Why successful transformation needs employee buy-in

When employee buy-in is overlooked, it reflects negatively not just on change efforts, but on all aspects of the organisation.
By: | February 13, 2019


Pallavi Srivastava, the Asia-Pacific and Greater China Talent Leader at IBM Global Technology Services, recently spoke to HRM Magazine Asia about just how important it is for organisations to get their employees on-board with any planned transformation.


HR Festival Asia Speaker Spotlight

Pallavi Srivastava, Asia-Pacific and Greater China Talent Leader, IBM Global Technology Services

What is your connection to HR?
I bring over 25 years of experience across 3 countries, all in HR. I have been a consultant and educator, and have also been in corporate HR. Within HR I have explored most facets – recruitment, compensation, HR business partnering, talent management, leadership development to name a few!

What’s the best part of your job?
Being able to genuinely create people’s engagement and aspirations at work, and directly impact business outcomes.

What are your passions in life, outside of your job?
I like reading a lot and also explore writing when I have time. And on certain days I also like to pick up the brush and an oil canvas!

What will HR Festival Asia delegates learn from your presentation?
I hope to demystify Digital transformation and Artificial Intelligence in the HR space, and explore what would be the right inflexion points to get started. I will share IBM’s own journey in digital transformation and how we have anchored some of unique AI enabled solutions around employee experiences which is very critical to manage the new generation talent. Lastly I would talk about the transformation needed within the HR function and skills to navigate such change.

Can readers find you on social media?
I am available on LinkedIn and also in Keynote Asia’s Women Speakers.

What are the potential risks to charging ahead with transformation, even without employee buy-in?

I believe the most important organisational aspect that gets impacted when employee voice is not taken into account for any change initiative, is Trust.

This simple value is at the core of how the organisational culture is shaped, what kind of employees drive the company’s growth, who gets rewarded, and how we turn up in front of customers.

In today’s world of social media ubiquity, employees have several platforms available for them to voice their opinions.

If organisations do not amplify their voice internally and seek their buy-in for change, chances are those opinions will still get expressed, but in ways that may not reflect well for the company’s brand image or overall culture.

Trusting our own employees, seeking their opinions, and formulating a transformation strategy that aligns to the majority’s viewpoint – these are all critical to:

  • Enhancing trust in the offering or solution,
  • Creating a sense of ownership and stewardship among employees, and
  • Leading to faster adoption of the changes being sought.

When employee buy-in is overlooked or compromised, employees do not trust the decisions. It reflects negatively not just on the change efforts, but on all aspects of organisational work practices.


How can organisations ensure their employees are interested and invested in the success of any coming change?

There are several ways to listen to employee’s viewpoints that organisations can explore: focus group interviews, employee jams, internal community blogs, leadership town halls.

However, the most powerful way to get employee buy-in is to allow them to co-create and design the change initiatives.

Involving employees in the transformation through approaches such as design thinking workshops or co-creation labs have proved to be highly effective in ensuring buy in from employees.

Every transformation initiative usually has promoters and detractors within the organisation. By giving opportunities for the promoters to come on-board, and also a platform for the detractors to voice their concerns, organisations can help to mitigate resistance to change.

These co-creation labs can also lead to some very innovative thinking that can positively impact change efforts.


How important is communication to the overall transformation and employee buy-in strategy?

A communication strategy is a most critical aspect of seeking employee buy-in.

Referring back to [the concept of] promoters and detractors, one cannot afford to talk only to the promoters of change.

It is equally important to bring the detractors into the conversation, and for such employees, there has to be a specific communication approach designed to address their concerns.

If the detractors have a strong following in the unit, they can derail the entire change agenda.

The communication strategy therefore must identify the target audience, outline the timing, the messages, the leadership involvement, as well as leverage all the technology and tools that help to amplify listening, and provide a platform to address any concerns.

It is then equally important to communicate to the larger employee base about the involvement of key leaders and role models in the change effort.

Blogs and mails from such leaders help to reassure employees about their concerns if any, and leads to alignment with change strategies.

Pallavi Srivastava is one of more than 100 slated speakers at the first-ever HR Festival Asia, brought to you by the combined experience of HR Technology Conference & Exposition (US) and HR Summit (Asia).

At the event’s dedicated HR & Digital Transformation stream, delegates will have the opportunity to learn more about achieving that all-important employee buy-in – and everything else the modern HR and business leader needs to know about thriving in Industry 4.0.

For more information, visit www.hrfestivalasia.com.