Many companies still struggle to find their footing in a post-pandemic environment as they experience major organizational shifts from leadership changes to mergers and consolidations. While change is inevitable, it’s important to prioritize the impact on employees and the critical role they play in business transformation.
Many organizations are challenged to effectively navigate changes that impact their workforce. To minimize employee turnover and low productivity, the fundamentals of change management coupled with an empathetic, people-centric approach can help guide organizations through periods of transformation.
Your employees are the backbone of your business and act as representatives of your brand both in-person and online. As a result, it is essential that your employee communication strategy helps them understand business objectives and their role in achieving those objectives while fostering a culture of connectedness that aligns with your organization’s mission, vision, and values.
During times of change and significant business shifts, effective employee communication is even more critical. Working with a trusted partner in the space can be instrumental in facilitating a successful change with minimal turbulence to the employee experience. Organizational shifts can impact employee engagement and morale, as well as comprehension of and trust in the company's leadership approach. A strong partner will collaborate closely with client leadership to develop a communications plan that leverages the key stages of change management planning: assessing the change, preparing for the change, and managing through the change.
We leverage this approach extensively with clients and see the benefits—for the employees, the ease, efficiency, and success of the transformation occurring, and the business overall.
Assess change to understand impact
An assessment of the current state provides an understanding of the impact of the change on the organization's culture, processes, organizational design, and structure.
In preparation for change, conduct a stakeholder analysis to aid in identifying what employees value. For many employees, any “shake” to the foundation quickly leads to uncertainty and ambiguity. By conducting an employee stakeholder analysis, you can assess how they interpret the change, which enables you to develop a comprehensive and data-driven approach.
To begin, identify key employee stakeholder groups to understand the impact they will face—be certain to include both in-person and remote workers. Then, identify the internal channels to communicate the change and map out the cadence of communication. Additionally, establish regular communication such as quarterly employee surveys to gauge employee awareness and sentiment throughout the entire process.
Execute thoughtful planning to prepare for change
Business transformation requires thoughtful planning to help ensure a smooth implementation. In addition to the development of a comprehensive plan, it’s important to identify the team involved in the effort and who is responsible for oversight of the process, communication, and implementation.
It’s also important to utilize multi-directional communication, not just from the top, and equip frontline managers with the information they need to support employees throughout the transition. Engage managers and employee champions to help communicate the change and enable you to be attentive to the pulse of the employee group. This will also provide an additional opportunity for employee feedback about the process.
For example, we worked with a Fortune 500 healthcare company in the process of a brand relaunch. The work included extensive internal change management support in close partnership with the enterprise marketing and internal communication teams to create critical materials that simplified employee and stakeholder experience. Our teams were instrumental in the development and facilitation of support and preparation sessions for key leaders so that they could provide guidance to employees and navigate the change. In addition, we created employee resources such as a brand onboarding toolkit that included information about how to adopt the new brands for their signatures, LinkedIn, and other touchpoints.
In conjunction with these materials, we also led the creation and implementation of an enterprise Change Agent network. This network was designed to build grassroots excitement about the brand change and support other enterprise change activations uncovered by the employee survey results. We embedded these Change Agents across each division impacted by the migration, and they were able to identify and provide solutions to resistance, cascade enterprise messages, and institute change interventions tailored to meet employee needs.
Manage the change
A critical element of success relies on the execution of the communication plan and how it impacts employee experience—it’s important to communicate clearly and often. Employ a communication approach that emphasizes transparency, empathy, and information about the tactical impacts of the change on the employees and the business.
Prepare key leadership to develop clear and concise communication and leverage company leaders to help cascade the information down to their teams. To gauge the pulse of the employee leadership team throughout the process, institute regular meetings to hear their feedback.
It’s also important to utilize key internal communication channels such as email, newsletters, and town hall meetings. Consider using a dedicated intranet page or a portal for employees with relevant content on pressing questions—for instance, timing of changes and potential impacts on employees. Continue to solicit feedback through employee surveys with specific questions related to the transformation and open-ended feedback options to gauge the process and understand how employees feel.
Change is the only constant
Companies can expect change to remain a constant. If you’re facing significant changes to your business, it’s important to plan ahead, communicate clearly, and keep your employees’ perspectives in mind—in addition to measuring the effectiveness of your communications along the way. While no approach will satisfy everyone, prioritizing employee needs, timely communication, and transparency can help encourage engagement during difficult situations.