Companies Failed to Train Managers as Change Leaders

While employers believe a majority of their change management programs succeed initially, a new survey reveals that only one-quarter of organizations are able to keep the momentum going over the long term. The survey blames the lack of continued success with change management initiatives partly on companies’ inability to prepare and train managers to be effective change leaders.

The 2013 Towers Watson Change and Communication ROI Survey found that employers say 55% of their change management initiatives meet their initial objectives. However, only one out of four respondents (25%) say they are able to sustain gains from their change management initiatives over the long term. Change management initiatives can range from program or policy changes, to business transformation, and mergers and acquisitions.

“Most companies are having a difficult time keeping the momentum of their change management initiatives going,” said Jeffrey Tang, Hong Kong Director of Talent & Rewards at Towers Watson. “The organizations that are able to sustain change over time are those that focus on the fundamentals that we know drive successful change: communication, training, leadership engagement and measurement. And despite nearly uniform acceptance that these are the key drivers of change, the companies that aren’t good at them aren’t getting any better.”

The survey also found that most companies recognize that managers have an important role to play in managing change. In fact, nearly nine out of 10 respondents (87%) train their managers to manage change. However, less than one-fourth of all respondents (22%) report their training is effective.

“Managers are a catalyst for successful change. Now is the ideal time for organizations to look at this lingering problem from a new angle, focusing on the manager’s role. For managers to succeed at spearheading change, companies need to change their approach, train managers more effectively and do a much better job of communicating with them,” said Tang.

Indeed, Towers Watson research shows that only two-thirds (68%) of senior managers say they are getting the message about the reasons behind major organizational decisions. Below the senior management level, the message dwindles further. Only half (53%) of middle managers and 40% of first-line supervisors say their management does a good job of explaining reasons behind major decision.

“To prepare managers for their role as successful change leaders, companies must ensure that they focus on informing, engaging and enabling their employees. Managers need to understand why people resist change and acknowledge that they themselves are likely to resist change. They also need to be visible, engage in dialogue with their team early and often, and ensure that employees feel like they have a stake in the success of the organization,” said Tang.

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