A different approach to change management?

I've had several conversations this week about employee value propositions (EVP). A value proposition is the entire employment experience at a company including benefits, career development opportunities, rewards, culture, and management style: essentially, the deal that the company makes with its employees in exchange for their skills, knowledge and experience.

The conversations arose because I'm still wondering about the four types of change that I mentioned in my blog on Good Change a couple of weeks ago:

  • Continuous incremental change e.g. Organizational members leaving and joining an organization as part of normal staff turnover
  • Intermittent incremental change e.g. Hand written letters to typed letters to email to social media
  • Continuous radical change e.g. Stream of policy changes, leadership changes, restructurings, acquisitions, etc. This is essentially a basket of independently planned and unplanned changes that cause disruption but are seen almost as part and parcel of organizational life.
  • Intermittent radical planned change e.g. Whole office move to new building, or merging of two divisions of a company.

This week it's the fourth category – intermittent radical planned change – that is the focus of my attention. I had the thought that in office moves to new buildings such as the one I was working on at GSA what we are really doing is redefining the employee value proposition, usually without giving employees much of a chance to decide whether or not the new proposition is what they are interested in and whether they would have joined the organization had this new one been the one on offer.

This, to me, means that approaching an office move or other radical planned change from a conventional 'change management' perspective is not the right way at all.

The language of 'change management' includes phrases like 'getting people to buy-in' a coercive, manipulative approach. The language of an employee value proposition conversely is about trying to attract and retain the people you think would do well in your organization.

It is not really too surprising if someone comes in expecting to work in south London, in his/her own office, with hours that suit his/her family commitments, and with a relatively straightforward commute, etc is aggrieved and resistant if the things they signed up for on joining are changed, and they are told that the office is moving to Sunderland and it will all be open plan. Clearly not everyone will feel the same way, and some people might relish Sunderland over north London. (I've lived and worked both in Sunderland and south London). But others won't. Tackling 'change management' at the broad brush level is not at all the same as wooing employees to join on a case by case basis but I'm thinking that this could be a better way to approach planned radical change.

So it would go something on the lines of the organizational leadership team saying that they are changing the employee value proposition and this is how they intend to help each employee impacted negotiate the changes (at an individual level). This might be more than most organizations could cope with but essentially it's having a mindset of re-recruitment rather than command and control.

In other terms the EVP is the psychological contract between employee and employer. BusinessBalls has a very useful article on the topic. The article offers a definition of the psychological contract 'from Michael Armstrong's excellent Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice (10th Ed., 2006): "…the employment relationship consists of a unique combination of beliefs held by an individual and his employer about what they expect of one another…". ' This definition is very similar to the one for the Employee Value Proposition. The BusinessBalls piece discusses the change management aspects of the psychological contract. The author of the piece notes that:

Change management is a big challenge in today's organizations, and it is very significant in the Psychological Contract. Organizational change puts many different pressures on the Psychological Contract. So does change outside of organizations – in society, the economy, and in individuals' personal lives; for example 'Life-Stage' or 'generational' change. … Our ability to understand and manage organizational change increasingly depends on our ability to understand and manage the most important drivers within the Psychological Contract. … Usually where change is 'sold' to people the Psychological Contract is damaged.

So pursuing the two lines of the EVP and the psychological contract led me to a discussion on LinkedIn on EVP. This has some thoughts around taglines for EVPs but was sparse on examples. One that I had already found and shared with a client was the DuPont India one. This notes the professional growth element of the proposition. GSK Australia's proposition won the 2010 Employer of Choice for Women. On their EVP the spokesperson said that

"This prestigious citation reinforces the benefits of our employee value proposition: GSK In Balance. We expect our employees to apply passion to their work every day and in exchange we recognise and reward their high performance.
The broad range of benefits we offer our employees include flexible work practices, a competitive and equitable reward package and opportunities for development. "To be successful, it's important for us to build relationships based on trust and respect and the Employer of Choice for Women citation shows us that we are achieving this."

McDonald's Canada is one of the few examples of a company's EVP cited on the LinkedIn discussion. This mentions both the work/life balance and the opportunities for growth with some nice videos of employees talking about aspects of their EVP.

Again in the LinkedIn discussion one of the posts suggested that EVP is linked to employee engagement. which was a line I had also pursued during the week, talking with Linda Holbeche, co- author (with Geoffrey Matthews) of Engaged: Unleashing Your Organization's Potential Through Employee Engagement . Their model for employee engagement suggests four aspects to consider:

  • Connection: how strongly employees feel a sense of belonging with their organization both in terms of sharing the same beliefs or values and in their readiness to follow the direction the organization is heading
  • Support: the practical help, guidance and other resources provided to help people do a great job. In particular how managers support employees in good times and bad
  • Voice: the extent to which people are informed, involved and able to contribute to shaping their work context
  • Scope: the degree of opportunity employees have to meet their own needs, to have control over their work and to play to their strengths. At its best this reflects the two-way nature of an adult-adult employment relationship

This is could be a useful model for considering organizational change from an engagement perspective rather than a 'management' perspective.

With these thoughts in mind I'm now I'm planning an organizational change management exercise of changing how to think about change management using a combination of approaches and tools drawn from the dimensions of the EVP, psychological contract, and employee engagement.

Any views on this approach let me know.