Most leaders know that supporting people through change is never easy. Traveling from point A to point B is hard enough in a small group, but leading an entire organisation with several hundred or even thousand individuals — with their own competing needs and stress — is a true test in resilience.
I always find it inspiring meeting people who’ve come out the other side ready to share valuable lessons from their success. The People Team at Suncorp fall into that inspiring category; when their CEO introduced a new business model in 2016 and reframed the way the business expressed their purpose, strategic priorities and desired behaviours, change wasn’t achieved with a simple flick of a switch.
Suncorp’s change journey had two distinct elements:
Identify the people who you need to get on the bus, and
Find a bus that has the features and fuel you need to get your people to where they need to go
Identifying change agents
When Suncorp introduced their new business model, they had 11 different business units working disparately. While each department was achieving good things, the leadership team knew they could be even greater if they worked together as one.
Torsten Becht, Suncorp’s Executive Manager - Benefits, explains that the first step to achieving unity was identifying who would play a role in the change journey.
Success meant looking for representatives in each business units who supported the changes and could be ambassadors for it, but also finding the people who needed convincing.
They met with those stakeholders regularly throughout the project to get a better understanding of what and why they were resisting, and to help paint a picture of where they wanted to go as a company.
Choosing the right vehicle for a change journey
A big part of the any change journey is keeping people informed, and making sure everyone has easy access to the information they need.
Suncorp partnered with Reward Gateway to design a reward and recognition program to reflect these new priorities. The result was a program, Shine, which they launched across all business units. Instead of having 11 different, competing sources of information, every one of Suncorp’s 13,400 employees now log onto the same platform, where they find streamlined icons and descriptions of Suncorp’s purpose, strategic priorities and core values.
Reinforcing progress every step of the way
What made this approach so successful is that instead of just pushing out the new information on a one-way communication platform, Suncorp used reward and recognition to invite their people to tell stories of what the new purpose and core values looked like in action everyday.
By giving every employee the power to send an eCard every time they witness someone in the business demonstrating the values and illustrating what “great” looked like in Suncorp, change came from the bottom-up and they fostered unity from a grassroots level.
Instead of forcing change from the top-down, thousands of Suncorp’s employees access Shine on a daily basis and, on average, send 76,000 eCards every year. That’s 76,000 stories written by their people, published for their people of people living out the new values, which reinforces their importance, and provides real examples of what the values mean in day-to-day-work life.
It pays to be a rebel
What stands out for me the most is that Torsten and his team showcase a key attribute of HR rebels — a bias for action. By partnering with key influencers they have been able to achieve impressive alignment and results strengthening the One Suncorp philosophy.
Now, their mission and values are an everyday part of the Suncorp employee experience. People who help demonstrate the “One Suncorp” mentality are recognised and rewarded across different teams, which helps point their employees’ effort back to the bigger picture, and shows them they have contributed to something bigger than themselves. By empowering their people to recognise and reward great behaviour, Suncorp has embedded the purpose and has thousands of examples of what great looks like flowing through their organisation every single day.
Kylie Green is the Director of Consultancy at Reward Gateway. She has over 20 years of experience working with Australia’s top companies to take their employee engagement strategy to the next level and loves helping leaders find innovative ways to connect with their people and build high-performing, world-class teams.
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