No-one likes change. It’s the universal bummer. This is probably why divorce and moving to a new house are sited as some of the most stressful events in an adult’s life. Ditto puberty – the ultimate change fest that keeps adolescents on the edge of the ‘oh no, what’s next’ seat for a good two to five years. But what does all this have to do with internal business communication and organisational change? More than you might think.
Successful businesses avoid the Sputnik moment
A Sputnik moment is that point where a business or organisation realises that they are threatened or challenged and have to redouble their efforts to catch up. It comes from the time when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, the Sputnik 1, and beat the USA into space. Successful businesses are those that stay ahead of the curve to avoid a similar debacle – something that requires a nimble organisational strategy that can be adapted to succeed in a dynamic, competitive global market i.e lots and lots of change, all the time.
So: businesses need to change to thrive. People dislike change. How do you find a happy medium that allows for an agile organisational approach without frightening the ever-living daylights out of your employees every time you adapt your game plan?
Address the elephant in the room without causing a stampede
Talking about change is all good and well, but how you do it plays a significant role in whether your employees will embrace the notion of organisational change or become unsettled enough to bolt. When you pull the rug from under familiar work routines, cooperative structures and work environments, you have the perfect formula for uncertainty and, let’s face it, irritation. The key to keeping the situation from becoming volatile is proper, credible communication at all levels of your business.
This is where the science of internal communication comes in. You have to:
- Reduce uncertainty
- Overcome resistance to change
- Facilitate employee participation
- Build shared understanding and mutual interpretation
More easily said than done, we know! Fortunately, there are tried and tested strategies that work. Let’s break it down.
Don’t leave gaps for rumours
Rumours, opinions and speculations lie at the core of unsatisfying internal change. This unholy trinity creeps up when there are gaps in expected communication. Both formal and informal communication will help to minimise employee anxiety, even if the message contains some bad news. Discuss the aim, process and expected outcomes of the proposed change, and provide accurate information at all times.
Rally everyone to the cause
Open a caring, two-way line of communication regarding the proposed changes, its associated outcomes and the benefits thereof in particular. Overcoming initial resistance to change can be a bit like herding cats, but meaningful communication that informs and educates employees at all levels regarding the rationale, necessity, or urgency for change has the potential to rally them to the cause. What you need is open and transparent communication that nurtures positive attitudes and trust.
Get the wall flowers on the dance floor
Once your employees have rallied, you’ve got to get them involved. Invite the wall flowers onto the dance floor! Face-to- face meetings create a trusting and open atmosphere. No-one likes to be in the dark when the tides are shifting; when employees are involved in the change process from the beginning, they feel more in control of the results.
Get on the same page (and make sure it’s in the same book!)
Anaïs Nin famously said, ‘We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.’ What she meant was that every person has a completely unique frame of reference that informs their understanding of the world. This is why we often take different messages from written or spoken communication. Effective storytelling and communication are essential components of building shared understanding and interpretation between management and employees, and among employees themselves. Visionary communication carried out in a repeated and timely manner is vital to inform, create understanding, and modify attitudes and behaviours. TOP TIP: Often visual components like learning maps and explainer videos can be very helpful in this instance.
HolyCow has the inside track when it comes to smoothing the way to fuss-free organisational change. In fact, we have it down to a science. Check back soon to learn more about this vital aspect of internal change management.