How Do I Drive Change That Sticks In My Organisation?
Change in business is constant. Financial targets, team members, management styles, share prices and market forces are constantly in flux; so ‘change management’ is an everyday process in most businesses.
However, introducing new organisational processes – and ensuring these changes stick – depend on how well you manage and communicate around your employees’ experience of these changes.
In the short-term, mishandling communication during change can lead to confusion and disengagement from your employees. In the long term, this confusion and disengagement could easily turn into demotivation, leading to employee retention issues and inefficiencies, all of which conspires to slow down departments’ and teams’ productivity. In the most extreme cases, whole businesses can grind to a halt. So managing your communication strategy around a change is as important to get right as the new processes themselves.
But driving successful change in your organisation isn’t just about getting the comms strategy around the implementation of a new pay structure, or the introduction of new technologies right.
Excellent internal communications that drip feed messages of positivity, understanding, honesty and relevant instruction around change, can move a business from ‘coping with change well’ to being ‘change ready’.
Effective and sustained internal change communication can make positive change culture part of your business DNA.
Understand the employee experience
Getting change communications right starts with your understanding of the employee experience in your organisation.
Every business is keen to complete the implementation of a new process or restructure. Big changes are made for the good of a company; they are made to introduce better, more efficient ‘ways of doing’ and are always undertaken with improved performance as an objective. But there is no shortcut to inspire lasting, owned change from your employees.
Inspiring your employees to embrace change requires you to explicitly identify, understand, and address how they feel about the change happening around them and focus on that first. Only when you have inspired, empowered and encouraged loyalty from employees by speaking to their emotional needs will you be able to successfully communicate the processes you want them to follow.
Encouraging employees to ‘own’ change is a two-stage process
Stage One: recognising and addressing the emotional needs of your employees
When employees understand the reason why and the objective behind a business transformation they feel loyalty towards and have faith in their leadership team, they are more likely to support and embrace the change. Our core principles when it comes to communicating potentially disruptive change in a way that speaks to emotions are:
- Be honest – be honest about the fact that things are going to be different and this may take some getting used to.
- Be positive and reassure – this change in process is for the greater good of the business, be clear about the ‘why’ behind this change and confident about the benefits it will bring to employees long term and day-to-day.
- Inspire – ensure all leaders within the business are open, confident and visionary when they speak about what and how changes are going to be delivered. If leaders don’t openly embrace change and come across as being excited about it, you can’t expect your employees to do so.
Stage Two: communicate new processes clearly
Managing and communicating expectations down to the level of the individual employee will ensure your changes are not only understood, but embraced and owned by all levels within your organisation:
- Maintain your honesty – if the level or scope of change differs across the business, be upfront about this.
- Be detailed – be as granular as you possibly can about how things are going to change, by when, and exactly how you are going to support employees to work within the new operational framework.
- Be consistent – don’t confuse your employees by describing new systems and processes differently.
- Open up two-way channels for feedback – empower your employees to feel involved and motivated to grasp the changes happening. Those using the new systems and involved in new operations are best placed to make recommendations should there be ways of making new processes even better – encourage and reward your employees to own these developments and be accountable for them.
Embed being ‘change ready’ into your company culture
Putting the experience of your employees at the centre of the changes you are implementing not only enables you to identify and understand what they are feeling, leading to effective and relevant communications strategies; it also communicates that you care about them.
If employees know you care about their role within these changes and the wider organisation, and can see you are addressing their emotional needs as well as operational instruction, they will be far more inclined to embrace and own changes as they are made.
Repeatedly empowering employees through effective internal comms to embrace and own changes leads to positive and performance-enhancing experiences, gradually and deliberately embedding being ‘change ready’ into your business DNA.
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