The last “mile” in change at scale: engaging your organization 1:1


Published on: June 2024

Written by: Katy Young, Emanuele Scotti

It’s no secret to any organization or senior leadership team who has tried to drive transformation that getting change to happen – and stick – is harder than ever. Change needs to happen faster, more frequently, and Boards and shareholders have less patience. When it comes to frustration about making change happen, the biggest thing we hear from our clients is that people are experiencing change fatigue. In fact, at this point, there is likely not a single organization that doesn’t experience change fatigue. This makes the leaders’ job of engaging the organization in new behaviors and new ways of working harder than ever. Never mind trying to do it at scale. How do you include thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people in change in an organization?

Our research and experience show us that change is something that has to be inclusive in an organization. It can’t be something that just happens to people or is passively received or forced upon them. The organization must be truly engaged with it, and people must feel a part of and like they’re contributing to the larger transformation.  It’s the people side of change that moves the needle.  Unfortunately, typical change efforts over focus on building new organizational structures, processes, and frameworks, and under focus on building the support for the people side. This is often limited to one-way push communications with no dialog or context, leaving leaders and their teams to figure it out on their own. It’s no wonder that people are tired!

So the question remains how to build that support and engagement effectively, at scale, when the organization – and the individuals – are so overwhelmed? As leaders, you need to be careful about how you engage with people so that it doesn’t feel like something additional, burdensome, something that piles on more pressure to an already pressure-filled situation.

The power of meaningful work, autonomy, and connection

Interestingly, research indicates that people don’t respond to carrots or sticks, which is why reward-based change programs or punitive ones aren’t effective. This is borne out by the experience of many leaders trying to get their teams back into the office after COVID – to their frustration, neither free pizza nor badge entry tracking linked to compensation get the desired result.

What the research shows actually drives behavior change in individuals is based on intrinsic motivators: when the work is meaningful, important, and a big source of energy. People respond to autonomy, empowerment, and connection to others – which in turn calls for a different kind of leadership to make that a reality.

How this translates into driving change is in the importance of making the daily connection with change, providing feedback and including it in the flow of work for every individual.

Making the daily connection, at scale

The good news is that this is possible. As part of our continuing efforts to innovate to help our clients solve this problem, we have partnered to enable organizations to create two-way engagement with change in the flow of daily work. Through an app called Yumi, organizations have the power to support individuals 1:1 with the on-the-job mindset and behavior shifts required to make the organizational transformation successful.

Built on the behavior change research mentioned earlier, Yumi is a simple and fun app used to support each person and team to adopt behaviors that are more effective and functional to support the strategic goals of the organization. At the same time, the app asks people for their experience and their opinions on it, which creates an empowering two way dialog. Individuals are able to share specifics on what’s working for them, what’s not, and where they need more support. They can also provide insights into what they observe in their teams and in the organization and receive the same feedback from others. The app consolidates the data to share back to individuals and the organization, allowing both to make adjustments and try new ways to help enable the new behaviors. And because the app is reinforcing, social and energizing and takes only 3-5 minutes per day, it feels less burdensome and “extra.”

Some of the ways we have leveraged this tool to put change into action include:

  • Culture activation and change
  • Launching new values, behaviors, leadership principles
  • Reinforcing/measuring new behaviors post-development programs
  • Shift in ways of working that are largely behavioral – like decision making or agility
  • Engaging lower levels of the organization in a change in strategy
  • Building change ready habits

The bottom line is that the implementation and execution of anything in an organization happens from the small and large choices that individuals make thousands of times throughout the day, in terms of how they spend their time, how they interact with other people. Embracing the fact that people have autonomy and are able to make all these choices, and then taking the extra step to support them is what changes the game. Imagine the power of providing positive reinforcement in the moment on the critical things that are working, and specific and tips and suggestions on what your people could be doing to be even more successful with their teams and with the organization. And at the same time listening to them, empowering them and demonstrating how you’re using their input to evolve the change approach? What better way to turn change fatigue into new energy, new ideas and bottom-line impact?

To learn more about Yumi, and driving change at scale, listen to this podcast.

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