When I talk about facets of organizational change enablement, I tend to steer clear of terms like psychological safety. In a culture that has grown overly therapeutic (in my opinion), I gravitate to terms that are more rooted in logic than feeling. However, cohorts of Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2012) are all about feeling. And they are obsessed with safety. So regardless of what we call it—psychological safety, respectful communication, or simply common decency—having it ingrained in corporate culture is critical for ensuring team members are focused, engaged, innovative, and productive.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson coined the term psychological safety. She defines it as, “A belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.” In a recent webinar, Charles Vivian, managing director at North Highland consulting, described psychological safety as, “The extent to which team members feel safe to speak up, take risks, and bring diverse perspectives, trusting that it will not be held against them.”
It often seems as though making generalizations about people to group them by generation is simply detrimental to society. Generational theory provides a way for marketers to target consumers. It offers a way for economists to evaluate trends. And it opens up avenues for young and old to point fingers at one another and cast blame. It might seem that talking about generations in the workplace would just feeds the Us vs. Them mentality. So what’s the big deal about generational difference?
The truth is, taking the time and effort to help employees understand what makes each generation tick can actually serve as a unifying force. Managing generational difference can accelerate team performance, enhance work quality, and minimize employee turnover.
I was drawn to the emerging field of change management early in my career. After graduate school, I landed a technical writing job, which quickly evolved into positions of leadership in documentation and training. I was primarily responsible for documenting software, creating end-user training, and building knowledge management systems. It did not take long for me to see that people need more support to guide them through change.
The value of managing change became increasingly evident to me over time. So when I had the opportunity to transition into management consulting at Accenture, I did. There I managed change (or business readiness as many clients called it) as part of the Talent and Organization Performance group. We addressed components of change including stakeholder management; leadership and ownership; communication; training and performance support; and organization design.
Projects need change expertise. Why? Because the tides of change are continuing to rise, compelling leaders to measure the impacts as they select and prioritize projects during the business case lifecycle. 70% of all transformations fail according to research from McKinsey and Company, and evidence is mounting that the path to improvement lies in the growing field of organizational change management (OCM).
Whether companies engage change management experts or train their project managers in change management best practices, there is no way around it. Companies must consider how the number and complexity of scheduled initiatives will affect employees, their ability to do work, and ultimately the overall productivity and success of the organization.