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5 common mistakes in organisational change and employee engagement

Global workforce studies show that less than ⅓ of employees are engaged at work.

And COVID has drastically changed the way we work.

In years of work and study, we see 5 top mistakes that leaders make in employee engagement and org transformation.

Mistake #1

Fail to break down change into behaviours

Too often executives and leaders release a new strategy or business plan, only to have it sit on the shelf and gather dust. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop these strategies and it’s a waste of resources if it doesn't get implemented and embedded in the organisation properly.

HBR reported that close to 70% of strategies fail to be implemented. That’s staggering!

The reason is that the strategy is difficult to translate into day to day behaviours.

So for example if the strategy says that the organisation is aiming to be more innovative or customer-centric, well so what? What does that mean to an employee when they clock on in the morning?

So the key is that the org change needs to be broken down into behavioural components.

I like to ask “If you were to point a camera at it, what would you see?”

>You need to break down change into simple, concrete employee behaviours.

Mistake #2

Fail to make the change personally relevant

Sure, the organisation has a strategic objective, but what does this mean for a team member logging in to their computer in the morning?

Change needs to be made personally relevant and it needs to be relevant as an ongoing behaviour.

Take FitBit or AppleWatch or Garmin that encourage you to walk more. Now, you could get sent a study that shows that 10,000 steps a day is the goal to stay healthy. But getting that information alone is not going to change your behaviour, is it? No.

But put something in your daily life like a wearable, something that prompts you with little nudges every day and celebrates when you make progress, you are a lot more likely to walk more.

And we know this works – if you or someone you know as done a few laps of the living room at night just to get to the 10k step mark, you know exactly what I mean.

This same approach is needed in organisations. You need to turn your strategy into small, consistent and actionable behaviours in order to make it stick. Otherwise you have wasted a lot of time and money coming up with a strategy that doesn’t actually work.

>Make change personally relevant

Mistake #3

Fail to tailor to motivational styles

We know from research into psychology and human behaviour that humans are motivated by several drivers. We use a framework of the 7 core motivations as a useful model to understand where an organisation’s underlying motivations are.

For example, we find that not-for-profits are often driven by a higher purpose so change initiatives should emphasise collective achievements and contribution to the mission. Other organisations are more driven by curiosity and a cognitive need to problem solve, so these types of employees like to be given challenges to work through. Other organisations are high on the relatedness driver and connecting with people, so teams should be emphasised and stories about individual journeys should be shared.

So you can see that you need to recognise and cater for different engagement styles and preferences in order to create meaningful engagement in your unique organisation.

And you can use this framework when designing the behavioural change to ensure you are using the right mechanisms for a unique group of people.

>Tap into human psychology and tailor for motivational styles

Mistake #4

Fail to take advantage of technology

While COVID has given many organisations a big hard push into digital ways of work, many leaders are still not using technology to its full advantage.

Digital implementation of a strategic or cultural initiative ensures that the change is systematic and scalable.

So once you’ve broken down your change into behaviours, you’ve clearly outlined what this looks like on a daily basis, and you’ve even got some mechanics in place to incentivise and reward it, the next step is implementing it.

>Take advantage of technology for sustainability and scalability

Mistake #5

Fail to recognise that this approach can be used for any type of org change Using this behavioural approach to sustainably implementing change at scale can be applied to a variety of challenges.

These include:

  • Employee engagement

  • Performance management

  • Embedding a new strategy

  • Building and shifting culture

  • Learning and development

  • Compliance activity

  • Health and safety

  • Being COVID and bushfire prepared

>Apply this approach to any org change initiative.

We’ve seen the power of using this approach have proven success in organisations including government, private business, multinationals, not-for-profits and educational institutions.

If any of this is of interest to you and your team, get in touch at

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