Good communication is not a glitter cannon on Day 1

We’ve all seen it in organisations. A new initiative or change program kicks off on “Day 1” with fanfare, but then is not supported with ongoing, meaningful employee engagement. Soon the initiative evaporates or crisis meetings are called to resurrect it.

Communication and engagement with employees are essential ingredients in converting the ambitions of organisational transformations or change programs into reality. A strategy document sponsored by leadership typically does a good job at articulating a business case, investment, benefits and the strategic destination. However employees need much more than a strategy to promote understanding and belief, and to help employees realise their individual roles in change. Employees need to be authentically engaged, and for communications to drive impactful change at an individual level, communication must be targeted and structured.

And this planning starts well before “Day 1.”

The glue that holds everything together:  “A structured focus on and investments in communications, with the support of senior leadership, have been shown to yield great benefits: a motivated employee base and engaged vendors, partners, and other stakeholders, all supporting the (newly formed) company’s success.”
McKinsey, January 2019 “Communications in mergers: The glue that holds everything together” 

Good communication starts with planning and commences when the change strategy is being developed – well before any fanfare or messages get released into an organisation. It starts with leaders co-creating a change narrative to guide content development and the sequencing of key messages along the journey. Early on, leaders must align on taking up their ‘communicator’ role to lead the change. 

Next, construction of a communications calendar is important. This governs the sequencing and targeting of messages into the business and enables leaders to consistently deliver right messages, at the right time to the right people.

At this stage, clear insight into how employees want and need to be engaged is critical. A solid understanding of which communication channels are effective at sharing and receiving key messages is critical and will influence which channels are utilised at different stages of the change journey. For example, events or webinars to create desire early on, or workshops and storytelling later in the piece to establish capability and drive reinforcement.

Finally, we know that employee feedback drives positive course-correction and deepens engagement. So establishing feedback mechanisms and forums, together with metrics to shape continuous improvement in communications effectiveness, are necessary.

So next time your leadership is embarking on a major change journey, consider the following:

  • Assess how ready you are to communicate and engage your employees regarding the change.
  • Prioritise time and resources to construct a communications strategy that leaders can align to.
  • Apply an employee-led mindset to create authentic engagement.