Do you feel like your company keeps changing? You’re not alone. A recent study by Gartner showed that over the course of three years, most organizations went through five major, firm-wide changes. That’s a lot of change to manage! On top of that, the same study revealed that less than half of the change initiatives were successful.
There are many factors that contribute to a successful change, and communication is at the top of the list. Without effective communication, employees don’t understand what is changing, why and what they need to do.
So, what change communication strategies should be employed? That answer depends on the change, the organization, the objectives and many other facets.
Over the last year, my colleagues and I were involved in three change communication efforts that were successful:
1. The one-two punch: new leadership team and new company strategy
After COVID hit, a leading fitness company decided to take a step back and reevaluate its entire existence. The leadership team was completely replaced, and a new strategy was born, except it was only in leadership terms—corporate jargon overload. The team was ready to share it with employees but didn’t know where to start.
Unique challenge: On the heels of a major leadership shift, the company needed to engage employees in the new strategy and motivate employees to champion change.
Success factor: Simplification
To break down a brand-new strategy with a brand-new leadership team, we went back to basics: one-on-one conversations. These discussions allowed us to cut through all the clutter of strategy documents, charts and jargon. We were able to:
- Simplify each leader’s piece of the strategy to identify key messages and essential points for an elevator pitch.
- Ask the tough questions to get the answers employees were really looking for.
- Show the value communications bring to the table.
These conversations allowed us to really understand what each leader was trying to accomplish and, as a result, create clear, concise messaging about the new strategy.
2. The fresh start: Becoming an independent company
As a software company splintered off a larger organization, changes were numerous—new mission, brand, processes and more. But one thing remained: its employees.
Unique challenge: How to help employees feel connected and committed to the new company.
Success factor: Storytelling
When employees feel something, it resonates more. That’s why we worked through building a story arc, and mapping key points in a consistent and engaging way. By reminding employees of the “why”—their new company was creating products that were saving lives and changing the world—we found something all employees could rally around.
3. The switcheroo: Changing a key technology platform
A global pharmaceutical company was transitioning to a new global platform to manage safety. Within the span of five days, thousands of employees around the globe would be impacted, halting day-to-day work for many and subsequently changing the way they work in the future. The launch was a few months away and they needed to start planning.
Unique challenge: The organization needed to address concerns and ease anxiety despite significant disruption.
Success factor: Audience segmentation
We can’t treat all employees the same—some would have to change everything about the way they worked, while others would have minimal impact. Once we identified employee groups and understood the impact to each, we developed targeted communication plans. Each plan outlined how the change impacted that group’s role, what the group needed to do and when. The personalization and clear expectations ensured a smooth transition…and calmed nerves!
Whether you’re in the midst of communicating a big change or are starting to plan for your next one, hopefully, these stories inspire you to think differently and communicate effectively.