Day 20: The times they are a changin’

It seems the only thing guaranteed in business nowadays is change.  Change to attract new talent. Change to retain it.  Change to keep up with competition. Change to stay ahead.

laura-jamesToday’s Countdown to Christmas guest article was written by Laura James (pictured).

With eight years’ experience in internal comms, she’s worked in a number of industries including construction, property, manufacturing and retail.

She was recognised in the inaugural Institute of Internal Communication “30 under 30” list (2013) and is currently Communications Manager at Arcadia Group, leading the communications for its major business transformation programme.

I’ll hand you over to Laura…

The times they are a changin’

As internal communication professionals, our role to lead employees through change is seen (rightly so) as pivotal.

Rather than the all-too-common “parent/child” directive from the C-suite, our role is increasingly to ensure change isn’t something that is “done” to employees but that it’s a two-way, honest communication process, and one where employees journey through Kotter’s change cycle with an understanding of the what, when, how and, crucially, the why.

Ideally that process is led by the business itself rather than a change management department or PMO.

leadingchange(If you’ve not studied Kotter’s stages of leading change, here’s a look at slides I use in some of my All Things IC Masterclasses.

I also recommend reading the book Leading Change by John. P Kotter.

The information below was published by Liam Fitzpatrick and Klavs Valskov in their ace 2014 book Internal Communications: A manual for practitioners, which uses Kotter’s model and adapts it into a checklist for communicators – Rachel).

Comms checklist

Kotter two

I’ll hand you back to Laura…

Ability to lead change
timesThe times, I feel, are a-changin’ for our profession and our ability to lead change within organisations is becoming more prevalent.

It seems there is now an expectation that change communications is a part of our overall IC armour, whether this be in the form of M&A activity, other organisational restructures, large-scale business transformations, office relocations or the closure of a manufacturing site, for example.

A change felt as good as a rest for me two years ago and I moved from a “core” internal communications remit to one that is solely focused on profound change. 

Through this opportunity I’ve observed that whilst there are naturally some key skills and areas of my role that are identical, there are also some major differences to the more “generalist” IC remit.

1) This is about the sell

Getting the messaging right in any communication piece is vital, but in a change environment this is more important than ever.

Constantly link back to the vision, whether that’s in an email, an intranet article or a script for a key stakeholder’s presentation.

There will undoubtedly be a benefit from the change, whether that’s to the business, the employees or to the customer.

Every day as you sit down at your desk, ask yourself “Why are we doing this?”

If you can’t explain it in a way that excites and motivates, then don’t expect your employees to be barging past each other to jump on board the change train.

It’s also very easy to get caught up in the detail of the change, particularly if it’s complex. So ensure your audience can see the future state and can keep that in mind rather than that minor manual process change that was introduced last week.

2) Timing is everything

The window for your communications to land with traction can be slimmer. With a broader IC role, there are arguably more opportunities for you to hook onto something to make your communications newsworthy, but with employees moving from “Shock” to “Denial” to “Anger” on not only an individual basis but also at an undisclosed rate, you can very easily miss the moment.

3) Hone those influencing skills

I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted when I write that business as usual requires a high level of influencing (not least to ensure that internal communications is not simply a post-box), but in a business transformation context the need for internal communications to be seen as a key strategic role is paramount.

Getting a seat at the table and influencing your Executive Sponsor is not easy, but to land the change successfully it’s crucial.

4) Work closely with any central communications teams in your organisation

See if there are any opportunities to leverage resource, budget, assets or even campaigns. Ensure air traffic control is managed and maintained.

Finally, listen, listen, and then listen some more.

Whilst this is true in a broader internal communications role, what’s been most interesting to me is that you can complete as many temperature checks, pulse surveys, business readiness assessments or business briefings as you like, but it’s when you speak to employees face-to-face and actively listen to their concerns and queries that you can gain the most insight (often by the coffee machine).

Post author: Laura James.

Thank you again Laura. What do you think of what she’s written? As ever you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet @AllthingsIC.

Thank you for stopping by,


P.s. Want to learn more about internal communication? Browse my Masterclasses to choose the one which is right for you.

First published on the All Things IC blog 20 December 2016.

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