How can organisations communicate change?

Can you build a culture of resilience, agility and readiness for change within an organisation?

This is the topic Holly Gifkins, Internal Communications and Engagement Advisor at Leonard Cheshire Disability is exploring. She’s currently studying the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ Postgraduate Diploma in Internal Communications with PR Academy and needs your help.

Learn about change comms
Want to learn more about change communication? Sign up to my All Things IC Change Communication Masterclass on 20 June or 22 November 2018.

Holly has written for the All Things IC blog to share her thinking, including her seven top tips when communicating change.

Holly’s tips are:

  1. Connect people
  2. Use the right people to communicate change
  3.  Answer, “Why is this change happening” and “What is the risk of not changing.”
  4. Answer the question, “What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?”
  5. Repeat key messages five to seven times.
  6. Prepare communicators to deliver effective communications.
  7. Measure and evaluate.

I’ll hand you over to Holly. You can find her on Twitter @Hollytronic

How can organisations build a culture for change?

Change is hard.

My inner teenager, still reeling from my parent’s divorce could preach those words more passionately than she could any Spice Girls lyrics.

I read a great quote recently:

“What if we don’t change at all… and something magical just happens?”

I’m sure we’ve all worked in organisations where it feels as though areas of it live by that mode of thinking. In fact, when we discuss “organisational change”, the words “resistance” and “tension” often spring to mind.

However, change is vital for any business that wants to survive and prosper in our increasingly competitive and fast-paced world. The problem is, many leaders struggle to fully motivate and engage their employees in the process. They often move too fast, are too outcome driven and not sufficiently consultative in their approach.

As an organisation, you can shut yourself away in your room and let the world pass you by, or you can go downstairs and socialise with the rest of the family…

…So to speak.

For the record, I embrace change far easier these days.

At the moment, I’m studying for the CIPR Postgraduate Diploma in Internal Communications with PR Academy. I’ve been tasked with producing a management proposal with recommendations for developing strategy and performance improvement within my organisation.

To kick off my research, I asked my Chief Executive to define the burning issues he anticipates our organisation will face over the next ten years.

His response:

“Resilience to and speed of adaptability to change.”

This makes sense. The outside world is changing dramatically, and the future is becoming increasingly difficult to predict. Technology is constantly changing. The world has become one giant network where instantly accessible and shareable information rewrites the future as quickly as it can be understood.

In this brave new world, we expect to have our questions answered immediately. We expect to find information that affects us with ease, and if we can’t get hold of that information instantly, we’re not happy.

As consumers, we’re expecting and demanding more. And, because this is how we live in our personal lives, we expect our employers to operate in this way to an extent.

So, what role can communications play in this world and how are we helping our organisations to drive change more efficiently?

I’m asking Communications and HR professionals to take part in a short survey about building a culture of resilience, agility and readiness for change within an organisation. If you have a spare five minutes, I’d really appreciate you taking part.

Here’s the link you need to take the survey.

Here are some top tips I’ve gathered so far:

1. Connect people.

Agile organisations are built to learn and respond rapidly through the open flow of information. Know your audiences and their communication preferences and needs. How do people receive information and communicate in the outside world?

Can you mirror that with your channels? If people have questions, can they ask them? Can they access information that affects them with ease? Don’t allow the local grapevine to grow wild! Communicate early and often and equip your leaders and managers with as much information as possible to answer questions and address concerns.

2. Use the right people to communicate change.

Employees prefer to hear messages from two people in the organisation:
” The leader of the change about the business issues and reason for change.
” Their immediate supervisors about the personal impact of the change.

Notice there’s no mention of the project leader. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to have a project team sending out all of the communications. Oh, and don’t focus so hard on top-down communications that you forget bottom-up and sideways.

3. Answer, “Why is this change happening” and “What is the risk of not changing.”

Senior leaders tend to focus on the overall vision, and project teams on sharing their great new idea. However, the first communications about a change should focus on why the change is happening.

Reinforce the ‘why’ throughout the entire project, especially if there’s time between your first communication and implementation.

4. Answer the question, “What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?”

Consider what an employee cares about and values. To gain their support, your communications must provide a compelling case for what they get out of engaging in the change. Answer WIIFM early and often in your communications.

5. Repeat key messages five to seven times.

The first time you announce a change, employees are often not focusing on the details of what you are communicating but wondering how it will impact them. Make sure what you want to get across is heard.

6. Prepare communicators to deliver effective communications.

This includes coaching them on how to deliver key messages, sharing with them the important messages that need to be delivered, creating alignment between different communicators, and planning the delivery sequence.

7. Measure and evaluate.

Make sure employees are hearing and interpreting the messages you are trying to send. Measurement tools will help you identify when you haven’t communicated effectively so that you can refine your communications.

So, preparing our workforce for change is fundamental. Though the future is uncertain and we may not always know what the changes will be, we know change will happen.

Be upfront about this.

The ability to anticipate, react, innovate and make decisions at speed will be necessary if an organisation is to survive and thrive in this changing world. What’s more, an agile organisation will be better able to adapt to future workforce challenges.

How are you helping your organisation prepare for change?

Post author: Holly Gifkins.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with my blog readers. I’m fascinated by the questions you’re asking and wish you the best of luck with your studies. Not only is Holly studying hard at the moment, congratulations are in order as she has a new role. She will be joining Tesco as Colleague Communications Executive on 1 March.

You can find her on Twitter @Hollytronic if you’d like to find out more about her studies or get in touch.

Do please take a few moments to complete her surveyHere’s the link you need.

As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC if you have comments or feedback on what you’ve read.

How do you communicate change?

Last month I ran my latest All Things IC Change Communication Masterclass and am looking forward to teaching it again on 20 June 2018.

The course covers:

  • Change communication theory
  • The role of the modern senior communicator and their team when communicating change
  • Asking for advice with your change communication needs
  • Knowing how other people communicate change including restructures, office moves and much more
  • Analysing communication methods, including planning and stakeholders.

Get help with change communication

If you are working on something super sensitive and would like to pick my brain privately, I have the solution – sign up to a 1-2-1 coaching session.

We can spend a whole day together concentrating on you. I can help you brainstorm, review what you’ve done and we can create a plan of action.

I hire training rooms at WallaceSpace in Covent Garden, London, which are ours for the day. Find out more.

Need a lighter option? I also offer one-hour, 90-minute and two-hour consultations via phone. Let me know how I can support you.

Further reading about change via the All Things IC blog:

First published on the All Things IC blog 20 February 2018.


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