Motivating for Change

Conventional organizational change usually fails. That’s because you and your employees look at things differently.

In traditional organizations, employers expect employees to do what they are told (i.e., their jobs for which they are paid). Some leaders still believe that the way to motivate people to change is to tell them, or persuade them. This stems from an early age of having expectations imposed on us—first by our parents and teachers and later, by our employers.

But times have changed.

Organizations are now judged on how well they meet corporate responsibility, fair trade, sustainability, and triple bottom line (profit, people, and planet). And the judging is coming from all levels—customers, employees, and the public at large.

Because people have this new perspective on their world, imposing change on people will not work. Here’s why:

  • Individual needs are not the same as those of the organization.
  • Individuals lead busy lives (even outside of work), so they are not able or willing to assimilate change just because the organization says so.

Given these new paradigms, organizations that implement successful change are those that are able to align their aims with the total life needs of their employees—that’s why addressing WII-FM (“what’s in it for me?”) is so important. Leaders that know how to tap into each individual’s WII-FM will not only build an urgency and momentum for the change, but they will also make change stick.

To help you with your change initiative, consider these facts:

  1. People will never align with bad aims. Reassess and realign your organization’s vision and mission to ensure that it meets corporate responsibility, aims for sustainability of the environment, favours fair trade, and is opposed to exploitation and executive greed, to name a few.
  2. People cannot multi-task or learn new skills without some job realignment. Several things need to be considered, not the least of which are individual capacities for change (“absorptive capacity”). Consulting with employees to learn how they think change will impact their jobs helps to see change from both perspectives.
  3.  Ignoring the above facts is a sure guarantee of failed change initiatives.

Consider also that at least 75 percent of the organization’s leadership must buy-in to the change if it is to be successful. What this means for the organization’s change leader is that they must provide compelling evidence of the change to leaders first and staff second.

When at least 75 percent of the organization’s leadership supports the change, selling the change to staff becomes much easier. Then the potential for change to stick becomes a reality, rather than a hope…and as one of my friends astutely noted – “hope is never a strategy.”

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