Change is something we face and deal with every day in our workplaces. It’s the new constant, but really, it’s not so new at all. In the face of all this change it’s never been more important to get down to the business of knowing and understanding your internal stakeholders and building their trust in you.
These folks are the front-end workers, the back-office staff, the first line supervisors, managers, directors, leaders and everyone in between. These people have very clear opinions, behaviors, sentiments and ideas. And together with their skills, capabilities, experiences and talents—they are what make up our employee cultures.
Understanding these stakeholders, what motivates them, why they come to work at our companies, the behaviors they display, why they will/will not trust you, how they react to change, and the values they embody will mean victory or defeat to the company trying to motivate them in the face of change. So, what is a company to do?
Ask them what they think, listen and be present. You can do this formally with surveys, polls or focus groups. Or informally by talking face to face with employees. I recently met a new facility general manager (GM) who held 23 Town Hall meetings in three weeks with various teams that met at different times to accommodate employees on every shift. This GM understood the key elements of “ask, listen and be present.” He listened and learned first-hand who his employees were, what they thought about their workplace, and the company and got a real gauge of their willingness to change and transform. He also gave employees the opportunity to size him up, make their own call as to whether they could trust him and the transformation he was asking them to partake in.
Follow up and take action. Nothing drives home how important people are to your organization or motivates them to change more than the follow up and actions you take. But be warned: you must communicate the actions you’ve taken far and wide. Let folks all over the organization know that the organization can change, too.
Recognize that all stakeholder groups are not the same. Adapt your messaging to each internal stakeholder group, tailor messages to their role in the company, to what they need to understand and the actions they need to take. With regards to messaging: one size does NOT fit all.
Be clear about what behaviors you are expecting and then ask them to join you on the journey. The message here is “We are not in this alone. If we succeed, we succeed as ONE TEAM.”
Tell them what’s in it for them. Professional development opportunities, company growth and success (everyone wants to be part of a winning organization), better products/services for customers who are counting on us, rewards (monetary, recognition, etc.).
Understanding and getting to know your employees, and gaining their trust is arguably one of the hardest things to do as a leader, but in times of change it is the single most important thing you can do for them and for your company.
Author: Danielle MacDonald