When it comes to business transformation, prioritising emotion is the key to success, EY said recently when releasing a study jointly done with Oxford University's Saïd Business School.
The study surveyed 935 senior leaders and direct reports, as well as 1,127 workforce members from 23 countries and 16 industry sectors, according to EY.
Leaders who prioritise workforce emotions in their transformations are 2.6 times more likely to be successful than those who don't, according to the research.
- 52% in high-performing transformations said that their organisation provided them with the emotional support they needed during the process.
- Conversely, the emotional strain on the workforce increases by 136% during an underperforming transformation.
- Successful transformation is critical for organisations to thrive, and the research finds that the drive for change is accelerating, with 85% of respondents having been involved in two or more major transformations in the past five years.
The rate of failure for transformation projects remains stubbornly high, with 67% of respondents having experienced at least one underperforming transformation during the same time.
In a successful business transformation, leaders invest at the outset to build the conditions for success, both at a rational and emotional level, said Errol Gardner, EY Global Vice Chair – Consulting.
By contrast, the emotional strain that both leaders and employees experience in a failed transformation comes at a high human cost, he noted.
“The key to turning transformation failure into success relies on the ability of organisations and their leaders to completely redesign transformations with humans at the center,” he advised.
Six drivers that can lead to business transformation success
According to the study, the six key drivers that can raise the chance of business transformation success are as follows.
Adapt and nurture leadership skills: The workforce ranks leadership as the top driver regardless of the success or failure of the transformation.
Create an inspirational vision that the workforce can believe in Nearly half (49%) of respondents in a high-performing transformation said the vision was clear and compelling compared with 27% of those in a low-performing transformation.
Build a culture that embraces and empowers everyone’s opinion. Leaders need to harness the right emotions to keep workers engaged and motivated, while providing enough emotional support to prevent anxiety and burnout.
Set clear responsibilities and be prepared for change. Leaders should provide the structure and discipline, as well as the creative freedom to explore and innovate, while creating autonomy for the organization to execute.
Use technology to drive visible action. Leaders should prove the value of new technology-enabled approaches early and enlist early adopters and influencers to bring the workforce along.
Find the best ways to connect and co-create. Leaders need to create a safe space where new ways of working can emerge to nurture innovation, engagement and fulfilling work.
Leaders know their organisations need to transform, but many are unsettled by the prospect of change, said Norman Lonergan, EY Global People Advisory Services Leader.
“By harnessing both the rational and emotional power of their people, leaders can ensure measurable success of their organisation’s transformations,” Lonergan advised. “This is facilitated by having and communicating a shared vision, effectively managing their peoples’ emotional journeys, and empowering them to turn vision into reality.”