CASE STUDY: Liberty Mutual
The week of April 2-6, 2018, Liberty Mutual HQ and their group WE @ Liberty hosted a series of events internally in Boston, to help empower employees in the changes they experience regularly working for a large, global organization and this was also a launch to a series of events they were supporting at the Simmons Leadership Conference, which was to begin the next day. The theme of the conference and our focus was "Disrupting the Ordinary."
For months prior, Liberty Mutual had been undergoing significant strategic changes and after seeking perspective and input from people who left and were still within the organization, the many changes coupled with the lack of direction from leadership were undermining employee's faith and trust in the company. LM was looking to enhance employee capabilities, productivity and improve performance but change naturally creates conflict.
In this case the conflict was causing people to separate from their teams and not always by choice, inspiring them to silo their conversations and/or remain quiet despite wanting and needing to speak up and in some cases just leave. LM recognized this communications breakdown and brilliantly introduced #SLACK as a tool to connect, enable more communication in real time and believed it could help create more unity.
However, at this point many employees were resistant to more perceived change, even if it could help. Resistance to adopting anything new is not uncommon, resistance to new technology like #SLACK is now an everyday occurrence. This obstacle however has important influence on organizational performance. There is a close relationship between technology change, human resource management and organizational performance. Technology change can improve a firm’s competitive advantage and increases the overall performance of an organization, but only when the people and the organization evolve together. When employee's view technology change as an irrational process and their understanding is based in fear the challenge for the company becomes an exercise in effectively managing resistance, instead of increasing productivity and profits.
The proposed solution for Liberty Mutual's change was composed of two activities. The first was to build the content of the panel discussion to focus on the people within LM who were helping their teams, and acting as change agents and discuss their actions, to allow employees to see themselves in the panel, which would inspire more open minds. Also this allowed participants to ask questions and generated a dialogue around change, thus empowering people and enabling them to feel like a part of the process/change. At the event, in person we had about 125pp and online we had a global attendance of another 375pp.
The second part of the solution was a #SLACK event scheduled for the following week. The activity was presented at the end of the panel, when I told participants "to look under their chairs." We had taped a form under their seats because, who doesn't love a little surprise? We noted that we wanted to inspire everyone to be their own change agent and to be a part of our upcoming #SLACK event. Everyone participating was to be paired with someone from a different team, location and position. Furthermore, they had to communicate for at least 20 mins about anything other than work. This would enable people to develop a connection, not only with each other but the technology they were refusing to engage.
Over the course of approximately 75 days we identified, collaborated, designed and executed this customized Change Solution. The result was 72 people from 15 different geographic regions opted to participate, from within the U.S. and Ireland. Below is feedback from the actual participants. (Names are removed for privacy.)
"Have you ever meet someone who in the course of a few minutes can reignite your passion for innovation and change? If not, let me introduce you to @XXXXXX! I had a pleasure of meeting Xxxxx yesterday and I was inspired by her energy, passion, honesty, and philosophy on leadership. Xxxxx reminded me of the power of leveraging your network and any and all resources at your disposal to learn and drive change. Is the group that’s sitting next to you experimenting with something new, but they aren’t part of your SBU or function? What’s stopping you from introducing yourself and seeing what you can learn from them?"
"Disrupting the ordinary can start with a few individuals changing behaviors, and violating some unproductive norms. As others see the positive impact and become believers themselves, a movement can start. More radical widespread change may come from market disruptors (e.g. autonomous vehicles, insure-techs), or key leadership changes on the board of directors, but it can also come when each of us change daily behaviors, and how we interact and engage with one another. Thank you to the team that brought this exercise to life. I learned a lot from Xxxx and now have a new partner in disrupting the ordinary!”
Now the Slack boards are being utilized 35% more which improves company culture, productivity increased through utilization of triage channels, and as people moved from email to Slack there was a increase in cross team communications.