Leading a business is tough, but when your organization is going through significant changes, the challenges become even greater. And what organization isn’t going through high change these days?
Change management is hard. Using communications as a lever, the IronStrike team helps move people (not “organizations”) through a change or transition. We consider the many audiences—employees, vendors, suppliers and others—that the change impacts. After all, for organizations or systems to change, people must change (or not, as the case may be).
Successful companies communicate well during times of high change
The facts bear it out: Companies that keep their employees engaged are able to withstand change better. According to research done by WillisTowersWatson, companies that communicate with courage, innovation and discipline—especially during times of economic challenge and change—are more effective at engaging employees and achieving desired business results. Change communications is key.
Breaking through the noise to get your message out is difficult, however. A report issued in June 2017, State of Workplace Communications Report: How Communications Teams Can Overcome the Data Disconnect, revealed 73 percent of communication professionals say communicating company news to employees is a serious challenge.
How to cut through the clutter
Here, we provide some practical tips to get you started on cutting through the clutter and helping you communicate better during times of high change:
- Assess employees’ readiness for change. If signs point to “no-go” and you can adjust when you make the change, consider altering your rollout timetable. Regardless, knowing employee’s readiness for change will help you develop appropriate messages to meet those employees “where they are.”
- Establish milestones and measurements.
- Tap your change agents within the company to help tell your story. In doing so, you’ll better offset any negatives coming from those who might be skeptical about the change.
- Clearly define your key messaging. Your key messaging should help employees understand the forces of change—the “why”—as well as identify challenges and opportunities (the “what’s in it for me,” or WIIFM).
- Storytell. Concrete stories about how a change is making a difference within your organization are powerful and can help reinforce the behaviors you want to see.
- Celebrate milestones. Celebrate your people!
Nobody said it’d be easy
Maintaining consistent communications during times of high change is challenging. Sometimes you don’t know what to say or don’t have anything new to say. That’s okay. The important thing is to keep the information flowing—whatever you have. You might be thinking, “I don’t want to communicate unless I have something new to say.” We disagree. Sometimes just the act of saying “Hey, we’re still here, but have nothing new to report” can go a long way in making employees feel valued.
But what if you don’t take this advice? What are the potential negatives? Probably the most significant one is the rumor mill starts cranking up. In absence of any repeated or new information, employees will naturally fill the information void. They’ll make assumptions about what is or is not happening. And often, they’ll assume their leaders and managers don’t know what’s going on.
The bottom line: Either own your story or your employees will take ownership of it. We’d advocate for the former.
Communicating during times of high change is difficult—no question about that. And there are many different change models out there that can help guide you through the process. Find one you think will work best for your organization and run with it. We like John Kotter’s model, particularly its emphasis on establishing urgency for change. Establishing urgency is especially important when radical change is needed to quickly turn a company around. With perseverance—and the practical steps outlined here—your organization can stay a step ahead.
Need expert advice on communicating in times of high change. We’d love to help!