At our Bronze Quill Awards celebration, we had the privilege of hearing from Jessica Snow-Wasserman of Bain and Company, a leading global management and consulting firm. The firm conducted a study of hundreds of companies executing major change programs, evaluating several key factors. The results revealed many key insights about what makes employees most receptive to change. Organizational commitment was the single most important factor for delivering and exceeding change. Jessica shared six key beliefs for communicators to help ensure your change communication plan is executed in a way that garners results from your employees. Here’s more about each of them.
- Communications generate understanding, but engagement builds commitment
Change causes disruption, which can hinder productivity among employees. Jessica shared a commitment curve but warned that it can change throughout the course of the execution of your program. Employees should have the chance to stay informed, remain connected and be heard. Doing this will get them moving up the commitment curve, rather than down, when your change program is being implemented.
- Multi-way conversations are more powerful than one-way
It’s important to provide employees with multi-way communication and a forum to share their thoughts. A couple of suggestions Jessica shared included providing a “pulse survey,” and/or a “town hall” meeting to provide that vital, face-to-face opportunity for questions. The first belief’s emphasis on making sure employees are heard ties back to this one.
- Sponsorship is vital and creates leverage
Data from the study revealed that a “sponsorship spine” is the most powerful lever for driving change. This involves going through the cascade of the organization, level by level, to ensure there’s someone in every layer who is informed. You should identify change ambassadors to create what mimics a “spine” throughout your company. After the town hall, employees will ask their direct managers what’s next, or what it means for them. If they are uninformed, efforts may fall flat. Provide members of the spine with materials that have consistent content and details to permeate that information across the organization.
- People relate to stories that can see themselves in
Tell employees more about the goal of the changes, rather than what your organization may be trying to leave behind through the change. Think about how you can make them part of the narrative. Share personal stories about the change’s impact on individuals or facilitate conversations to allow them to have a voice. You can also expose them to progression of the change to help build momentum and energy.
- Digital is powerful, but people still want to talk to people in times of change
More than half of respondents in the study said they use digital communications, but two-thirds indicated that they prefer in-person channels. While providing a digital option for communication is important, so is face-to-face communication. “People want to know that you care before they care what you know,” said Jessica. Digital without the in-person interaction can feel inhuman to employees. Employers who did a combination of the two saw the most success.
- Planning engagement early yields the best results
Make sure you are practicing transparency with your employees, and early, for better engagement. Make it clear that change is normal, especially when you are expecting more in the future. This can help alleviate fears and prevent extreme change fatigue.
See the deck from Jessica Snow-Wasserman’s presentation here to learn more about these six key beliefs.