Every organization should expect change at some point. Causes can be internal (strategy, structure or change in ownership) or external (financial circumstances, forced relocation, market forces).
It pays to have a plan and strategy to deal with periods of change in your organization. These 10 tips can help you communicate through times of change.
1. Prepare for Change
Constant change has almost become a norm, so challenge the status quo regularly to help employees become aware of the need for change, either now or in the future.
Use staff quizzes to challenge the current situation. This is an example of a question you might include: “In our changing industry, which will be the most effective way to do business in the future? A, B or C?”
To ensure high employee participation, use a quiz format that is delivered directly onto targeted employee’s computer screens with display recurrence options based on the user’s response.
2. Customize and Target Messages
Avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach to communicating change. During organizational change it is particularly important to customize and target messages to meet the needs of the different employee groups within your organization.
Use multiple message formats and repeat important concepts to drive and reinforce behavior change. Desktop Alerts are an effective way to draw employees’ attention to important or urgent messages.
Set up change communications in advance to prepare for, and respond quickly to, staff feelings and feedback. During change, pre-schedule messages to ensure that employees hear about changes at the same time that you advise the market or the media.
3. Listen and Keep Listening
Gauge employee attitudes to change - Survey employees to gauge their attitudes towards organizational changes and assess how well they understand them.
Keep your finger on the pulse - Survey employees regularly as a temperature check and test that your change strategies are working every step of the way. Target dedicated surveys to specific groups of staff (e.g. to check whether you are making progress with a resistant group).
Collect feedback and report on it - Include a section in the internal newsletter or a feature on the intranet called “Great feedback we’re working with”. Highlight how you are using staff’s constructive comments to improve the business and the way you manage and communicate change
4. Provide Face-to-Face Briefings
Encourage employees to attend face-to-face briefings, as this gives them opportunities to express their point of view. Be flexible with times and venues; it may be difficult to get everyone in a room at the same time. Monitor who has RVSP'd for which session (this helps you plan logistics such as room size and catering requirements.)
Reinforce face-to-face executive communications - Encourage staff to ask questions and raise issues both before and after face-to-face briefings. This will help managers address concerns and employees to buy into changes.
Measure and manage information cascade - Measure how well your managers are communicating change with their teams. Use surveys and polls to understand how well each employee understands the main messages about the change and link the survey results back to individual managers as a measure of communications effectiveness. What gets measured usually gets focus and priority.
5. Paint a Picture of the Future
Tell stories - Include articles in the internal newsletter or on the intranet to show how employees are modeling new values or putting in place new strategies. If possible, allow them to submit their stories directly.
Digital signage on screensavers - Pictures paint a thousand words. Use interactive screensaver messages for change communications and to portray a positive picture of where the organization and its products are headed. Broadcast them around your organization to capture employee’s imagination in an appealing, visual way.
Scenario quizzes - Help employees visualize the change working for them. Ask scenario questions. For example, “The new XYZ technology will help me do A, B, C, or D or all of the above?” Offer prizes to encourage staff to take part. Include humorous or trick questions and answers to lighten the tone and make the staff quiz fun.
6. Make it Easy for Managers to Communicate Change Effectively
Provide advance notification - Ensure managers are fully briefed prior to their teams being notified of change. Allow sufficient time for them to plan their response, including a FAQ sheet.
Regular updates via scrolling desktop ticker - Give administrator rights to Team Leads (or their PAs) so they can create and publish news feed tickers featuring the latest, accurate (and top-down) updates.
Video updates - Create internal video updates relevant to specific employee groups. Work with managers to make messages as relevant as possible to the different groups. Use reporting options to see which employees have watched the video.
7. Focus on Employee Engagement During Change
Involve staff - Use staff surveys to involve employees and elicit their views. Consider letting employees respond anonymously for maximum candor. Every problem uncovered is a problem that you can address.
Celebrate new beginnings - Allow employees to contribute their own articles to the internal newsletter or intranet. Encourage them to tell their own stories about how the changes are working for them.
Repeat key messages - Repeat your main messages in a range of ways to ensure that they don’t become boring or are seen as ‘wall paper’.
Inject fun and involve people - Use a Staff quiz to ask employees to name new ways of working (e.g. new systems, projects) or suggest improvements. Offer prizes for the best ideas and recognize them using Screensaver Messages and articles in the internal newsletter.
8. Measure Results and Celebrate Successes
Benchmark and track trends - Survey staff to assess what’s working, measure attitudes, understanding and to track trends.
Profile success stories - Use an internal newsletter as an engaging way to document success. Encourage staff to submit articles that talk about what they have achieved (e.g. simpler ways of working, important milestones met).
Highlight and celebrate success - Screensaver messaging provides a visual, engaging way to highlight and celebrate success during the change. Target Screensaver Messages to specific employee groups to celebrate company wide successes as well as small local wins.