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Archive for July 2013

How to get leaders to communicate change

  • Monday, July 29th,2013
  • The reason most leaders wont drive change communication initiatives is because they are about information that is readily available online and because when employees ask questions about the changes they feel unable to provide answers – therefore they avoid doing it. I wanted to provide an example of a change communication initiative I designed where […]

    The reason most leaders wont drive change communication initiatives is because they are about information that is readily available online and because when employees ask questions about the changes they feel unable to provide answers – therefore they avoid doing it.

    I wanted to provide an example of a change communication initiative I designed where the business was seriously underperforming and how we designed a change communication strategy that was driven by leaders at all levels of the organisation and had the impact of significantly improving business outcomes.

    This organisation is retail based, but this approach can be adapted for any industry sector. I initially worked with the executive teams at each level of the business to focus on business issues and develop change communication strategies to impact on those issues and bottom line outcomes. The profit results of each of the company owned stores were not good – they were losing money and managers were not equipped to make decisions about what to do to turn the situation around.

    Here are a series of steps that I followed to engage managers and staff to turn the profits of this business around.

    1. I encouraged managers to share profit results with their staff. So instead of staff coming in each day just to do a job, there was a paradigm shift in thinking about how they contribute to the bottom line outcomes of the business.
    2. I gave managers of each store some guidelines of how to communicate this information and what to do next.
    3. What to do next was discussed in their next staff meeting to encourage a conversation centered around improvements in the store, customer service, quality of products and to provide feedback on comments customers were making. This might be about lack of stock, lack of choice, price of goods etc.
    4. Then each store was given the opportunity for six weeks to implement just one idea and measure the impact – it had to be the idea that they all thought would have the greatest impact on business results.
    5. After six weeks they measured the impact, the store managers then presented these outcomes to the territory managers who had accountability for 12 stores. Looking at the results they then decided to implement the top three ideas that had the greatest impact on store results state wide. These were then discussed with regional managers who when they now visited sites met with staff as well. They now had something real to talk about that employees were directly involved in.
    6. After three months the regional results were in from across the country and the top 3 initiatives became the standard process in all stores.
    7. A newsletter was produced each month specifically to support this project with photos and stories from employees and managers
    8. A reward and recognition program was implemented specifically for this initiative.

    The outcomes were an organisation that had made a significant shift towards a retail culture which was reflected in bottom line outcomes. Employees identified retail opportunities and also improvements to the business outcomes. These actions were then implemented nationally. As a side benefit the retention issues reduced significantly and territory managers and store managers were able to show the impact of local decisions on specific retail sites.

    This is the essence of change communication – you have to make it meaningful for managers, to give them something they can own, discuss and link it to a business outcome.

    As always appreciate your thoughts and would like to hear about how you encourage leaders to communicate change initiatives.

    Don’t Press Send

  • Monday, July 15th,2013
  • This past week has seen, if true, the worst examples of the use of online communication media. One was allegedly direct emails sent to employees advising them that their job was now redundant. The second was a newsletter from a CEO which started off friendly enough but then ended with the news of pending restructures […]

    This past week has seen, if true, the worst examples of the use of online communication media. One was allegedly direct emails sent to employees advising them that their job was now redundant. The second was a newsletter from a CEO which started off friendly enough but then ended with the news of pending restructures and redundancies. The CEO it was reported later apologised to staff.

    When is online communication acceptable to advise employees of pending change and redundancies? NEVER. And I would expect that everyone reading this would already know that.

    But the issue is not just announcing redundancies online; the ongoing issue is how organisations are ever going to get traction with change strategies with the remaining workforce. Emails, online updates, intranet stories about “productivity improvements” seriously mean absolutely nothing to employees.

    There is only one way to communicate change, to get leaders at all levels to drive the change agenda and ensure that employees can connect the dots from what they do to the new business strategy. That is to design processes that are driven by leaders, linked to the change agenda and bring everyone to the “Aha” moment so that they truly understand the reason why behind change. And importantly you have to be able to say that your change communication can be measured by the impact on business outcomes. If you can’t do that, then as I always say, you are simply communicating information about the changes you are not engaging employees or leaders in the process of change.

    Pending redundancies, restructures, productivity improvements, change of business strategy should come as no surprise to anyone because your change communication approach should always be focussed on business and how what I do as an employee, as a leader or team member, contributes to the current business situation. Do this well then you catch the problem early and can involve everyone in solutions.

    The days of whisking away leaders to decide the new direction and then returning to tell the troops should be well and truly over. If you want change communication to produce outstanding results you design a plan that engages employees. In all my years consulting I can tell you that employees are sitting there, observing the obvious, waiting for the opportunity to tell you exactly what needs to be done to improve process, customer service, product development, competitor advantage, whatever. It is never leaders who have this wealth of information, it is those employees at the coal face who are the untapped resource that most CEO’s for some reason continue to overlook and fail to engage in the process of change.

    Recently I asked you what your greatest challenge was when communicating change. Without exception each response had the lack of ownership by leaders to communicate change as the core issue. Many other issues stem from this and adversely impact change communication strategies. In the coming weeks I will address the common themes, why I think the problem occurs and what you can do differently to achieve the engagement results you are after.

    As always I appreciate your comments and will respond to them here.

    Marcia

    Some of Marcia's Clients

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