journey reaps rewards not just to sustain the new model, but also to move it on and continually improve it.
The above points only skim the surface on what is an important and current issue. As such, Afiniti will soon be publishing a range of insights that each focus on one of the five key factors above.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your organisation with its business change challenges and opportunities drop us a line and we’ll get straight back to you.
Afiniti is delighted to announce that it has been recognised as one of the top 30 highest-performing learning providers 2020 by the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI).
Established in 1995, the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) is now a leading authority on workplace Learning & Development. Each year, they work with and evaluate thousands of organisations worldwide through their accreditation service: a consultative framework that focuses on “Performance through Learning” – prioritising outcomes over delivery, homing in on the value, efficacy and business impact of learning, and aligning competencies with organisational strategy and goals. During the accreditation assessment, the LPI evaluates organisational efficacy against a range of key performance indicators. The results of this are then fed into a formula that applies weightings to each KPI to generate numbers representing the best overall providers, and in this case, the top 30.
Corrina Jorgensen, Managing Partner, Afiniti said:
“As a specialist Business Change consultancy based in the UK and operating globally, we take a holistic approach to designing and delivering tailored learning solutions for our clients and we routinely innovative; developing new and exciting ways for people to engage with learning. We strive to align to industry best practice at every opportunity, ensuring our clients receive the highest standard of learning facilitation, and to receive this prestigious recognition is testament to our dedication.”
LPI CEO, Edmund Monk, said of the top 30 providers featured:
“Prospective and existing customers can be assured that these organisations will provide the highest quality of service and the best user experience, even in this difficult time. They are trusted business partners, acting always in the best interests of their clients and, as such, fully endorsed by the Learning and Performance Institute.”
Learning is a key practice area for Afiniti who partner with clients to shape, ready, deliver and embed sustainable change. Earlier this year Afiniti was also awarded the status of ‘Gold Accredited Learning Provider’ for the 17th consecutive year, for its commitment to high quality and process improvement in the provision of learning, development and training services to clients.
To download the ‘Top 30 Highest-Performing Learning Providers’ report, please click here.
If you’d like to learn more about how Afiniti can help your business design and deliver training and learning, or other aspects of your change management projects and programmes, please get in touch.
As we continue down this unfamiliar path, where the long-established ways of working have rapidly changed, the need for openness, flexibility and adaptability has never been more important. Now, more than ever, we should not only be thinking about the practical implications of our decisions, but also how we keep our people at the heart.
People are the most important part of an organisation. Without their skills, understanding and support, a business cannot function. They are truly central to an organisation’s success. But note, expectations and priorities are different for both employer and employee – a fact that is now more prevalent and will remain the case for the long haul.
To help keep people at the heart, and set (or build on) the foundations for a people-first culture beyond COVID-19, here are some key actions that have been applied at Afiniti. Of course, not all these actions may fit in with how your organisation operates, but regardless, by keeping people at the forefront of whatever decisions you make, you will better place your organisation to grow and develop.
At Afiniti, we encourage an open dialogue. We want to hear what people have on their minds and enable individuals to share their viewpoints. To aid this open dialogue, we took the opportunity at the end of May to conduct a Pulse Survey (via Hive), which is a short, specific engagement survey, used to provide useful information on employee satisfaction and engagement. They can be used to track the Engagement Index, KPIs, as well as other topic areas more regularly than full census surveys.
We’re proud to share that we achieved an Employee Net Promoter (eNPS) score of +64. An increase of 52% since our annual survey which took place towards the end of December 2019.
So, what is Employee Net Promoter Score and why is it so important?
Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) is a measure of how likely your people are likely to recommend your company as a place to work. This measure comes from the Net Promoter Score measure which has been intrinsically linked to customer satisfaction surveys but has now been adopted internally in organisations to measure employee experience.
What does good look like?
Your eNPS score can vary from -100 to +100. A good score is anything positive, and if you’re able to get a score anywhere between 10 and 30 you’re in a good position as an organisation.
Ryan Tahmassebi (Director of People Science at Hive HR) commented:
“+64 is phenomenal and shows just how great Afiniti are doing at managing engagement even during the most difficult and challenging of times. Our current eNPS benchmark is +12, which is based on our current customer base of around 120 businesses.”
It’s important to note that there are numerous KPI tracking options, an eNPS score is just one of them. The main idea here (regardless of what you track) is around getting some form of feedback from your people to help shape your operations – it certainly does not need to be a complicated process.
Communication is Key!
There is always a temptation of not doing something because in your mind, it’s not perfect. However, in this situation especially, doing so can lead to more problems. Depending on your organisation type, people can start to generate their own myths, which lead to fears, that are near impossible to counter once they have been established. That is why having an open two-way channel of communication from the start is so important, even if as an organisation you’re not sure what to say, be open and say so, as this is a case of learning and growing for everyone, everywhere.
To ensure an open dialogue at Afiniti, we utilise numerous communication platforms to try and make things as easy as possible. Firstly, our monthly companywide meeting was re-scheduled to occur on a weekly basis, and now features the possibility for individuals to ask anonymous questions prior to the call (of course, questions can also be asked on the call). This mitigated any chance of anyone perhaps not having the confidence to speak up on a companywide call and allowed for more questions to be answered in a short space of time. We also believe in bringing your whole self to work, not only because it’s important people feel comfortable and open within a work environment, but authenticity is vital in building trust and relationships. Introduce your children, acknowledge the dog barking, go and answer the front door, these are all things that show we are human, and it really helps set a common tone.
Communication between senior management and staff is of course important for clarity, however people working from home are currently missing out on far more than that. At Afiniti, we have always encouraged a learning ethos amongst our people, and as mentioned, making things as easy as possible for our teams is vital to success. We have therefore stepped up our usage of both Microsoft Teams and Yammer, for ‘professional’ usage but also for general conversation amongst colleagues. In the past few weeks, tips on how to play guitar, video footage of children taking up the ‘office’ space and numerous animal pictures have all been shared. Again, having well-rounded internal communications is pivotal.
Evolve and Develop
Company operations should be reviewed and assessed on an ongoing basis (particularly during the current climate) to ensure they are fit for purpose and inspire learning and growth. That said, adapting a workforce to the ‘new normal’ is no easy task. COVID-19 has had, and is continuing to have, an impact never seen before. An impact that no amount of planning could have shielded entirely. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is that central to an organisation’s success, is the focus on people. By putting your people at the heart of what you do, it will better place your organisation to evolve in a positive manner.
In a recent post, we explored what it means to work with an agile mindset– to be nimble and flexible – ready to pounce on opportunities, or to change course to avoid inevitable problems and unnecessary cost. Now we’re thinking specifically about Agile Methodology and what that means for the end user of new systems and business processes.
Change as the new norm requires organisational agility, an ability to capitalise on opportunities, deal with challenges, and disrupt rather than be disrupted. This is what we talk about in the business change world in terms of internal capability and change readiness.
More than simply having agile processes and strategic methodologies in place, it’s about people. Do people feel enabled, nurtured, empowered, challenged, secure and listened to? If they don’t then an organisation simply isn’t change ready. As Peter Drucker once famously quoted: ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast!’
Much in the same way countries are recognising GDP isn’t a good enough measure of a nation, businesses are realising it’s not just about shareholders and bottom line any more.
So, what do we mean when we talk about a learning culture?
At a broad view, a culture is what we as humans ‘do’ as part of our survival mechanism, it’s what gives us an edge as a group – in the same way animal instinct allows us to respond to our environment. But think about that for a moment. Instincts aren’t always to be relied on! Our fear-flight mechanism gives us the ability to escape from harm, but likewise is a liability when trapped in an office with nowhere to go. In the same way – our culture can fool us, lead us astray and yes – it can affect business results.
To explore what constitutes an organisational culture, why it’s important and how to change it, take a look at our culture change blog series.
A learning culture is one that allows us to respond appropriately to the environment around us. But whereas individuals can go for a run when they’re stressed, culture is a lot more difficult to change as it involves groups (often large ones) of humanity.
What can organisations do to create a learning culture?
When it comes to learning culture, things can start getting very intangible very quickly. Businesses typically aren’t great at managing intangible elements, but its something they’ll need to get better at!
First, it’s important to define that a learning culture can’t be enforced or pushed. Rather it is like a delicate flower in your garden that must be nurtured to allow it to grow.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Tie learning to organisational goals
Share the organisations’ vision – its picture and story of the future, and make sure it’s authentic and genuine (shared not only in terms of dissemination, but also in terms of a collective understanding). Peter Senge, in The Fifth Discipline states: ‘When there is a genuine vision (as opposed to the all-to-familiar ‘vision statement’), people excel and learn, not because they are told to, but because they want to.’ As Simon Sinek points out – ‘Start with the ‘why’!’
- Plug in to intrinsic and extrinsic factors
People only learn if they see the purpose. This is different from sharing an organisational vision which is higher level, and instead zeroes in on the reason someone may have to learn something. A baker isn’t going to want to do training in ironmongery, unless he or she is looking for a career change! Bear in mind that your people will 9 times out of 10 not be 100% aligned with the organisational vision. This isn’t to say they’re not dedicated, professional and willing, of course they are, but check the reality – what are the intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors that underpin, or run alongside their work life?
- Examine your learning processes
People are natural learners, it’s in our DNA, it’s also an organic and longitudinal process. Unfortunately the view of ‘learning’ in organisations kills this natural tendency, making it dogmatic, and process-oriented. This is because it is forced upon people as part of a compliance exercise. Of course, some of this is unavoidable, but examine the processes you are using. What’s the balance of ‘push’ vs. ‘pull’ learning in your organisation? How much is developed by a top down methodology vs. a bottom up, grass roots approach?
- Do not view learning as a single event.
Ok- this one is a personal bugbear!
Learning happens over time. It seems obvious to say it, but it’s amazing how few organisations apply this in their learning practice. This is because we’re entrenched in a Victorian model of classroom education being didactically ‘transferred’.
Even the term ‘knowledge transfer’ gets me irritated, we are not computers, and you can’t lift-drop a ‘file’ of learning from one human to another and expect it to be effective. All learning must be gradually released and reinforced over time, if this isn’t allowed for then learning will fail to be effective in the vast majority of stakeholder groups.
- Encourage workplace reflection
We all make mistakes, it’s what happens every day. But how often do you all have the chance to reflect on how things went? How often is that shared? Do you learn from your mistakes? Build in more opportunity for these kinds of discussions, this is part of an on-the-job, workplace-learning exercise.
- Provide the ecosystem for knowledge sharing, lessons learned and broader collaboration.
Not only are people natural learners, they’re natural socialisers and givers too! That’s part of the joy of it. Nothing says “I’ve done my job well today” more than knowing you’ve solved a problem that many others will benefit from. Unfortunately organisations lack the learning ecosystem for this to happen on an organic and peer-to-peer basis. This may need a technical solution, but more likely it will need to run alongside some more intrinsic socio-cultural components. Remember people, process and technology – culture is a people thing.
Linking back to business change
Ultimately having a learning culture allows you to respond as a group, overcoming barriers and challenges of the outside environment. Much of the cultural piece is an intangible element – it’s something that is felt more than measured, but feelings matter too!
According to the recent Towards Maturity Report commissioned by the CIPD, top deck organisations showed a 24% increase in productivity in high performing learning organisations. That’s a lot!
Certainly, there’s a lot more to this than just a ‘cultural’ element, but a strong learning culture sets the water mark for what good looks like. Feed your learning culture and it will reward you with the results and that highly-sought competitive edge that your business really needs right now.
At Afiniti we regularly partner with our clients to design and deliver highly-successful business change projects which include aspects of learning and culture. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your organisation with its business change challenges and opportunities drop us a line and we’ll get straight back to you.
So, you want to transform your business?
Perhaps you have already decided that technology is the key. You have started to establish a Programme and talk to potential suppliers. There is a burning platform. The business will suffer if you don’t do this. Everyone agrees it’s the right thing to do.
But how clear are you on what “it” is?
You will be wasting a lot of money if you don’t have crystal clarity, and full alignment. Key questions are: why? What are the implications of not doing it? What will be different? How will we measure it? And, what are the key changes we expect to see in the organisation?
A few years ago, I was called into a sizeable utility organisation. About to embark on a £200M transformation programme with a known organisation, they were seeking some independent advice. I spent three hours with a group of stakeholders, working through a list of questions. In my opinion, there were a lot of strong foundations in place:
- It was very clear why the transformation was needed.
- The scope of the programme was well defined.
- Roles and responsibilities were mapped out, including the role of the supplier.
- Stakeholders were engaged, measures were already in place.
- The narrative had been established, and the outline communication strategy was agreed.
Then I commented that their transformation journey implied significant organisation change. They talked about contact centre colleagues’ roles changing to include a sales element (previously customer support only), and seamless movement between channels. This implied organisation re-alignment top-down, potentially changes at exec level, and a considerable investment in colleagues’ skills changes which would probably include recruitment as well as development.
When I asked whether this conversation – about the organisation changes required – had happened with the exec team, the response was ‘they wouldn’t like that’.
And yet, these were the core changes required to realise the intended benefits.
My advice to that organisation was not to spend a single penny of their planned £200M until they had a Transformation Strategy written down, developed with the exec team, that included an outline of how the organisation was going to approach the required organisation changes. Otherwise, the chances of realising any of the intended outcomes in return for their investment, was very low. As a wise colleague of mine once set, they would simply end up with a ‘very expensive train set to play with’.
Contrary to behaviours we have all learned, there is no blueprint, playbook, or method, which guarantees you success in transforming your business. Often these constructs are simply ways of “outsourcing” the transformation process – to another team, to a supplier, to a programme vehicle, to a process … or often all the above. Sound familiar?
Successful transformation is about facing into the challenging questions upfront. Tackling transformation head on, is about, guess what … tackling transformation head on. Sounds simple, but it’s often not what happens, and it’s tough to do. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it successfully!
Let’s say you have decided your support functions are no longer fit for purpose for where your organisation is headed. Your processes are sluggish. There is too much bureaucracy, too many people spending too much time on low value rather than high value activities. Things take too long, and there is not much value add. You are convinced that a new ERP system is a significant part of the answer. You have already spoken to suppliers, who not surprisingly, agree with you. A new ERP will provide world class processes “out of the box”, and this will be a catalyst for transforming your support functions.
And yet, an ERP system will address none of the challenges described above. The ERP system is a tool which can support improved ways of working. But, to address your challenges, you need to work out how the organisation needs to change, and the approach to tackling those changes.
Take some truly independent advice. Work with your exec, and your support functions to develop a transformation strategy, which answers the key questions (why, what, what will be different). Include the outcomes you would like to see from the transformation, and workshop how those outcomes could be delivered. Set up a team to begin working on the changes you have identified.
And then, only then, ask the question about the part that technology may have to play.
This way your programme is outcome led. Updates with exec and Steering Groups should lead with progress towards those outcomes. Engage your people fully in the journey, as this will make success far more probable.
In a world where the pace of change is rapidly increasing, and your success will be defined by how fast you can move, you will need to radically rethink your approach to change and transformation. My advice – tackle it head on!
Article by Neil Finnie, Business Change Director
One of the hardest parts of successful change is sustaining it beyond delivery. Investing in change should of course mean the whole process of change, through to benefit realisation and beyond. Change initiatives should give people what they need to be able to continue to build on the change after the initiative has finished.
So what can we do throughout a change initiative to give it its best chance of being sustained following delivery?
Listen. It’s tempting to get going and start delivering. We’re all used to working at pace. But every change in every organisation is of course different. Start listening at the beginning. Ask questions. Understand the organisational context. What might work in this particular organisation to make change stick? What’s worked here before, and what hasn’t? Understand the people involved and their experience. Apply lessons from previous initiatives. Adapt and flex as you go. Go beneath the surface.
Build internal capability. Organisations often bring external partners on board to have additional short-term resource to deliver change quickly. But working with external partners is an opportunity to grasp as much of their experience and knowledge as you can to prepare for future change. (Partners not willing to transfer knowledge may not be people you want to work with.) Build in regular opportunities for formal and informal knowledge transfer during delivery. Offer specific internal capability deliverables such as learning sessions and coaching if appropriate. Sit together. Share more. Use collaborative tooling.
Co-create and collaborate. Sustainable change isn’t a ‘done to’ process; it must be ‘done with’. People make change stick. Work together to develop and deliver the change. Expect external partners and senior stakeholders to model the change you desire. Bring in BAU colleagues who understand the culture and ways of working to develop the change. Try and test as you go. Build a toolkit and library of artefacts together for the future. Think ahead, what else might be needed once the change initiative has ended? Identify and deliver creative solutions. Make practical, relevant recommendations. Build trust and deliver with integrity.
Put people first. Organisations are their people. Enabling those people to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it will improve your chances of successful change. Change and communication strategies and plans must be developed with employees at the forefront. What’s the art of the possible? How can we do things differently? How can we incentivise people to contribute as we go? How can we have fun and break the routine? How can we help people to work through the change themselves and establish ways of working that are sustainable and achievable long-term? Put in place a proactive plan to reach anyone who hasn’t been reached as part of the main change initiative.
Prepare for handover. Transitioning from change initiative to BAU is more than a library of artefacts, a handover meeting, and a lessons-learned log. It’s a process. Allow time. Plan a transition. Future-proof. Avoid people being isolated once the change initiative has ended. Bigger change initiatives might have a sustainability plan with people tasked with managing the transition. Empower continuing champions networks. Find out what they need. Once the change initiative has ended, keep looking at the lessons learned. Keep identifying case studies to demonstrate success. Celebrate, reward, and celebrate again.
As we all know, it takes a concerted effort to sustain change, change isn’t easy. Plus it’s important to look back to see if the change is being sustained. Fundamentally, why change if it’s not intended to be for the long-haul?
For a third year running, Afiniti has been named in the Financial Times special report ‘UK’s Leading Management Consultants 2020’ as one of the best UK management consultancies.
Published today (29 January 2020) by the Financial Times, in partnership with Statista, Afiniti has been listed as one of the top 30 organisations in the UK delivering ‘Organisation and Change’ consultancy to clients. Inclusion in the report is a public acknowledgement of Afiniti’s reputation and profile, with the list based on two surveys; one among peers (partners and executives from consultancies) and one among clients.
Corrina Jorgensen, Managing Partner at Afiniti commented:
“With only 200 consultancies from the longlist of 5000 making it onto the report, we’re enormously proud of our continued ranking within this exclusive group. With an even tougher ranking process this year, this is testament to our genuine, unwavering commitment to making a real difference for our clients, helping them to make change stick.”
The full list, and details of the survey’s methodology, is available on the Financial Times’ website.
If you‘d like to know how Afiniti could benefit change within your company, give us a call on: 08456080104 or email: email@example.com
0845 608 0104
Afiniti has been awarded the status of ‘Gold Accredited Learning Provider’ for the 17th consecutive year, for its commitment to high quality and process improvement in the provision of learning, development and training services to clients.
LPI accreditation is the globally-recognised quality mark for providers of learning products, technologies, services and facilities. During the accreditation assessment, the LPI evaluates organisational efficacy against numerous key performance indicators (KPI’s), scoring each against a reference framework. The process is rigorous, with providers being required to demonstrate a KPI score of 75% or greater across all sections, including client-endorsed case studies and telephone-based references. This year we are especially proud to have received 100% KPI scores for client integrity, corporate integrity and CSR, learning consultancy, self-study content, service/product roadmap, people development and business stability.
As a specialist Business Change consultancy based in the UK and operating globally, we support targeted sectors including rail and transport, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, logistics, energy and utilities and construction. We take a holistic approach to designing and delivering tailored learning solutions for our clients and we routinely innovative; developing new and exciting ways for people to engage with learning.
Jim Parish, LPI Accreditation Mentor, commented:
“Afiniti’s holistic blend of change management services is part of an integrated approach to the people agenda of change which has one purpose: to focus on client’s people and make change stick. Using a tailored mix of services to suit change projects, Afiniti help accelerate and embed change, driving client business forward to its potential future state. This innovative approach is part of a continuing development of the services offered utilising the best minds and practical approaches to ‘change’ for business benefit.”
Nick Smith, Partner, Afiniti said:
“One of our core values at Afiniti is Act with Integrity, and to this end we appreciate the rigour of the LPI accreditation process as we know it means we are genuinely providing excellent learning and performance solutions to our clients – adding real value – and helping them to make change stick.”
If you’d like to learn more about how Afiniti can help your business design and deliver training and learning, or other aspects of your change management projects and programmes, get in touch and we’ll get straight back to you.
Using our creative and innovative approach to delivering change, we enable and equip your people to progress through every step of the change journey.
Address: Dowgate Hill House, 14-16 Dowgate Hill, London, EC4R 2SU
Telephone: 0845 608 0104