Why your people comms strategy is vital to successful change transformation.

Why your people comms strategy is vital to successful change transformation.

Are you ready for business change? Change is everywhere, from desk moves to five-year culture transformations. There are three main types of change – and in each one, using a strategic communications plan for your employees is vital for success.

From GDPR to Brexit and the rise of AI, all businesses will be affected by change at some point in the near future, so it’s important to be prepared. Employees are also demanding a consumer-grade experience from organisations when communicating through change. So what can you do?

At a recent PRCA engagement group event, Engaging and Communicating Through Change, industry experts outlined the best way to approach people communications strategy, and how you should tackle the different types of change.

Business change and the importance of the engaged employee

MSL’s Director of Engagement, Priscilla Kuehnel, shared an informative presentation on the fundamentals of change and how to (and not) approach transformations as a business. Due the increasing use of tech, the amount of digital transformations is on the rise. Everyone has different attitudes to approaching the world of work and it is important that organisations act to engage their employees.

An engaged employee is defined as an employee with an emotional commitment to the organisation they work for. They are passionate, care about their work and understand the role they play in the success of the business.

Forbes - https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/

According to the newest Gallup report, only 15% of employees are engaged at work. The implications of disengaged employees go beyond reduced productivity – it affects retention and your bottom line. Companies with engaged employees outperform others by 202%.

So why is change so hard? The number one reason is employee resistance. If they don’t know why change is happening, they are less likely to accept it. Lack of trust in the leadership team and poor communication are two of the biggest reasons for change programme fails. If you don’t communicate and give employees context they will make up their own – and it’s often more inaccurate.

Here are Priscilla’s six top tips to creating a successful change strategy:

1. Follow the process

  • Adopt a steering committee to guide the change management.

2. Understand your audience

  • Do your research, use listening tools and gather insights from your employees.

3. Research pain points

  • Create a solution fit for purpose, not just a standardised response you should be doing.

4. Give context and a simple story

  • Not everyone needs to know every detail but they need to know why.

5. Mobilising the right people

  • Appoint leadership sponsors and give managers the right tools to help implement the change.

6. Plan to celebrate success

  • It’s important to acknowledge the wins, so celebrate when things are working.
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Types of business change and how to address them

There are three kinds of business change, says Sarah Meurer, Head of Internal Comms at Nestlé.

Cultural Change (5+ years)– the decision to evolve the way a business thinks or prioritises.

Authentic interventions and immersion are key to telling engaging stories and pulling this off.

 Organisational Change (2+ years) – the sale, the acquisition or re-organisation of a business structure.
You must have a trusted leadership and strong line manager engagement. Build your network of ‘trusted people’.

 Transformational Change (5+ years) – large-scale change of the business strategy.

You must have an external voice with a clear story. Use experts to help you craft your story and collaborate to educate your people. 

According to Meurer, building a trusted network is key. But this isn’t about involving people you’d normally appoint as ‘champions’ to help drive change; you want people who have been in the business a long time and have earned the trust of their fellow employees. They are people who colleagues go to for advice. By making these people your advocates, they will in turn educate colleagues and help drive success.

CEOs don’t have to have all the answers – and they shouldn’t, says Meurer. Empower your people and let them have a voice. Listen to them, find out how they are feeling by using engagement surveys and face-to-face conversations, and see how your strategy is panning out.

Panel discussion: engaging senior leaders and the two crucial questions

The event also included a panel discussion involving Kuehnel, Meurer and Sonia Stocker from Stocker Consulting, chaired by Ruth Dance from the Employee Engagement Alliance.

Stocker suggested that leaders need to think differently because the old hierarchal pyramid doesn’t work anymore. She recommends creating a game plan – a one-page strategy that everyone, no matter who they are in your team, can connect to.

And if you’re an organisation about to go through change of some sort, ask your employees the following two questions: What would make life better for you? What would make life better for your customers? Let their responses inform your plan. 

At MSL, Priscilla Kuehnel is part of our dedicated employee team which helps businesses with their change transformation and employee engagement strategies. Please get in touch if you have an employee challenge you are currently facing.

Event speakers: Ruth Dance, Managing Director of the Employee Engagement Alliance and co-chair of the PRCA Employee Engagement group with Priscilla Kuehnel, Director of Engagement of MSL UK, Sarah Muerer Head of Internal Communications at Nestlé and Sonia Stocker of Stockerhouse Consulting.

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Jane van Wyngaarden

Marketing and New Business Coordinator

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