- Change happens , just get on it with
- Employees are paid to work, they don’t need to be marketed to
- Employees are no customers. There is accountability and ownership.
These are some of the reactions that I have got in past few weeks to my ideas around change. Here is some of what I have suggested
- Employees should be treated as customers
- We need to market change
- Half begun is not well done when it comes to change
- Employees want to know ‘what is in it for them’
It seems that there is lot of resistance to the fundamental idea that when it comes to change we need to treat employees as customers. The resistance stems from 3 central themes
- Change is not a transaction
- Employees have accountability and ownership whereas customers don’t
- Employees have chosen to work for an organisations so they have to get on with it
All these have some basis. Employees do indeed have defined role and responsibilities. Organisations expect employees to act in the best interest of the organisation and in line with the long-term strategy. It is absolutely true that employees have chosen to work for the organisation. Change is actually not optional when it comes to employees. Taking that thought further, if something is not optional then how can it ever be a transaction?
On the face of it, all these seem reasonable . Let’s dig a bit.
If you really think of it, change is a transaction. Employees are giving their time/ effort to adopt the change and expect benefits in exchange. Organisations hope that those expected benefits are in line with the organisational benefits but there is no guarantee of that. The other aspect is the opportunity cost. Employees can dedicate the same time/ effort into something that will help them impact ‘here and now’ as opposed to the proposed change. Whichever way you look at it, you cannot ignore the transactional aspect of change.
Employees don’t really have option when it comes to change but they can for sure decide how quickly to adopt the change or how effectively to adopt the change. This is where most change projects fail. Every change management approach suggests that organisations need to create a sense of urgency. That cannot be created unless the organisation has ‘buy-in’ from the employees. For all the talk of change not being optional, it seems that change still have to be bought by the employees. If employees have to buy the change then they surely need to be treated as customers.
After reading this, you might think that the worst case scenario (for the organisation), is that employees (as customers) might just choose another organisations ( as a product or service). Trust me that is not the worse case scenario. The worse case scenario is that they decide to continue to with the organisation, pretend to buy into the change but never actually do. As any marketer will tell you , it’s never fun to have disgruntled customers !!