Managing Change Through Strategic Internal Communications

Managing Change Through Strategic Internal Communications

Written by Inward Strategic Consulting Program Manager, Matt Manning, originally published on Linkedin’s blog Pulse on November 15, 2016.

In today’s constantly changing global environment, companies that anticipate these shifts have a distinct advantage over competitors. For instance, dietary preferences have shifted away from processed fast foods towards organic and locally sourced options. Big box retailers have seen their shoppers migrate to the Internet, and have had to adjust their inventory model, online/social presence, and delivery systems. Additionally, companies in almost every industry are experiencing mergers and acquisitions to gain competitive advantages of size and scope within their fields. In order to prepare employees for this constant change, companies must rely on strategic internal communications to establish clarity, alignment, and engagement. A recent post on CEB Global, entitled “Why Internal Communicators Should Prioritize Change Communication” discusses this idea.

One quote was particularly poignant; “When the future is unclear, focus often falls to strategic, top-level safety nets. For example, senior management will look to safeguard the bottom line with reserved growth plans, or by putting in place recruitment freezes and scaling back investment. Focus on the human aspect of change management – despite its huge role in providing business continuity, productivity and the means to weather any business storm – is often considered as an item on the checklist, without due care given to the impact of change on the workforce.” As we talk with clients who have recently been involved in a merger or acquisition, we often find that although planning has been done for organizational, business process, and leadership change; cultural change and the impact on employees has been overlooked. As this blog has discussed in the past, employee engagement and internal communications should not be treated as one-offs to check the box. They should be the basis of a cohesive strategy that transcends all areas of the company.

Strategic internal communications encourage clarity and transparency within an organization. Change often drives a level of uncertainty among employees. Leaders can dispel rumors and alleviate anxiety by establishing clear and consistent communications. Timing is a key consideration, but can often become a delicate balancing act. If you communicate change too early, you risk alienating employees when the change you announced has not come to fruition. If you announce change too late, and employees read about it in the press before hearing it from management, they will not trust that the company is being transparent or acting in their best interest.

Here are a few more tips for using strategic internal communications to deal with change:

  • Encourage real time feedback: This feedback can be gathered in a variety of ways, including through manager and employee one-on-one meetings, department-wide workshops, or web-based pulse feedback platforms like the EmployeeApp, TinyPulse, or Culture Amp. Engagement is at it’s best when employees feel like they are being heard and the company is proving accountability to this feedback. This also provides real time reaction to changes as they occurring, so you can address specific pain points that arise.
  • Communicate desired behavior changes: If the change that is occurring will necessitate a change in employee behavior, internal communications must establish what these new expectations are, why it is important to the company, and why it is important to the individual.
  • Ensure alignment between business units: Internal communications should be consistent throughout the organization, and not vary too much between business units, locations, or groups. While there may be some level of autonomy and unique cultures between groups, internal communications should generally strive to provide a consistent and aligned message for the company as a whole.

If you have any thoughts on the impact of strategic internal communications on change, please drop us a line.

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