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A communicator’s role in change programs

Emma HanleyEmma Hanley·
A communicator’s role in change programs

It’s a cliché but they say that the only constant is change. Our organizations today are changing at warp speed. Whether it is due to technological innovation; increased competition; growth that is organic or due to mergers or acquisitions; or reductions due to reorganizations and divestitures; employees are being asked to adapt quickly.

The truth is that many change projects fail and leaders are left wondering what went wrong. More often than not, the gap was in communication and engagement.

In one of my recent webinars with Priya Bates, President and owner of Inner Strength Communication we discussed what a communicator’s role is in times of change.

With almost 1,600 registrations, we got great questions from the audience. Many of these queries are applicable all internal communicators, and so are summarized here to help you when you are tasked to communicate organizational change.

Q
How do you deal with change project teams that say they need Communication support, but are unclear on project objectives?
A
I often say that my role is to help deliver business results. If a team doesn’t have goals that are linked to business results, then their project must fall lower on the priority list. Guide them to what success looks like. Push them to articulate the goals from which you can deliver a strategic communication plan. Your role is not to help them check a box and risk the credibility of your team and your leaders by simply creating noise versus providing meaningful, relevant communication. Good Luck. This blog post may help.

Q
What are examples of performance measures for a communicator’s role in managing change?
A
It depends on the program. In my engagement work, I set my goals on what I call my 4 P’s The key is you should always have business goals that are clearly aligned to communication objectives. Focus should be on outcomes (behavior change, financial results, smooth transitions) not just outputs (# of hits, newsletters, memos).

Q
Hi! You mention that change is emotional. In your experience, what are some best practices for influencing emotion to stay connected to the task at hand and greater vision?
A
Change is emotional. When doing a stakeholder analysis of those impacted by change, make sure you ask “how will they feel.” Estimate their attitudes, opinions and beliefs and create key messages that address these. What’s true: Address these head on. What is a myth (answer their questions and give them the facts). Listen to their concerns (sometimes they just need to vent). Be empathetic and acknowledge how they are feeling, but give them the vision and the facts. It’s when these emotions are being ignored that people become anxious.

View Poppulo’s Change management plans – Top Tips & Insights for internal communicators that were derived from this webinar.

Q
I’m a communications strategist that is asked to create a plan before decisions are made- any advice?
A
I have learned to have a basic plan available – a menu of services that we can choose from. Three categories – What do we have available today (company messaging, infrastructure, values, strategies, vision); What can be customized with more information (fact sheets, manager communication); What will we have to create NET NEW once more information is available (videos, posters, campaigns etc…). I’ll also bring a plan from prior projects to the table, helping them to understand it’s a start, but will be updated as more information is learned. They need to know that you can be there to help them with decisions based on your expertise with your audience. I hope that helps.

Q
How do you encourage your executive team to bring communications onto change in a greater and / or earlier capacity?

A
This is an evolution – Start with an executive who is willing to bring you into a project or deliver a project tactically when asked. At the end, always ask for a debrief to improve the process in the future. I always put together a presentation. This is what you asked for. This is what worked. This is what we delivered. Here was the impact. Here’s what we can do better next time. One of those items needs to include bringing us in to help earlier. In my experience, eventually everyone wants communication at the table and we then have the luxury of saying no to those projects that are not priorities or bringing in extra resources when needed.

Q
We are going through a culture change to a truly agile work environment – no assigned desks, no desk phones. How do we best move the resistant employees along?

A
Start with the early adopters. Talk about the changes openly. Have townhalls and chats with leaders to discuss concerns. Create a vision of the advantages of this kind of future from an employee’s point of view. As I mentioned, answer the resisters questions but focus on those the fence. The real resisters will eventually come along.

My colleague Tim Vaughan, will be releasing the Top Tips from the webinar in the coming days, keep an eye out for it as it is set to be a great read. If you would like to watch the webinar with Priya in your own time, you can view the recording here.


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