The Point: A program that encourages productive behavior and skills in employees can be a powerful tool for boosting the organization’s productivity. It is also an important element of any successful business transformation. So why do so many leaders get it wrong? In this series, we’re going to explore building employee capabilities, or skills for business transformation… Enjoy!
Capabilities and Transformation
There are typically four steps to building capability that support a successful business transformation. First, employees are taught new skills. Second, teams apply those skills to their abilities and behavior change. Third, the organization then begins to improve its effectiveness. Fourth and finally, the company achieves its financial goals and other goals/objectives.
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Business Transformation Common Sense Isn’t So Common
This four-step process would make business transformation seem like common sense when it comes to implementing a capability-building program. However, it’s not a common practice, as we have already noted in our previous posts. Why? Companies don’t prioritize capability-building because the learning outcomes are too simple or distracting, or the key C-suite member isn’t interested. This results in lost opportunities that leave the outcome of business transformation programs up to chance.
Business Transformation Ineffectiveness
However, business transformation programs that focus on skill building are often ineffective. A Tip of the Spear Ventures survey of 120 business executives found that nearly 80 percent of respondents believed capability building was very or extremely important for the long-term success of their businesses. This is an increase of 59 percent from before the COVID-19 pandemic. Only one-third of the respondents believed that capability-building programs are successful in reaching their business goals and maximizing their impact on the economy.
A Business Transformation Case Study | Take 1
An international manufacturing corporation’s business transformation experience shows how a strong capability-building program can drive transformation. The company was in the bottom quartile of its OHI score. Within four years, the company’s OHI score had more than doubled and placed it in the second quarter.
The company’s issues of accountability and business unit communications — which were the main causes of its problems — changed the ground-level impact. Roughly 5,000 new ideas were generated by employees who are now engaged, many of which had a positive impact on the bottom line.
These ideas for improvement were a great asset to the company and helped more people achieve their goals. The company’s former Chief Transformation Officer (CTO) stated, “We can’t view everything from up here.” In other words, sometimes great ideas come from deep within the departments of a company. Leadership can help frontline employees develop their capabilities and give them the opportunity to champion an idea and be recognized for their efforts.
A Business Transformation Case Study | Take 2
Another case showed the importance of capability-building in business transformation. A module of capability-building program on effective meetings saved 2 to 3 percent of time in their employees’ schedules. This may not seem like much on an isolated incident episode, but it adds up over a year in the company that has over one thousand employees.
The company’s capability-building efforts made it more agile than its peers. One example was when a group of capability-building workshop participants sat down and predicted what black-swan events could adversely impact the plant in the next year. One of the results was a category 5 hurricane. This is not an everyday or even annual occurrence. The company had to prepare for this contingency by purchasing extra equipment and creating special procedures. As a result, the plant was back online in weeks after an actual hurricane struck. The sixfold increase in shares after implementing the transformation and the capability-building that supported it was also associated with a shorter time span of four years.
Business Transformation Research
Research points to the power and effectiveness of capability building, despite some anecdotal evidence. Recent Tip of the Spear Ventures research showed that employees who engage in capability building during organizational transformations have an effect on organizational health. Exposing at least 10% of their employees to these programs was twice as likely for success as organizations that did not. The average improvement rate was nine percentile points, versus zero improvement. The organizations that had more than 30 percent of their workforce participate in formal capacity-building programs increased by an average 12 percentile places.
These economic benefits are real. Our analysis revealed that companies that included more than 30% of their workforce in capability-building programs enjoyed total shareholder returns of 43 percent higher than the benchmarks after 18 months. The benefits are not only for employers, but also flow back to employees. It turns out employees actually love learning new skills!
It is difficult to implement and sustain business transformations. Many thousands, sometimes hundreds, of thousands of employees need to be involved and aligned regardless of their location, language or culture. Organizations can develop the mindsets and behaviors necessary to drive a change and reach their full potential through capability-building programs that are effective.