Let Employees Run With Change, It’s Not a Health Risk

By Cultivate Labs on March 22, 2018

When an organization is undergoing dramatic changes because of a merger or transition to a new business model, much of the focus is placed on leadership communicating the right things and modeling the right behaviors. Rightfully so, since people naturally look to their leaders during times of change. But it's often forgotten to get signals from employees as to how they are dealing with these changes. Are they supportive? Do they believe they’re going to lead to success?

In my time as a change management consultant, I remember the upheaval caused by 90-day plans to integrate a newly acquired company, or 3-year plans to consolidate hundreds of IT platforms globally. These kinds of changes, while conceivably great for shareholders, are a culture shock for those who have to live through them.

And unfortunately, I’ve been on the other side when companies don’t manage these changes well. The merger that was supposed to do so much for the combined entities leaves people worse off in the short term. There are write-offs, disillusionment, and even layoffs.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Goal: Get People To Care

It’s not like companies don’t understand they need to worry about their people during times of change. But the traditional attempts at giving employees “a voice” never feel empowering. Feedback inboxes get crickets (comments seem to go into a blackhole). Townhall Q&As feature the same few vocal people (while quieter ones held back). Surveys are old news by the time results are aggregated.

To really get people to care - and take them through the journey of accepting and positively contributing to change faster - why not make them part of the solution? Let people come up with ideas to solve issues created by the merger, IT system rollout, etc., using a creative outlet where they can express their beliefs in an actionable way.

The Solution: Give Purpose When It’s Most Needed

I recently spoke to a new client at a company undergoing a large change effort to advance the digitalization of their business unit. The group is focusing on bringing emerging technologies to their work and acquiring new technological competencies.

The client was looking for a way to involve employees in the mission of the change, and give them a sense of ownership and purpose - which research has shown are powerful motivators. We agreed to launch an internal crowdfunding program to solicit ideas from employees and then have them invest in the ideas that should be actualized - using a portion of budget originally dedicated to the initiative that their executives would have otherwise decided how to spend.

At Cultivate, we already work with clients helping them to run crowdfunding campaigns as part of their innovation process. The most popular topic across the board is culture. Usually clients will say the impetus to do internal crowdfunding is to improve employee engagement. With an average of 70% participation on our crowdfunding campaigns, they’re always deemed a success. So, this same methodology would serve well during a time when you need people to buy in and engage.

If you’re a company undergoing a “digitalization” - or any other big change initiative - you will be working on transforming your culture to embrace a new way of working. Imagine as part of your planning, asking employees to propose ideas to improve culture with topics like:

  • How do we advance collaboration and knowledge-sharing for the digital space?
  • How do we educate employees on our developing technologies?
  • How do we promote safety and wellbeing in the digital era?

Crowdfunding allows employees to give an organization signals about what areas they should be focusing on. A commitment by the company to execute crowdfunded projects is a show of recognition that transcends job title or level. It gives employees the autonomy to reward each other and creates legitimacy in the change process by being transparent with how ideas are prioritized.

Leaders drive change, but it’s the employees who must keep the organization moving during times of transition. To do so, they must feel motivated with a sense of purpose. Perhaps it’s time to use their collective experience and expertise to solve the problems that stand in the way of success.

If you're interested in how crowdfunding can be applied in your organization, check out Ignite, our Kickstarter-style crowdfunding platform. You can sign up for a 14-day trial or contact us for a demo and conversation to see how we can create a solution for you. 

You may also be interested in: Why Execs Struggle With Innovation, and the Culture Fix They're Missing


By Vanessa Pineda

Vanessa is the Director of Professional Services at Cultivate Labs.

change management enterprise crowdsourcing enterprise crowdfunding disruptive leadership client spotlights