5 questions for Tjahny Bercx

“Keep repeating the why. You can't do that often enough.” According to Tjahny Bercx, Director of People and Performance at LeasePlan and CHRO of the Year 2021, doing this is essential in organisational change.

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1. What is your most important lesson regarding organisational change?
2. How do you make employees feel part of the change?
3. What did you do to start your change programme off on the right foot?
4. What are the benefits of taking a joint approach?
5. How do you build a change culture that is sustainable?

1. What is your most important lesson regarding organisational change?
“People will only start to change if they understand why that change is taking place and what it can deliver. Explain the reason why and link everything you communicate about the change, and everything you achieve during the change, to the reason why. Keep repeating it. You can’t do that often enough. Organisations often stop doing this too soon, but by clarifying the reason why, you offer employees meaning and you make them part of the change.”

2. How do you make employees feel part of the change?
“When we started the digital transformation at LeasePlan, we took the time to explain to each country the reason why we were doing this. We also approached employees to ask them what they wanted to see in this digital transformation. In this way, we made employees part of the change. Doing so requires that you’re your communication is honest and transparent. People will see thorough it straight away if what you say is in some way dishonest or incomplete. This then creates resistance, gossip and backstabbing, which is obviously destructive in a change process.”

“People will see thorough it straight away if what you say is in some way dishonest or incomplete. This then creates resistance, gossip and backstabbing, which is obviously destructive in a change process.”

3. What did you do to start your change programme off on the right foot?
“The digital transformation requires our organisation to work differently. Our functions and tasks are changing, and we are increasingly working together in an agile way. To do that well, you have to give employees the space to create and take the initiative themselves. And to do that, we need to be able to trust each other and to know each other well. We set out to work on this organisation-wide. We started by working with the leadership team followed by all the teams in all our countries. We followed the same principles and worked on our underlying connections.”

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4. What are the benefits of taking a joint approach?
“These sessions have really brought people together and improved collaboration. Our score on employee engagement has also increased. Employees understand each other and have the feeling that they stand together. To quote our CEO: “None of us is as smart as all of us.” An organisation does not exist without employees. We need to invest in people and in mutual collaboration, but taking this kind of thorough approach requires courage and the will to do things differently.”

“Putting people first sometimes also means making difficult choices. You also have to dare to say goodbye to employees or leaders who do not want to or cannot take part in the change.”

5. How do you build a change culture that is sustainable?
“That starts with the realisation that people really are central to any change. The employee makes the ambition come true. Putting people first starts with building their confidence that they can deliver the change. But putting people first sometimes also means making difficult choices. You also have to dare to say goodbye to employees or leaders who do not want to or cannot take part in the change.

I believe in building on your own people rather than searching for competencies outside the company. We don’t have enough people with the right technology knowledge. But you can build knowledge. This is exactly what we are doing by offering an extensive range of training courses in digital skills and new systems. In addition, we are working on employee agility. We stimulate employees to engage continuously in their own development and continued employability, and continuously feed them with interesting information about digitisation and change. We want our employees to remain relevant, both for the organisation, but especially for their own future.”

Want to know more about how happy employees make change sustainably successful? Read all about it in PROOF's sixth book, Happy change. Order it here.

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