There is not a business transformation that occurs which does not also involve some sort of “people transformation”.  The process of realigning the business and/or its processes is only half the battle. 

Aligning your workforce to support the changes can be daunting, but incorporating these three strategies should jumpstart you in the right direction.


Written by

Written by

Karan Rhodes

A key part of every business transformation involves people transformation. Helping your employee talent come to grips with and execute their new work reality is imperative for business success. By some estimates, failing to deliver the strategy that supports the people transformation work-stream of any business initiative costs organizations more than $900 billion per year.

Believe me, for businesses both big and small- the struggle is real!  As such, I’d like to share a few strategies for avoiding the common mistakes which typically undermine the people transformation part of business transformation projects.

The root cause of most transformation failures lies in underestimating the amount of change required. Too often, senior leaders focus on the initiative as a single stream of work, rather than a change that will fundamentally alter the DNA of the company. A true transformation effort will force the organization to re-imagine the way teams work together, which requires savvy leadership at all levels.


Here are three strategies on which to focus when managing the talent part of any business transformation initiative:


Strategy 1:  Commit 100% to the People Transformation

People transformation initiatives require changes to not only the tools and processes that run company operations, but also the people who drive those processes forward. It’s an inherently messy, ambiguous process, and one that requires the total commitment of the entire management team. And while many organizations say they’re committed to seeing an initiative through, too few are able to fully commit the people, resources and budget to ensure the results they hoped for. They then often see their projects crumble in front of their eyes, wonder why, and start the blame game.

Any significant transformation initiative will effectively change the way the organization is wired. To ensure the right level of commitment and support, companies should consider designating a temporary internal role, specifically to manage the project. Some employers use this role as a development opportunity for an leader currently on their succession plans. It may also be necessary to bring on external expertise, to help decrease the ramp time for execution and to ensure the initiatives is completed on time and under budget.



Strategy 2: Be Clear Upfront About What Will Change

As humans, we hate uncertainty and instability. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is not being transparent to their employees, from the beginning, about the full scope of the transformation. Too often the employees most likely to be affected by change are the least informed about it. This may be due to leaders being unsure about all the details themselves. However, the result of the lack of information can cause a negative impact on employee morale, productivity and bad attrition.

Take the time to sort out as many details as possible before implementing the transformation.  Every people transformation initiative needs a “change story” that will communicate not only the business value of the initiative, but also the impact on every employee’s day-to-day role. Helping employees understand why the transformation is good for both business and their careers is a central element of the story and should be reinforced frequently. Don’t forget that “what’s in it for me?” lurks behind every employee’s perception of organizational change.


Strategy 3:  Acknowledge the Jitters

With every transformation comes a degree of fear and discomfort – both from the leaders and employees. Front-line employees are likely to worry about their jobs, while managers are likely to try to protect their areas of responsibility.  Any significant transformation initiative will effectively change the way the organization is wired. A few town hall meetings, training sessions and emails won’t cut it.

The most important action for senior leaders to take is to acknowledge the anxiety and jitters many have with the people transformation directly. Successful executives will learn how to empower their people to work differently and adopt new mindsets. Resistance should be treated with respect, and make every effort to sell employees on the opportunity the transformation presents with candor and transparency.

Know that not every employee can or will want to be part of the journey.  Employers should do their best to ensure that those leaving the company have all the support and resources you can provide to move on to their next best opportunity.

At SDL, we have a crackerjack team whose passion is centered in helping organizations lead the people-related workstreams of large scale change initiatives.  Because we have been involved with so many transformation efforts, our value lies in reducing your time to execute while ensuring you take advantage of best practices which will take care of both the company and its people.

Have an upcoming transformation initiative where you could use a thought partner?  We can help.

I invite you to set up a good time for us to chat about the scope and potential needs of your effort.