Change is an inevitable force that sweeps through our lives, reshaping the world around us. Whether it is an organisational shift or personal transformation, change can evoke a mix of emotions, from excitement to uncertainty.
In the realm of learning and development, change management is the art of navigating these turbulent waters with finesse, helping organisations and individuals to embrace transformation and thrive amidst the shifting tides. Gaining buy-in and commitment from your team is a vital element to being able to drive business in the right direction and is often a catalyst for growth and success, but how you secure that buy-in isn’t always an easy journey.
Here at RTS, we’re regularly presented with client briefs to help them navigate periods of change through programmes of learning. Whether it be the introduction of new products, processes, or a fundamental change in business model. Enabling people to understand and embrace the rationale behind a commercial decision and making space for people’s concerns to be heard and resolved is pivotal to the execution of change.
Here's a few things we’ve learned along the way…
1. The winds of change
Change often arrives unannounced, like a gust of wind disrupting the calm. It may be driven by external factors such as technological advancements; market demands such as the short supply and high cost of materials affecting lots of industries or shifts in societal norms such as the growth in online buying and flexible working habits since the pandemic. Understanding the winds of change is crucial to effective change management. Leaders must be vigilant, sensing the subtle shifts in their environment, and anticipating the impact these changes may have on their organisation. For one of our clients, this shift was indeed a monumental one.
For the automotive organisations moving towards it, the shift to Agency Model is a fundamental change in sales dynamic and direction. Traditionally via a franchise model, vehicles are sold to the dealership by the manufacturer. Dealers then effectively own the vehicles and are responsible for stock, demo vehicles and insurance, but they can negotiate their own deals when selling to the customer. It has been this way nearly as long as vehicle sales have been a thing.
The Agency Model flips this on its head, meaning customers would now buy directly from the manufacturer at a set price, using the dealership as the facilitator to the sale, of which the dealership receives a set commission. The dealership is no longer responsible for managing its own stock, demos or insurance and this is all managed and allocated by the manufacturer. As you can imagine, such a change in process, management of responsibility and your day-to-day working life could cause some uncertainty.
2. Navigating uncertainty
Uncertainty accompanies change like a loyal companion. It is during these times that individuals and organisations feel most vulnerable. In the case of our client, it was always key for us to help facilitate the message that effective communication, transparency, and empathy play pivotal roles in helping people navigate uncertainty and build resilience. These became the very cornerstones from which our learning materials were based and so we embarked on an intensive three-month, UK-wide program of face-to-face workshops to facilitate the creation of a supportive environment where employees felt safe to voice their concerns, ask questions, and actively participate in the process. In small teams of up to 15, we covered over 1000 employees.
3. Building a change-ready culture
A change-ready culture is not created overnight, however. It is a product of consistent effort and visionary leadership. Change management involves fostering a culture that values adaptability, continuous learning, and innovation. The next step for our client was to enable participants to create action plans for the implementation of the changes and ensure the availability of eLearning to facilitate the introduction of new systems. By encouraging collaboration and empowering employees to take ownership of change, organisations can cultivate an environment that thrives on transformation, remaining agile in the face of evolving landscapes.
4. The power of stakeholder engagement
Change affects various stakeholders within an organisation, from employees to customers, suppliers to investors. Successful change management relies on engaging and involving these stakeholders throughout the process and in our client’s case, the focus was to facilitate separate learning journeys for both Sales Managers and Sales Executives. By actively seeking their perspectives, addressing their differing concerns, and making them partners in the change journey, leaders were able to start securing buy-in, foster trust, and strengthen the collective will to embrace transformation.
5. Overcoming resistance
Resistance is an inherent part of change. People naturally gravitate towards the familiar, and altering established routines can be met with resistance. Change management involves acknowledging and addressing resistance head-on which is why, during the Agency workshops, we created an environment that would foster open dialogue, allowing people to openly voice their reservations, concerns and challenges. We countered these with clear explanations and reframed their challenges to highlight the accompanying opportunities and benefits of the change. This was key to enabling leaders to gradually shift mindsets and turn resistance into acceptance.
6. Learning from failure
However, change is not without its setbacks and failures. A resilient change management approach encourages learning from these experiences. By embracing a growth mindset and viewing failures as valuable lessons, organisations can refine their strategies and improve their change management processes. For example, is the focus more from a mindset or an operational approach? The balance between focusing on how employees ‘feel’ about the change (and how this translates to team morale) or establishing their clarity and competency in dealing with the introduction of new systems and processes is easily misjudged. However, failure becomes an opportunity for growth to adapt your approach and offer a steppingstone toward success.
7. Sustaining change
Change management is not merely a one-time event; it is an ongoing process and one we actively encourage clients to revisit. Sustaining change requires monitoring, evaluation, and adaptation. By measuring the impact of change, gathering feedback, and making necessary adjustments, organisations can ensure that the desired outcomes are achieved and that the change becomes embedded in the fabric of the organisation's culture.
Throughout the shift to Agency it was clear that evaluation would be crucial in building a picture of success or indeed failure. Mindful of this fact, a continual cycle of feedback was taken from the learners. This has allowed us to ascertain qualitative data that indicates the rapid uptake in working towards the change. This data is currently being used to shape further interventions that will help sustain this change by tracking engagement levels and problem areas and mapping these by geography to identify trends.
Change management is the art of harmonising the winds of change and steering organisations toward a future of growth and resilience. It requires visionary leadership, effective communication, and a deep understanding of the human psyche. By embracing change, engaging stakeholders, and fostering a culture that thrives on transformation, organisations can embrace change as opportunities for growth rather than a threat.
Working in partnership with our clients, we have gained a deep understanding of this, plus the in-house skills, the technology and the passion to help drive new initiatives to usher in change.
By creating more manoeuvrable and guided messaging we have helped deliver highly successful data-rich solutions that have enabled organisations to move towards a more sustainable future.
So let us raise our sails and embark on this voyage of change, for it is through change that we unlock our true potential.
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