Change can be a good thing for organizations, but it unquestionably challenges established ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving for employees. Change requires a transition – a reorientation that people need to go through before change can work. Here’s how we approached this human side of change at CUNA Mutual Group, the leading provider of financial services to credit unions and their members.
We had recently appointed a new CEO and senior team and were in the process of transforming the company at lightning speed. In communicating the business case for change, and due to the transformation in the Sales organization, the executives in that area recognized the need to understand how people react to change. They wanted to help the team assess where they were on a continuum of the stages in change. Most important, they wanted to provide tools and techniques to the Sales team to help them move through change as quickly as possible.
Although the Sales team initially raised the need, we considered everyone’s role in the transition. We were all “change ambassadors” for the organization. This was more than just a sales initiative – the whole company was experiencing change, so our solution had to be all-inclusive.
We partnered with Root Learning to develop a Learning Map® module called “The Transition Highway.” Through a visual depiction and group exercises, we led people on a journey to see what change meant at a personal level. The visual element represented the three aspects of the “change curve” that all people move through: letting go, navigating, and building commitment. Through discussion and discovery, people could internalize the concepts and identify what they could do to help each other move through the change process more effectively.
It was imperative to understand that everyone moves through the change process at different speeds and with different levels of understanding. With this in mind, the module became one of the tools that helped us lead our teams through change. A critical aspect of the experience was the opportunity to apply knowledge through scenarios on communicating change, identifying where people were on the change curve, and considering appropriate leadership actions. An action-planning template gave managers a simple tool to use in preparation for their change initiatives.
All officers and HR Generalists experienced the module as participants and then attended a train-the-trainer session. We asked officers to facilitate the sessions with managers, and then managers were trained to cascade the learning to their direct reports. The module was built to be flexible, so managers could customize the content.
The experience brought outstanding feedback. Most participants told us that we should have done it sooner! The program allowed people to have candid conversations about change and gave them all an opportunity to share their perspectives. Participants realized that even though they weren’t in the same place in transition, they could still have meaningful discussions about the impact of the changes and how they could help each other move toward acceptance and drive the business forward. One participant said, “Change is still hard and scary, but the acknowledgment and tools made the conversations easier and smoother.” We found that it was definitely worth the time and effort to help our people make their way in a tough time.