Why change management is so critical when implementing performance management

Change management and performance management go hand in hand, says Our Tandem CEO Aisling Teillard.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and never more so than when you’re transforming your performance management practices. Over the years, I’ve witnessed hundreds of changes in performance management strategy, interventions and practices.

While everyone has a unique change plan and an even more unique culture – which makes every project different – one thing they all have in common is the importance of the change management efforts on the outcome.

Change management is all-encompassing, and doesn’t just start and end with a communications plan and a good training programme. The more sophisticated change plans consider all aspects – everything from the champions behind the programme, through to the role modelling behaviours – and count every detail, right down to the high energy music on the launch video!

When it comes to transforming performance management, there are a lot of stigmas and barriers to be overcome. This is why it is all the more essential to have a great change management plan in place: one that breaks down barriers and perceptions that have built up over time, one that ignites excitement, energy, and momentum, and finally, one that has impact relevant to its audience.

A change management plan shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all communication and training plan. We need to tailor those communications so they are relevant to who’s on the other end.

Employees need to hear something quite different than their team leads, who may need different messages than their leaders and indeed senior executives. Tailoring your messages to suit the receiver will serve you well and ensure they resonate all the more strongly.

There are three core steps in building a great change plan:
1. Know your stakeholders
They are the champions who can get behind your new initiative: the leaders who will become barriers or advocates to your change, the wider population who needs to receive the change. Make a plan for all of them.

2. Consider the appropriate channels to disseminate the right content
Content should be tailored to the receiver. Ensuring that they hear the message in the right way through the right channels is key. Think like a marketer. We need to advertise this change to the relevant audience in a way that resonates with them.

3. Focus on the why
Too many change plans address the what – what we’re changing, what’s happening and what it means for you. But they often fail to address the core important question – why are we changing it? By focusing on the why, you can reassure your audience that you understood the problem in the first place.

Focusing on the why also shows that you have a vision for a new way of doing things that will fit the needs of the organisation. Here, in the why, you can also address the link to your business strategy, setting it in a context that people understand.

The change plan is probably even more important than the changes you are making. Without it, you’ll have little impact in getting across your message. More importantly, you’ll be mobilising your people to make that change.

“If employees feel that the analytical work was thorough and inclusive, they are more likely to accept the decision, even if they don’t like it,” write N. Anand and Jean-Louis Barsoux in the Harvard Business Review. So next time you are planning some changes to your performance management strategy or practices, make sure your change plan expert is with you all the way. The closer and earlier they are involved, the better the outcome and success you are likely to see.

Change management is at the heart of transformation. Start early and bring a group of champions along with whom you can sound your decisions off, doing so while seeking feedback along the journey. In starting early, your champions will help you form the change plan that’s right for your organisation.