“The HR Professional as Chief Change Officer”

Author: Steve Tennssen

One day before the Chicago Cubs baseball team defeated the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series, the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago (HRMAC) hosted its annual SUMMIT conference. With more than 700 professionals attending its nearly 20-year event, the mood was lively and the city’s top HR brainpower was engaged in advancing its know-how and approach to building successful teams.

One of the event’s most useful topics took place during its first Educational Breakout Session. Entitled “The HR Professional as Chief Change Officer,” this session was chaired by Gary Magenta, Senior Vice President at Root Inc. and Jodi Martin, Human Resources Team Leader at the Disney Store. By detailing one success story of engaging employees throughout a change process, Gary and Jodi helped attendees explore how information is communicated from leaders to managers to employees.

Here are several highlights from Gary’s and Jodi’s success story:

  • To enhance and re-imagine their customer’s retail experience, The Disney Store embarked on Mission Magic which would roll out to more than 4,000 cast members (employees) across over 220 locations.
  •  Mission Magic set a tone from the beginning to encapsulate its spirit and guide its change-makers: “Through the eyes of the guest, the best retail experience in the world.”
  • HR thoughtfully engaged 20 cast members nationwide to become Mission Magic’s “trainers of trainers.” By utilizing change-oriented people on its team, those who were energized and passionate (and persuasive) would be more effective (and happy) throughout the change process than those who felt like it was assigned to them.
  • These Mission Magicians journeyed across Disney Stores with a “learning map” in hand to train local cast members. This visual aid embodied the spirit and how-to of the aspirational customer experience.
  • For example, the learning map illustrated remarks or actions for cast members to help a child live their adventure while guiding parents through story-driven product categories. It also exhibited how to conduct the day’s opening ceremony, on-stage performances, and storewide treasure hunts.
  • When it came to hiring cast members, HR shifted the process from interviewing to “auditioning.” By emphasizing the art of performance and engaging an audience, Mission Magic rooted its new customer experience in story and characters.
  • HR instituted a new program called The Magic Touch to replace the traditional secret shopper model. Instead of numerical scores, undercover cast members would relate back a narrative about the entertainment value and their feelings during a store visit.
  • Mission Magic showed results. In addition to increases in sales and amount of time families spent in the store, HR noticed increasing cast member engagement scores across five consecutive years reaching 88% in 2015.

With this success story in mind, HR Executives as the Chief Change Officer might want to:

  1. Utilize change-oriented teammates as ambassadors to implement and coach. Maximize their face-time in the field.
  2. Describe (and visualize, if possible) change in terms of actions taken and outcomes desired. Help your employees understand and practice how new habits specifically differ from the old.
  3. Shift your KPIs and evaluation methods to suit what you aim to accomplish.
  4. Be patient. Trust in the thoughtful process you have initiated!