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How can you generate support for change in your company?

Monday 20/04/2020

Technology transforms all aspects of business. In order to survive and succeed, companies need to be fit and must be able to rely on agile employees. But how can you build a workforce that embraces change? How can you generate sufficient support for these business transformations?

  • How can you make your business transformation a success?
  • How can you make your employees more agile?

Digitisation, automation, Internet of Things, big data, robotics, artificial intelligence and other developments are making this the most transformative time in history. The impact of technology will continue to grow exponentially. In order to remain competitive, companies have to evolve constantly and learn to cope with an unstoppable stream of change.

Technology allows you to automate and digitise business and production processes, but it is the agility of your employees that will determine whether your business is fit enough to survive in an ever faster changing world.

So how can you foster agile employees who embrace change? The answer is 'corporate culture'. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast," according to organisational theory and management guru Peter Drucker. We agree that culture is the most crucial aspect of a business strategy's implementation. But what is culture? It is not tangible, so it is quite difficult to understand, let alone transform. In fact, culture is nothing more than the way things are done in an organisation. It is the sum of behaviours, ways of working and thinking, views, values and standards that determines how an organisation responds to challenges.

Culture permeates every fibre of your business:

  • In your organisational structure and consultative bodies, in your choice of investments, in the way you deploy your people and resources, in your work processes and in your performance measurement systems.
  • In the behaviour of your managers: how the company's top management makes decisions and communicates with internal and external stakeholders, how middle management translates the strategy on the shop floor, how team leaders guide their employees.
  • In the employee journey, i.e. the path your employees follow in your company. Who do you hire and how do you recruit your employees? How do you support them? How do you deal with business transformations? What does your employees’ growth trajectory look like? How do you assess, reward and promote your employees?

If you want a culture that supports your business strategy, you need to be involved in every aspect of your business. It is best to approach this step by step, rather than as one huge transformation project. Cultural change has a start date, but no end date.

Where do you want to go?

First determine the direction you want to take. Define which values, mindsets and behaviours your employees need in order to support your strategy. Specify that in a very specific way for the different levels in your company.

To draw up a transformation plan, you need to understand the current way of working and how far that is removed from the desired culture. There are different ways of establishing this. You can gather information by having targeted conversations with key people in your organisation or by setting up focus groups. Existing data also tell you a lot about your corporate culture: financial data, customer satisfaction survey results, ROI of transformation programmes, the speed of production processes and so on. Finally, you can also measure your corporate culture with specific culture measurements.

How will you approach things?

To change your culture, focus on the underlying values and mindsets, as these are the drivers behind your employees' behaviour. Give your employees tools for a new way of working and support your managers. That is how you can formally embed a specific culture within the company.

Each approach includes the following pillars:

  • The support of your managers. They are the engine of change. Every manager – from a team leader to an executive committee member – must act as a role model for the employees and must be able to guide teams through the changes.
  • Specific actions for employees to make them aware of the new way of working and to embed this into their behaviour and way of thinking.
  • The formalisation of the desired culture within the organisation. The culture should be reflected in the company's HR processes, such as recruitment, assessment and promotion. It should equally be present in the organisational structure and processes. An agile organisation requires structures in order to take quick action.
  • A good communication strategy.

In-house resources

More and more companies are investing in the development of their own change management competencies. They do this to support internal transformations, increase the effectiveness of projects and absorb and embed sudden changes. When new upcoming companies and technologies, economic, political or health crises disrupt markets, companies must have the ability to react accordingly. Companies who have the internal change capabilities and structures that enable them to deal efficiently with change have an immediate competitive advantage.  

The creation of a transformation unit

It is a good idea to set up a transformation unit that centralises and coordinates everything to do with change.

  1. The transformation unit designs a general change strategy, coordinates and coaches the organisation to implement the change strategy, and provides follow-up and management reporting.
  2. A change management method specific to the organisation must be used. This gives managers and other employees the right tools and information to deal with change consistently.
  3. Investments are made in the development of internal change ambassadors, who guide people through transformations with extensive on-the-job coaching and training.
  4. A network of employees supports the transformation in the field.
  5. Organisations that know how to properly handle change have a solid communication structure that ensures the consistent planning, development and implementation of strategic communication.
  6. A company that handles change well is a learning organisation. It has structures to identify, plan and manage learning activities from current and future transformations.
    Contact one of our experts
    Tom Vanaudenaerde
    Tom Vanaudenaerde
    Director Business Consulting