The Executive Facilitation Series: How You Know You WonYou facilitated an executive working session and you think it went well! But how can you know for sure? Here’s what you might hear and observe afterward.
Part 6: Signs your executive session was a success.
You facilitated an executive working session and you think it went well! You think… How can you know?
Here’s what you might hear and observe after a solid session.
“This was great.”
It’s not the most rigorous test of your facilitation, but it matters. How people feel coming out of the room is important. It means they feel it was a good use of their time, and they’ll approach your next session with enthusiasm.
What to do when you hear this: Conduct a pulse survey to drill down on why people liked the session. And consider one-on-one check-ins with a few participants to get more detail: what they liked and what improvements you could make.
“This is the new way of doing it.”
Sometimes a session or activity feels so effective that leadership wants to adopt it as a standard practice. That’s a great sign that your session worked.
What to do when you hear this: Document your facilitation process and tools. Post them in a shared folder and let people know where they can find your files.
How people feel coming out of the room is important. If they feel it was a good use of their time, they’ll approach your next session with enthusiasm.
“Remember what we said during our meeting?”
When participants reference the ideas, skills, or decisions you made during the session, that means your session is resonating and making an impact.
What to do when you hear this: Capture those things that are resonating and make sure everyone has access to them.
“I’m following up on my action item.”
At the end of a good executive session, you define next steps and responsibilities. When you see those things happening, the session is making a difference. You’ve taken the value out of the room and into the organization.
What to do when you hear this: Celebrate and normalize. Share who’s moving the ball forward; this will nudge others with to-dos to do the same.
“We’re kicking off the project.”
Many strategic working sessions are convened to make strategic decisions. Those decisions turn into strategic projects. You can feel good if the rubber is hitting the road, with projects funded and underway.
What to do when you hear this: Keep an eye on the project born during your session. Document your success story: you gathered the right people and they produced something impactful!
“Here are the numbers.”
Strategic decisions are intended to make an observable, positive impact. Hopefully, the actions and initiatives born in your session end up showing those results. That’s the ultimate sign that you made a difference.
“Let’s do this every year.”
If your executive session felt right to leadership, produced sound ideas and decisions, and generated positive outcomes, it had obvious value. Leadership might feel so good about it that it becomes an essential tool for your organization. Well done, facilitator!
The People Side of Artificial Intelligence ImplementationsA change lead is the only member of your AI project with a laser focus on getting people to use your new, fantastical AI technology.
Launching AI? This is what your Change Lead wakes up thinking about.
Every day, I talk to people leading technology projects for our clients and the Emerson change leads who support them. No surprise that the coolest projects are in the Artificial Intelligence space.
Organizations are modeling operational scenarios on production lines and making data-driven decisions using AI. They are using AI to better schedule their truck fleet routes and drivers, getting products to customers faster and at a lower cost. They are improving their employees’ digital experience through AI-enabled chatbots that solve their problems in the moment of need.
As IT project teams are focused on seamless delivery of AI to the business, here’s what a project’s change management leads wake up in the morning thinking about.
Are the Executives on this AI initiative all on the same page?
This typically happens when they’re trying to document the messages that should go to the impacted audiences. When this happens, the change lead often hits the “pause” button to ensure that sponsors and change agents are communicating clearly and consistently. They get key leaders aligned on the problem we are solving, the way we describe the solution, the approach, and the results we will achieve.
Have we identified all the impacted audiences for this AI project?
Will an unidentified audience “come out of the woodwork?” Ideally, key leaders participate in the current-state and future-state workshops at the start of the AI project. The change lead documents all the audiences and captures the new ways of working for each audience. They identify what each group will gain and lose with the introduction of AI, how best to communicate with them, what they need to know-learn-do to be successful. This detailed impact “topography” is the basis of every change intervention that comes after, so it’s important to get it right. So, after they think they have identified all the impacts, change leads follow up with each audience to validate their understanding. What they’re asking is, “Are these all the stakeholder impacts? Is there anyone we‘ve missed?”
What’s the best way to reduce fear and engage stakeholders?
Change leads try to figure out what makes each impacted audience tick; they use that to engineer an AI change strategy. A good change team uses what motivates each stakeholder group to help them engage in a positive way with the impending changes. Change leads also use that knowledge to come up with creative ways to focus attention on the change. For example, Emerson change leads engineer adoption by pulling three levers: they use what feels familiar to stakeholders, they give impacted audiences a sense of control, and create successes during the project so that employees feel safe and confident moving forward.
Change leads try to figure out what makes each impacted audience tick; they use that to engineer an AI change strategy.
AI is transformational. The nature of AI is that it gets smarter the more people use it. A change lead is the only member of your AI project with a laser focus on getting people to use your new, fantastical AI technology. The success of your AI initiatives, and the ROI of the investment, hinges on your ability to ready the workforce and customers to ensure they embrace the transformation.
For more information on the right way to engage the workforce in AI initiatives, read Artificial intelligence and your workforce: Three tips for leaders.
The Executive Facilitation Series: Getting the Right OutcomesBy the end of an executive working session, execs need to leave thinking they achieved the outcomes they needed and know what to do next. To do this, here's what we recommend.
Part 4: Techniques to make sure your executives get what they came for.
There are few things in shorter supply than an executive’s time. When invited to a working session, they worry about wasting hours with nothing to show for it.
If you’re running an executive working session, you want them to leave thinking it was time well spent—that they achieved the outcomes they needed and know what to do next, to make it real.
Here are six tips.
Tip #1: Establish desired outcomes.
The only way to get to the right place in the end is to begin with the end in mind.
That means getting consensus on the outcomes of the session well before it starts—when you send invitations. Then, confirm those outcomes in the room.
What do we mean by outcomes? That depends on your organization and your group. Outcomes might include strategies, decisions, operating models or principles, plans, schedules, or conceptual frameworks. Make sure you define them well. What would a good outcome look like? Does it have words, visuals, lists, timelines, assignments of responsibility…?
Also, identify any specific decisions that the group either must make or is not going to make. This can help avoid misguided energy during your session. Sometimes, participants push for a decision instead of properly exploring the topic because they think a decision will be made in the meeting. You don’t want people slipping into “selling mode” when it’s not the right time for it.
Once you agree on outcomes, let them guide the session. Check often to make sure you’re on track to get to them by the end of the session. Use those outcomes to prioritize topics or activities.
Tip #2: Set the rules and enforce them.
Come up with a few ground rules. You’re not being rigid; you’re proactively removing obstacles to your outcomes.
For example, set the timing: start time, end time, and break times. Consider setting a rule that you resume work on time and don’t stop to help late joiners catch up. Decide how to prioritize and focus the work; some facilitators use a “parking lot” (white board, flip chart, or PowerPoint slide) for off-topic discussions, so you stop them but don’t lose them.
Ask participants to voice any objections and then agree verbally to the rules. This will help the group self-correct when it goes off-track.
Tip #3: Prepare the group for productivity.
Think about any obstacles you might encounter with your particular set of participants.
For example, do you have a participant at odds with the others on a particular issue? Get ready to deal with that. You might want to shore up the minority position or, if the participant is just impeding progress, you might frame his or her objections as out of scope; put them in the parking lot and follow up later.
Do you have participants of different ranks? You’ll have to create a level playing field. Maybe make sure the lower-ranking people contribute first, so their ideas aren’t dampened by a boss with a different view. Or gather some ideas from those with less power ahead of time, and prompt participants to share them.
Tip #4: Minimize the troublemakers.
We’ve all been there. One person in the group seems to be taking up all the air. Or worse, they’re actively undermining the group. Lucky you, facilitator, they’re your problem now. Here are some tips:
- Make it a rule. Set an expectation, up front, that participants will stay on-topic, let others speak, and work collaboratively.
- Redirect them. First, assume good will; the troublemaker might not be aware that they’re a problem. Call them out, politely, and ask to hear from others. For example, “Thanks for your input, Jim. I want to make sure we hear all the ideas in the room. Carol, do you have any thoughts on this?”
- Suffocate them. Not literally, but don’t give them airtime. Direct questions to other participants and, if necessary, ignore their comment and pivot to another subject or participant.
- Use your physical presence. Move across the room to stand next to them—or even stand with your back to them – and address the rest of the group.
- Enlist the group. Reward good participants. Encourage constructive, on-topic, collaborative behaviors with praise and reinforcement. Often, the group will move onto the right path and shut the troublemaker out.
Tip #5: Maintain momentum.
As facilitator, your job is to keep the group moving toward those outcomes. Here are a few ways:
- Ask questions to clarify, elaborate, guide, or show the group where there’s a gap in their thinking. Validate, reflect back, and connect dots.
- Exercise patience. Sometimes progress is messy. Give the group the time they need for organic discussion and idea generation.
- Shut up. People love to fill silence. If no one is talking, just wait and they will. And, in any case, make sure you’re only speaking as needed to facilitate. If you’re talking a lot, there’s something wrong. Don’t do the work for them or put words in their mouths. You want participants to own the results of the session; that will happen only if they land on the solutions themselves. We want to share back what we’re hearing to validate it, and connect dots, but we want them to form the conclusions
- Check progress and focus. Breaks are a good time to decide whether your pace and direction are right. Assess this yourself and/or ask a few participants what they think. Is the group hitting the milestones? Are they filling out the picture they need at the end? If not, when the group reconvenes, reset them toward their goals.
Tip #6: Close with clarity.
Did the group produce what they wanted? Show them! Play back what they produced, get consensus that it’s right, then plan to take it forward.
Confirm any decisions they made, then build a cascading messaging plan. This plan defines how to handle the decisions, information, or concepts coming out of the session—what should be kept confidential and what should be shared with the rest of the organization. Next, decide which information goes to which groups. Finally, agree on the talking points and terms to use when delivering the messages. Establish activities, responsibilities, and a timeline. Importantly, define the very next step to be taken for each key decision and schedule a follow-up meeting to check in. This will create momentum and give the group a quick win.
Don’t let your great work stay in the room—use your session outcomes as a launching pad to make a real impact on your business.
How to Approach Year-End Goal SettingAs a leader, how should you approach annual goal setting? A clear process and sound principles will make strong goal setting easier on everyone.
Now is the time to start 2024 right.
It’s the end of the year, and most organizations are embarking on everyone’s favorite holiday activity: goal setting.
Leaders analyze the past year’s performance and estimate what they can and must accomplish in the coming year. Executives then review these goals and finalize organization-wide, measurable objectives that drive success.
This annual exercise is necessary, and it makes sense. But why is it so hard?
First, each role has its own relationship to goals. Top leaders want to dominate the market but must also consider the health of the organization. Executives and managers want to push for greatness but also take morale and capabilities into consideration. Employees feel pressure to impress the boss but have to balance that impulse with what they think is realistic and achievable.
And, after all that work and rounds and rounds of reviews, the final goals are cascaded down to the organization, which can be like a game of telephone. By the time a line employee gets his work objectives, they might no longer be recognizable to top leadership.
So, as a leader, how should you approach annual goal setting? A clear process and sound principles will make strong goal setting easier on everyone.
Teams understand their capabilities and limitations, and if given a safe platform, they will tell you what they really think. It’s good to be aspirational, but make sure you propose goals the team believes in and feels inspired to achieve.
A clear process and sound principles will make strong goal setting easier on everyone.
Align up, down, and across.
Departmental goals should directly support organizational goals, and departmental goals need to make sense across teams and divisions. As you translate overall goals to objectives for teams and employees, check them against the strategy. This type of alignment is critical to business strategy and execution — every part should contribute to the whole.
Make sure your goals are balanced across your strategic and operational capabilities. Don’t set one goal so high that achieving it saps energy from other areas or from overall productivity. Discuss where your key balancing metrics are, like volume and customer experience, and allocate investment and resources across those areas, not just those that obviously hit the bottom line.
Employees need to know as soon as possible what they are being measured against. The later you share this information, the higher the risk. On January 2, your teams are already supposed to be working toward the new year’s goals. They need time to shift and ramp up. So, give employees a preview of the new year’s priorities. This is especially important if your company ties goals to merit pay; this is not an area where employees want to be surprised.
Employees need to know as soon as possible what they are being measured against.
Review and support, often.
Create a safe space for employees to report on their progress and ask for help where they feel stuck – otherwise goals can feel punitive. Give people space to tell the most accurate story of where they are so you can support them. That’s a win-win.
Goal setting has big impacts on productivity, morale, and the bottom line. Make sure you use this time to create meaningful goals that help your business succeed and your people thrive.
Testing Your Employees’ Digital ExperienceSmart teams think about people during their digital transformation. To get the most from your tech pilot, put change management in the cockpit.
Three considerations before launching your tech pilot.
Smart teams think about people during their digital transformation pilots. They know that the employee’s digital experience is where the IT investment is realized. The most fantastical tech is worthless if no one is using it — or using it right.
How do you get the most from your pilot? Put change management in the cockpit.
Here are three things to think about:
Don’t wait to start change management.
Before the pilot, you should have conducted a change impact assessment. This will tell you which stakeholders are affected and how. Select your pilot testers and construct test cases based on those real-life impacts.
Smart teams know that the employee’s digital experience is where the IT investment is realized.
Also, be thoughtful about the messages you’re sending as you test. The impact assessment will tell you what certain user groups will gain and what they will lose. Use the key points of the overall project message — the problem, solution, approach, and results — then customize those messages for your testers. It’s a great opportunity; they will report back to their work teams and set the tone for your go-live.
Test as much as you can.
Don’t just test the tech. Try out your communications and training on the pilot group. As you do, keep the focus on testing assets and assumptions. Don’t let perfection get in the way; a pilot is for gathering information to make things better.
And measure! Collect data on users’ readiness for the new technology and how well they adopted new ways of working. Your exposure is limited in the pilot, but you can learn so much that will inform the rollout.
Create your go-live playbook.
Record your results, tester feedback, and your lessons learned. Assemble the change management tools you tested, like the communications and training assets. Create an updated set, incorporating what you learned, to guide the team for your go-live. Package your roadmap and recommendations for the rollout.
Your digital transformation pilot will test whether your technology is ready.
It’s also the perfect setting to learn what will “fly or die” with your impacted audiences. Don’t take off without change management in your pilot’s cockpit.
How to Be an Active ListenerHow do we become good listeners? Active listening is a behavior we can improve and, like all behaviors, it requires both “being” and “doing.” Learn more.
Active listening is a behavior we can improve.
You’re telling a colleague about something that happened yesterday. You finally drop the most surprising part of the story, and you’re met with a blank look and “uh-huh.” In that instant, you know they haven’t been listening. Their eyes shift from a point across the room back to your face and they realize they’ve been caught.
It doesn’t feel good, does it? It might feel even worse for your colleague, who realizes they have been outed as insincere, at best.
Next time, you might avoid confiding in that person. They might feel uncomfortable around you. It might not be a big deal, but it certainly didn’t make your relationship stronger.
Humans have a fundamental need to be seen and heard.
Listening is respect; it lays the foundation for trust-based relationships and shared understanding, without which teams can’t succeed.
So how do we become good listeners? Active listening is a behavior we can improve and, like all behaviors, it requires both “being” and “doing.” Think of your being state as your attitude and intention. The doing state is observable behavior.
How to Be
- Be neutral. This is a variation on mindfulness, or non-judgmental awareness. Being human is messy; the person who is speaking has emotions and thoughts that might not seem logical or sensible to you. And they don’t have to! Don’t feel like you must respond right away. Suspend your judgment. First, just listen and try to understand.
- Be curious. Imagine the two of you are carrying backpacks into the conversation. The backpacks are full of experiences and habitual emotional responses built up over a lifetime. To listen well, take off your backpack. Forget yourself for a little while and experience what the other person is saying from their point of view.
- Be regulated. Sometimes we hear things that bring up our own discomfort. Try to regulate your physiology so you don’t react to your own internal responses. That will help you stay present. In other words, “practice the pause.”
What to Do
- Tune in. Eliminate distractions. If you’re face-to-face, start by turning off your devices. If you’re connecting remotely, turn on your camera and minimize other windows. Give yourself and the other person the gift of space they can fill with their message.
- Take in what is happening in front of you. As you listen, what are you seeing and perceiving? What kind of energy or mood state is this person demonstrating? What’s their rate of speech? How is their breathing? What are their gestures and eyes doing? Once you do that, you can confirm that you are beginning to understand. For example:
- Check in. Share something like, “I noticed you got quiet when you talked about your performance review” or, “When you talked about that project, you seemed excited.”
- Use their words. If someone says they’re frustrated, you can simply say, “Frustrated.” If someone says they enjoy project management, you can say, “You enjoy project management.”
- Sometimes people just want to vent. They’re not looking for a solution, but rather an open and safe space to hear themselves think. Before inserting your ideas or opinion, ask, “Do you want to be heard, or do you want me to offer feedback?” Then make good on their answer. And if you’re at a loss, ask, “How can I help?”
The more you practice, the stronger your active listening muscle will get. As you turn active listening into a daily habit, you’ll promote an inclusive and productive culture and more easily sustain high-performing relationships at work and in life.
The Executive Facilitation Series: How to PrepareAre you planning an executive facilitation? First, answer these questions.
Part 1: Preparation
Executive facilitation is the process of engaging a group of leaders, in real time, to reach the best outcome. Put another way, it helps the right minds create something better than they could individually. The goal of executive facilitation is actionable synergy.
Are you planning executive facilitation? First, answer these questions.
Why are we spending time on this?
Executives are drowning in meetings. Pre-empt “This could have been an email” by testing your plan with a knowledgeable partner, like the sponsor of the effort or the senior executive involved.
Begin with the end in mind. What will you accomplish during the meeting? Are the outcomes input and ideas or decisions and plans? Will you end with a binding consensus on the way forward?
How are you going to get those outcomes? Do you need all that time? Do you need each of the people you’re inviting? Test the outcomes, materials, and facilitation approach ahead of time with the sponsor of the effort.
Your goal: the value of everything you do during the session will be crystal clear to the execs in the room.
Who are the players and what do they want?
Know your participants. Know the basics: their names, roles, titles, functions, and time with the company.
Then dig a little deeper. Understand their styles and motivations. Are they likely to speak up or not? Will they happily collaborate and hear others out? Do they have any particular motivations or affiliations that will affect the group’s work?
Ask the sponsor: If this meeting goes sideways, how will that happen? What are the potential road bumps? How should we get ahead of them?
All that intel will help you manage the group toward the outcomes they need. You might need to:
- Draw some participants out to make sure their ideas are in the mix.
- Help those with a minority opinion “hold space” during the discussion.
- Form breakout groups or pick discussion leaders to avoid trouble.
- Present or “plant” information to balance out someone with an agenda or maintain momentum.
What’s the scoop?
It’s important to ground yourself with information, especially if you’re an “outside” facilitator. Sometimes participants make assumptions that aren’t right. This can set the whole group in the wrong direction.
Another problem: you might not have all the information represented in the room. For example, maybe no one in the room represents “the work.” Often, non-executives have the best understanding of the implications of the decisions made in the room. But they’re not there. You, the facilitator, might have to bring that information to the session.
Do a little research.
Talk to the sponsor or trusted experts to make sure the assumptions and data underpinning your outcomes are sound. In other words, make sure the group is having the right conversation.
How should participants prepare?
Participants need the why, when, where, who, and what.
- WHY — Give participants the vision: the outcomes of the session and what those outcomes will do for them and for the organization.
- WHEN and WHERE — Set clear expectations on time and place. Will you start on time? Will there be a buffer, like breakfast or lunch, before you start? Will you offer breaks? When should they expect to finish? Is it ok to join virtually or not?
- WHO — Let everyone know who else will come and what their work role is or whom they’re representing.
- WHAT — Give them a sense of how the day will go. Are there any big topics, activities, or ground rules? What decisions will be made? There’s a big difference between “We will discuss…” and “We will decide…” Let them know the stakes.
And tell them what to prepare or bring to the session. For example, do you need some participants to be ready to report on their areas of expertise? What form should it take? (Slides? Handouts? Written data on a whiteboard?) And make sure the sponsor or senior exec is ready to set up the purpose and expected outcomes of the session; if you’re an external facilitator, you should not do that.
Well begun is half done. Isn’t that what they say? It’s never more true than in executive facilitation. Set yourself up for success by doing the right prep work
The Evolution of Change Management Service ModelsMany Fortune 500 companies are moving away from individual project decisions and toward a new model.
Are MSPs or CoEs right for your organization?
I remember being on large projects in the early 2000s when clients — and even colleagues — would ask, “What is change management?” It seemed like part of my job was to justify the very existence of change management on the project.
These discussions eventually morphed into “yes, and” conversations. Most times, the conversation went something like this:
Client: “I know what change management is. Change management is communications and training.”
Me: “Yes, communications and training are usually parts of a change management solution. But it’s more, including determining stakeholder impacts, addressing employee motivation, and identifying and changing key behaviors.”
Today, most business professionals have a more sophisticated view of change management and its value. It’s now common for transformation, tech change, and M&A projects to have a dedicated behavioral change management focus. Project-based change management is still the most common model, however…
Many Fortune 500 companies are moving away from individual project decisions and toward a new model.
Two models are gaining momentum: building internal capability through a Change Management Center of Excellence and forging a managed services partnership with a single consulting firm. Emerson Human Capital helps clients build change centers of excellence and serves as a change management managed service provider.
Change Management Center of Excellence (CoE)
What It Is and How It Works
A Change Management CoE is a team or department made up of employees who advise and execute change within a particular company.
CoEs are usually launched because there is a steady flow of projects that require change management. CoE team members are often the ones doing the change management work on projects. Other times, the Change Management CoE is more focused on project intake and centrally sourcing change needs to a handful of external consultancies. Some companies even have a very light touch CoE that is more focused on building a baseline level of change competency in an extended team or Community of Practice.
While the models and team sizes can vary, virtually every CoE designs, builds, and/or curates a change management methodology complete with common tools, templates, and examples.
What It Gives You
- Change Management on Demand – If there is an ongoing need for change management across departments and/or projects, an internal CoE is always ready to deliver.
- Self-Reliance – Once it’s up and running, it’s easier and more effective to work with an internal unit rather than a series of external partners.
- Cost Savings – Employee resources often cost less than external consultants.
- Consistent Outcomes – Common methods and tools across enterprise projects drive consistent change management and project outcomes.
Managed Service Provider (MSP)
What It Is and How It Works
A change management managed service provider or outsourcing model means having a designated partner/company for change management. The managed service provider or partner executes change management across projects for the client company. The company pays for change management as a service and evaluates performance against designed service level agreements.
What It Gives You
- Change Management on Demand – If there is an ongoing need for change management across departments and/or projects, an MSP is poised to deliver.
- Strategic Priorities – Many organizations would rather invest in core capabilities than in a non-core function such as change management. In that case, an MSP makes more sense than a CoE.
- Consistent Outcomes – A single partner across projects, using common methods, tools, and service level agreements, drives reliable project outcomes.
- Agility – Employees are often fixed costs but change management demand is dynamic. A managed service partner arrangement makes it easy to flex up or down to meet current project demand.
- Innovation – Employees can be limited by what they know. Expert firms or managed service partners leverage the latest thinking and practices around change management and learning.
- Cost Savings – A managed service agreement is usually cheaper than ad-hoc consultant contracts.
Change management has come a long way since the dawn of the millennium. Companies are maturing on change management. Some are realizing that the traditional consulting model is not necessarily the best way for companies to manage change.
BTW, Emerson Human Capital wrote the book on change, literally. We’ve seen it all, and we know how to partner with you for the best outcomes.
Whether you are just starting your change management journey or are deep in the throes of change, we’d love to talk with you.
M&A: The Opportunity to OnboardDon't overlook a strategic ally for an M&A transition: the L&D team. Here are 5 things you can accomplish with onboarding for a newly merged organization.
Six ways to jump-start your newly formed organization
Your organization’s merger or acquisition (M&A) is a done deal. Congratulations!
It’s a big win, with big benefits and big challenges. When your organization structure and logistics are sorted, policies and procedures are final, data and systems integration challenges are met, you’re ready for the change that is coming.
Are you, though?
Too many organizations overlook a strategic ally for an M&A transition: the Learning and Development organization.
Onboarding is training brand new employees experience (or endure, depending on your perspective). But it’s also right for M&A. After all, on Day One after a merger or acquisition, every employee will be coming to work at a new organization.
Whether the organization takes on an existing identity or creates a completely new one, it’s a new environment.
Everyone is experiencing some level of uncertainty, everyone has questions, and everyone can benefit from a level-set that your L&D team can deliver.
Here are six things you can accomplish with onboarding for a newly merged organization:
- Establish the culture, mission, values, and vision of the new organization. Your culture, mission, and vision might come from one of the existing companies, from both of them, or it might be completely new. Addressing a new culture, vision, etc. is obviously a necessity, but even a review of existing ideas is beneficial. The training environment can also be a safe place for employees to discuss what the culture, mission, values, and vision of the new organization look like for them, and how to bring them to life.
- Send the right message. Having everyone participate in an onboarding class tells employees that everyone is starting anew! There are no “incumbents,” “winners,” or “losers” – just one team that is moving forward together.
- Engage SMEs across the new organization. Intentionally and thoughtfully pulling in SMEs from across both constituent organizations is a great way to build multiple perspectives into your onboarding. You’ll get the terms and references right for all groups, and get insights to the mindets of your onboarding participants. Bonus: it might be the start of some rewarding new connections. Speaking of which…
- Encourage new working relationships. Think about previous onboarding classes that you have been a part of. Chances are good that you can remember one or two people who were in your class; they might have been the first colleagues you reached out to when you had a question or needed a sounding board. There is something about being in a room full of people who are a little uncertain and starting on a new path that bonds people together.
- Set new expectations for employee development. In many organizations, employee development is partially intentional and partially left to chance. Thoughtful employee development approaches are the exception. In fairness, “development” has evolved a lot in the last four decades; ideas like career paths, peer mentoring programs, and performance improvement have become commonplace. Now is your chance to start with a clean slate of resources and offerings that invest in the new organizatoin’s most important asset. Instead of fostering feelings of risk and uncertainty among your team, this M&A event can accelerate their professional development.
- Refresh your learning solutions. Whether because of our love for the status quo or the tyranny of the urgent, L&D organizations rarely do a complete audit and refresh of their offerings. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right? But a merger or acquisition is a great opportunity to get a new perspective on learning solutions, including new-hire onboarding. You have a new “customer” base, new SMEs, and new priorities. Take advantage of them!
Our Director of Change Management, Rory McKenna, wrote an excellent post on The People Side of M&A. I won’t spoil it for you, but he references our change methodology that includes making the change feel familiar, controlled, and successful. It’s a great read for anyone facing M&A.
Artificial Intelligence and Your Workforce: Three Tips for LeadersLet’s say your organization is adopting AI to gain efficiencies, reduce costs, or deliver better customer value. How should you approach employees about it?
First, we have to agree on what AI is. Then, we can help employees adopt it.
In March, tech gurus including Steve Wosniak and Elon Musk signed an open letter calling for a pause in AI development, citing “human-competitive intelligence (that might) post profound risks to society and humanity.”
More recently, Geoffrey Hinton, hailed as the godfather of AI, quit Google so he could air his concerns independently. In a 2021 commencement address, Hinton said, “I believe that the rapid progress of AI is going to transform society in ways we do not fully understand and not all of the effects are going to be good.” For Hinton, the downsides seem to outweigh the benefits, like improvements in healthcare. The risks he envisions range from job elimination to lethal autonomous weapons. He also says AI might create a world where we will “not be able to know what is true anymore.”
Speaking of misinformation…these stories made it to the table at The View, where hosts weighed in. They talked about the pros and cons of AI, but couldn’t even agree on what AI is. Notably, Whoopi Goldberg said that she defines AI as something “sentient” that “can think for itself.”
Whoa. I’m not saying a robot boyfriend is not in my future, but sentience is NOT what the scientists are talking about. There’s a big difference between smart or fast or autonomous and self-aware.
The lesson for those of us who help the workforce deal with change is this: AI is scary to some people, and possibly for the wrong reasons.
Let’s say your organization is adopting AI to gain efficiencies, reduce costs, or deliver better customer value. How should you approach employees about it?
1. Mind your language.
Maybe don’t call it “artificial intelligence.” I’m not suggesting lying to people; just the opposite. Explain exactly what the new technology will do.
The term “AI” can be triggering. Moreover, “AI” is too broad a term to be useful when talking to employees. AI is a huge category; labeling a new tool “AI” gives very little information to the people who are desperate to know how it’s going to change their work lives.
Think of it this way — will your AI solution detect and prevent dangers in the workplace? Say that! Call it Safety Software. Is AI going to supply customer service agents with better, faster answers to help customers? Say that! Call it Your Customer Service Assistant.
2. Get real.
Approaching any change, what do employees want to know? They want to know how it will affect them – their job responsibilities, their daily tasks, their compensation, their team performance, and their job security.
Get ahead of the resistance by answering questions honestly and thoroughly. Yes, even the bad news. If your new AI… sorry, Customer Service Assistant…will eliminate jobs, be up-front about it.
Most important: document and communicate the day-to-day work that will be different after implementation.
If you don’t tell people the story, they will fill the gap with their own.
3. Reframe AI.
Is the anxiety warranted? Maybe some of it. But AI can also benefit workers — sometimes in big ways. In fact, some employees have already adopted the positive mindset you’re hoping for. A Pew Research study shows 37% of workers are “purely excited” about AI.
And there’s plenty of evidence to back their enthusiasm. AI solutions, like tech before it, can take mundane, focus-intensive tasks off employees’ plates, freeing them up for more analytical and creative work.
One real-world study showed that AI offered big benefits for inexperienced or less-skilled workers by raising the quality of their work and productivity to be on par with their best-performing colleagues.
Armed with facts, examples, and those 37% already excited about it (your “early adopters”), you can – with authenticity — frame your AI adoption as a win-win.
When we need to worry about killer robots, we’ll worry about killer robots. In the present day, lead the change by taking these three steps. You can definitely make AI work for both your bottom line and your human workforce.