Our 5 top tips for communicating major change – by Sarah Sheasby
We’ve all heard horror stories of poorly managed change communications – our LinkedIn campaign reflects just some of the real-life examples that have been shared with us. The typical score for agreeing with the statement ‘Changes are communicated effectively’ in our internal communications review surveys is around 30%.
Change is a fact of life for most organisations and effective change communication is one of the skills our clients often approach us for. Whether it’s an office move, relocation, redundancies or business acquisition, major change is often difficult. We take pride in supporting clients to communicate change effectively and with integrity and believe there are a few things you can do to improve the experience for your employees and your organisation. Here are our top 5…..
1. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes
Showing respect doesn’t need to be onerous and is vital to your reputation as a good employer. It’s not just about those leaving or moving, but those left behind. At every step of the project, take a moment to reflect: how will it feel to employees? Good principles include briefing people face to face and at a reasonable time of day. And don’t forget part-time colleagues and those on maternity leave, long term sick or secondment.
Now is a great time to brush up on the Change Curve, which recognises quite simply that employees will go through a range of emotions and need different types of communication at different times. If in doubt, keep it human, honest and adult to adult.
2. Agree your approach
There are a few ways to communicate change, but here at the Internal Comms Team we often recommend a cascade approach i.e. starting with senior leaders, then line managers and then employees. This enables your managers to play a key role as communicators and equips them to support their teams through the change. They can also help you to gauge emerging themes and colleague sentiment. If your line managers are also impacted, you may need to give them extra support in this role. Last but not least, communicate to the wider organisation – in our internal communications reviews employees often tell us that ‘secondary’ audiences are forgotten.
3. Develop good stakeholder relationships
You’ll need to work hand-in-hand with HR to understand how people are being impacted, what the process is and what support materials they will need. You may well also be relying on business leads for subject expertise so it pays to have great working relationships. While we’re on the topic, invest a little time in connecting with EAs and PAs too…they have the senior team’s ear and you may well be calling in favours closer to delivery date!
4. Prep leaders to own the message
If one leader explains there are cost cuts while another points to changing skills requirements, the message will very quickly unravel. Whatever your organisation’s reasons for change, be clear, be consistent and ensure the leadership team are fully aligned behind the message. Finally, while it might feel like a great time to cancel all senior diary commitments and run for the hills, this is exactly the time to maintain good visibility and dialogue.
5. Plan, plan…and plan some more
At the outset, check your planned dates for communicating don’t clash with other activity. There’s nothing worse than announcing redundancies hot on the heels of a Values campaign. For the announcements themselves, you’ll need designated owners for every element of the plan, from setting up room bookings to monitoring comments on your intranet/enterprise social network. Have backup plans, too. What if there’s a leak in the press? What happens if that super important HR system crashes with all of your key materials? What if the briefing invitations don’t reach the intended people? How smoothly things run on the day will depend on the time you put in…the devil really is in the detail.
For change communications resource and advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us on on 0117 971 4423 / email our MD firstname.lastname@example.org