Does it ever feel like you're constantly striving to engage employees in cultural change, but not always hitting the mark?
As an HR Director working in a progressive engineering company, I wouldn't be surprised if one of your key objectives is to engage employees across your organisation in one kind of cultural change or another.
I find that the three most frequent changes relate to introducing 'lean' ways of working, embedding a coaching culture and/or increasing safe working practices.
Whatever your focus, I imagine that there are many times when you feel you are going one step forwards, three steps backwards when it comes to making progress with this change in culture.
While this is inevitable when leading change in any sector, there are specific steps that I find really effective when engaging individuals in the engineering sector. To make things easier, I've highlighted these below.
1. Spend time upfront
In MBTI terms, the majority of people in an engineering company are likely to be STJs, with a fairly even split between Extroverts and Introverts. Individuals who are S (Sensing), T (Thinking) and J (Judging), tend to be guardians of the status quo – they don't engage quickly with change, particularly if that change is imposed.
Because of this, it is important to spend lots of time communicating about the change upfront, and well before you expect people to start implementing the change.
This can be a challenge because it may be that you feel you aren't making progress. However, once STJs become engaged with the change, they will be fantastic at driving it forward, so your patience will be well repaid.
2. Provide clear, specific rationale for the change
To bring people on board with the change, you must provide specific, detailed information about it. You can do this most easily by breaking it into four categories - Meaning, Impact, Control and Timescales.
- Meaning is all about explaining why the change is required
- Impact looks at what this change will mean for the individuals involved
- Control highlights areas where individuals can have influence as well as those that are fixed
- Timescales set out the deadlines for implementing the change
3. Focus on the costs of not changing
Human beings are more driven by fear of loss than by desire for gain. This means that, in general, we need to focus more on emphasising the costs of not changing than selling the benefits of doing so.
This tends to be counter-intuitive in today's 'think positive' working environments, but it works – and it works even more so for employees who are guardians of the status quo.
If you are asking people to move away from the current culture, they must recognise that, by not changing, there are significant risks. Don't be afraid to spell these out – and avoid the temptation of 'positive spin.'
4. Keep information practical, specific and detailed
Engineers are highly practical individuals who want to know exactly what the change involves and how it will work.
The more specific you are with this, the better. Generic information, theories or general concepts will not engage them – indeed these will turn them off. Use diagrams, flowcharts, graphs and numbers to display information rather than simply pictures or words. Don't embellish, add superfluous information or grand visionary statements – keep to the point.
Engaging engineers in cultural change can, as with individuals in any sector, feel like an uphill battle much of the time. Understanding these 'guardians of the status quo', however, gives important pointers on what will work best.
Follow the steps below to engage individuals when making cultural change:
- Take time to communicate upfront rather than rushing to get started
- Provide clear, specific rationale for the change
- Focus on the costs of not changing rather than the benefits of doing so
- Keep information practical, specific and detailed
Applying these four principles will help HR Directors and their teams to more quickly and more easily get engineers on board with cultural change in their organisations.