Today I want to talk about a question that we get asked a lot here at Purple Tree: how can a company increase the pace of change and innovation among their employees? How can you accelerate change and make sure that every employee, from mailroom to the CEO is fully invested in the ideas and initiatives that will drive growth?
Define the change
Preparation proceeds success, as my dad used to say when packing for a 3-day hike or a road trip on our bicycles. Start with a plan. While I’m discussing increasing pace, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to move faster. In some instances, you might even need to slow down. Just as getting a speeding ticket on your way to work will make you later than if you’d driven the speed limit, rushing through the steps in your plan (or worse, not making a plan at all) will ultimately create bottlenecks and roadblocks that will slow you down. As we discussed in our previous post on hiring for innovation, you want to be intentional and deliberate when implementing change. Some of the most agile and innovative companies I’ve seen don’t have a breakneck culture of urgency, rather they foster a calm and cooperative atmosphere, giving each project the space it needs to succeed.
Take time to create consensus around the business case for change as well as defining the scope of the change and the resources (both human and technical) you will need to achieve it. Set clear, achievable goals your team can rally behind.
Lead by example
I’ll never stop talking about the need for leadership when building a culture of innovation and change because it will always be a vital and neglected component. All too often executives ask “how do I motivate my employees” without understanding how they will motivate themselves. Gaining employee buy-in is crucial to implementing change, but how can you expect it from them before you’ve bought-in yourself? Show your employees that change is not only possible, it can be fun and rewarding as well. Seriously!
Get employee buy-in
Now we come to the meat of the sandwich, getting employees invested, excited, and motivated to implement the change required to achieve your goals. None of leadership’s grand plans will ever get off the ground if you can’t get your people onboard.
Educate your employees. Change is intimidating precisely because we don’t know what’s going to happen afterwards. When working to achieve employee buy-in, help them to understand not just what they need to do, but why. What will this new change mean for their lives and careers? Will they be able to earn more money, work less hours, receive better benefits? Success for your company should mean success for your employees. Make sure to communicate to them how achieving your company goals will align with their own objectives.
Solicit employee input. Your employees won’t be automatically resistant to change necessarily, but they will most likely be resistant to change that they have no control or influence over. By opening yourself up to input from employees on the best way to accomplish your company’s goals, you give them ownership of the project and in return receive more investment, more passion, and more motivation.
Nurture Change Agents. Change Agent is mostly just a fancy term for natural leaders, with one important distinction. Change Agents are not just identified and recognized, they are empowered to spread and accelerate change throughout your organization. Even though change starts with leadership, it needs to be implemented on the ground by your managers and employees. By offering additional training and guidance to your identified Change Agents, you will create a network of innovation evangelists connecting every department to your ultimate goals.
Provide training. Change almost always comes with the need for new skills and abilities. You’ll need to assess your employees’ current skillsets and determine the need to upskill vs. the need to rehire. Most often, training your current employees in new processes will be cheaper, though there times when a company making dramatic changes may need to seek outside help from new leaders, or consultants, that have the necessary skills and experience.
Recognize achievements. One of the quickest ways to get employees buy-in is to show them you will recognize and reward their participation in the process. Combine change initiatives with recognition and you will see an exponential increase in progress towards your goals. Even something as simple as a moment of appreciation from a co-worker has been proven to have a huge impact on an employee’s cooperation and productivity.
Be accepting of failure. When we talk about change and innovation, we also talk about failure. They are inextricable and each as valuable as the other. Show your employees that failure is not only tolerated, it is baked right in to the process. The ability to act, fail, and adapt, is essential to any organization for which “innovation” is more than just a buzzword. Real innovators know that failure is a constant part of the process. The key is how and why you fail. Help employees accept failures, learn from their mistakes, and gain the skills they need to succeed on their next attempt.
Want to know more?
Purple Tree helps growth-stage innovators build successful teams with a variety of tools from workforce auditing to executive recruiting. But the first step is just a simple phone call. Let’s talk about what you’re trying to achieve and which of Purple Tree’s tools and services are the best fit. You can reach me easiest with an email here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got thoughts? That’s what the comments are for. I’m especially interested in hearing about your own strategies to accelerate the pace of change and innovation. Let ‘er rip!