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Change Management

How to Equip Leaders to Be More Inclusive: Overcoming Individual and Organizational Ghosts

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Inclusion may not be rocket science, but it is human science. And, in today’s environment, it is non-negotiable. Inclusion is imperative for leaders to drive up innovation and drive out institutional racism. A Deloitte Insights article by Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon, “The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths,” reveals that organizations with inclusive cultures are eight times as likely to achieve better business outcomes and six times more likely to be innovative and agile.

Daniel Sanchez Reina, Senior Director Analyst for Gartner, in the article Diversity and Inclusion Build High-Performance Teams, notes that diversity and innovation are correlated, “but inclusion is the key to leveraging diversity.” And, leaders are the linchpins to inclusion. In the Deloitte Insights article, Bourke and Dillon highlight what they call the “power of a leader’s shadow.” Leadership behaviors can “drive up to 70 percentage points of difference between the proportion of employees who feel highly included and the proportion of those who do not.”

Individual Ghosts
But, for many leaders, exactly how to be inclusive is elusive. In an HBR article, The Key to Inclusive Leadership, Juliet Bourke and Andrea Titus cite their research indicating “only one in three leaders holds an accurate view about their inclusive leadership capabilities.”
Every leader has the potential to be radically inclusive; creating a culture where people feel safe, valued, and a sense of belonging. Inclusive leadership is everyday actions done with eyes open and ears engaged. Inclusion happens when leaders know and treat each person like the unique and valuable human they are.

“Inclusion happens when leaders know and treat each person like the unique and valuable human they are.”

A truly inclusive culture begins with leaders with truly inclusive habits. Organizations can move the needle on inclusion by equipping leaders to act inclusively as part of their routine interactions with employees. Most people are just not aware of the biases that get in their way. It’s like being tripped up by invisible ghosts – you’re stumbling and just not sure why. This is where the human science comes into play.

Neuroscience in Action
Neuroscientist Beau Lotto in his book Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently teaches us that “Every decision you make in the future will remain grounded in history.” We draw on experiences to inform our actions and decisions today. How we treat others may be the result of perceptions formed by past events. Lotto’s research provides insight into how we can “use our brains to change our brains” by re-writing our past perceptions, so we make better decisions in the future.

The first step for leaders looking to act more inclusively is learning to surface, question, and recognize the impact of assumptions and biases on their behavior in certain situations or with particular people. Seeing the implications of assumptions and biases kick starts an intrinsic drive; motivating leaders to ask questions like “what else might be true?” to replace unproductive perceptions with possibility thinking. They have formed a “new past” to reference when faced with these situations or groups.

With potentially limiting assumptions neutralized or replaced, leaders now need to get comfortable selecting and tailoring inclusive actions to fit their situations and the unique humans in their care.
Finally, leaders need methods and practice in the formation of habits to promote daily use of these inclusive intentional actions. To ensure habits stay ingrained, organizations are wise to design requiring environments rich with accountability and recognition for inclusive leadership.

Institutional Ghosts
Which brings us to the organization itself. Just as leaders desiring to behave inclusively bump into personal ghosts, organizations are haunted by the institutional ghosts of historic and systemic racism. In her Forbes post, Four Strategies For Moving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion And Belonging Beyond Lip Service, L’Wana Harris explains, “It’s your responsibility to reimagine and redesign your organization to create an environment where all of your employees can thrive. We must go beyond simple “inclusion” work and venture into the work that reforms and disrupts. Conduct an enterprise-wide audit for bias and discrimination.”

Organizations must identify and address the myriad causes of imbalance among employee groups. The key question to go after is, what are the business practices, systems, and processes tripping up the progress, engagement, and productivity of people of color, women, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented employee groups in our organization? Organizations with an inclusive culture spearheaded by inclusive leaders unlock the power of diversity to drive innovation needed for market success and for identifying and unseating inequitable business practices.

Sources

“The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution: Eight powerful truths by Juliet Bourke and Bernadette Dillon, Deloitte Review, Issue 22
Diversity and Inclusion Build High Performance Teams, Gartner, IT Leadership, September 2019
Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently by Beau Lotto
www. hbr.org/2019/03/why-inclusive-leaders-are-good-for-organizations-and-how-to-become-one
www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/09/06/four-strategies-for-moving-diversity-equity-inclusion-and-belonging-beyond-lip-service/

 

Book on table

Driving Double-Digit Client Engagement Through Storytelling

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“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
– Ancient Proverb

This is the story of how our client, a global manufacturing company, partnered with The CARA Group to incorporate storytelling and metrics to achieve double-digit increases in total employee engagement (over a five month period)…

ONCE UPON A TIME, a global medical devices client implemented a global manufacturing production system impacting several thousand employees worldwide. The new production system had a goal to standardize manufacturing processes, simplify communications and transform their manufacturing culture globally. While the production system was delivered on-time, within budget and scope, our client faced numerous post-implementation challenges from an employee adoption and acceptance perspective:

  • Low adoption given a perception that global initiatives are driven from headquarters (vs. being driven at a local level)
  • Low compliance as managers and employees felt ill-equipped to follow new global standards
  • Low awareness as local HR did not have the necessary tools to effectively manage this change
  • High resistance as this new initiative was viewed as the ‘flavor of the month’

Given the many adoption and acceptance challenges above, The CARA Group engaged with our client to deliver change management thought-partnership and guidance over a 20-week period with a goal for leaders, managers and employees to embrace the new manufacturing production system as ‘the way they work’. Using CARA’s proprietary ‘6D Solutions Framework’, we successfully delivered a long-term OCM solution resulting in double-digit growth in 12 of 13 engagement areas (over a five-month period). While all phases of our framework were leveraged, two critical phases in particular led to significant client success: “Diagnosis” and “Destination”.

DIAGNOSIS:

Our “Diagnosis” phase is the process of collecting supporting data and developing key findings. For this engagement, we synthesized and assessed data collected and leveraged it to inform our Change Management, Training and Communication strategies. Unique to CARA is the use of “Survey Focus Groups” to capture the hearts and minds of those impacted by various change initiatives. Survey Focus Groups involves a complement of two data collection techniques: confidential real time survey response (using CARA’s survey technology) and small group meeting facilitation.

OUR APPROACH:

  • We conducted six Survey Focus Groups as a precursor to the start of our client engagement (each focus group had an average of 20 employees and managers per session representing 25% of the total plant population)
  • The results from the Survey Focus Groups served as a baseline and were leveraged to understand employee and manager levels of awareness, engagement and adoption
  • Upon completion of our engagement, we conducted six additional Survey Focus Groups to re-assess employee engagement as compared to the baseline (five months prior)
  • We developed a comparative analysis to measure post-engagement survey results (and analyzed pre & post engagement results)

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Leaders and employees were not involved in the initial design of the new production system leading to low engagement
  • Employees lacked the capabilities and skills to operate within the new operating model leading to confusion and low process compliance
  • Leadership was unable to measure employee adoption of the production system as the future of work
  • Leaders and employees had not fully embraced the new production model and supporting processes
  • Leaders lacked the capability and change leadership training to support the new operating model

DESTINATION:

The “Destination” phase of our Solution Framework included the transfer of knowledge to internal client
teams including 30-60-90-180 day action plans and recommendations for ensuring long-term sustainable results. With that said, we provided the following deliverables with a goal for employees and managers to embrace the new production system as ‘the way they work’. Each of the following OCM tools addressed specific competency gaps (at both the manager and employee levels), coupled with creative solutions for providing specific action plans for managers to drive long-term adoption and acceptance.

  • Storytelling As A Service
  • Change Management Leader Training
  • Change Sustainability Planning
  • Continuous Improvement Recommendations
  • Leadership Action Planning

STORYTELLING AS A SERVICE:

Unique to this client solution offering was the design, development and delivery of ‘change stories’. The purpose of the change stories was to partner with our client to tell their story as it related to the new manufacturing production system. Our goal was to capture the hearts and minds of client employees and managers resulting in change stories that represented the employee-base of each location. As a result, each change story would be prominently displayed at various plant locations company-wide.

At the completion of our engagement, 10% of plant employees and managers collaborated to understand the global production system vision and committed to making it relevant to their local plant. As a result, each plant location voted on the change story that best represented their personal journey. In total, eight change stories were developed in the form of poster boards, videos, photo albums and even a creative poem penned by a plant employee. These stories were displayed throughout each plant and served as a visual reminder of “why” and “how” the new production system was transforming their company.

The table below represents double-digit growth when comparing survey results at the inception and conclusion of the client engagement. And while we are pleased with the results from our Storytelling as a Service approach and delighted with the business outcomes, we could not have anticipated the energy, collaboration, partnership and passion of the employees and leaders who volunteered to tell their stories using various medium. This engagement inspired employees and leaders to write the next chapters of their own personal change stories; stories that will live on within each plant location for many years to come…

CARA / CLIENT ENGAGEMENT RESULTS: (Comparing Survey Data Between Sep, ’19 and Feb, ‘20)

Client Engagement Survey Metric* Post CARA Engagement Results
Employee ability to CONTRIBUTE to new production system success + 45%
CONFIDENCE that the new production system was the right approach + 34%
AGGREGATE SURVEY scores between pre-engagement and post-engagement + 30%
Employee INVOLVEMENT in new production system success + 21%
Perception that new production system would improve client COMPETITIVENESS + 18%
Perception that new production system will improve product QUALITY + 10%

*Results provided represent a subset of outcomes achieved

For more information on CARA’s 6D Solutions Framework, our Storytelling as a Service model or for insight into the 13 indices we measured for this client engagement, please contact us at marketing@thecaragroup.com.

the cara group blog image with committed to your future tagline

How Partnering with SMEs and Creative Communications Led to a Successful Workday Implementation

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What is Workday?

Workday is a cloud-based solution that brings people and financial data together into a one-stop shop. With one source for financial, people, and operational data, everyone can access real-time information when and how they need it. It allows for better reporting and analytics and for data to be smart which allows companies to make better business decisions.

The Workday platform enhances the firm’s ability to streamline and improve processes, workflow, communications, and notifications. Workday also provides additional reporting and dashboard capabilities. As Workday states on their website: “We build on a flexible foundation that enables us to continually broaden our technology platform. From machine learning and extensible frameworks to analytics and more, we are working to bring you increasing intelligent and personalized experiences.” [i]

What did implementing Workday mean for the company?

My first experience with the Workday program was as a CARA consultant working with a global professional services client. I was a Communications/Organizational Change Management (OCM) Specialist for the client’s global Phase I implementation of Workday. Moving to this platform was a HUGE change, but a much-needed change to stay up to date on the most current technology and to offer their customers the most modern and efficient experiences.

And with change comes fear, excitement, anxiety, and a lot of other emotions for the staff that will be using it. The implementation of Workday at this client brought about many thoughts and questions.

The employees were right to ask these questions, because Workday would change how they did their jobs. It was the job of the OCM, Communications, Training, and many other teams to positively relieve some of the anxiety and fears.

One of the biggest changes for the client was decommissioning seven programs and SharePoint sites that hundreds of people worked in and used every day. These sites/programs were managed by different members of the various departments at the client, i.e. Finance, HR, Accounting, Training, etc. Workday’s capabilities would replace, or in some cases, combine, the information in these legacy programs and convert the data to an easier and more accessible way.

Image of woman asking questions of how workday would change her job
Source: J. Hojnacki

“… if you remember that your SMEs are your partners and you are creative in your communications, you can make any project successful.”

Who helped with decommisioning the legacy programs/sites?

The decommissioning of these programs/sites was a HUGE & DELICATE undertaking. As you can imagine, when you work with programs day-in and day-out you become very efficient and comfortable with how you do your work, but where does growth, opportunity, and challenge come in when you are in a stagnant environment like this for a long period of time?

That is what my team had to learn by working with the subject matter experts of each of the discontinued programs/sites. Working with SMEs can be a very delicate and savvy process, but if you remember these 10 tips, you will be successful…


Source: J. Hojnacki

How did the team communicate about Workday?

In my experience, anytime a company wants to make large impactful changes, it is important to focus the communications on the EMPLOYEE…really hone in on the WIIFM (What’s in it for me). This project was different, in that we had to create very specialized and separate communications for all the different business units who would be working in Workday. For instance, the HR staff didn’t need to know where, how or when to pull certain financial reports and the Financial team didn’t need to know about onboarding and training. So, our communications plan was HUGE and very detailed. But it was the holy grail to keep all the messaging in order and on time. We worked hand-in-hand with the Training department on this implementation, because in many cases, the training was customized per business unit, as well. We had to ensure that the communication and the dates correlated correctly with what training was being offered to whom, when and where. The SMEs played a key role when it came to communications, as well. They were part of the communication review process to ensure the context of the messages were correct and going to the right groups of people. These communications were imperative to the success of the rollout of Phase I of Workday, but how did we keep staff interested in messages about this new program… VARIETY! We had to keep the communication pieces short, concise, engaging, and different, so the audience would pay attention to them. We utilized several different communication methods and vehicles…

  • Emails
  • Intranet articles on internal website
  • Workday SharePoint site
  • Videos (Leadership messages, animated short stories, how-to videos, etc.)
  • Infographics
  • Electronic Newsletters
  • Surveys/Results
  • Webcasts
  • Podcasts
  • Interactive PowerPoints

Getting the right methods and vehicles was just one piece of the work that had to be done, we also had to make the messages ease the anxieties of this systemwide change, get the staff excited about Workday, highlight the benefits of this new program from a personal and professional point of view and motivate them to want to learn and embrace this new way of working. Workday was an enormous investment that the client made to enhance the services that they offer to their clients, but also, how they could make the work easier, more efficient and collaborative for the staff.

I have worked on many large systemwide initiatives like this in my career of 20+ years, and I find that if you remember that your SMEs are your partners and you are creative in your communications, you can make any project successful!

[i] Workday website: https://www.workday.com/en-us/why-workday/our-technology/core-technology.html?wdid=enus_ws_itov_wdrcard2_wd_wd_web_17.1574

Four Drastic Executive Behavior Changes Required in the Time of COVID-19

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As a talent development professional, and self-declared talent trend geek, I have read countless books, white papers, articles, and research summaries on the art and science of leadership and employee engagement. But even my favorite podcast pearls and TedEx titans can’t keep up with what we are seeing in the world of work today.

In this era of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, what it means to live, work, lead and contribute as part of the business community has been fundamentally, perhaps permanently altered. Since March 2020, businesses, large and small, have been closed or limited in their operations, and even the remaining essential workers have had to radically adjust to new protocols.

“…what does returning to work [in this new environment] mean for executives, managers and their teams learning to function in a dramatically changed environment? If they are like many leaders …they are exploring and experimenting…blending creative imagination with technical know-how.”

 

Now, as each state cautiously rolls out a phased return to public life, businesses are spending countless hours figuring out how to implement what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls a National Return to Work Plan. They, along with local governments are exploring the major implications of returning to work in this environment. They are grappling with workplace safety, employee rights and wellbeing, liability concerns, and continued revenue disruptions, just to name a few.

What does this mean for executives, managers and their teams learning to function in a dramatically changed environment? If they are like the many leaders I have been speaking with, they are deeply entrenched in what Walt Disney called Imagineering. They are exploring and experimenting…blending creative imagination with technical know-how.

On the technical front, an abundance of resources is emerging to help business owners/stakeholders untangle the web of considerations. It’s a little like looking at a computer motherboard. Every decision affects another circuit in the system. I, for instance, read the CDC’s May 2020 Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease. While it only took me 30 minutes to read the online page itself, it contained 77 hyperlinks and 1500 reference documents. All this before leading me to the CDC’s Resuming Business Toolkit – another 86-bulleted checklist.

Given the likelihood that leaders are referencing equivalent online guidelines from other national and industry sources, I think there is no doubt, the first drastic behavior change for leaders is: Redefining Control.

Just as the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health aims to control hazards to protect workers, leaders may need to redefine their own hierarchies of control from a management perspective.

I can imagine re-defining some of the CDC controls in these ways

  • Elimination: Remove everything but the priority focus areas.
  • Substitution: Replace old management habits that don’t work anymore.
  • Engineering: Reimagine systems for the new normal.
  • Administrative: Change people processes.
  • Personal: Learn to Influence in new and different ways.

With all the variables in play for leaders and employees, the whole idea of Resiliency will take on a new meaning. Clearly it is resiliency to manage the business framework, as Ernst & Young suggests. But it’s also resiliency with people. What are teams experiencing in this new era?

Just one of many examples is the impact current and future remote work has on employees. A recent Bloomberg study showed that U.S. remote workers have logged on for an additional three hours per day compared to patterns seen before March 11 — a 40% jump. Everyone reacts differently to this kind of workplace upheaval. We respond based on our work styles, available social support, financial situation, health, living environment, and many other factors. This is where Disney’s call for creative imagination comes into play. How managers model and build resiliency into the new cadences of work will determine their success in creating a viable, post Covid19 workplace.

Along those same lines is the manner in which leaders show up as crisis managers. New variables such as health checks, social distancing, confidentiality, or even stigma, are all driving leaders to revisit their principles in a world where, as Korn Ferry puts it, “perform” becomes “survive”. The way in which leaders address concerns around personal comfort, information and procedural implementation is not just a matter of preference. It is a choice that stands to drive what their business culture looks and feels like in a pandemic-changed world.

As with most calls for leader behavior change, once principles and processes are in place, it all comes back to communication. This time requires all leaders to take a radical look at their presence, language, transparency in thought and practice. Never has it been more important to show up “the right way, at the right time, with the right information”, as a Bain & Company article puts it. Reflecting on the book Leadership in Turbulent Times, by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Bain brief suggests that communicating with a combination of deep-seated purpose and authenticity will give managers the ability to lead through times of fracture and fear.

In the frenzy of policies, procedures, toolkits and checklists, I’m rooting for every leader to find the space to develop the human outreachplan that will make all the difference for themselves and the teams they lead.

 

Sources:

  1. Image: How are organizations around the world responding to COVID-19?: People Matters: May 2020: https://www.peoplemattersglobal.com/article/c-suite/how-are-organizations-around-the-world-responding-to-covid-19-25072
  2. US Chamber of Commerce: Implementing a National Return to Work Plan; Memo from Suzanne Clark, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, April 13, 2020; https://www.uschamber.com/coronavirus/implementing-national-return-to-work-plan
  3. Quotetab: Walt Disney http://quotetab.com/quote/by-walt-disney/theres-really-no-secret-about-our-approach-we-keep-moving-forward-opening-up?source=opening-up
  4. CDC: Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), May 2020; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html
  5. CDC: Resuming Business Toolkit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/resuming-business-toolkit.html
  6. NIOSH: Hierarchy of Control https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hierarchy/default.html
  7. EY COVID-19 Enterprise Resilience Framework: https://www.ey.com/en_us/covid-19
  8. Bloomberg: Working From Home Means Working Longer Hours for Many https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-23/working-from-home-means-working-longer-hours-for-many-chart
  9. Korn Ferry: Leading in a Crisis: https://www.kornferry.com/content/dam/kornferry/docs/pdfs/covid_leading-in-a-crisis.pdf
  10. Bain & Company: Coronavirus: How to Be the Leader Your People Need Right Now https://www.bain.com/insights/coronavirus-how-to-be-the-leader-your-people-need-right-now
  11. The Stark Solution, Radical Behavior Change in the Era of Covid19., June 2020

Consulting Skills for the Workforce of the Future

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I have been recruiting for over 20 years in the F500 Learning and Development industry, and I have seen a great deal. From rapid skill shifts, to elevated client demands, to erratic market swings, consulting is not for the faint of heart. Working with the F500 has a very slim margin for error and expectations are high when a consultant walks through the physical or virtual door.

So, what does it take to be an exceptional CONSULTANT?

F500 Clients are demanding, so while you need to possess solid skills to perform and deliver results (hard skills), these are table stakes and not the only skills you need to bring to the proverbial table. You will need to quickly adapt into a client organization, communicate concisely and empathetically, make sound decisions, think outside the box, manage deadlines . . . You must also be chameleon-like and be able to adapt to change quickly, all while managing client expectations and delivering results!

“..attributes such as executive influence, strategic agility, political savvy, and the ability to coach/provide feedback will be expected. They are the differentiators or game changers and that is what a client requires.”

 

A wise man once told me that the best Consultants are curious and customer-focused… they listen, investigate, ask the right questions, and quickly absorb an understanding of the clients’ business. He also said …. “Consulting is a lot like dating” and while this analogy is a bit tongue in cheek, it has some validity. In consulting, connecting is so important and relationship building is critical.


There are times when consulting feels like being caught between a rock and a hard place – a delicate balance between knowing when to align/conform and when to push back. As projects become more complex, the stakes become much higher. Therefore, attributes such as executive influence, strategic agility, political savvy, and the ability to coach/provide feedback will be expected. They are the differentiators or game changers and that is what a client requires. Possessing these skills will allow you to solidify and expand relationships which, in turn, usually earns you the right to be involved with follow-on initiatives. After all, isn’t that really what it is about . . . becoming extraordinarily valued by the client that he/she continues to partner with you and provides more opportunity for CARA and you!

You may be asking yourself, “Is consulting right for me?”

As you may have gathered by now, consulting is far more than just building an excellent work product!

I know this career path is not “a walk in the park”! I have hired hundreds of consultants in my tenure and not every engagement is without error. Typically, the hard skills of the consultant have rarely been the reason for an unsuccessful engagement. It usually comes down to one or more of the softer skills I have been referencing. You will need these skills to build and further your consulting career – and in our current climate, they are absolutely critical!

While consulting will never be shy of challenges, pressure, and uncertainty; it will always be brimming with big rewards –working on multi-faceted engagements within a variety of industries, growth opportunities, and the opportunity to create so many meaningful relationships.

To all of CARA’s Consultant Team Members, I’d like to dedicate this blog to you. Thank you for your partnership and focus!

S4HANA Primer: Change Considerations Supporting Migration

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This blog will define SAP and highlight the technical and change management considerations from the perspective of a CARA consultant on a CARA engagement.

Who is SAP?

SAP SE is a German multinational software corporation that makes enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations. The company is especially known for its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. SAP is an acronym for Systems, Applications, and Products.

Companies use SAP to integrate different business processes across various functions, such as purchasing goods and services, fulfilling customer orders and collecting payments, importing and exporting goods, manufacturing and distributing products, financial reporting, and maintaining Master Data, which is core to their operations.

SAP’s Journey to S/4HANA

SAP introduced R/1 enterprise software in 1972 and released R/2 for the mainframe in 1979. The next generation was R/3 for the client/server that was released in 1992. SAP introduced mySAP for the world wide web in 2000. It was an e-business software integration tool that delivers content to the user based on his or her role in an enterprise. SAP introduced HANA in 2011. It is optimized for SAP’s in-memory database known as SAP HANA. SAP has continued to enhance this suite of products with real-time analysis and computing, workflow approvals, self-service tasks, and cloud offerings.

“A comprehensive change management strategy ensures people engage and support the change and implement the behavior to sustain the change.”

 

SAP S/4HANA

S/4 HANA is the successor of SAP R/3 and is SAP’s ERP system for large enterprises. S/4 HANA is a solution specifically designed to run on HANA and helps companies move away from traditional ERP systems towards providing users real-time decision support.

SAP HANA is comprised of three key components:
1. In-memory computing engine
2. Database technology
3. Single database platform

To learn more about these three key components, refer to the following diagram.

SAP HANA three components diagram
Source: M. Schroer

What Must Companies Consider When Migrating to S/4HANA?

From a Technical Perspective…
Companies must consider their migration and implementation strategy as described below.

  • Brownfield or Greenfield Implementation
    • A Brownfield implementation means the company is migrating to SAP S/4HANA without re-implementation and without disruption to existing business processes. However, it does allow for re-evaluation of any existing process flows and any customizations that were made to the system.
    • A Greenfield implementation or Vanilla implementation is the traditional way of implementing an SAP system. The team, which consists of both consultants and key users, starts from best practices and designs the final ERP solution taking into account the team’s joint experience.
  • On-premise or Managed Cloud Migration
    • An on-premise migration means all of the SAP hardware is located within the companies’ own data center (as opposed to in the cloud).
    • A cloud migration means the company moves its SAP applications, data, and technology to a managed cloud service.

From a Change Management Perspective…
Companies must consider the people, process, and technology impacts their employees and partners to ensure they are ready, willing, and able to adopt the move to S/4HANA. Outlined below is the change management strategy CARA designed for a recent SAP client.

Sponsorship | Stakeholder Assessment | Communications | Training & Documentation | Hyper-care Support

Sponsorship
CARA designed activities and tools to support the program’s vision and objectives. Leaders were aligned on the Change Management strategy and benefits and the change agent roles and responsibilities. A program overview video was developed featuring key leaders describing the key aspects of the program – Who, What, Where, When, and Why. In addition, visioning and elevator speech talking points were developed for leaders.

Stakeholder Assessment
When SAP users complete actions in their SAP system, their keystrokes are governed by two components:

  1. Transaction codes (Tcodes) – a short cut key that provides direct access to the desired transaction from anywhere within the SAP system.
  2. Security roles – governs what data and processes each user can access inside the SAP system.

When migrating to S/4HANA, each client will experience changes to their transaction codes (Tcodes), security roles, the look and feel of SAP screens, and changes to business processes.

CARA conducted a job/role impact/risk assessment to identify the impacted stakeholders, assess benefits based on their job/role, and identify potential risks.

Communications
CARA designed a robust communication strategy to support 12,000 global SAP users. The goal was to provide the right message, at the right time, to the right audience using the right vehicle. In addition to the sponsorship artifacts mentioned above, the following communication artifacts were developed:

  • Communication plan
  • Stakeholder support site
  • Three-level stakeholder impact summary
  • Monthly newsletter and change agent events
  • IT sponsored system demos to illustrate system changes

Training and Documentation
The typical SAP user is supported by many standard operating procedure documents (SOPs) and training artifacts that govern how they use the SAP system.

Some SAP clients do not completely employ global processes. This results in a larger number of SOPs and training media items to update when they migrate to S4/HANA because they have to update the global processes and local documents that are location or country-specific.

The CARA Stakeholder Assessment identified how changes to the client’s transaction codes (Tcodes), security roles, business processes, and the look and feel of SAP screens impacted the client’s SOPs and training media.

CARA developed a robust media tracker to track the development/updates to over 1500 SOP and training artifacts. The tracker highlighted dependencies between development teams and provided for easy resource analysis and allocation. It also included a dashboard to report development/update progress to leadership.

CARA partnered with the client’s training team to develop a global training deployment plan that included self-service training and recorded webinars.

Hyper-care Support
CARA partnered with the client’s program team to develop a hyper-care support strategy that included:

  • Dashboard and metrics for leadership
  • Launch Communication plan
  • Daily huddles for the program team
  • Q&A conference calls to support change agents post Launch
  • Q&A mailbox/triage strategy to support users/partners post-launch
  • Supplemental training for users/partners

Successful SAP S/4HANA implementations require the client’s organization to move from the current to the future state. However, clients don’t change, people change. The CARA change management consultant assessed the stakeholders and developed a communication, training, and support strategy to ensure their successful adoption of S/4HANA. By applying the right combination of change management activities and tools, the CARA change management consultant ensured the client’s people engaged and supported the change and then implemented the required skills and behavior to sustain the change.

Committed to your future blog post image

ServiceNow: Six Change Communications Best Practices to Consider During Implementation

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Picture this: Your organization has decided to build a ServiceNow platform to enhance your IT service desk capabilities to all end users. The platform would provide employees with multiple ways to reach the service desk to open incident tickets, including the ability to self-diagnose and fix minor issues by accessing a new knowledge center.

The business goal is wrapped around the need to streamline and create a more efficient service desk process. Your business case is sound, and now you must build an implementation team, which includes outstanding Organizational Change Management practitioners to ensure employees embrace and use the new portal. After all, projects are more likely to fail when OCM is not properly accounted for.

However, it’s easy to assume that the need for OCM support is minimal in the case of a ServiceNow IT service center platform. After all, your organization always had a help desk hotline number – you are now just expanding those services. That can be a mistake.

Never underestimate your end users’ resistance to change, especially if they cannot envision a need. Users will typically access the IT service center when technology issues develop, and they are unable to work. They will often take the easiest route to get their issue solved by picking up the phone. Downtime does not make for a great workday.

“After all, projects are more likely to fail when OCM is not properly accounted for.”

 

Make Targeted Communications a Priority

During a recent integration of a new ServiceNow IT service center platform we created a robust OCM plan, including a communications strategy that communicated to and convinced all audience members in the organization of the value of the features and benefits of the ServiceNow platform, which included the customized ability to:

  1. Continue to contact the help desk telephonically
  2. Get resolution to an issue through a chat session
  3. Open a ticket by completing an online form
  4. Self-diagnose minor issues through a knowledge center platform that included a growing service catalog
  5. Check on resolution progress of open tickets
  6. Learn of any organization-wide issues/outages that were impacting their ability to do their work

Effective, targeted communication is critical, especially when stakeholders do not have a firm grip on the need for the change. In this case employees were happy to use their desk phones to open a resolution ticket. During a change process, employees will typically fall back on the “what’s in it for me” concerns – how would the new ServiceNow service center help them more quickly resolve their issue.

As a result, communications must go beyond delivering project awareness, it must also convince all audience levels to actively support and commit to the change by providing evidence of how the new ServiceNow service center benefits all parties and the organization. Messages around simplicity, efficiency and expanded capabilities are crucial to end-users. Communications must also be open-ended, enabling stakeholders to have their questions answered.

To ensure this is done well, the communications lead must plan around what stakeholder audiences need to know, when they need to know specific messages and how those messages will be delivered. Poorly planned and executed communications often leads to a lack of user acceptance, understanding and frustration that can go all the way to the C-suite.

Six Communications Best Practices

Consider these six OCM communications best practices when implementing a ServiceNow platform:

  1. Communicate early. Never wait until the 11th hour to start your communications process. Your communications timeline should start early enough to allow stakeholders to decipher the change to ServiceNow and its impact. We started several months prior to launch with a variety of communications tactics, including a fluid intranet toolkit portal that housed all communications materials, with FAQs and a hotline link to have questions answered.
  2. Communicate often but plan it right. Is it possible to overcommunicate? Yes, if your messaging starts to become annoying – much like that TV spot that quickly grows old and tired. Establish a good communications rhythm. Repeating messages is important, but don’t let them become a nuisance your employees can easily tune out.
  3. Consider messages for all audience levels. Many organizations may miss out on opportunities to convey targeted, purposeful messages by limiting themselves to broad email or intranet communications. See the next best practice for additional channel ideas.
  4. Use multiple communications channels. If you want to reach 20 percent of your audience limit your content to the intranet. Many employees make occasional visits to the company intranet and may miss your message. Remember that your communications compete against their other work priorities. Complement email and intranet messaging with a broad array of tactics, including town halls, managers’ team key messages and lunch ‘n’ learns, which also allow for 2-way communications opportunities. Lunch ‘n’ learns, in particular, allow employees to “test-drive” the new portal and can be a great way to build interest and commitment.
  5. Use “tips and tricks” to arouse support and commitment. When the new service center is announced many employees will hesitate to move away from their telephone to open a ticket. Brief, memorable tips and tricks will teach employees something that will spur them on to learn more about the features and benefits of the new portal.
  6. Communications doesn’t stop after rollout. Make sure the change to the new service center sticks – employees will quickly move back to old habits in the weeks and months after your ServiceNow rollout unless you continue to keep the portal in front of them. Tell success stories that show how other employees made good use of the new service center and continue to offer tips and tricks. Share these via a variety of channels – the intranet, email, manager key messages and even your company’s video screens, if you have them.

Of course, it is critical that you also measure your communications’ effectiveness. Did employees rally around the new ServiceNow portal? Did they continue to exclusively use the help desk hotline? Did messages resonate with them? If so, how did they best receive them? Evaluate both your communications content and strategy.

Please connect with us if you could use Organizational Change Management help on a ServiceNow integration, or any project you have. We’re glad to help!

“Going Digital” A Framework for Corporate Learning

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For many organizations, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed some serious vulnerabilities. Businesses not equipped with a digital strategy have become highly reactive and struggled to swiftly pivot and support their workforce development under these unprecedented circumstances. Clearly, these uncertain times call for pioneer thinking. Organizations must learn, expand, and develop new ways to enable people to do better work through a continuously evolving digital strategy.

This lead paragraph might seem vague and grandiose; don’t get disillusioned by these opening lines. Let’s take a closer look at how organizations can leverage a digital mindset to successfully move both technology and people to the center of their response strategy and ongoing corporate narrative.

Digital Transformation

Where to start? Well, by defining a term that gets a lot of eye rolls – Digital Transformation.

Digital Transformation starts with the complete rethinking of how a business operates. Said best by McKinsey & Company, it is about empowering employees to embrace change and to challenge old ways of working. Digital Transformation must take place at all levels within an organization, i.e., the core business must fundamentally change. Countless business leaders have been reluctant to do the hard work – to transform their business operations to digital, but with the unexpected global crisis, they now have no choice. Becoming digital is the only way forward.

A Digital Transformation introduces boundless opportunities for innovation, operational efficiencies, and competitive advantage. Simply injecting technology into an existing process proves insufficient in realizing what it means to be digital. So, this is when the difference between Automation versus Digitalization becomes important.

Linking proven learning methods with advanced technology allows organizations to meet the immediate needs of their people while future proofing their workforce along the way.”

 

Automation vs. Digitalization

Both Gartner and Forbes have published excellent content on the difference between Automation and Digitalization. Two recommended articles are included in the footnotes. If you are interested, dive in! To simplify the jargon:

Automation

  • To install technology into an existing process
  • To make a process operate automatically by replacing human intervention

Digitalization

  • To provide new value, improve how something gets done
  • To leverage technology to make work and ultimately people’s lives better

Unfortunately, many organizations focus on implementing automation with an intention to simplify work by removing human intervention as opposed to creating resilient business models. The output of these expensive automation projects consistently fails to meet business needs/expectations. Meanwhile, businesses that embrace digitalization have the mindset to better manage change overall, making change management a core competency while the business becomes more agile and customer-centric.

Digital Transformation of Learning

In today’s corporate setting, a person’s success is often attributed to their ability to learn and adapt. Education is an enabler for people, particularly during times of substantial change. One would think this understanding would propel corporate learning to the top of the priority list.

McKinsey & Company’s research had previously forecasted that the skills needed in the workplace will be utterly different by 2030. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this prediction to 2020. It’s imperative for organizations to support and develop their people in this disruptive transformation of work. Such an immense workforce revolution must be met with appropriate learning and development strategies.

One of the main goals of any corporate learning strategy should be making information accessible across the entire organization. Learning should not be a struggle, yet in most of today’s corporate settings, learning has not been designed to be people-centric. The Godfather of Corporate Learning, Josh Bersin, talks about how external consumer platforms like Google, YouTube, and LinkedIn make it extremely easy to search and consume knowledge-based content. These new age consumer platforms have become the common place for learners to circumvent their company’s clunky learning offerings for a better learning experience. Ironically, these external tech giants end up knowing more about an employee’s learning needs and skill level than their actual employer. And they leverage this information to create personalized, timely and interconnected learning experiences. Businesses should take note, there is something to learn here, pun intended!

Fundamental gaps exist with how people consume content and retain knowledge inside and outside of work. Below are four things to consider when redesigning your corporate learning strategy to meet consumer expectations:

  • Personal – Today’s learners want learning geared towards their individual needs and interests. By leveraging innovations like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), businesses can scale personalization to create individual learning experiences based on unique employee data.
  • Mobile – Mandatory compliance training is often the #1 content accessed within a learning management system (LMS), but usage quickly drops off when it comes to everyday learning needs. A big reason for this is that corporate learning is often confined to a ridge destination (i.e. LMS) verses built into the flow of work. In response, learners pivot to internet searches, videos, podcasts, and other content that is immediately accessible via their mobile devices to fuel their curiosity and support their on-the-job learning needs
  • Social – From infants to adults, we, by nature, learn from each other. Sharing knowledge and expertise via sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube creates new opportunities for individuals and companies to share, promote, and give/accept feedback on learning content. These same social learning tactics can be brought into the workplace too. We’re all vying for the 5-star review!
  • Continuous – Developing ongoing learning experiences is the hook for creating a life-long learner, and, for the tech giants, creating a life-long consumer. Work, let alone life, is in a constant state of change. Continuous learning is a response to the turbulence of modern work (*gulp* life): new technology, new company direction, new process, new teammate, new…, new…., new…

A Digital Approach to Corporate Learning

This humanitarian crisis has changed business operating models forever. In turn, organizations are forced to rapidly evolve old learning programs and training models to support their newly fractionalized workforce. Every organization is impacted differently. Some have transitioned to working remotely. Others have evolved to shift patterns of small cohorts. All are creating new roles and transitioning people to support swiftly changing business demands. A digital learning strategy is required now, more than ever before, to support the disruption.

Not sure where to start with your digital learning transformation? Hit the ground running with these six recommendations for reimagining corporate learning activities into effective and immersive digital learning experiences.

  1. Understand when to be highly digital and when to be highly human – it’s the balance of both where truly the magic happens.
  2. Build an open source API Integrations strategy, integrate new technology solutions to enhance the learning experience – a friendly learning bot ready to assist will do the trick.
  3. Design for mobile first, create a new learning mode for consuming content anywhere at any time – work, life, and learning have no borders in today’s world.
  4. Set the standard for data always – use actionable metrics to connect learning with performance and business outcomes.
  5. Support various types of learning – including on-the-job learning, team-based learning, ILT, blended learning, gamification, and adaptive microlearning, to name a few.
  6. Go all in, become digital – do the upfront work… align your company mindset, understand and build empathy for your people, rethink and redesign your processes, and then use technology to bring it all together.

The Wrap

Remember, the Digital Transformation of Learning extends beyond the virtual delivery of instructional courses and training. It requires a mindset shift for how organizations fundamentally approach learning for the workforce. Linking proven learning methods with advanced technology allows organizations to meet the immediate needs of their people while future proofing their workforce along the way.

 

Sources/Footnotes:
Gartner: https://info.advsyscon.com/it-automation-blog/gartner-it-automation
Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonbloomberg/2018/04/29/digitization-digitalization-and-digital-transformation-confuse-them-at-your-peril/#2458c4162f2c
McKinsey: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/unlocking-success-in-digital-transformations
Josh Bersin https://joshbersin.com/2019/03/learning-experience-platform-lxp-market-grows-up-now-too-big-to-ignore/

 

Your Brain on Change! How to Stop Fighting Gravity

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“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein

Why, then, do so many organizations take the same approach to change over and over again and not achieve the desired outcomes? Scholars, consultants, researchers and well-intended leaders have all struggled to crack the mystery of successful and sustained OCM (organizational change management). Why is it still so hard?

The problem is not insanity…..it’s that people are complex creatures and, as a result, change is messy. We don’t always behave in a linear fashion based on a well-set plan (if you have teenagers, you can relate). Until we embrace the connection of neuroscience with change, every initiative is at risk of being another statistic.

Neuroscience is the study of the brain and its impact on our behavior. It is not a new concept in the world of OCM, but we need to elevate it beyond a new way of thinking to a standard way of driving OCM. We know that the brain has pathways that respond to change (good or bad), and that our brains are prediction machines to keep us out of harm’s way. We know that it takes more time and energy to try something new and that our brains typically prefer to default to saving energy by doing what is automatic (habit). And we also know that, as a result, the brain often interprets change as a threat. This results in a fight-or-flight mindset, even if a change is positive! But did you know:

  • Many conventional change approaches in fact trigger the threat response
  • Science shows that our brains often make decisions for us before we have time to consciously process ourselves
  • Our brains have FIVE TIMES more neural networks to look for danger than they have for rewards
  • Our brains subconsciously look for threats five times per second based on primal survival instincts
  • Our brains subconsciously decide whom to trust without consulting us
  • With neurons firing at breakneck speed, the brain spurs us to react fast, sometimes too fast

Our brains are constantly on high alert when a change comes our way and can release chemicals that create negative behaviors such as resistance (outward or internal), barriers to learning, anxiety, low engagement and poor decision-making skills. When we can trigger the reward part of the brain, however, we bring about engagement, creativity and hope…..all leading to high performing employees, hence a high performing organization.

Your brain on change:

Threat VS Reward
Source: P. Plohg

A Word About Methodology

Change methodologies are important, with some more impactful than others. I teach methods to graduate students as well as advocate and apply them with my clients. It’s all good stuff. The danger is that reliance of a methodology doesn’t always ensure success. In other words, you may find yourself fighting gravity. Although we can create the best-laid plans and check the boxes when we drive actions around certain steps, it’s no wonder that more often than not we can face prolonged resistance and lack of sustained change.

I remember a client workshop that I participated in to launch a massive transformation across the entire organization. It was a huge investment with a crystal-clear business case along with plenty of benefits to the employees including simplified work processes. During the workshop “capturing the hearts and minds of our people” was mentioned no less than 20 times in the course of two days. We talked about a plan and methodologies, and how to achieve this goal through a rigorous workplan complete with communication, change agents, and training. We agreed that if we hadn’t captured the hearts and minds of the organization through standard approaches by a specific date, we would be behind schedule. Yet these conversations struck me as disingenuous; kind of like telling someone they have two hours to decide if they want to be friends because the workplan says so.

Knowing when and how to change is not the same as being truly motivated to change. The old change paradigm is that we need a burning platform (threat) to convince people to change. But, in fact, most change initiatives are not that severe. The majority of change initiatives are intended to broaden and build an organization’s capabilities and people; sounds pretty rewarding! Opportunity is often a driver for change……and yet as OCM professionals we often try to find the threat within an opportunity to build commitment…. which can become a vicious cycle.

In the case above, my team and I took a step back and examined our change plan through the lens of triggering the reward side of the brain and shifting our familiar ways of thinking. Doing so can be uncomfortable and feel less certain. There was a time when following the change curve guaranteed success….or did it?.

It’s not about throwing standard approaches out the window, but it is about thinking from a more holistic viewpoint focused on what really makes people tick. The table below gives a sample of what this can look like:


Source: P. Plohg

Let’s break down the example of let people make their own connections. By now you’ve likely seen Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” Ted Talk one or 100 times (if not, check it out!). The premise is that we need to drive change starting with the why because people buy into why you do something versus what you do. This lends itself to letting people make their own connections and trigger those brain sensors that say “this feels right” and “I get it!”

The example of we need both rational and emotional reasons for change speaks perfectly to the rider and elephant theories in Switch, my favorite change management book of all time (like you, I’ve read many). The brain is not of one mind, so to speak. We all have a rational (rider) and emotional (elephant) side. Both have enormous strengths and crippling possibilities; if they aren’t recognized and moving in harmony, change will not happen.

A good OCM professional pays it forward by creating change leaders in their wake. I want to leave my clients and students understanding that when we let go of outdated principles and ‘tell’ mindsets by understanding how the brain responds to change, the opportunities for meaningful and lasting impact have no end. I can’t promise that it still won’t get messy, but isn’t that what makes the journey so incredibly rewarding?

To learn more about the neuroscience of change, I recommend:

Leading Virtual Teams: 5 Must-Haves for Staying Connected

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Let’s face it, these are unprecedented times. And they require an unprecedented response from us all. We’ve been used to working within a global VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) business environment for some time—one that’s required us to demonstrate both adaptability and resilience. But these times are different. As we continue to do our part in combatting the global coronavirus we are sheltering in place, maintaining our social distance, and for many of us, finding ourselves in the unchartered territory of working 100% virtually for the first time. This need to work differently, along with the stressors of finding ourselves within a global pandemic, is likely bringing up some new reactions for us all. Common challenges include the need to balance work priorities and deliverables, while battling feelings of isolation and missing the kinds of everyday ‘hallway’ interactions we’ve relied on and enjoyed. We’re all battling these experiences for ourselves while we find our way. And if you’re a leader with direct reports, you’ve got a team of people relying on you to address their concerns and keep them connected as well.

This blog focuses on five ‘must-have’ techniques for doing just that. As you read, keep in mind how and when you can begin applying these for yourself and your team.

“We now find ourselves working in completely new ways where the need to engage virtually has never been greater. As a leader, your opportunity to bring your team together is at a critical phase.”

 

1. Plan Your Approach

Eleanor Roosevelt once said “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” Comparing the two, experience tells us that we can have a much better ‘hit rate’ for success with a plan, so why not start there? Take the time to be intentional about what success will look like while leading a team that is completely virtual.

This starts by reflecting on your vision and hopes for your team. How do you want your team members to act and feel in this virtual environment? What will it mean to be productive, connected, and successful? How can you help team members tap into their individual core competencies and strengths? How do you see yourself continuing to build team cohesion remotely while making sure that everyone feels part of the team? Your answers to these questions will shape your interactions with your team members and will go a long way to foster the type of virtual team environment that your employees will have. Share your vision and what this means for your team.

Remember that you have a critical role to play in shaping your team’s virtual culture. Be a role model by demonstrating virtual team commitment and collaboration. What work style habits can you build that will benefit you and provide examples of what others can emulate (e.g., taking care of yourself and your energy levels, integrating work and family tasks, maintaining effective routines)? Keep in mind that regular routines go a long way to combat an unpredictable external environment. How can you authentically convey the importance of your team in supporting each other in a virtual setting? Aim to develop realistic, focused goals (both team and individual), and establish upfront expectations of each other. Also, be the kind of leader who has ongoing conversations with your employees on progress made.

2. Communicate Early and Often

In a virtual environment, it’s more important than ever to use a variety of vehicles and methods to set the stage for open communication. How can you develop a cadence and process for coming together—for both team and one-on-one touchpoints? What structure can you provide for your team to foster information sharing and connection? How can you augment this by seizing impromptu opportunities to check-in, share information, ask a question, or simply say “hello” and see how people are doing? Don’t assume that others know what you’re working on or who you’re interacting with. What questions do your team members have? Where should people go with specific questions? Consider your responses to these questions for establishing your team’s pattern of communication, and see where it may need to adapt over time.

On top of this, don’t forget to master the ‘basics’ of communication. Respond to others in a timely manner. Keep scheduled meetings. Listen actively. Remove distractions in your work setting. At the end of the day, set yourself up to be present, engaged, and in-the-moment when communicating with others. When face-to-face conversations aren’t practical, know what to listen for. In this case, you won’t have the benefit of seeing someone’s nonverbals—so you’ll want to pay extra attention to subtle nuances in individuals’ tone and pace of speech. This will clue you in to where you may need to check for understanding.

Communication is so important because it helps direct your team’s actions, accountabilities, and progress made. What methods and processes can you use to make sure everyone is on the same page? Share meeting agendas, outcomes, commitments, and next steps. Your team members will rely on the open communication you foster to build trust in a virtual environment. This will go a long way to your team members being open to giving and receiving feedback as your team continues to evolve.

3. Leverage Technology

We are fortunate to live in a time where we have wide access to technology and systems that give us the opportunity to work remotely. That said, you’ll want to make optimal use of available technology and resources. This means using the right tool(s) for the situation. We’ve probably all been part of remote interactions that didn’t go well simply because an overly complex tool for the situation was utilized. When a formal meeting is involved, this is when you’ll want to learn to make good use of your company’s online meeting software. However, in other cases, exchanging emails, sharing instant messages, sending texts, or holding phone calls will easily suffice to expedite making the right connection.

Another recommendation is to opt for face-to-face interaction to increase engagement (and decrease the tendency to multi-task), particularly when longer conversations are involved. Now is the time to practice getting technology savvy with using your computer’s camera feature! This will come in handy when holding virtual face-to-face meetings with your team. Think of it as a wonderful opportunity for the team to come together, share updates, ask questions, and foster a sense of camaraderie.

What about other important logistics? You’ll want to test your technology equipment and connections to ensure you’ll be in a position to connect easily and both begin and end on time. Do what you can to anticipate and mitigate any challenges that may arise. If you’re part of a global workforce, you’ll want to be sensitive to time zone differences when scheduling team meetings. Think about ways you can facilitate holding an effective and efficient meeting so you are focused and attentive to your role in the moment.

4. Don’t Neglect the Human Component

It’s been said that the most effective leaders show they care first, and give direction second. Focus on how you can continue to build your relationship with each of your team members so you’ll be in the best position to meet them where they are—uniquely and individually. It will be particularly important in a virtual setting to ask your individual team members how they are doing with the changes to their work environment. Listen to what they have to say and empathize with their reactions.

One resource that may be helpful with this is CARA’s recent article on Leading a Virtual Workforce Transformation: 10 Keys to Success (March 30, Andrew Barnitz). This article presents the change commitment curve—the process humans go through when adapting to a new reality. It gives additional insight into the internal psychological adaptation process that an individual goes through when moving through a change. Consider where you fall in adapting to virtual work, as well as where each of your team members are.

Change Commitment Curve Graph

Doing so will raise your awareness not only to what you’re personally experiencing but to what your team members are going through. By reflecting on this you’ll be in the best position to help your team move through the change curve. You may even help them think about how they can reframe initially perceived challenges into opportunities. This will help to foster an environment of team learning. When and how might you hold conversations on how individuals are adapting to virtual work? How could you provide a forum for team members to share ‘bright spots’ they’ve experienced along the way?

This is the time to show your appreciation for your team and how they are rising to the challenge of virtual work. Recognize and celebrate both individual and team success when you see it. Get to know your team members’ individual preferences for recognition, and customize your approach to this. This is also the time to incorporate F-U-N where you can into the workday! Get creative when thinking about how you can build virtual team camaraderie.

What are some good ideas you’d like to share on virtual team building (e.g., meeting themes, playing games, cooking together-but-separate, virtual happy hour)? Please share in the ‘Comments’ section, we’d love to hear your ideas!

5. Stay Flexible

A virtual work environment lends itself to continual adaptation and the opportunity to be flexible. You may find that expectations about how the work will flow and how people will come together will need to shift over time, and that’s okay. Know where your team may need to re-prioritize tasks, assignments, or ways of interacting along the way. Keeping flexible will help you and your team to not get bogged down in old ways of thinking or acting.

This will serve you well in being able to identify what changes may still be needed, both in the short- and long-term. It will also help you determine any immediate changes needed around the corner, along with their impact on the team in general and individual team members in particular. This is where open communication will be instrumental.

In the end, we now find ourselves working in completely new ways where the need to engage virtually has never been greater. As a leader, your opportunity to bring your team together is at a critical phase. We hope you’ve gathered some new insights that will be immediately helpful in directing your team to rise above and achieve more.

Please connect with us if you can use additional help with leading your team virtually, or simply want to talk about your experience in leading virtually. We’re here to help.