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.