How good is your organisation at communicating change? Do you get locked into a tactical cycle of being brought in at the last-minute or are you working as a trusted adviser, championing effective internal communication at every stage?

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of speaking with 350 professional communicators at the Public Service Communications Academy 2018 in Birmingham.

The topic of my bespoke 30-minute talk was the role effective internal communication and engagement plays in delivering change.

I focused on how to communicate with employees during change and why you need to bring an emotional and internal focus to your internal communication.

Thank you to everyone who replied to the latest issue of my monthly newsletter The Water Cooler on Friday to request the slides. As a result, I’ve included the majority of them in this blog post and will walk you through the presentation.

Rachel Miller

 

Come and learn about change with All Things IC

If you would like to learn more about change, there are a couple of places left on my next Change Communication Masterclass on 22 November 2018. Come and join your peers and I for a whole day in London to help you understand change comms theory, which will boost your confidence and skills. Save your place today.

How to communicate change

Thank you to LGcommunications and the Government Communication Service @UKGovComms for inviting me to speak at the event. The Communications Academy, #CommsAcad, gives communications professionals from all over the country the chance to come together, learn and see the latest best practice in the industry.

I enjoyed delivering the session and answering questions before, during and after. It was such a big room at the Repertory Theatre in Birmingham, UK!

What did I talk about?

I shared a number of personal stories and anecdotes to describe the impact of change and the difference between change and transition. I also revealed first-hand experience of being on the receiving end of my own change comms while in-house, and how I now work with internal communicators to help them to succeed.

I focused on the internal side of internal communication and the importance of emotion during change. I talked about the need to be intentional with our internal communication, particularly during times of change. We need to ensure we’re focused on the outcomes the organisation needs and behaviours employees need to align themselves with and display.

Regular readers of my blog will know my belief that what happens inside is reflected outside and how that applies both from a mental health and wellbeing perspective in our organisations and also in terms of culture.

Myths and truths

In my talk I shared three myths and truths about communicating change:

Myth 1: We know how to talk about change. 

I looked at the language we use and how it can often overcomplicate and make a minor business-as-usual change feel like a huge change initiative.

For example, the following scenarios are all badged as Change – new CEO, new office, change of process, change of menu, new bike to work policy. Some only impact a few people, some impact them all, but we use the word change to describe everything in an organisation, which leads to change fatigue. 

I mention this in my Change Comms Masterclass and highlight just some of the instances where we use the word change:

Recommendation: Be mindful of the language you use in your organisation. Spell out what you mean. Don’t overcomplicate change by giving it a fancy title (Project London/Project Romeo) and locking yourself away in a War Room to talk it through.

Language use is incredibly important during change, for example talk about homes not units, people not numbers/headcount.

Myth 2: We know how to communicate to our employees during change.

The truth is many organisations communicate TO rather than FOR or WITH employees.

During my talk I shared a model I’ve been describing to clients and my monthly Masterclass attendees for about five years.

The Global-Local-Me model depicts how we plan internal communication and the fact you need to reverse it to Me-Local-Global, particularly when communicating change.

For example, IC pros usually plan Town Halls to share the overarching reasons for change in this way:

  • From a Global perspective – This is what it means for our NHS Trust. (Typically shared by CEO).
  • From a Local perspective – This is what the change means for your hospital. 
  • From a Me perspective – This is what the change means for you and your team.

Then in a Team Brief situation, you need to reverse it because the team want to hear how they are impacted first. They won’t listen to the Global or Local bits because they are relying on line managers to share “This is what it means for you/us” – the Me element.

My experience of internal communication reveals this to be true and every single time I’ve shared this model with clients or Masterclass attendees, they confirm it. The arrows are critical because we need to be listening actively at every stage and ensuring we have effective two-way channels in place.

So what can you do?

You need to ensure there is clarity for translating Global to Local and Local to Me and vice versa.

Senior leaders and line managers need to understand their role is the translation piece. This is where communication usually breaks down. Our role as professional communicators is to ensure leaders at all levels understand their role is to facilitate conversations and drive dialogue. Leaders need to be able to break down what the change means to their teams/individuals and to listen and collate questions.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog:


Myth 3: We deliver change, we are change managers.

Internal communication is too important to be left to one team or department, it is everyone’s responsibility. So is change.

Note I’ve written internal communication as singular rather than plural. That’s because I view internal communications as being channels and content, whereas internal communication is the broader context of how communication happens, and reflects all aspects.

I talked about the superpower that is kindness and how you can look for opportunities to be kind, particularly during change. I’ve received a number of questions asking how you can do this. I’m going to write a follow-up blog post to this one to share examples. I coupled this with empathy and ethics.

I closed (and opened) with a Maya Angelou quote:

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

Here are the slides I’ve referenced:

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Further reading about change on the All Things IC blog

Did you go to #CommsAcad? What are your key takeaways?

Here’s a few thoughts from people who heard me speak last week.

This is what they took away from my session:

I’m taking bookings for February 2019 onwards. If you would like me to consider speaking at your event, please get in touch.

Thank you as ever for stopping by

Rachel.

Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 14 October 2018.

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