Updated: Apr 15
The motto behind your change management plan for a continuous performance management implementation (or any implementation): "When you are sick of hearing about it, they are just getting the gist."
In my 25 years in the corporate workplace, I've found that you just can't communicate too much. I've yet to reach the point where my team was like, "Enough. We're good. We hear you loud and clear." There's always a question to answer, a new perspective that someone brings up or a new angle on a situation. Constant communication is a priority. The same will be true for any talent development program that you implement. You'll need strategies to over communicate to all stakeholders, whether employees, senior executives or leaders.
You'll also need to consider behavior change, and that's where an effective change management plan comes in.
Up to this point, you've designed a stellar continuous performance management program, and ensured you have alignment. You've run it by your customers to discover what they need most out of the program and finally, you've conducted a successful pilot to test and tweak your design. If you haven't celebrated those accomplishments, you should. Now, let's turn our attention to developing a change management plan that will support your over communication and behavior change efforts.
For context, we are on step 5 of an 8-step process to design and implement a continuous performance management program for your organization.
If you Build it Won't They Come?
Wouldn't it be great if this quote from Field of Dreams: "If you build it, he will come"* were true outside the movies and within talent development projects?
*"He" or "they" - the interwebs is rife with controversy on whether the quote was "he" or "they" and when was it changed in later clips? Oh, the internet rabbit holes one can find.
But he, she and they don't right. They don't jump on board new ideas and initiatives. You have to entice, teach and inform continuously.
We also know that a new initiative or idea without sustained change doesn’t move the needle. We've heard about the system projects that fail because people find work arounds to the new system or go back to the previous way of doing things.
The Prosci Team on why change management is vital to a project:
“It’s important to remember that the previous way of doing things is people’s natural and preferred state.”
Our job as change managers is to ensure that the organization successfully employs a new tool, process or system. Using a system, tool or process for only a few weeks before employees go back to the old way of working is a failure on our parts. We don’t do change management to check a box; we do it to make people adopt and use the new system, tool or process forever.
Exactly. We don't want leaders going back to the annual appraisal because that's what they were used to or they found it easier. We are weaving continuous performance conversations into the fabric of the workday, so we'll have to be creative and persistent.
Change Management Strategy for Continuous Performance Management
Change Management is a talented field of practitioners who build expertise on supporting organizations and teams with making new programs and initiatives stick. I am not such an expert, but I've worked with a few who have taught me a few things. There is also a wealth of information available online. We're not going into depth on the fundamentals of change management in this post, but you can do that in this article on change management models and hacks.
In this post, we'll talk about five ideas for you to build into your change management plan on continuous performance management. These ideas are designed to get your employees and leaders used to using the process and hearing about it throughout the year.
But first, pull out the collateral and other materials you've created along the journey. You should absolutely leverage those. You'll also want to create a stakeholder analysis, which you can read about in this article. We discussed a business case in Step 1 and a roadshow deck in Step 3 if you need a place to get started.
Now, decide how you're going to structure your plan and write it down. I say that because I've watched myself and fellow TD Folk talk about change plans for something or other and write none of it down. And what actually gets done? Nothing. You've put great effort into this new performance management strategy. You want it to stick, so you're going to make time to build out and write down a robust change management and communication plan.
You initial strategy should consist of a one-year timeline with:
Change management strategies to reach your stakeholders, gain buy-in and change long-term behaviors
A comprehensive communication plan
Training and development components to build skills that support frequent performance discussions
Lay out your strategy in your favorite planning tool. Build out the full year. Then gather together your Program Input Team and get their insight on what their groups would respond best to or how the stakeholders they know would be best motivated. If you have a friend or colleague with change management experience, run it by them.
Before you finalize the plan, run through the five must haves below to ensure you've covered your bases.
Five Change Management Must Haves for Continuous Performance Management Implementations
1 Think long-term
Your change management plan should reflect a big bang for program launch. Then build in wins, stories and ongoing engagement techniques to keep leaders and employees hooked throughout at least the first year.
I think about the Heath Brothers suggestion to "Shrink the Change" in their book called Switch: How-to Change Things When Change is Hard (Book Brief here). They advocate that change agents should engineer quick wins, make the destination seem shorter by building in milestones along the way and offer frequent reassurance to help folks stay on the path and see progress. You'll come across stories naturally during the process and can leverage those. Put markers in your plan on when you'd like to highlight success stories so that your ears perk up when you hear them and you know just where to plug that story or example into your plan.
2 Be tireless in your communication plan
This is one that I've covered a few times and will continue to harp on: build a communication plan. Be thorough and repetitive. Make it lively and engaging. Use of all the communication channels available to you within your organization. Your goal is to over communicate why the new performance management process will better support all parties and how they should engage it. This is where you get clear on the WIIFM (what's it in it for me) for your stakeholders. When you're tired of posting and writing about it, your employees are just beginning to internalize the message. Even then, don't let up. Keep communicating!
3 Leverage your sponsors
Leverage your sponsoring leaders to communicate an engaging story about why we are changing performance management and how it will support all parties. Help them craft the stories, and get them started with talking points and/or examples of how well the program worked in the pilot phase. Senior leadership typically endeavors to be supportive and is grateful for direction on what you want to them to address and when. They should play a strong role in your change management strategy.
"Few things are more important during a change event than communication from leaders who can paint a clear and confidence-inspiring vision of the future." – Sarah Clayton
4 Provide plenty of easy tools to reference
I can come up with a never ending list for this one, but let me share just a handful of ideas with an example from my fantastic team at Southwest Airlines. Oh, and once you develop these tools, post them everywhere appropriate:
Comprehensive job aid for leaders on how to engage the new process. Don't assume they "get" any of it. Spell out exactly their role and the steps they take in the process.
Ditto on the job aid for employees. Create a go-to guide that answers all the questions they might have.
Group chats, video calls or webinars with employees to help them navigate the system and empower them to own performance check-ins with their leaders
Chats in similar formats to talk through scenarios with leaders
Micro modules on having difficult performance discussions and giving and receiving feedback
I'm proud of the work the Southwest Airlines Talent Development Team did on rolling out continuous performance management for the corporate staff. The program was well received by employees and leaders, and met the goals set to get employees and leaders talking about performance frequently. Negative performance trends were arrested, the merit process worked well and feedback surveys were positive.
One of the tools provided to employees was designed to tell them everything about the new program that we thought they might ask, from "how do I complete the form and engage my leaders in a conversation" to "how will it be used." Transparency was key. The team also created several key messages and templates and recycled their use - they showed up in presentations, job aids, email communications, FAQs, etc.
5 Make it easy for your partners
In plan design, you've already leveraged your partners, such as HR Business Partners, the Generalist Team, Compensation, the Learning & Development Team, etc. They bought into the plan and know clearly why CPM is an important shift. They also know how to integrate the new process into their plans, such as merit, performance improvement and leadership development.
Keep up the support and attention to your partners. They have a lot on their plates, too, and making their job easier, makes your job easier. You could offer support such as:
Pre-scripted emails for HR Business Partners to send to employees, leaders and department heads
FAQ for merit season that explains how to consider and apply the new performance management process to the merit process
Setting an early meeting with Learning & Development Team on updates to training needed due to the new performance management process and new ideas that you have to support leaders and employees in engaging in the new process. Be sure you spend time on this. We will talk about preparing leaders and employees for the new process in the next several posts, and you'll need your L&D Colleagues in your camp
Quick Summary for Over Communicate
During this step:
You've created a document to capture your change management strategy for the first year of the program launch
You've crafted a comprehensive communication plan
You've collected stories that are inspiring and supplied them to your sponsors
You've developed tools that will effectively support employees and leaders
You've built and tested a terrific continuous performance management concept that will move the needle for your organization. Before you move into launch phase, make time to build out a change management plan that will support long lasting change. Next year, you want to hear employees sharing their successes and development progress. You want to hear leaders talking about how they helped an employee turn around a performance situation for the better. Sometimes, I was simply happy to not hear grumblings about the time spent in December and January on annual appraisals. A solid change management plan will ensure your great program sticks and provides the results you are banking on.
The next step in the process is to prepare your leaders to engage a new way of managing performance. We'll see you there.
Group action: Have you rolled out a successful program engaging a good change management plan? Tell us about a tactic you employed that worked well for you in a post below.