ACE 2017 Key Takeaways

ACE 2017: Key Highlights and Takeaways

There really is no place quite like it…

New Orleans was treated to an eclectic mix of HR professionals as customers from across the globe flocked to the Big Easy for ACE 2017.

The 8th annual Achievers Customer Experience conference was an unparalleled success, as clients and prospective customers exchanged ideas with independent HR thought leaders and decision makers representing some of the world’s most recognizable brands.

Day 1 of the conference kicked off with a series of lively and engaging speakers who introduced the various themes that were weaved throughout the rest of the talks. From the intersection of technology and personalization to navigating organizational change with an aligned workforce, the introductory speeches laid the foundation for a series of thought-provoking breakout sessions aimed at changing the way the world works! Major announcements were made during the event, including Achievers revealing the 2017 Top Category Winners for the Most Engaged Workplaces Awards and the release of Achievers Listen, a suite of tools that is taking employee engagement to the next level.

From the grand ballroom of the majestic Royal Sonesta Hotel, attendees were introduced to some of the developing trends in the employee engagement work space and various success stories from members of the Achievers family:

Achievers’ Chief Technology Officer, Aris Zakinthinos, introduced CHRISTUS St. Michael, who discussed how the implementation of their employee success platform in 2012 had a monumental impact on their business objectives, including a significant increase in recognitions given and leadership engagement as well as a remarkable decrease in their turnover rate, down to 6.4%, well below the industry standard of 19.4%. To read more about Christus Health’s success, click here.

Next up was Blackhawk Network CEO Talbott Roche, who discussed how to use the Achievers platform to drive innovation within your organization. Drawing on first-hand experience, Ms. Roche outlined the benefits of creating an engaged workforce and how recognizing and rewarding their creative potential yields great returns to your bottom line. Ms. Roche went on to highlight some of the success other members of the Achievers family were having with their respective programs.

One of the more recent success stories comes out of Michigan, home to Meijer Inc., a supercenter chain with stores across the United States.

From President and CEO Rick Keyes and Recognition and Engagement Manager, Randi Roehling, we heard about the monumental impact their focus on employee engagement has had since they launched late last year. Discussing how they laid the groundwork for a successful launch of their M-Team program, the duo illustrated the importance of executive buy-in, highlighting the amazing 12,000 recognitions sent out by Mr. Keyes in a few short months.

Next came Achievers’ very own Vice President of Product Development, Egan Cheung, who proudly announced the launch of the much-anticipated Achievers Listen tool. Achievers Listen is a suite of tools that empowers employees to give continuous feedback on what’s working well and what needs to be improved. It provides managers with recommended actions based on their team‘s unique values and culture. We know that every employee is different and to engage your entire workforce, we must avoid a “one size fits all” approach. Achievers new functionality allows you to do just that.

Closing out the morning discussions was an incredible speech from one of the most inspiring young women many in the crowd had the privilege to see. Hannah Alper capped off the introduction to ACE 2017 with a discussion on how minor actions can lead to big change, leaving the crowd both humbled and inspired, ready to springboard into a trio of speaking tracks which individually focused on thought leadership within the HR space (Aspire), best practices for running successful programs (Achieve) and the exciting product functionality and releases from Achievers (Accelerate).

The first day closed out with an amazing event hosted by Achievers. Nearly 300 conference attendees joined a traditional second line parade and enjoyed a lively march through Bourbon Street. The end destination was B.B. King’s Blues Club, where all were treated to some of the best cuisine and music New Orleans has to offer.

After an unforgettable night in the Big Easy, the crowd gathered on Day 2 for a rousing and humorous presentation on Fearless Leadership from Cary Lohrenz, a celebrated author and leader who became the first female fighter pilot in the US Navy. Her experience navigating the inherent challenges of breaking down barriers and shifting individual perspectives prompted unique insights into strategic leadership and diversity training, topics that significantly influence any business’s bottom line.

Closing out the conference was none other than David Novak, author and former CEO of YUM Brands (parent company to Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut). Voted the “2012 CEO of the year”, Mr. Novak knows how to build powerful and diverse organizations. As the leader of over 1.5 million employees, he understands the awesome power of recognition. In his own words, he succinctly drove home what much of the conference covered: “Everyone brings value, worth, and individualism. You need to bring your team together. When you give people respect, appreciation and let them know that they count, they’re going to go to the moon for you.”

With that, ACE 2017 wrapped up. From keynote speakers to customer success stories, the conference illustrated the importance employee engagement and how to get the most of out of your workforce. With the sights, sounds and flavours of New Orleans still fresh on their minds, participants will be able to apply fresh ideas to their programs and drive success within their organizations.

Achievers would like to thank all speakers and every client, partner and friend for their participation in this year’s events. Stay tuned for more information on ACE 2018 in Toronto. Check out photos from ACE 2017 here.

Want to learn more about what was discussed at ACE 2017? Check out 4 Strategic Drivers of General Motors’ Adoption of Recognition Technology, which was written by ACE 2017 attendee and analyst Ben Eubanks.

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Also, while you’re at it, make sure to check out ACE 2017 attendee Coralie Sawruk’s blog post covering her ACE 2017 experience and why she is an advocate for employee recognition.

About the Author 
Darren SavageDarren Savage is currently a Customer Success Manager who works out of Achievers’ Toronto office. Prior to his arrival at Achievers, Darren was a journalist for various publications in the Greater Toronto Area. He left the profession to explore the world before transitioning into a sales role where he provided immersive educational experiences through travel for high school students. He now manages a diverse portfolio at Achievers where he helps his clients develop successful employee engagement programs.







Increase Employee Retention

Who Owns Retention? The Real Employee Turnover Problem

What’s the biggest problem when it comes to employee turnover? No one owns retention!

At many companies, when turnover rises executives point to HR to fix it – whose plate is already overflowing with terminations, payroll, benefits management, and back-fill recruiting. HR then blames bad managers for running off good people, and the managers push back complaining that executives do not give them enough time or training to manage their people properly. They all have a point, but this blame game is costing those organizations tons of money!

Stop Focusing on the Symptoms…Find & Fix the Cause!

After much finger-pointing, companies often come to the conclusion, “We have so much turnover, we need to hire another recruiter.” Are they kidding? That’s like trying to fix a water main break with duct tape. You may temporarily slow down the deluge, but not for long! If turnover is the problem, then you don’t need to hire someone who’s good at recruiting – they’ll just struggle to fill all the positions that keep unexpectedly being vacated. You need a dedicated retention specialist who will diagnose the core issues, work to resolve them, and maintain a stable workforce moving forward.

So why is the default next step to add another recruiter? Because everyone knows what a recruiter does and which line item that goes under on the P&L.

Now before you get upset, I assure you I’m not anti-recruiter! Recruiters are great, when you need a recruiter! If turnover is a problem, it is very possible that reworking your recruiting processes might be needed as well. Perhaps you really are hiring the wrong people and/or it is time to revamp the interview process, selection criteria, and applicant communication plan. You may even need to improve your employer brand in your community if you don’t have a positive reputation as an employer in your area. These are all things a good recruiter could handle, but these changes are rarely enough if retention is rising.

So if you can get approval for a new position, how about pitching the idea of a retention specialist instead? It’s a tougher sell to get approval from the higher-ups – they’ll wonder what a retention specialist is, complain the role sounds fluffy and become convinced it’s going to add overhead costs that seem unnecessary – but you must fight for it! It’s time to get more resources to fix the real issue.

What Is a Retention Specialist Exactly?

More organizations are creating this type of position and the responsibilities certainly vary from company to company, but their primary roles are to determine why people are leaving, and to build relationships and initiatives that extend employee tenure. This often includes, but is not limited to:

  • conducting and analyzing employee surveys and stay interviews
  • building employee networks/committees
  • serving as an employee ambassador who can answer staff questions or listen to feedback
  • ensuring the onboarding process is welcoming, thorough and incorporates the company culture
  • determining gaps where additional supervisor/management training is needed
  • coordinating (and possibly conducting) supervisor/management training and development programs
  • identifying operational/system changes that help adjust to a shorter-term workforce
  • analyzing compensation, advancement opportunities and scheduling for models that better align with today’s workforce’s needs
  • implementing recognition and appreciation programs across organization
  • ascertaining ways the organization and managers can be more transparent with employees
  • developing effective staff meeting schedules, agendas, and tools for those leading meetings
  • crafting organizational messages that instill the company’s mission and core values

Sounds like a full-time job to me! Who on your current staff has time to do all these things that are needed to reduce unnecessary employee turnover?

One Person Won’t Resolve the Issue – Retention is Everyone’s Job

While having a dedicated staffer to focus on diagnosing and resolving turnover issues is essential, leaders at all levels must take turnover seriously. Just like customer service, retention should be part of everyone’s job and everyone’s training. Keep in mind, workers today will leave their jobs if they don’t like their immediate supervisor, the leadership team or their coworkers, so encouraging your entire staff to attract and retain talent is critical.

Is your organization incentivizing peer referrals? Is your company rewarding managers for improved retention within their departments? Or are they setting bonus plans according to the concept of “do more with less,” which is driving away the talent you can’t afford to lose.

Become a Champion for Retention

So where do HR professionals start? Here a few ways to attack the turnover crisis:

  1. Create recognition and/or incentive programs for employees who reach certain milestones (after one year, not five!).
  2. Demand more management training for everyone who has direct reports.
  3. Make a case for hiring (or becoming) a retention specialist.

Same Approach = Same Results

If the trajectory of your employee turnover is headed in a positive direction, keep doing what you’re doing. But if your retention is getting worse every year, it is time to try a new approach for attracting and retaining today’s new workforce!

If you want to learn more about how to effectively retain employees, join me at Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) 2017 September 12-13 where I will be speaking on Leading the New Workforce: The Evolution of Employee Expectations. Check out details of my speaking session and the event here.

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About the Author
Cara Silletto
Workforce thought leader Cara Silletto, MBA, is the President & Chief Retention Officer at Crescendo Strategies, a firm committed to reducing unnecessary employee turnover by bridging generational gaps and making leaders more effective in their roles. Cara is a highly-sought-after national speaker and trainer, having conducted more than 100 engagements in 2016 alone. She has spoken to more than 10,000 leaders across the country at companies including UPS, Toyota, Humana’s Learning Consortium, and Cintas. Workforce Magazine named her a “Game Changer,” included her in their 2016 “Top 10 Company Culture Experts to Watch” list, and she is a co-author of the book, What’s Next in HR. Follow Cara on Twitter @CrescendoHR.


Positive Work Culture

The Secret Ingredients of an Amazing Company Culture

If you were asked about your top priorities as a manager, how would you answer? Increasing productivity would probably be first on your list, along with steady company growth, low employee turnover, seamless teamwork, and high employee engagement — after all, most businesses share similar goals.

However, you might not have considered developing an excellent company culture among your top-tier priorities, even though it is the foundation for every one of your key goals. When focusing on creating an amazing company culture, you will discover that other elements of business success fall into place organically. Let’s unpack that concept a bit and see why.

What Is Company Culture?

The first step toward improving your company’s culture is to have a clear handle on what the term means. One of the most accurate definitions is offered by business change strategist John Kotter. He defines company culture as “group norms of behavior and the underlying shared values that help keep those norms in place.” The key words in this definition are “shared values.” Employee alignment with your company’s mission and values is a critical component of positive company culture. A sure indicator of poor company culture is a workforce, total or partial, that has no personal interest or investment in the overall mission of their organization.

Why Company Culture Matters

A worldwide survey of 20,000 workers, conducted by Harvard researchers, found unequivocally that “culture drives performance,” but only 31 percent of employees report they are engaged with their work. Furthermore, the average employee would only give his or her company a grade of “C” if recommending it to a friend, according to Glassdoor statistics. A Duke University survey of 1400 CEOs and CFOs found that only 15 percent said their company culture is where it needs to be, while 92 percent said improving company culture would improve the overall value of the business.

Other research published in Harvard Business Review finds that disengaged workers cause 60 percent more errors and defects in work performance, while those under stress from negative cultures can increase a company’s health care expenditures by an average of 50 percent. We could go on with the dire statistics, but we’re certain you get the idea. How do you do the right thing for your employees as well as your company?

How to Create a Positive Company Culture

An interesting roadmap for creating a positive company culture can be found in the science of self-determination theory. Researchers writing in Harvard Business Review have identified three universal human needs that are central to fostering employee motivation. These three needs are autonomy, competence and relatedness. Let’s look at each of the three in turn:


To build your employees’ happiness through autonomy, make sure the goals and timelines you ask them to meet are developed in a collaborative manner. Workers need to feel that they have some control over their schedules and approach to tasks, rather than having every aspect of their workday micromanaged. HR professionals know that flexible work hours are at the top of most candidates’ lists of desirable benefits and perks.

Another aspect of leadership that contributes to a positive work culture is the avoidance of pressure and stress. The aforementioned HBR report states that “Sustained peak performance is a result of people acting because they choose to—not because they feel they have to.”


One of the most powerful employee incentives you can offer is the opportunity for training and development. Showing that you care about the evolution of your workers’ careers is a powerful expression of employee appreciation. This development may take some careful guarding of educational funds in your human resources budget, but the resulting increase in employee well-being will be worth your investment.

In addition to working with your team to set performance goals, you can nurture employee success by setting learning goals. Human beings derive a deep satisfaction from increased skills and competence, independent of every other type of employee reward.


This term describes the need inherent in most humans to feel connected to a larger team effort, and to be recognized and appreciated by other people. Employee recognition best practices should be built around this fundamental element of human psychology, providing opportunities for both colleagues and supervisors to offer recognition and rewards. While your team members don’t exert effort for the sole purpose of receiving rewards, they will thrive in the climate of solidarity and unity that those rewards represent.

Another crucial aspect of relatedness pertains to alignment with company values. The HBR analysis points out that employees need to connect their tasks with a noble purpose, and to feel that their own personal values are expressed in the way they spend their work days.

The CEOs interviewed by Duke University researchers were unequivocal in their statements that company culture drives “profitability, acquisition decisions, and even whether employees behave ethically.”

Building an amazing company culture should be at the center of your organizational health, and it begins with the three psychological elements central to employee engagement. To learn more about fostering an amazing company culture, download our e-book: “All for One and One for All: Uniting a Global Workforce with Company Culture.”

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How to Identify and Retain Top Performers with Rewards and Recognition

Employee retention is a key goal for every company, but it’s important to drill down into this metric and make sure you’re doing a good job of identifying and keeping your top performers. These employees deliver 400 percent more productivity than the average worker, according to statistics published in Harvard Business Review (HBR). The researchers state, “Our workforce strategy goal should be to double down on retention tactics for high performers,” and further explain that, in many cases, managers aren’t meeting the needs of their top talent. The first step to nurturing your best workers is to make sure you know who they are; and a simple way to discover top performers is through rewards and recognition programs.

Look for active recognizers

The right rewards and recognition program can help determine top performers – but you may be surprised by which statistics you should look at. As to be expected, the hardest working and most talented people are likely to receive the highest amount of recognition from their supervisors. They are also likely to be recognized by their peers, since the ability to work well within a team is another important component of productivity. However, when you’re seeking out the truly top performers in your workforce, it’s also important to identify those who are most often recognizing others.

According to a recent Achievers study, employees who were promoted turned out to have a track record of actively recognizing their peers. In fact, before being promoted, these high performers sent an average of 3.8 times more peer recognition than the average employee. In this way, employee rewards and recognition programs provide two separate metrics for  identifying top talent: those who receive the most recognition, as well as those who give the most acknowledgments to others.

Tie recognitions to company values

Your organization probably took significant time and effort to craft a mission and values statement.  This statement is more than mere words residing on a wall, a website, or welcome pamphlet; it can serve as a dynamic tool for shaping your employee recognition program. By tying recognitions to your company’s core values, you can see which performers are embodying those values most authentically. This approach is sometimes termed “Management by Objectives,” and it feeds employee motivation by helping every member of the organization feel that their contribution is truly meaningful.

High performers have unique needs

The workplace factors that keep your super-skilled employees motivated are somewhat different from commonplace worker needs, and it’s necessary to be aware of these differences. While competitive salaries are important, HBR research points out that using regular compensation as a method of delivering employee rewards can potentially backfire and cause resentment among coworkers. On the other hand, high performers care significantly more than average about having their efforts noticed, recognized and rewarded. These rewards can be in the form of social or financial recognition, but in either case, your top talent is especially eager to receive praise, financial incentives and frequent feedback. This is another reason that if you’re in the habit of only providing annual or semi-annual evaluation sessions, the employee engagement levels of your top performers is likely to suffer.

Why you need to focus on high achievers

While highly skilled employees are slightly more satisfied with their jobs than the average worker, one in five say they’re likely to leave their current position within the next six months. Furthermore, if and when your top employees do decide to move on, their skills will lead them to easily find new opportunities. Given the high levels of productivity and the contributions these extra-competent workers make to the workplace environment, losing even one of them can be a blow to your company.

Help your top performers fulfill their potential

Employee retention is only one of many reasons that HR professionals and managers should invest in the effort to nurture high achievers. Equally important is  assisting in their career growth and providing them with development opportunities to help them reach their full potential. A major component of nurturing employee success is to  ensure tasks remain challenging and varied. High achievers “live for the challenge,” and seek to overcome obstacles and solve problems as a source of personal accomplishment. So make sure to provide them opportunities to stretch themselves through varied and challenging assignments.

Employee recognition best practices dictate that recognitions will be most meaningful to these talented workers if they reflect on an achievement that was truly praise-worthy. High achievers are tireless, curious, full of passion, and internal drive. If they’re recognized they want it to be for something substantial and worthwhile. In other words, don’t praise them for minutiae such as arriving on-time or keeping a clean work area. Instead, provide detailed and specific feedback that focuses on the positive impact they are making through their diligence and pursuit of excellence.

The right HR technology can be your ally

Identifying top performers can help your organization discover who your most engaged employees are (and vice versa), allowing you to effectively leverage their skills and enthusiasm as a positive force in the workplace. HR tech is steadily evolving, and data gleaned from a cutting edge rewards and recognition platform can now provide you with valuable insights to help you identify and retain your top performing employees.

To learn more about how employee recognition can help you identify and retain your top talent, as well as having a positive impact on your entire workforce, download our eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Employee Recognition.

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HR Tech World 2017 London

Achievers in Action at HR Tech World: March 21 & 22, London

Have you ever wondered how much employee engagement can impact your business, and taken even one step further, the world? Imagine if every single employee felt valued, motivated, and recognized for their achievements? What a difference we would see in the workplace and society. Employees would actually enjoy going to work and as a result, would strive to reach their best potential. This would then be reflected in how they would treat their customers and fellow-employees, a virtuous cycle that would serve to lift everyone’s moods. HR’s mission is to do exactly that: increase employee engagement and, in return, boost employee happiness and business results. According to Gallup, companies in the top quartile of employee engagement see real measures of business success including 21% higher productivity, 22% higher profitability, 41% higher quality, and 37% absenteeism.

Where does Achievers fall into all of this? Achievers’ state mission is to: Change the Way the World Works, and we do that by offering world class employee recognition and engagement solutions that help bring about that change, one business at a time. You can learn how Achievers accomplishes this by joining us at HR Tech World in London from March 21-22. Discover why businesses are adopting Achievers’ award-winning solution to effectively increase employee engagement by an average of 22%! Join Achievers and thousands of HR Directors, executives, and thought leaders to focus on all things HR technology – what’s hot and where it’s heading. Within 10 years, over half of the office occupations in the world will be displaced by technology. How do we manage this? How do we capitalize on this? And how is HR tech defining the Future of Work?

This year, HR Tech World will be held at the famous venue ExCel London and will bring together a “Who’s Who” of HR. At this premier 2-day show, you will have the opportunity to meet some of the leaders in the HR tech space. Achievers will be there at Booth 303 with everything from live product demos to a “design your own T-shirt” stand. Come by and ask us anything you need to know about employee engagement and Achievers’ powerful rewards and recognition platform. Also, don’t miss up our lineup of speaker sessions:

Denise WillettUtilizing Recognition to Drive Employee Engagement
Denise Willet, Senior Director, Achievers EMEA

Denise is responsible for helping top employers globally increase employee engagement and retention, achieve desired results, and impact business success through recognition. At this session, you will discover the link between recognition and engagement and learn about Achievers 7 key principles that contribute to a successful recognition program.


Chase DolomontGet a Showcase of Achievers‘ Platform
Chase Dolomont, Solutions Consultant, Achievers EMEA

In the Product Demo Arena, Chase will offer a real-time view of the tools and strategies Achievers offers to help create an impactful culture of employee recognition that significantly impacts employee engagement.


And don’t just take our word for it. Listen to testimonials from amongst a list of Achievers’ customers. Or, come to HR Tech World and hear Colin Watt, Shop Direct’s Colleague Engagement and Relations Director, share how to successfully introduce sustainable recognition as an engagement tool and change-agent.

Colin Watt Shop DirectShop Direct is the UK’s second largest online pure play retailer with brands such as, and After Shop Direct implemented the Achievers Employee Success Platform, the engagement score across the company rose from 67% in 2010 to its current, world-class level of 84% with correlated increased customer satisfaction over the same period. To find out more how this has been achieved book yourself into his Engage to Succeed session.

Don’t miss out on the rest of the stellar lineup of sessions – sign up and book tickets today. Then come by and join us at Booth 303 to get a first-hand look of Achievers’ Employee Success platform. Choose to get a guided 1-on-1 demonstration or try it yourself by browsing Achievers’ platform on an iPad. Discover how to quickly and effectively drive employee engagement with frequent recognition, both monetary and social, atop of continuous pulse monitoring. Find out in-person why Achievers’ innovative behaviour-driving engine produces real results for businesses.  Don’t forget to have some fun with our interactive touch screens to customize your FREE Achievers’ merchandise!

Want to arrange a prescheduled meeting with Achievers at the show?
Please contact Helen Brooker to organize a prescheduled meeting.
Telephone: +44 (0) 7796 957726

We look forward to seeing you at HR Tech World at Booth 303.

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About the Author
Helen BrookerAs Marketing Director of Achievers UK, Helen is focused on establishing Achievers’ approach to employee engagement through recognition in the UK marketplace. She builds awareness for how Achievers can build successful recognition programs that align with strategic business objectives. She has been a marketing and solutions consultation lead within the wider Blackhawk Network business group for 6 years working with many diverse, global organizations to improve business performance across employees, channel partners and customers.



Effectively Navigate Organizational Change

Understanding Change and Its Impact on Engagement

Change is a funny thing, isn’t it? We frequently resist it, yet progress is impossible without it. In fact, we can’t really move through life without it. The desired approach for most of us is to experience change in small, bite-size chunks. Otherwise, it can wreak havoc on us when there’s too much at once and we’re not prepared for it.

The same goes for organizational change. Arguably though, organizations need to be in a continual state of change in order to move forward. Whether we call it “transformation,” “growth,” or just the natural evolution of the business – companies must continue to evolve in order to stay competitive and relevant, to employees and customers alike. In other words, organizations cannot afford to stay static for any length of time in today’s environment.

The ongoing need for change presents a tricky situation when it comes to employee engagement. While leading organizational change, you must be able to rally the troops’ ongoing support and understanding. Too much top down change at once can result in disengaged employees, which equates to a loss in productivity. Employees begin to feel as though they don’t have a voice or a sense of control. The weight of the loss of familiarity and certainty can bear down on employees until they start to fatigue, and slowly but surely, begin to check out. They might still perform their jobs, but they certainly won’t be putting forth their discretionary time and effort towards realizing the shared vision of the organization.

What may surprise you is this behavior should be considered normal. Our brains are wired to resist change. The oldest part of our brain – the reptilian brain – auto-responds to change with the fight or flight response. It takes practice to bypass that part of our brain and access the rational brain where we can use logic to overcome our innate, initial reaction.

As HR and OD professionals and people leaders, how can we help employees with that process? How can we best position ourselves to lead and at the same time guide employees to think more rationally about change? After all, employee resistance is one of the leading causes for the failure of change initiatives (Bovey & Hede, 2001b; Waldersee & Griffiths, 1996). According to Cynthia Wittig, “Such findings indicate that change agents focusing on employee reactions—including resistance and acceptance—during organizational change is of utmost importance to the success of the initiative.”

How do we help eliminate the resistance? Where should your change-agent-leaders focus their efforts?

1) Address the emotions first by answering the hard questions upfront, including addressing, why?

We are persuaded by reason, but we are moved by emotion.  Acknowledge what employees may be feeling. You don’t necessarily have to answer for it, but you can acknowledge it and lead from the front by demonstrating authenticity and optimism in response. Acknowledging and naming the feelings helps create distance between a person and a situation. It creates a moment of objectivity. Instead of, “I am afraid,” they can at last get to, “I feel afraid about what Mr. Jones shared during town hall and how it might affect my department.” It also helps those of us who may have a hard time defining how we’re feeling, to make sense of why our hearts start racing, or we get sweaty palms, or feel unsettled in response to certain news.  If you have a tough change coming up – call it what it is and help employees understand why the organization needs to head in that particular direction. Our brains don’t like incomplete stories and in the absence of information, we can come to all sorts of crazy conclusions. These concocted conclusions can spin FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) out of control into a danger tornado that is likely to pick up your change initiative and spit it out in the Land of Oz.

2) Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Oh, did I mention? Communicate.

The amount and quality of information that is communicated to employees can influence how those employees will react (Wanberg & Banas, 2000). Running today’s ever-evolving organizations takes a lot of heavy lifting. It requires people-leaders and executives to be clear on the changes that are occurring and why those changes are taking place. AND it requires intentional multi-touch communications about said changes with all employees. Cynthia Witting shares, “There are several communication processes that impact employees’ reactions, including frequency, mode, content, and flow of communication. Gray and Laidlaw (2002) argued that the more embedded these processes are within management, the more effective the outcomes are because they enhance the quality of working relationships, harmony, and trust.” Sending out 1-2 emails about a change really isn’t enough. Ideally, there is a real-time, always-on, cross-functional, organization-wide conversation about these topics so that everyone can weigh-in equally and ask questions with transparency and without fear. This method should also provide communication scalability. In the absence of such a system, there needs to be on-going fireside chats or other means for employees to submit questions and expect real, authentic answers.

3) Employee participation in decision making.

According to an Aon Hewitt research study, the number one driver of employee engagement during times of change is the ability to be involved in decision making.  However, you might be thinking – if I ask them what they want or what their thoughts are, am I opening a proverbial can of worms? The reality is yes, initially it will require more work, but the outcomes of increased success and higher engagement are well worth the trouble. In fact, there’s a whole body of research available with a documented approach to making wide-spread change while engaging the whole team. It’s called Appreciative Inquiry. As opposed to the typical deficit-based mindset where everything is a problem to solve, the approach focuses on inquiries into the organization based upon what is working and what we want to do more of so that the team naturally moves in that direction. When folks have a voice – they feel heard and acknowledged. This is fundamental to creating and maintaining highly engaged employees. Particularly, in times of change.

Perhaps Buckminster Fuller said it best. “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”.

How has your organization effectively navigated change? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About the Author
Leigh BurgerLeigh joined the Achievers Professional Services team in June 2014 She serves as a trusted advisor to HR executives, professionals and business partners for the Achievers Fortune 500 global brands in rolling out their Employee Engagement platform. She holds a Masters, Positive Organizational Development & Change from Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University as well as several relevant certifications. You can check out her full profile here.