ENGAGE THE CHANGE, DON’T MANAGE IT
Remember those days when change was an event you could plan and manage? A time when change was a synonym for mergers and acquisitions, buyouts and job cuts. Nowadays change is not only constant and pervasive, it impacts every aspect of business from every corner of society. From the local environment to the global economy, from the expectations of Millennials to the demands of technology and social media, change keeps its own agenda and business hours.
The sooner we recognise this new state of play, the sooner we can start being proactive about change instead of reactive to the changes. Yes, that means going out and creating change, not managing it, by actively seeking out opportunities to support and enable change in your business. Sound scary? Then congratulations because you’ve just identified the first thing that needs to change – our attitudes.
There’s no denying it. Change management is a smart and effective strategy to deal with event-based change like big mergers or upcoming job losses. But it’s scope and time-frame is limited. Once that event has been communicated, executed and measured, the change management falls away. And rightly so. But change doesn’t. And that’s the issue.
Every day your managers and employees are dealing with any number of external and internal changes that can affect their capacity to be productive at work. Yes, many of these changes are brought about by external factors beyond your company’s control or doing, but how your employees process and engage with change in general is in your control and best interest. So it should be part of your mandate. This is where internal communications can be your greatest asset. Instead of simply using it to communicate change on an ad hoc basis, you can use it to engage employees around change in a way that shifts mindsets and builds a more resilient workforce, from the inside out.
5 WAYS INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS CAN LEAD THE CHANGE
- Build change into your strategy: Change is scary, but it’s also natural. What’s not natural is the fear that is built up around it. That fear has a lot to do with not giving employees the permission, support and tools to have change conversations in the workplace. So be proactive. Give your communications strategy the flexibility and mandate to constantly identify and addresses topical issues in a way that builds resilience instead of fear.
- Take these conversations back from the water cooler. What happens when businesses don’t engage with employees around important issues? They happen anyway, often as gossip or rumours you can’t control or manage. Change is probably the most important “issue” you can be having right now. You can probably identify at least 10 topical issues that are currently driving fear and unease in your employees in the last quarter. What about the next? Take charge of the conversation before they end up at the water cooler and you end up having to address fears instead of factual issues.
- Share employee stories: How do your employees deal with change? What actions have they taken in the past that proved successful? What behaviours have they adopted to overcome challenges in the future? Every company is filled with stories, narratives and anecdotes that employees draw on to make sense of the changing world around them. These can be good stories or bad ones. It’s a numbers game. The more negative stories “doing the rounds”, the more fears become entrenched in employee behaviours and workplace culture. As communicators, you have the power to shape the narrative. Make sure you take advantage of this, before someone else does.
- Shift mindsets: Change is a reality. Fear is a mindset. You might not be able to prevent change but you can help your employees build the kind of mindset that enables and empowers them to be more adaptable and resilient to change. Start by identifying any limiting or fear-based mindsets and how you can use your tools and mandate to reframe them appropriately.
- Help leadership engage with change: From the top brass to direct line managers, leaders should be visible, available and even “leading” these change conversations from the front lines. This could be as simple as internal communicators working with senior leaders to develop information guides and talking points to help management address topical issues in a way that is consistent with the company values and vision. Open exchanges, like town halls and roadshows, are also great ways for leaders and employees to engage in open dialogue.
CHANGE IS A DAILY REALITY.
Every day your employees are telling and sharing stories to help them make sense of this change and the impact it has on their professional conduct and personal wellbeing. As Internal Communicators, you have the power to shape the storyline, influence behaviours and shift mindsets in a way that builds resilience instead of enabling fear. The change starts internally – with you.