Driving Organizational Change: Everyone Plays a Part!


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Temkin Group research shows that many organizations are pursuing higher levels of customer loyalty by becoming more customer-centric. But customer experience (CX) change requires more than just superficial adjustments. Everything from leaders to frontline employees, and from processes to supporting technologies have to change for CX transformation to succeed. Yet large-scale change is hard. Seeing results depends on getting employees to change how they think and what they do, while having both the patience and the resolve to stick with the change through its inevitable ups and downs.

When researching how organizations successfully go through change efforts, one core insight we uncovered is that successful transformation requires engaging all levels of employees: leaders must be aligned to the change vision, middle managers must be prepared to engage their teams, and frontline employees must know the why, what, and how of the change as it relates to their individual roles.

Leaders: Set the example.
The difference between the success and failure of change often comes down to the role leaders play. Successful leaders realize that change is a long-term journey and commit to working together through the change journey’s high and low points. Leaders need to maintain their—and all employees’—focus by reinforcing the change vision, managing transitional periods, celebrating key milestones and wins, and attacking ongoing obstacles that crop up over time.

When an organization embarks on a transformation journey, it often falls into the trap of focusing solely on the front lines and skips preparing leaders to set the example. To ensure higher-level employees fully understood what they were accountable for during its CX change efforts, Adobe targeted 3,000 leaders to participate in their rollout of its Customer Learning Experience training. The training focused on what the change vision was, why it was important, and how these individuals could specifically contribute to what the company was trying to build. As part of Safelite AutoGlass’s initial People First initiative, over one thousand leaders participated in the company’s custom-designed People First Leadership Development series, which prepared them to support Safelite’s new employee-focused philosophy. The training included a leadership assessment and 75 e-learning courses aimed at building the leaders’ skills in Safelite’s core competencies.

Middle Managers: Bring out their teams’ best.
Too often during change efforts companies overlook middle managers, even though they are often best positioned to guide their teams to success. Successful middle managers understand their unique role in the change process: to coach and reinforce desired new behaviors and to help employees connect their individual contributions to the team’s and company’s success with the change. Managers have the deepest understanding of the individuals that make up their teams. They need to tap into that knowledge to translate the change vision for their employees, help build their knowledge and skills to adopt new mindsets and behaviors, and raise their confidence with regular reinforcement and recognition. Middle managers are the best at bringing out the best in their employees.

Middle managers play a key role in guiding employees on a daily basis, so there is no reason not to utilize them when introducing elements of the change to their teams. When the Disney Store was preparing to roll out its new guest experience training, it held specific sessions with district managers and store managers. District managers tested the session content and provided feedback to the training and development team. Training for store managers included a run-through of the session and improvisational exercises to prepare them to train cast members (employees) for new in-store responsibilities, such as storytelling and other interactive guest events. ATB Financial’s branch managers were one of the earliest audiences to get exposed to the company’s new brand story and culture. When the time came to launch the new brand story through a bank-wide livestream, middle managers were charged with leading local discussions with their teams immediately following the broadcast. Managers received a launch kit built around a series of questions to ask their teams, including “What does the story mean to us? How are we already doing some of the things the story talks about? What does this change for us?”

Frontline Employees: Get involved.
Engaged employees are valuable assets during both times of stability and times of change. It is the employees who actively participate in making the change a reality who are the heart of any transformation effort. Every employee can take part by:

Personalizing their commitment. Sometimes it makes sense to ask employees for a formal, albeit non-binding, commitment to what they will do differently to support the change. Following up on its communication campaign and employee GAME Plans—which put the emphasis on how every employee plays a part in its change vision—Findel Educational Resources created its customer pledge tree. Employees in all roles and across all levels of the organization reviewed voice of the customer results and customer comments and then made a personal action commitment stating how they will make Findel the choice for educational resources. They wrote their pledge onto a leaf-shaped cutout, which was then added to a large poster in the shape of a tree. When rolling out its FEEL GOOD employee engagement initiative, AIG Asia Pacific asked employees across the region to share what “Feel Good” meant to them both as individuals and as departments working together. The company held employee video and poster contests, and completed a traveling FEEL GOOD journal with page contributions from each country in the region.

Sharing feedback. Employees are a valuable source of information. Each employee has a unique perspective of the customer experience based on the role they play, their tenure with the company, and their past experiences. Companies should take advantage of formal and informal opportunities to invite employee feedback, ideas, and suggestions on how the change is going, what things are impeding progress, and ways to accomplish the company’s change objectives. As part of its work to empower its teams, Oxford Properties sought input from employees about which topics would best help them deliver excellent customer experiences. This gave birth to the Dialogue Series, which consists of guided, interactive small group conversations designed to get employees to think, learn, ask, and share their points of view. At these sessions, site leaders facilitate a discussion on a designated topic, talk about the roadblocks that exist, and share their ideas for how to make things better, all of which ultimately results in a set of actionable recommendations. So far, the company has held over 600 sessions across the organization on topics that range from “Trust and Empowerment,” to “Understanding and Anticipating Customers’ Needs,” to “Challenging Interactions.”

Inspiring peers. Employees are more likely to change when they see that other employees have been successful using “the new way.” Successful companies create opportunities for employees to share individual success stories and personal experiences with each other during company meetings, training sessions, or smaller team discussions. Safelite AutoGlass created sharing opportunities through its Greatness in Action stories, which are crafted to make a positive emotional connection with employees. These stories bubble up from across the organization—from Excellence in Action recognition winners to leaders sending nominations of their own team members—and end up in the hands of the communication team. Some of these stories are captured on video, highlighting employee/customer interactions, and others are published in internal communications. All stories are shared on the company’s online resource center, so employees can review them on-demand. Safelite has found that the more it shows Greatness in Action across the company, the more it hears about other examples.

Successful change takes commitment and action from everyone in the organization. When it comes to large-scale transformation companies need to put attention and effort into aligning all levels of employees with the company’s goals and finding ways for each to play an active role in supporting the change.

Aimee Lucas
I am a customer experience and employee engagement researcher, advisor, speaker, and trainer. I focus my work on guiding clients on how to optimize their employee and customer experience management programs, identifying and publishing EX and CX best practices, and shaping the future of experience management (XM). I have over 16 years of experience improving service delivery and transforming the customer experience through people development and process improvement initiatives.


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