How the right approach to skills development can make change happen – and make it stick

Apart from helping companies change their working practices and culture, we research evidence of “what works” in building high performance and great places to work from across Europe and beyond.

That evidence tells us that many leadership development courses don’t lead to real changes in workplace practice or culture. So what is to be done?

Here are seven insights on how to design or select a programme which provides change leaders with the knowledge, skills and practical support they need for success:

1. Recruit change teams at the right level. The driving force for change can come from different places in different companies depending on where power and influence lie. In some, middle managers will lead the change process and facilitate effective channels of communication to senior management. In others, effective change agents can include employee representatives, emerging leaders or simply people with a passion to see change happen. Elsewhere again, senior leaders themselves may be the right choice for participation in programmes, especially in smaller companies.

2. Blend competence development with actual change. Leadership development courses should provide your team with the knowledge, skills and personal attributes required to stimulate, resource and sustain change, yet the real test of effectiveness lies in whether those competencies are translated into effective and sustainable change. In short, “there can be no learning without action and no action without learning” (Revans, 1998). See how we achieve this in our Workplace Innovation Practitioner Programme.

3. Combine multiple learning modes. Online resources and text, film, personal stories, individual coaching and group dialogue in a closed online Lab can combine to create a mutually reinforcing learning milieu, recognising that many participants respond more effectively to some stimuli than others. Continuous tutor assessment of your online Learning Log entries avoids the need for any lengthy assignments.

4. Embed peer-to-peer learning and support. Participants consistently mention exchanges of experience and peer support as one of the most important aspects of our programmes, whether through action learning sets or company-hosted ‘critical friend’ visits.

5. Establish a systemic view of change. Our evidence-based approach focuses on bundles of interdependent practices that must be aligned to ensure successful and sustainable change. Non-alignment creates ‘antibodies’ that erode individual changes and lead to ‘innovation decay’. The Workplace Innovation Diagnostic® is a key tool designed to provide companies with a consistent roadmap towards the achievement of successful change from the outset of the process.

6. Create a relatively intensive momentum of change. A structured programme of workshops and action learning helps to build and maintain a consistent level of activity. Regular events that bring the whole change team together build pressure on participants to demonstrate progress to their peers, and the momentum of change is further supported by online activity and individual coaching between sessions.

7. Ensure a sustainable momentum of change. Workplace innovation is never complete but leads to a continuing process of learning and development based on aspirations that grow with each success. Creating such a momentum is often the true test of a programme’s effectiveness. This can be sustained beyond the life of a programme by continued peer-to-peer exchanges within learning networks that evolve over time.

How can we help? We offer a bespoke support for change leaders, plus a range of practical tools and resources. Contact us for an informal chat!

Book a no obligation, free, 30 minutes session call with one of our experts.

Peter Totterdill at Glasgow Masterclass 2020
Natalie Wilkie