Leading transformational change in business doesn’t happen by accident, it requires meticulous planning and implementation. As businesses roll out solutions to answer the demands of 2020’s global pandemic on the corporate world, organisational transformation is happening quicker and under more challenging circumstances than ever before.
A survey by McKinsey Global back in 2015 found that only a quarter of executives surveyed believed the transformations they had been involved in were successful, so what levels of success can we expect of the hurried changes going on in the business world post 2020?
What is an organisational transformation?
Transformation is the ultimate level of change.
True business transformation alters the very DNA of a business or organisation, cascading through every system and process, ultimately making the business more effective and successful and potentially, a completely different working environment.
Employees may only start feeling the impact of business transformation when it affects their day-to-day. For example:
- Strategy and Purpose
A new brand, purpose, evolved company values or anything causing a cultural shift, the messages associated with it and the resulting changes to how they work with each other and deal with their clients needs consideration and sensitive communication.
- People and Structure
Removing hierarchy, reviewing job structures, and people, changes to pay and incentivisation. Employees can be hugely destabilised, become disengaged, if grading structures, review processes and how they are measured and evaluated for reward changes.
Implementation of new technologies – Any changes to their user experiences, how the data they work with is structured or the operating platforms they use, requires careful communication.
Transformation can’t happen in a silo. If various tactical changes are part of a true business strategy, they won’t be happening in a silo. Effectively communicating the ongoing changes throughout a business demands sensitivity, honesty, clarity and positivity from the top of an organisation down. Add to this two-way conversation to create an open and honest environment where colleagues can ask about the changes.
Effective internal communication is needed now more than ever. A transformation happening quickly due to the unprecedented challenges of 2020 is no less seismic than one which has been planned for years.
The two main considerations when planning effective communication around business transformation are:
- Understanding the mindset of the employees affected
- Proactive and positive, hands-on involvement from all leaders within the business
1. Understanding the mindset of your employees
Any change to a status quo is scary, daunting and often uncomfortable. When the workplace changes it can be stressful and there’s a risk of disengagement.
A good resource to start with is Dr John Cotter’s eight-step model outlined in his book, ‘Leading Change’. Many effective change management communication strategies have their foundations in his research.
Our starting point with any effective transformation communications plan is to be mindful of the target audience: your employees. Our approach is always to excite, inspire and motivate employees to embrace transformation, including:
- Communicating the context
- Being unafraid to share detail
- Inspiring them to understand and support the journey
Effective communication of transformation includes the Why, How, When and What path your employees are on
When considering communications to individuals, start with the bigger picture – the reason and context for the transformation. Employees need to know why this is happening before you outline how this is going to specifically impact them.
Inspire them with the positive opportunities that follow any changes to their job or working structure. Make sure you are clear on when this is going to happen and specific on how the changes will impact them.
The biggest blocker to business transformation is resistance to change
Your first task is to ensure any obstacles to the transformation are mitigated, and the biggest blocker to transformation is employee resistance.
Starting any process around transformation by addressing employees directly with contextual, accurate, detailed, positive and inspiring communication around the changes will start mitigating the impact of resistance before it blocks progress.
Effective communication processes also include open discussions not only around the positive outcomes of the transformation process, but honesty around any potential challenges ahead.
Encouraging people to talk to their line management or leadership teams at any opportunity also fosters a culture of openness and support. Invite employers to put forward ideas to make changes easier and reward those who proactively support and help change happen.
2. Proactive, positive, hands-on involvement is needed from all leaders within the business
Transformation and business change will only be communicated effectively with proactive, positive and hands-on advocacy from all leaders within the organisation.
As well as the traditional leaders, Board Members, Line Managers, Heads of Department, etc, we also recommend identifying your company’s natural leaders at every level. Cultural leaders within the business are often not necessarily those in hierarchical positions of power – and for change to be communicated effectively, support is needed from all areas of the business.
The four cornerstones of effective communication from your transformation leadership team are:
- Clarity: Clarity of communication is key.
This must come when you identify what changes are happening, when and what their impacts on individuals will be.
- Positivity: The positivity of this transformation must be obvious.
If it isn’t, the context for transformation cannot be communicated effectively and you risk employee resistance. Inspiring your team to work together through the change and exciting them about the opportunities at the other side is vital to keep teams motivated and moving forward.
- Relevance: Making all of your transformation comms relevant to whom you are communicating with is key.
Don’t apply broad brushstrokes – each area, department, team and sub-group in the organisation will be impacted differently, so work hard to ensure they get tailored information and messaging, all inclusive of the bigger picture context.
Be open, energetic, honest and approachable throughout the transformation process. Lead from the front, with an aligned leadership team speaking with a common voice and inspire your employees through the challenges that will inevitably lie ahead.
Know your end game, communicate it, and be excited
Being authentic during any organisational transformation is so important. Letting employees see that the leadership team genuinely cares about the changes employees are undergoing and that they are excited about the future in all your communication, can be the difference between a smooth and effective transition and a painful one.
Treat your employees as the valuable individuals they are, excite and inspire them to join you on your transformation journey and your changes will be communicated effectively and positively.
Don’t just communicate the change – be the change.
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