The times are a-changin'
Change is at hand. The beliefs of the past are being replaced with the personal and sustainability ideas of today. Business leaders realize the speed and quality of their response to sustainability opportunities will ultimately affect company profitability. However, a challenge with corporate sustainability has been about changing mindsets and systems. Leaders often try to sell change to the organization as a way to attain agreement and accelerate sustainable business implementation. Selling change to people is most often not a sustainable strategy for success; it creates resistance. Compounding the issue, the business world has traditionally used a more passive model when communicating to stakeholders. Information has historically been pushed out with very little active input provided to the original message. With an evolving world of instant feedback, this model is changing.
Sustainable change management is possible. Key components include clear and transparent communications and valued participation and continuous engagement from stakeholders. Sustainable change also needs be realistic, achievable and measurable. Before taking action, it’s important to ask a few questions:
- What do we want to achieve with this change?
- Why and how will we know that the change has been achieved?
- Who is affected by this change, and how will they react to it?
The traditional methods and approaches of getting employees on board with a corporate program are being replaced with the concepts that sustainability embraces. By embracing sustainability’s core principles of inclusion, transparency, and engaged communication with stakeholders, sustainable change is not only possible, but encourages ownership and accountability within multiple levels in the organization. For sustainability to be successful, communicating corporate sustainability goals and metrics is critical. The key ingredient is tying corporate sustainability initiatives to day to day processes. It makes CSR more personable to an employee and helps employees to identify their role in corporate responsibility. With that in mind, what do employees want to hear during change?
- Vision: A high level vision of the outcome that will result from the change.
- Passion: A passionate, heartfelt point of view about why the change is needed for the organization's continued success.
- Support: This goes with passion and is about leaders showing continued support for the efforts needed to make the change.
- Benefits: Tell them what is in it for them and the company as a whole.
- Acknowledgement: People want to be told their feelings about the change are valid.
- Specifics: Details about what the changes are, when they will happen and what they need to do to make it a success
- Updates: A commitment to planned communications at regular intervals to inform them of the progress of the changes.
- Declaration of Completion: They want to know when it's done. If it is a positive change, a celebration is always welcome. If it's a change that is difficult, tell them it's complete so they can breathe that sigh of relief and move forward.
There is a difference between continuous improvement and business sustainability change. What do your stakeholders need to hear for sustainable change within your organization?
Julie Urlaub is the founder and managing partner of Taiga Company, a sustainability social media consulting firm, where she aids clients to powerfully engage in sustainability-related issues and stakeholder communications in the social space. She can be contacted at www.taigacompany.com | @taigacompany | Facebook/TaigaCompany