Meet Bob. He's been CEO of his family business for many years—and for most of that time, the company didn't need to change. But recently new competitors have entered the market and Bob realizes that if his company doesn't become more innovative and efficient, the family business could go under.
But Bob is concerned that his employees will find it difficult to change. So, he asks Nan, his internal communication director, to conduct focus groups to find out what employees need to understand the change and support it.
Nan comes back with a thick stack of sticky notes. "Employees have many communication needs—I call them wishes," Nan says.
Wishes? Bob suddenly remembers that somewhere in his office—in fact, the bottom drawer of his desk—he has a family heirloom: an antique lamp with a secret power. When Bob rubs the lamp, a puff of smoke appears and…
. . . a genie appears. After brushing off the dust from his fabulous harem pants, the genie picks up Nan from where she's fallen on the floor.
"I am the Communication Genie," he tells Nan. "I have the power to help anyone understand anything. What is your change communication wish?"
Nan holds out the stack of sticky notes. "Can you help with these?"
The genie agrees to grant the top 5 wishes. Here's how:
It's important to provide context about the big picture so employees understand why change is occurring. The Communication Genie quickly creates a message platform that Bob can use to explain that the reason for change is to meet the demands of competitors. The genie uses a message structure that includes four essential elements: logic, emotion, destination and action.
The Genie sighs. "They're talking about you, Bob," he says. The Genie claps his hands and removes all the dense data and difficult terms from Bob's PowerPoint presentation. Nodding at Nan, the Genie says, "Now take this and make it simple, compelling and meaningful."
Even though the Communication Genie can only grant the most important wishes, he lets Bob in on a little tip: Employees don't want complicated information, especially during change. The Genie suggests the following to make content easier for employees to digest:
- Use bulleted lists to keep content short
- Consider putting the most important content in boldface type
- Link out to intranet pages for more details
- Create an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) intranet section specifically for change
Managers are important during change because they are the first line of communication. Communication Genie develops a training session (think change workshops) to ensure Bob’s managers are equipped to communicate what is going on to employees.
When employees hear that change is coming, they seek to understand what they need to do differently. The Communication Genie develops in-depth training for employees whose daily work is most affected, while employees who don’t need to do anything differently learn about progress through town halls and intranet postings.
Once the grapevine starts growing, it’s difficult for a leader to cut it back—and even a genie can’t dispel every rumor. So the Communication Genie takes a deep breath and blows a big puff of air through the room. Nan and Bob now have the energy they need to keep communicating during the change—even when they’re tired of sharing information.
- Bob spends time at every town hall meeting updating employees on the change.
- Nan equips Bob’s leadership team with talking points and FAQs so they can keep their organizations in the loop.
- And Nan conducts focus groups every four to six months to find out what employees know and what they need.
And the genie? He takes a long nap in his bottle until the next time he’s needed.