6 Change Management Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

With 37% of organizations reporting that their talent management strategies are still under performing or poorly performing (straight from our 2014 State of Talent Management Survey results), it is clear that getting TM right is a challenge.

Building a high-performance talent strategy and sustaining its impact on the business requires serious and dedicated change management. Based on Brandon Hall Group’s research and experience, there are several significant causes underscoring the stall, or even complete stop, of an organization’s change efforts.

  1. Misdiagnosing the Need for Change

Here is how the story often goes: Senior leadership pulls you aside sharing this year’s disappointing engagement results. The data is similar to last year’s: The majority of employees are not engaged, not producing optimally, and the flight risk for several top performers is high. So the immediate mandate is “get managers trained on how to improve engagement” – you know, the same training that you were asked to do last year. The real disconnect, however, is a dysfunctional culture, not a group of managers unsure of how to execute on action items. Take the time to carefully assess the symptoms to discover the root cause. Addressing the root cause is a fundamental practice of effective change management.

  1. Implementing Change in Select Parts of the Business

Change management is a systemic effort, not a “pick and choose” exercise. To transform your talent strategy for higher impact, each talent process (talent acquisition, performance management, leadership development, L&D, career management, succession management, workforce planning, etc.) must be aligned with the business strategy. You must share talent data among all processes, implemented in a consistent fashion across the entire enterprise, and measured in a way predefined and mutually agreed upon by senior leadership and other business leaders representing all parts of the business. To sustain optimized talent and business performance, change must be affected across the organization.

  1. Using the Proverbial Change Management “Task Force”

Change management success requires the careful planning, buy-in, and execution by everyone – from senior leadership to front-line employees. Every single employee has a role in transformation. Dedicated teams with proper training can assist in ensuring each element of the transformation is undertaken and followed up on as outlined for success. However, too many organizations define a “change management task force” and wonder why that isolated group of employees is unable to get much past discussing the change needed. Help to mitigate change stalls by defining and communicating responsibilities of all stakeholders.

  1. Neglecting to Define What Success Looks Like

Organizations pour effort and resources into transformational efforts, usually with one goal in mind: Better performance. This makes sense; the rule is simple: Don’t do it if it won’t improve your business results. What does better performance actually mean? More revenue? Higher engagement? Lower turnover? Fewer defects? Reduced operating costs? A requisite element of successful change is defining what success should look like after the change is executed. If you don’t set a target, you won’t hit it. Make sure you define the measurable outcomes you expect.

  1. Blaming Senior Leadership for Lack of Support

There is no arguing with our research: Every successful talent strategy requires executive engagement, and every change transformation requires executive engagement. Yet, survey results also show that talent management is not effective because executive engagement is minimal or even nonexistent. Consider Brandon Hall Group’s most recent data on this topic: 87% of organizations said executive engagement was important, a clear priority, or critical for transforming talent strategies from ho-hum to high-performance, yet 37% of those organizations said that the focus of executive engagement needs to be increased. In the 37% group, executive attention might be waning or nonexistent because HR teams haven’t taken the time to build and share the business case for investing in the transformation with senior leadership. Take the time to gather up the science underscoring the business value of the change effort, and I’ll be bold enough to guarantee you that senior leadership will listen, will support, and will even champion and appropriately fund your cause.

Doing It Because Everyone Else Is

Change management is hard work. But, when done right, returns invaluable business impact – the level of impact that causes you to say “if only we had done this sooner.” Deciding to indulge is no passing fancy and diving in can’t be because “everyone else is doing it.” Your decision to embark on transformation should not be influenced by which organizations are – and are not – partaking. Understanding the risk, value, importance, and impact are the top science-based factors that high-performance organizations rely upon to shape their strategic change agenda.

Making Change Work

Change is all around and here to stay. “The new normal,” as so many refer to it. Managing it, instead of letting it manage you, is the responsible decision. To effectively manage the transformation efforts staring you down, take a moment to reflect on these pitfalls and chart your plan for avoiding them so your business can overcome the complexities of today’s world and outperform the competition.

Until next time …

Laci Loew, Vice President and Principal Analyst,
Talent Management Practice, Brandon Hall Group

Laci Loew

A principal talent analyst and consultant with Brandon Hall Group, Laci is expert in all areas of human capital management particularly talent management, leadership, leadership development, and succession management. She has worked in the public and private sectors consulting global and matrix Fortune companies across all industries on integrated talent initiatives. Laci holds a bachelor of science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; earned her MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management; and is currently a PhD candidate in organizational psychology. Laci’s hometown is Chicago and she is based in Las Vegas.

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