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Change Management

Change Management’s Role in Preserving the Island Vibe: Reflections from Key West, FL

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Sharing an observational essay by CARA’s Director, Organizational Change Management Andrew Barnitz

Many professionals take vacations to escape the daily grind of their jobs and careers. But in my line of work, I am surrounded by examples of change management both on and off the clock. A ‘good’ example of change management occurred on a recent trip to Key West, FL. Key West is the southernmost point of the continental US and is known for its island vibe, remarkable sunsets, live music, and Conch Fritters (a local delicacy). But because it is a destination of choice, it is often over-run by tourists (like me). But despite the overcrowded nature of this ‘key’, natives and visitors alike treat this beautiful piece of Earth as their own.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Barnitz

Why? Well, there are several contributing factors. But perhaps the most visible example is the use of sidewalk signage that accompanies most, if not all, sewers along the famed Duval Street. This is a simple, yet effective, example of ‘change management’. For one, the use of the ‘dolphin’ image tugs at the hearts of visitors (and natives, too). Secondly, the use of the language ‘DRAINS TO OCEAN’ resonates with locals who recognize that much of their livelihood and leisure activities are directly linked to the ocean.

KEY TAKEAWAY:

As change professionals, we strive to minimize change resistance but accelerate adoption. And we recognize that in order to achieve meaningful behavior change (i.e., ‘no dumping’), it is imperative that we communicate with purpose, we tailor our messages, and we enroll our stakeholders (i.e. natives and tourists) in our collective mission.

COMMENT BELOW:

Would Key West be able to achieve similar results if this alternative sewer signage was used: “$100 FINE FOR DUMPING”? Let me know your thoughts.

“The Great Workforce Realization”: Employee Influence on the Future of Work

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For the last 500+ days, many of us have had the privilege of working from the comfort of our own homes – productively, I might add. While I reflect on this most unique period of my career, I have had the pleasure of experiencing six changing seasons, the joy of hearing my two boys interact with eLearning or the periodic disruptions when they bust through my office door, and watched the sun rise and set before my eyes for nearly 18 months! Most recently, however, these experiences have changed with the ‘newest normal’, as I hear and see neighbors interacting and children playing. As we now broaden our perspective to contemplate work life outside of our homes, feelings such as excitement, relief, and yes, uncertainty, are conjured up.

And so, I ask: What does this mean for us as leaders and employees?

EMPLOYEES IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT

As millions of employees, managers, and leaders set their sights on returning to a physical workplace, there is a collective sigh that work-life will never be the same. No matter where you sit on the return-to-work continuum, there are no prior experiences to draw from or instruction manuals to follow on how and when we return to a physical workplace. While there is no shortage of blogs highlighting this critical employee migration on LinkedIn and many other social platforms, there is one common theme across all articles and that is that there are more unknowns than knowns. Collectively, millions of us are in a state of flux. The future of our next work location is ambiguous, uncertain, and, yes, complex. And while many employees are anxious about the future, many employers are seeing significant turnover. “The Great Resignation” is a term I recently read in an article from Tech Republic1 which highlights organizations who are experiencing much churn over organizational decisions that do not reflect this newest normal. Consequently, employees are now having the greatest influence over the future of work than ever before.

And while many have coined this new future of work as “The Great Migration,” and “The Great Resignation,” etc. – at CARA, we believe that what we are experiencing should be called “The Great Workforce Realization”. A realization that:

  • A hybrid workforce is here to stay.
  • Office workers can be as productive, if not more productive, from home as they are in the office.
  • Employees will influence the new future of work like never before.
  • Organizations who fail to adapt to a flexible workplace model may struggle to compete for top talent.
  • Employees are taking ownership of their careers and seeking flexible work environments.
  • Leaders have less leverage and influence over the workforce of the future than prior years.

RETURN TO PHYSICAL WORKPLACE: KEY CHALLENGES

For many organizations, this is their watershed moment: an opportunity to set themselves apart and demonstrate an intentional focus on the needs of the employees and their desire to operate in a hybrid workforce. With that in mind, The CARA Group hosted a virtual interactive session in late May 2021 to address many of these same questions about our ‘newest normal’ and the future of work. We posed two questions to our CARA talent community and crowdsourced a collective response. For question #1 below, we tackled this discussion from four unique perspectives: HR, Employees, Leadership and Logistics. See the results below.

QUESTION 1:

What are the biggest challenges facing our clients as we re-enter a physical workplace?

HR

  • Understanding migration HR ramifications.
  • Defining protocols for infected employees.
  • Resolving employee conflict.
  • Sourcing talent not interested in a physical workplace.

EMPLOYEES

  • Misalignment of desire between employee and leadership to return to the office.
  • Belief that work/life balance is a best practice.
  • Shift in employee dynamic due to employee conflict.
  • Letting go of unprofessional habits formed during pandemic.

LEADERSHIP

  • Lack of coordinated change management and communication strategy.
  • Executives’ discomfort leading a hybrid workforce.
  • Low trust by employees for colleagues not in physical space.
  • Decreased employee retention without flexible work arrangements.

LOGISTICS

  • Lack of clear expectations for on-site/off-site.
  • Lack of a vaccination policy(ies).
  • Lack of vaccine compliance.
  • Office configuration to accommodate social distancing guidelines.
  • New safety protocols required to accommodate a hybrid workforce.

RETURN TO PHYSICAL WORKPLACE: CARA CONSULTING SOLUTIONS

At CARA, we proactively consult with our clients to address the many challenges that lie ahead. Below is a subset of ways that we are helping our clients navigate their return to a physical workplace. Our approach to this challenge, addressed in our second interactive session question with our consultants, falls within four key areas of focus: Change Management, Leadership Alignment, Change Readiness and Employee Engagement.

QUESTION 2:

How do we consult with our clients knowing they are facing new ways of working?

CHANGE MANAGEMENT

  • Develop thoughtful change management strategies
    and blueprints.
  • Provide flexible content and delivery options to
    accommodate a hybrid learning experience.
  • Offer high level change management 101 coaching
    enabling leaders to guide employees through their return
    to the office journey.
  • Coach leaders and employees to develop a
    case for change.
  • Develop robust communication strategies that are
    tailored to the unique needs of leaders, managers, and
    employees.
  • Reestablish collaboration norms and best practices as
    cross-functional teams begin to reconvene in joint
    workspaces.

LEADERSHIP ALIGNMENT

  • Encourage leaders, managers, and employees to verbalize,
    accept and acknowledge return to work challenges.
  • Coach executives to shift their POV and expectations
    around in-office work.
  • Coach executives to abandon the notion that employees
    need to be present to produce results.
  • Coach executives on building a corporate culture in a
    hybrid work environment.
  • Encourage leaders to acknowledge the impacts of a hybrid workforce from both domestic and global perspectives.
  • Survey leadership to capture their voice and align on a set
    of hybrid workforce norms.

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

  • Define key success factors and success metrics to measure
    employee adoption goals.
  • Encourage executives to capture employees and managers
    POV as part of their transition back to the office.
  • Coach employees to be open-minded and to show empathy
    for colleagues who are struggling to transition to this newest norm.
  • Ensure continuous messaging to employees that highlight safety precautions.
  • Leverage CARA’s “Storytelling As A Service” capability to engage employees and rally support.

CHANGE READINESS

  • Conduct an initial survey to establish a baseline for measuring success.
  • Leverage CARA’s Survey Focus Group capability to capture
    the voice of leaders, managers, and employees.
  • Develop targeted stakeholder action plans to address unique
    needs of each employee.
  • Produce various communication materials that highlight
    benefits of collaboration in the office.
  • Develop and socialize hybrid workforce success stories.

As the CARA team highlighted above, we have only just begun to understand the challenges that lie ahead as organizations migrate employees and leaders back to the physical workplace. But what we do know is that the implications of an organization’s return to physical workplace decisions, protocols, and policies will be far-reaching. We also recognize that the way organizations treat employees and leaders during this migration will serve as a game changer over the long-term. For example, companies who subscribe to a flexible workplace approach may find themselves organically acquiring top talent like never before. At CARA, it is our belief that organizations who develop a coordinated change management approach, listen, and empathize with their employees, and proactively gauge employee readiness will stand to reap the most benefits from this employee migration.

As a professional services partner to the Fortune 500, CARA is here to help you navigate this uncharted journey. Contact us to learn how we can partner with you to help you navigate.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Source: Tech Republic – https://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-great-resignation-of-2021-are-30-of-workers-really-going-to-quit/

Vitamin or Vaccine – The Role of Change Management in a Post Pandemic World

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Like many of you, I have unpleasant memories of my first vaccines as a child. To this day, I remember sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office – fearful they would call my name. I recall sitting there quietly as I nervously turned the pages of the “Highlights” magazine – a staple in the doctor’s office in the 80s. For me, getting shots was a dreadful experience. And, frankly, my worst nightmare coming true. I lost sleep the night before and woke with cold sweats throughout the evening.

On the other hand, I have fond memories of my first vitamins – Flintstone’s, as I recall. Despite a chalky after taste, I found them to be very enjoyable. Each morning, I would look forward to that flavorful treat and immediately run around the house pretending to fly. In an instant, I felt that I had more strength, more energy, and felt like Superman – able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

While both vitamins and vaccines play a critical role in our human development and overall well-being, I think my experience as a child helps to illustrate that, as children and even as adults, we look forward to taking our vitamins much more than we would receiving a vaccine.

While vitamins and vaccines are essential to our collective well-being, the delivery of each varies. Vitamins are a proactive, often daily, way to provide your body with nutrients to help it grow and thrive. Alternatively, a vaccine is preventative in nature administered once or twice in a lifetime to keep you immune.

Change Management: Is it a Vitamin or a Vaccine?

The perception of change also varies widely based on the sponsor, or a person’s knowledge of the change management discipline altogether. To some sponsors, change management serves as a project’s vitamin – operating as an essential and proactive component to the project’s success. Deployed frequently and consistently, this approach leads to healthy outcomes of adoption, utilization, and proficiency. Other project sponsors approach change management by deploying it like a vaccine. This one-and-done approach may seem efficient, but it does not change the behaviors required for sustainability. With this in mind, change management as a practice requires daily intake to ensure individual and business transformation.

Change management as a discipline is intended to enable organizational success at the individual level.

When sponsors view change management as a ‘vitamin’ for the projects they lead, the discipline and mindset of change management will be seamlessly and successfully embedded within all project work. However, if change management is approached as a ‘vaccine,’ the sponsor may discover that a one-and-done approach does not create the transformation they desire.

Key Elements of a Vitamin-Based Change Management Approach

So, vitamin-based change management is more than taking your daily Flintstone. Without all these key ingredients you may not have the full benefits of a change-management affecting your program health.

  • Collaborative: Are you engaging across teams and gaining input from others?
  • Human Centered: Are you considering impacts to the individual or just overall program success?
  • Integrated: Are the change management activities aligned to the program objectives and plan?
  • Iterative: Are you adjusting to resistance, obstacles, and feedback?
  • Outcome Focused: Are the change management activities focused on ensuring people and business outcomes?
  • Planned: Do you have an upfront approach to change management?
  • Proactive: Are you anticipating the need to continuously update your change management plan and adjusting accordingly?

Vitamin-based Change Management: Benefits

When CARA clients deploy a ‘vitamin-based’ approach to their most critical change initiatives, they report experiencing:

  • Enhanced employee and leader engagement
  • Increased sustainability of the change enterprise wide
  • Realization of people ROI (return on investment) for the project
  • Avoidance of change saturation across the enterprise
  • Increased speed to productivity
  • Accelerated process and technology adoption
  • Highly aligned and empowered workforce

At The CARA Group, we offer Change Management solutions through the thoughtful development of a roadmap, framework, and/or toolkit. With this approach, our focus is on the adoption, utilization, and proficiency achieved by employees. We do this by unlocking client insights and leveraging CARA differentiators to accelerate adoption of the change across the enterprise. For example, using CARA’s two distinct change management capabilities Storytelling As A Service and Survey Focus Groups to identify and unearth critical client insights that might otherwise go unnoticed or undetected, we helped a client achieve long-term success and sustainable change; read here to learn more.

The client insights are leveraged to both inform and influence our change management strategy. Further, we have experience working with organizations who subscribe to either a vitamin or a vaccine-based change management approach. With that said, we are known for ‘meeting clients where they are’ and can navigate the change landscape at all points of the project life cycle. Please contact me directly if you would like to discuss CARA’s change management capabilities, or to discuss your business transformation needs. (Andrew.barnitz@thecaragroup.com).

Reflections on International Women’s Day 2021

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Reflecting on International Women’s Day, the #ChoosetoChallenge theme, and Women’s History month overall, I am proud of how CARA continues to evolve and strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion. As I look back to when we founded our firm in 2002, and where we are today, women have consistently held leadership positions at CARA, mirroring the industry statistics. According to an article on trainingindustry.com, Women Lead the Way in Learning and Development, by Taryn Oesch, CPTM, nearly 60% of leaders across change management, learning, and communications are women. However, there is still an inherent gender bias resulting in a pay gap ranging from 6% to 20%, depending on which practice a woman works in and what age a woman enters the workforce. Whether bias is implicit or explicit, we need to continuously challenge our own policies and procedures against inequities in hiring and pay. CARA’s current leadership team is vigilant about workforce equity, and regularly benchmarks our talent pay scales against industry standards.

One of the decisions I am most proud of was in 2018 when CARA’s Board of Directors unanimously decided to appoint our first woman President and CEO, Michelle Reid-Powell. Michelle was the right person to strategically lead our organization and be the standard bearer of our values that drive how we do business. With Michelle’s appointment, CARA earned its certification as a woman owned business under the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). With support from the WBENC, CARA continues to #ChoosetoChallenge the status quo and do our part to ensure equity for women in the workforce.

I am honored to have founded CARA and remain its co-owner. As CARA focuses on enabling the workforce of the future, I know we will recognize and celebrate the achievements of women beyond this one day. To our clients, our consultants and our staff – all my CARA friends – happy Women’s Day!

 

 

 

 

car side mirror showing looking back

Hindsight is 2020 – Looking Back, Looking Forward and Looking in a Mirror

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Whew! 2020 is finally behind us! And what a tumultuous year it was. As we reflect on how the world has changed and, more importantly, how the world has changed us – 2020 will leave an indelible mark on all of us for generations to come. Whether it is the way we consume goods and services, the way we work, interact with family and friends, or the way we live our daily lives, 2020 has changed these norms forever. And while economic depression, political unrest, or worldwide pandemics are not new – 2020 seemed different, unique, and exceptional, to say the least.

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering”.

Friedrich Nietzsche (19th Century German Philosopher)

1.1.21 is the dawning of a new day for all of us. A fresh perspective, a clean slate and yes, an even ‘newer normal’. And, as we embark on the new year, we have a unique opportunity to gain insights from the unfortunate events, untimely tragedies and invaluable lessons learned from 2020. Recognizing that hindsight is always ‘2020’, we would be remiss if we did not learn from a year that was – with every intent to ‘find some meaning in the suffering’ that we experienced. To best illustrate these points, I will present my perspective through three distinct lenses: “Looking Back, Looking Forward, and Looking in a Mirror”. At the end of this article, please take a moment to check-out the organizational self-assessment on your company’s change journey in 2020.

LOOKING BACK…

Nearly a year ago, I wrote an article on ‘Leading Organizations Through a Virtual Workforce Transition – 10 Keys to Success’. The premise of the article was to prepare, equip, support, and enable managers to lead in an unfamiliar, new, all-remote work environment. This virtual workforce environment brought about by the COVID-19 crisis forced over 42% of a remote-enabled workforce to permanently work in a home office environment globally.[1] As I reflect on that article, I was both surprised, yet encouraged, by the nimble way Corporate America responded, pivoted, and, ultimately, adapted to a ‘remote-first’ work environment.

I also discussed the importance of developing a change plan to aid in flattening the (change) curve for employees and leaders as they transitioned to their new normal. Shortly after the ‘shelter-in-place’ order in March 2020, the conversations I was having with Fortune 100 clients were also abruptly shifting. In many cases, our clients challenged us to shift the scope of our engagements from OCM leadership and solution delivery to upskilling managers and leaders globally. With an emphasis and goal to rapidly prepare managers to lead in a virtual workforce environment, our OCM consultants carefully modeled best practices for how managers and leaders would lead – representing a fundamental change in the way traditional managers led.

This shift in our operating model was a necessary evil for The CARA Group, CARA consultants, and our clients during such critical and uncertain times. While no one had a crystal ball and the future of our business was truly unknown, CARA’s ability to adapt our consulting model toward changing client business needs proved to be mutually beneficial. Looking back, our clients acknowledged that pivoting our consulting approach toward leader upskilling was paramount to the long-term transformational work currently underway. With that said, let us take a look at some key learnings from 2020:

 

LOOKING BACK: WHAT WE LEARNED FROM 2020

  • We pushed technology to the brink (and lived to tell about it)
  • We learned to multi-task like never before
  • We learned to adjust, adapt, and even exceed in our day to day activities and beyond
  • We learned that we could work remotely and be productive, as well
  • We learned that remote work is here to stay, and that traditional “remote Fridays” are a thing of the past
  • We learned to appreciate each other and the strength of our work relationships
  • We wore more hats than ever before (i.e. professional, home schoolteacher, technical support, coach, counselor, Wi-Fi helpdesk, etc.)
  • We chose empathy when dogs barked, children interrupted or Wi-Fi crashed
  • We learned that the mute button is a blessing and a curse with web meetings

 

LOOKING FORWARD…

BACK TO BASICS: The 3Rs

Before the pandemic, the world was experiencing significant growth and prosperity. The norm for employees was to work in an office building setting, technology was an accelerator for work productivity, and we went about our lives mask free. In a matter of weeks, progress was halted, and productivity stifled. A new normal was thrusted upon us with no handbook to help us navigate the months to come. But with a new year comes a new perspective, a new direction, and a new lease on life. But how do we get from here to there?

To survive elementary school, we were taught the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic). Timeless skills that are still foundational to the way we work, live and play today. However, 2021 brings about a more appropriate meaning for the 3Rs: Resilience, Reinvention and Reflection. These modern-day survival skills are critical to leaders and employees in a pandemic world.

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

George Santayana (Spanish Philosopher and Novelist)

RESILIENCE

If 2020 taught us anything, it was that the will of employees and leaders is unmatched in the face of a seemingly insurmountable crises like a pandemic. And, as we embark on 2021, we must look for inspiration from front-line workers who work tirelessly to care for patients stricken by COVID-19. We need to address ‘Zoom-fatigue’ with newer, more creative ways to work and collaborate. And we must adapt to our surroundings, maximize our relationships, and have the toughness and grit to tackle new challenges that come our way.

REINVENTION

If 2020 was about invention – 2021 will be about reinvention and the need to continuously evolve the way we work. In March 2020, leaders and employees alike ‘reacted’ to the environment they were handed – with very little opportunity to develop a thoughtful plan and strategy for business continuity. In 2021, it will be incumbent on all leaders and employees to reexamine and reimagine how they work, how they lead and how they produce desired outcomes. With a continuous emphasis on productivity, reinvention will be a lifeline for many organizations in 2021 and beyond.

REFLECTION

Empathy will be a critical skill for employees and leaders in 2021. A key component of empathy is the ability to reflect and understand the feelings of another. The pace of change in 2020 was so rapid and so unparalleled, there was little time for reflection; we were all reacting. For leaders and employees, taking time to reflect on the year that was and recognizing the challenges of the year ahead will be vital to organizational productivity and success in 2021. For employees, what has worked and not worked. Where have employees made huge productive leaps and where have they stagnated, tripped or fallen short. From a leader perspective, which virtual leadership techniques were effective and which management approaches proved to be ineffectual.

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR: Organizational Self-Assessment (Virtual Workforce)

Below is an organizational self-assessment to gauge how you and your organization adapted to the cultural and operational changes brought about by COVID-19 in 2020. The foundation for this virtual workforce assessment includes the ’10 Keys to Success’ that I highlighted in my article at the start of the pandemic. While an assessment score is arbitrary by design, this assessment may help you identify gaps and ultimately guide you toward a successful and productive virtual workforce transition.

Please contact me directly if you have any questions regarding your assessment results below or to discuss your path forward (Andrew.barnitz@thecaragroup.com).

 

2020 Virtual Workforce Transition Tip YES / NO POINTS

We established virtual role models to serve as virtual workforce transition champions

+1

We determined KPIs upfront and defined ‘what success looks like’ with a transition to a virtual workforce

+1

We developed a virtual workforce communication plan with targeted messaging and FAQs

+1
We developed a change plan to manage leader / employee transition to a virtual workforce +1
We conducted a stakeholder assessment to capture hearts, minds, and fears of leaders / employees going through this transition +1
We executed a change impact analysis to determine traditional work environment vs. a virtual workforce +1
We conducted a training needs analysis to identify skill gaps between traditional work and virtual work +1
We conducted a readiness assessment to gauge leader/employee preparation to operate in a virtual workforce environment +1
We developed a training plan to ensure adequate employee and leader skill building throughout the virtual workforce transition +1
We continually surveyed virtual leaders, people managers and employees to gauge awareness, acceptance, and adoption +1
TOTAL POINTS:

 

SCORING SUMMARY:

  • If you scored at least 8 points, you implemented a thoughtful approach and have likely enjoyed a seamless transition to a productive virtual workforce.
  • If you scored between 5 and 7 points, you are experiencing a learning curve and some employee resistance, but are making significant progress on your virtual workforce journey.
  • If you scored less than 5 points, you are likely experiencing daily frustration and much virtual workforce resistance. Thus, now is a good time to reset expectations, reestablish your virtual workforce strategy and reexamine your change management plan.

 

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!