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The questions you need to answer when communicating change in your organisation…

12th May 2016

 
The evolution of work – predominantly through digital transformation – and rapid technological developments in the consumer world, means the ability of organisations to recognise when and how to change the ways in which they operate, is crucial.
 
However, more importantly is how organisations plan, implement, drive and manage the required change. And there is one key ingredient – which without, failure will nearly always occur – communication.
 
What we are now going to introduce are the key things to focus on and consider when communicating for change in your organisation.
 
 

1. Be clear on why the intended change needs to happen.

The planned change may be obvious and a ‘must-do’ activity in your eyes, but to others it may not be so clear. You therefore need to build a strong case for change.
 
Focus on answering the following questions:
 
– What is the fundamental problem that needs solving?
 
– What are the drivers for change?
 
– What will happen if the change does not happen?
 
– How does the change – and the new behaviours – fit in with the objectives and values of the organisation?
 
– How does the change fit in with the overall strategy?
 
– Just what is the scope of the change?
 
 
 

2. Involve employees from the very beginning, and throughout

Don’t just tell people simply what is being done, involve them and show them how decisions have come about. Remember, no one really likes change, nor do they like being told what to do. But when they feel an important part of the process, they are more open to change.
 
Transparency, authenticity and purpose are three key requirements for any successful organisation, especially so during times of change.
 
And of course, you do not want employees to hear about the change from an external source, second hand.
 
Focus on answering the following questions:
 
– How will employees be affected by the change?
 
– What’s in it for the employees?
 
– Why should employees feel a sense of urgency to change, and how can that level of urgency be maintained?
 
– Are you able to identify the influential employees who could help with the communications?
 
 
 

3. Develop a clear strategy right from the very onset.

You may be clear on the change you want to see in your organisation, and it may be a ground-breaking change. But without a plan for getting there, it’s likely you never will.
 
Focus on answering the following questions:
 
– Do you have experienced strategists in place to create the campaign strategy?
 
– Do you have the team and appropriate skills to create purposeful consistent content and deliver it regularly over a long period of time?
 
– Have you got results and measurement from previous behaviour change campaigns that you can learn from and which will inform your planning?
 
 
 

4. Ensure leaders (and managers) are aligned with the change

 
Leaders need to be visible, available, and transparent at all times, but especially so through a change journey.
 
Focus on answering the following questions:
 
– How can leaders demonstrate the required change?
 
– How can leaders be best supported during the change? Specifically, how to educate them on the best ways to deliver the messages.
 
– How can the communications from the leaders best cascade down through the organisation?
 
 
 

5. Understand your audience’s communication preferences

All too often organisations communicate in the same way that they have always done – even when previous attempts didn’t have the desired results. Communication preferences of employees are continually changing, due to advancements in technology and changes in behaviour in the consumer world.
 
Focus on answering the following questions:
 
– Do you know the segments of your audience?
 
– What are the communication preferences for each different segment?
 
– Are you familiar with the somewhat hidden, informal employee groups? – the networks of people that have come together by themselves often based on a shared interest.
 
– Are you enabling employees to have their voice heard? So that you can understand any concerns they may have and can reply to them efficiently with the appropriate answers.
 
– Are you listening to your audience? Predominantly when they are participating in social conversations.
 
 
 

6. Be proactive not reactive to resistance.

 
No one really likes change, so there will likely be resistance. Be ready for it by acting proactively.
 
Focus on answering the following questions:
 
– Why would employees resist the change?
 
– How can the anticipated resistance be overcome?
 
– How will you become aware of any resistance? (hint – listening)
 
– Are you giving employees enough opportunities to voice their concerns? Events, town halls, workshops, two-way conversations etc.
 
 
 

7. Measure.

Measurement, at long last, is now being seen as a vital part of internal communications. However, although organisations have upped their measurement game, there is still room for improvement. Notably, by measuring things, well small things – continually and often.
 
The feedback gained from continuous measurement is crucial in continually adapting and enhancing communications and therefore the performance – and so results – of the change management campaign.
 
Focus on answering the following questions:
 
– What is the call to action for the communications that can be measured?
 
– What results do you want to see?
 
– Do you have previous employee engagement surveys that were used to measure change? – That can be used as benchmarks.
 
– What measurement tools are currently being employed?
 
 
 

8. Backing up communications with training

For behaviour change to occur, a change in mind-set is key. But organisations that simply focus on trying to achieve this are neglecting the fact that new behaviours often require new skills for the change to happen. It’s amazing, how organisations fail to supplement communications with resources. Resources such as time, trainers/coaches and tools, for example.
 
Focus on answering the following questions:
 
– Identify the skills that the new behaviours need.
 
– Can these skills be developed in-house or are external trainers required?
 
– What other resources are needed? Training programs etc.
 
– Do you have any of the required resources at your disposal?
 
– Do you have suitable collaborative technology in place to deliver the training?
 
– Have you considered how you’ll motivate and incentivise employees to increase participation? e.g. rewards program.
 
 
 

9. Tell a story

You can’t expect employees to change their behaviour purely through the adoption of new tools and adhering to new structures. You need to provide context to the change, and storytelling is the most effective way for shaping and helping others to understand the new context they are needed to operate within.
 
Storytelling is so powerful because it helps to not only paint a clearer picture of the change, but the best storytelling involves the employees. This enables employees to better understand what the change means to them. And as we mentioned earlier, when employees know what’s in it for them, and are happy with it – a change in their behaviour will soon follow.
 
Focus on answering the following questions:
 
– How does the change story relate to the overall company story?
 
– How can we encourage employees to share their own stories?
 
– What types of stories will resonate with employees?
 
– What format is best to tell the story through? What are the existing channels, and what new channels could be introduced? Again understanding channel preferences of audiences is important for this.
 
– How can we get leaders to tell and share their own stories more effectively?
 
 
 

10. Brand the change campaign.

The chances are your employees will experience a lot of noise due to the amount of corporate communication clutter that they are met with on a daily basis. That’s why it’s important to brand the change campaign, so that employees can recognise the communications and attribute them to the change campaign.
 
Focus on answering the following questions:
 
– Do you have existing branded internal communication campaigns? and how will the change campaign differ?
 
– Are you bound by strict guidelines? or is there scope to try and cut through the noise?
 
– Do you have the creative and design capabilities in-house to create the brand?
 
 
 

Conclusion

To finish, organisations need to take a long-term approach to change management. Organisations often start well, with big kick off events, but then fail to capitalise on their early success and the urgency for change fizzles out – with any change seen not being the level that was desired.
 
For organisations to experience the change that they want, their long game needs a strong short game to support it – something the golfers amongst you will be able to relate to.
 
Without a focus on short-term success, the campaign will unsurprisingly go flat over the long run, becoming ineffective and damaging the chances of achieving change.
 
 
This blog post was of course not about providing you with all the answers you need for creating communications that effectively bring about change. You don’t need us to tell you that each organisation is different and so too, every type of change.
 
Instead, the purpose of this post is to highlight the areas you need to focus on when embarking on a change management communication program. The questions we have raised throughout are some of the things that you need to find the answers to – questions that we could certainly help you with 😉
 
And as we mentioned within point number three; bringing in strategic experts (like us) from the very beginning – to help you answer the key questions – is crucial to change management success.
 
Until next time…
 
Rima
 
 

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