Afiniti Insights

The Importance of Values: People at the Heart

“Organisations don’t change, people do, one at a time.” Prosci

To bring about effective and lasting change over the long term, one must consider people, as well as process and technology. People make organisations tick; they are the lifeblood, and they each react differently when being asked to change the way they do something or to try something new.

That’s why at Afiniti, we put ‘people at the heart’ of everything we do, and it’s the main reason it emerged as one of our core values.

The other reason is that it instinctively feels like the right thing to do. We are all people. We have feelings, wants and desires, fears and apprehensions. Considering how people feel and providing the right amount of space, support and encouragement all help build strong engagement, which in turn gets the best out of people.

So, both in terms of what we do and how we do it – delivering lasting change while running a successful, sustainable company that offers fulfilling and rewarding careers – Afiniti puts people at the heart at all times.

What exactly do we mean by this?

Let’s first consider the service we provide. Delivering successful change requires people to alter their practices and habits, which can often be deeply rooted after a significant number of years. So, everything we do has to evolve around people. They should feel:

  • Informed enough about what’s changing
  • Supported in making the change
  • Committed because the change represents the right thing to do
  • Inspired to get involved and interact with the change
  • Equipped to be successful in the ‘future state’

When writing any communication or designing any training, we need to remember that there is a person who will be reading it and responding to it. We have to consider how they are likely to react and adapt to what they are being asked to do.

How do we do that? It’s through building a good understanding of the organisation, its culture and its history. We can do that by developing close relationships with the people we work with – remembering that they are people first, not only clients.

We use a well-developed process for identifying the types of roles, or personas, that will be impacted by the change so we understand what concerns they might have, what opportunities there might be and how they might react to the change, essentially to better understand how we can give them and ourselves the best chance of success.

This represents one of the core differences between good project management and good change management. Projects deliver milestones. Change delivers outcomes. Yes, a project might deliver a system release on time and on budget. But do people know about it, and are they trained to use the new system? Delivering a milestone doesn’t necessarily guarantee project success; but by making sure people are engaged and equipped to perform, you can help ensure that success endures over the long term.

People at the heart in practice

Take a recent example from a pharma client. A new role was created to help evolve one that had historically been focussed on tactical and transactional work. While the tactical work was transitioned to centralised hubs, these people were now freed up to focus on more strategic, higher value activities. The trouble was this was an entirely new way of thinking and working; rather than having a series of tasks to complete every day, people had to look for opportunities to apply their expertise and add value. This required a completely new exploratory mindset: one that was comfortable with ambiguity. There were a lot of unknowns. So, we listened to what people were saying and:

  • Held drop-in sessions and clinics for colleagues to stop by and ask questions or share concerns
  • Introduced a narrative that made it okay to be uncertain in an effort to reduce any anxieties
  • Made leadership available to demonstrate solidarity and support

Moreover, we worked with subject matter experts to bring the new role to life in an animation, which walked through a typical first day in the new role. This acknowledged the likelihood of personal uncertainty about commitment to move forward, addressed some of the concerns, provided some examples of what these new strategic activities might look like and gave lots of tips to help each impacted person move forward confidently.

This change could have been delivered simply with new job profiles for the people impacted, but that wouldn’t guarantee success. Using the strategy described above, we helped our client generate a positive reaction to the change being introduced with no negative impact on productivity and engagement.

“Delivering a milestone doesn’t necessarily guarantee project success; but by making sure people are engaged, you can help ensure that success endures over the long term.”

Putting our people at the heart

Within our own organisation, ‘people at the heart’ is just as enshrined. It goes without saying that great people can deliver great work, as long as they feel great. Making people feel great means inspiring, supporting, nurturing and guiding them along the way so they can be the best versions of themselves.

We hold ourselves to account to do the right thing by our people. This means being caring both professionally and personally. It means valuing and respecting others’ experience and contribution. It means recognising everyone is different and can bring something great and unique to a team.

We care about the human side of change. When people know that someone else has their interests in mind, they are more likely to listen and respond.

For us, people come first – always.

Not sure how you can put your people at the heart of your change journey? Speak to our people today, and we’ll be happy to learn how we can help.

The next Insight in our ‘Core Values Series’ will look at how “Putting the Client First” helps deliver effective, sustainable change for our clients. 

Tom Dennehy
Tom Dennehy
Partner, Principal Consultant
Tom is an experienced change and communications professional specialising in the design and delivery of high-profile change and communication strategies.
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