Action Research Project
BUS 370 Organizational Development
Action Research Project
While most people handle personal change on their own, organizations are more likely to look for help, this is known as organizational development. Companies utilize this process to ensure that change is effective, smooth and permanent . A large company has reached out to me in hopes I can help them solve a problem and help them mange the change process. I will begin this process by learning about the company and the problem they have identified. I will work my way through a needs assessment and diagnosis by collecting and analyzing data. Based on what I find, I will develop a strategy and identify the required resources, the timeline, any resistance we may encounter, the potential benefits of my proposal and we will discuss the most effective evaluation approach. It is my goal to ensure we identify and correct the company’s concerns to ensure lasting success and effectiveness for the company, employee’s and the customers.
Comcast is a fortune fifty company and has recently ranked as one of the top five places to work. Comcast is most commonly known for its dominance in the telecommunication industry with offerings of cable tv, internet, home telephone, home security and mobile phone service. They believe in connecting you to what matters, Comcast creates incredible technology and entertainment that connects millions of people to the moments and experiences that matter most . Comcast has led through innovation and technology development, creating some amazing platforms, most notably the X1 system and the nation’s best infostructure that offers the fastest internet speeds . Comcast owns NBCUniversal and Sky UK, these businesses have made Comcast relevant in theme parks, movie production and overseas telecommunication.
Overall, the company is in a great place. I have been tasked to work specifically with the residential door to door sales department, this is known as the direct sales team. Direct sales is the highest compensated department in all of sales within Comcast. It is an extremely difficult to find success in this department, but if you can, it is very rewarding. A system utilizing algorithms has been designed to identify potential customers with the highest propensity to buy. Geographical areas are divided into smaller, manageable portfolios that are assigned to each sales representative. Each sales agent is tasked with managing their turf, the primary job is acquisition, which is full of rejection and negativity. Agents must see the process through beginning to end, first knocking on the door, the sales process, follow up, installation and future problems or issues if the customer should happen to contact them. Success is short lived and regardless of prior performance, everyone starts back at zero monthly.
Context of the problem
While Comcast is a great organization filled with endless opportunity, the direct sales department has a concern with its employee attrition rate. As described above, it is a hard job and not for everyone. Turnover is to be expected, but the issue isn’t specific to new hires, the problem spreads even to those who are tenured and have previously found success. This concern causes issue with sales results, frontline leader earning potential, work life balance, ethics and cost.
Comcast sets budgets annually, every October. Targets or goals are determined during this budgeting process. This means that in October, upper leadership assumes what each team will have for headcount and they then determine how many sales each team is accountable for. Attrition and turnover are not considered. This means that regardless of how many people are on a team, the leader of each team is still responsible for achieving the set sales targets and there are no excuses for not producing results.
This leads us into the next problem, frontline leadership earning potential. Sales representatives are tasked with a consistent goal that does not change, it is the same month after month. The same can not be said about the leader. They are goaled as if they have a full team regardless of how many team members they have. If a team is short on headcount, there is no incentive for the individual team members to produce more, they still have the same requirement, the leader takes the hit and may find themselves consistently missing targets if they are short by even one team member.
This extra stress can affect work life balance. The leaders still need to provide and earn a living and while the sales representatives are not rewarded, the leader may still push for extra hours, less time off and may ultimately pass the stress on to other team members.
This additional stress may cause ethics issues. Leaders may turn a blind eye and sales representatives may take shortcuts or find some gray area that may be looked at as less than satisfactory. Not only can this result in even more employee turnover, but it may also result in a poor customer experience.
There is also a cost to replace individuals that have vacated their positions. Direct sales has a monetary cost when it comes to hiring. Sales agents require licensing, training, uniforms and additional onboarding expenses. There is also a time commitment cost. Leaders, mentors and trainers must all devote the necessary time to get new hires up to speed on process, policies and company standards.
Needs Assessment and Diagnosis
The problem is employee attrition, but the root of the problem up to this point is undetermined. Of course, many have their opinions and assumptions. But to find the real issue it will require taking an appropriate amount of time to collect the data. I will begin by looking at archived data, the numbers behind employee attrition. It is important to identify new hire attrition and normal attrition. It is also important to recognize the difference between voluntary and involuntary.
The next step in acquiring data would be through job exit interviews. We can throw darts at the wall all day, but the best information will come from those that have left the company or that have submitted notice. Hearing the prospective of those that have left or are leaving will prove to be instrumental in finding a solution.
Another step will be to initiate anonymous surveys with the current sales agents and the sales supervisors. It is imperative that we identify the current level of job satisfaction from both of these groups. We can discover opinions on what can improve culture the and environment. We can also learn what opportunities the company has as well.
I will also spend time observing. I will observe the hiring process, this will include, recruiting, interviewing and onboarding. I will also observe one on one’s, team meetings, training sessions and both sales agents and supervisor job duties.
I collected the data and then spend time analyzing it. I was able to identify some serious red flags. The information I shared with the door to door leadership team took them by surprise. I shared the new hire attrition rate, the tenured turnover numbers as well as voluntary vs involuntary. I was not able to have a conversation with all of those that have recently left the company, but I did speak with several. I surveyed current employees and I observed all wakes of the business. There are three major problems, the rest are minor in comparison and can be corrected at a later time. The number one issue is the supervisors, the second one is a lack of career development and growth, the third is training.
The supervisors are by far the greatest concern. It is not that they are bad, but they have the hardest job in the department. They are punished for missing unachievable goals, they are not given the appropriate resources to develop, train or guide their employees to success. They are the scapegoats for a department issue that is much bigger than them. They hang on to or hire underqualified and low performing sales agents because even a poor performance is better than none. This is a broken system.
Career development and growth turns out to be nearly as big of an issue. While there is career progression for the sales agent, the process is poorly thrown together and looks as if it is a check the box type situation to merely tell the agents that there is a process. There have been several hires within the last few years for leadership positions within the direct sales department, none of them came from the frontline sales agents. This is a huge problem and proves that the department lacks bench strength. People want development and they want career progression.
Finally, training. Not only do the leaders have minimal experience with the actual job, they are also required to teach new sales agents how to do it. They are required to develop current employees and enhance team skillset. There is no training for the leaders on how to train and develop, it is as if everything is thrown together with no preparation.
Organization Development Interventions/Strategy 5.2
In order to produce a successful intervention, three criteria must be met. It needs to meet the needs of the organization, it needs to paint the picture and show the vision of the desired outcome and it must create excitement and the desire for the work place to take action . Of the three big problems, we are going to focus on correcting two. They go hand in hand and will certainly meet the three criteria necessary to produce a successful intervention. We are looking to not only improve performance, but we also want to improve both the sales agents and the frontline leader’s psychological health and well-being .
We will adjust how the frontline leaders are goaled, instead of having targets based off budgeted headcount from last October, we will base goals on current headcount. We will also develop incentive for the sales agent to exceed goals, this removes punishment and adds rewards. The second change will be more specific to learning and development, the current process is broken and needs updating. Both sales representatives and frontline leaders will be required to go through the redesigned training process. Each will have specific training for the need of the position, leaders will be required to go through training on how to hire, what leads to higher retention and how to weed out those that will likely struggle to find success .
Both changes will require time and effort. They will also require monetary resources. The updated training process will require someone to develop the new curriculum and it will also require someone to facilitate the trainings. The compensation structure will need to be adjusted which could result in higher payouts.
The compensation change will go into effect in thirty days, this will ensure all data and accounting adjustments have been made. This will also satisfy the requirement of notifying employees thirty days in advance prior to compensation changes. The training will begin in ninety days. This will give time to develop the curriculum, and employee a facilitator.
There should be no resistance from frontline leaders, but the opportunity to make extra incentive from the sales agents may cause some issues as if they are being asked to do to much. The training will find the most resistance. Comcast training has certainly lacked, and current employees may feel as if this is just another check the box situation. Many will participate with reluctance and others may not participate at all.
Adjusting how leaders are goaled will reduce the stress and pressure they put on their employees. They will be able to better utilize their time to train and develop skills. This could increase work life balance and cut back on ethical issues. Training will help everyone level up and create more potential for future promotions, improved skills for sales results and a sense of progress. For the company the greatest benefits are reduced employee churn, better performance and workforce with improved health and well-being.
Suggested Evaluation Approach
To ensure we achieved the desired results we will do a summative evaluation, this is to measure the outcome and the impact of the changes we made. There are four steps to this type of evaluation. The first is identifying what we want to accomplish, so metrics. Second is setting the standards the level of resolution. Third is conducting the actual evaluation, and the fourth step is look at the return on investment, by determining the value of what the change provided .
We are looking for a significant level of reduced churn from both new hires and tenured employees, we are also looking for improved job satisfaction as well and cost savings through higher performing sales agents and lower need for hiring new people.
I utilized Lewin’s 3-step model of change, unfreezing, moving and refreezing. Unfreezing is when the need for change becomes apparent, this is the sense for action. Moving is the actual initiation of the change, and then refreezing, this is when full implementation has been met and then reinforced (Yahaya, 2017). I began the process by learning about the company and the problem. I worked my way through a needs assessment and diagnosis by collecting and analyzing data. Based on what I found, I developed a strategy, identified the required resources, the timeline, possible resistance, the potential benefits and the most effective evaluation approach.