Live the change: Why it’s vital for business leaders to own the people change agenda

by Marty Nicholas

Digital evolution has fundamentally challenged traditional ways of working, causing a significant shift in the way frontline employees interact with customers. To survive and thrive in the new connected enterprise, marketing, sales and service functions need to be customer-centric, commercial and tech-savvy. As change is defined for these teams, it is vital that the change agenda is owned by business leaders, rather than transformation or HR teams.

Once business leaders are on board, it is important that they are the ones who own the people agenda in order to drive it successfully across the organisation. Staff in the transformation program or HR teams can then play an active role in supporting the change, rather than owning it.

Reflecting on companies with a great culture or a track record of implementing change well, success generally comes down to aligned and focused leadership. Leaders who are visible, ‘walk the talk’ and can confidently coach to the required new behaviours see results and create a strong following.

For change to be effective, business leaders need to do more than merely sponsor the project from a financial or executive standpoint. They need to be actively ‘selling’ the advantages of the change and inspiring their team to get behind the new approach.

How can organisations make this happen?

1. Make it personal

- Business leaders should put their own personal angle on the change so they can convincingly lead the charge and take frontline staff along on the journey.

- Successful change programs have a detailed plan for how business leaders can link these personal angles to painting a vision for the future, communicating customer proof points, and outlining new expectations.

2. Use the leadership team as the ‘premiere’ audience for change

- Introduce change to leaders first, gaining their buy-in and taking the opportunity to assess any gaps in their ability to confidently lead transformation programs.

- Once introduced to the change, leaders may need coaching and mentoring, particularly if they have a large and disparate team to engage. Giving leaders support minimises change fatigue and ensures they have the capability to drive from the front over the long term.

3. Get leaders in the trenches to live the change

- Project sponsors and leaders should not sit above the change – they need to be in the trenches, actively experiencing the same pain points as the frontline.

- Leading organisations bake the change into leaders’ KPIs and incentives to hold them accountable for business case benefits. These managers will be much more in tune with the change when they are living it at the frontline level.

To find out more about how enterprises can build the leadership and frontline capabilities required to transform both the employee and customer experience, read more here.

Co-authored by Marty Nicholas and Jessica Walter.

For a more detailed read on how to transform mindsets and capabilities, download our whitepaper.