If I were to pinpoint the key difference between internal communication and change communication it is that the first informs the latter engages employees. Often I talk about the need to embrace face to face dialogue for communicating change, but it is important to understand that this is more than just team briefings or CEO forums. What I am talking about is the developing a fully thought out activity being very clear about action outcomes and measured by business results. Because it is about doing something as a result of the face to face engagement not about telling employees about a change. And most importantly build into the process how leaders will drive and own the change communication activity. Here are some examples:
1. The Customer Experience – A managing director who at his weekly executive meetings invites a key customer to discuss the customer experience from their perspective and why they would consider moving to another supplier. It engages everyone around the table to understand that each aspect of what they do, whether it is billing, product, service quality, call centre assistance, and all touch points with that organisation that customer service is the whole experience. You then take that first conversation and define a specific activity and process to be driven throughout the organisation to focus on changing the customer experience. This is instead of just posting an article about why it is important on the intranet.
2. A program focussed on linking customers with staff in a face to face event and having staff ask the question, what is it that we do now that if we do even better you will always use our services and products. You then take that information and design a program that engages employees in designing and implementing solutions. This empowers employees to own and control the change rather than change being done to them.
3. Annual results – instead of just posting them on an intranet site or the CEO discussing them at a staff forum or town hall you actually teach employees about how to decide whether to invest in a company. You then turn your attention to your organisation, review the financials together and ask the team to start examining ways to improve the bottomline by growing the business. Then you design an activity that may be six months in duration but is focussed on achievement of business outcomes. Now employees have the opportunity to be clear on improvement activities because the truly understand the reason why.
Engagement is not about reading or listening, it is about doing. Design a change communication strategy that has processes, actions, activities, reward and recognition, is measured by impact on business outcomes and impacts all levels of the organisation and you get engagement. Design the content for intranets, CEO forums and emails and so on and you get a well informed workforce ready to move forward with the engagement process. The two go hand in hand, you cannot inform without engagement, you cannot engage your workforce without information. Change communication is specific alignment of the two focussed on agreed business outcomes and achievement of business strategy. Most importantly you need to be creative and specific in your design of the change communication activity as it needs to be directly relevant to your organisational culture.
As always I am interested in your thoughts and experience with change communication strategies you have implemented. Feel free to share them in your comments on this blog.