Employee Communications ~ 13 min

Change Management: How to Get Everyone on Board with Smart Communication

Marketing Team, Experts in Employee Advocacy, Sociabble
Marketing Team Experts in Employee Advocacy

A successful change management process is reliant on many factors. But smart employee communication may be the biggest factor of all. Discover how to get your entire workforce involved and engaged when it comes to transformation.

Change initiatives are a crucial part of modern corporate life. After all, to evolve is to survive, and remaining competitive means things like digital transformation, strategic realignment, and new brand identities are more important than ever.

But many companies still struggle with the change management process, with many of the initiatives petering out before completion, or unable to sustain the changes for the long-term. So what’s the solution? How can a company ensure that its change initiative is not only completed, but successful long into the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss the secret to effective change management. Want a hint? It all has to do with keeping employees informed and engaged.

What is the change management definition?

According to the Harvard Business Review: “Change management is the process of guiding organizational change to fruition, from the earliest stages of conception and preparation, through implementation and, finally, to resolution. Change processes have a set of starting conditions (point A) and a functional endpoint (point B). The process in between is dynamic and unfolds in stages.”

What does this mean in simple English? Basically, planning and overseeing a process of intentional change. It starts with a strategic plan, designed to obtain an end business result, and then becomes the act of implementing the necessary steps to see that transformation take place. It could be based around digital transformation—that is to say, taking a company’s communication system into the Digital Age—it could be built on a cultural shift at an organization, or it could be changing the entire business model. This will be discussed in more detail later.

When it comes to how best to plan and guide the process, there are a number of methods: Kotter’s 8-step process, the ADKAR (or Proci) model, Bridges’ Transition Model, the McKinsey 7-S, just to name a few examples. There’s no concrete formula for success, but there are time-tested procedures and structured approaches that can and do help to achieve successful results.

What kinds of change management processes do organizations encounter?

To stay active, competitive, and agile, almost all companies reach a point where organizational change is needed. This can be simply to save money, to be more efficient, to expand its offerings, or simply to make life better for employees. Change can take many forms, and serve many different goals. But there are several kinds of transformation initiatives that appear time and time again:

Structural Change

This can include mergers and acquisitions, or simply breaking up departments or creating new teams. But either way, communication is crucial for keeping people aware of what’s happening, and how the changes will affect their routine.

Strategic Change

Adapting the company’s mission, reshaping a marketing strategy, or searching out new kinds of partners can all be strategic changes that require strong internal and external communication.

Technological Change

Digital Transformation initiatives are the most common kind of technological change these days, although something as basic as adding new machinery or processes to an assembly line can be included. Again, proper communication, as well as education, is crucial.

Culture Change

Sometimes, companies decide they need to do an internal 180 when it comes to the culture of the organization. These kinds of changes can be more vague and less distinct, but transmitting the new identity to employees and management alike ensures that the new vision will stick.

Policy Change

This kind of transformation can take many forms, and is extremely common. Keeping an effective stream of communication is important for obvious reasons—people have to be aware of any new company policies, and adapt their techniques and processes accordingly.

What is the process for change management?

Ultimately, no matter the kind of transformation that is intended, organizations themselves do not change—people do. What truly matters is the way that companies mobilize their people to deliver the results they are seeking. Employees—that is to say, actual human beings—make the difference. Behaviors and mindsets need to evolve, in order for change to be reflected across an entire organization.

This is why for every change initiative, there are two components of change management. There is a technical side—i.e. a new digital tool—and a human side—i.e. training and helping people to use the new technology correctly. Adoption is key. If you have a new digital communication platform designed to connect remote workers and keep them informed, but none of the remote workers are adopting the platform and actually using it, then you have a big problem. You have the technological side of the equation covered, but not the human side of change.

In fact, organizations often focus on the technical side and think that the human side can be handled automatically with a simple communication plan. The truth, however, is more complicated than that, which we will discuss in the next section.

The right communication strategy to avoid change management mistakes

Mistakes can hobble even the best-planned change initiative. And they can certainly take many forms. However, these are the most common types of errors that often get in the way of a successfully executed strategy.

Generic communications

Too often, companies don’t speak to employees as individuals with distinct personality traits, but as a generic whole, which means some people feel left out. An organizational change management initiative can have different effects and impacts on different people, depending on their job or their personal situation. So it’s important to adapt the communication and pedagogy about change accordingly to fit the appropriate audience.

A communication platform like Sociabble can be very useful in a change management situation because it allows for audience segmentation, by department, region, office, interest group—virtually any category that’s appropriate. And it applies to everything from posted content to newsletters.

Moreover, Sociabble is a comprehensive solution that enables direct communication with people on the channel they are used to, according to their habits. Whether desktop or mobile, whether email newsletters or app notifications, whether Microsoft tools or any other specific apps, Sociabble can deliver the right information to the right person. As a result, change can be explained in the appropriate way, according to the context and the audience’s needs.

Lack of long-term vision

Another problem that crops up is a lack of a long-term vision; there is no extended plan in place to give employees a reason to adopt the changes. Too often, transformation is presented as a series of short-term steps, instead of a long and rewarding journey, where everyone plays a crucial role.

Sociabble’s features make it a useful platform to communicate a vision. First, because Sociabble allows you to embed different formats, pictures, videos, gifs, etc. This allows the change management process, sometimes seen as complex and too technical, to be communicated in a simple, editorialized, and visual way. It enables a company to build a coherent content strategy around compelling stories, in order to keep everyone aligned with the same vision.

Moreover, change management can be embodied by key change leaders and employees, individuals who can explain change through UGC (user generated content). This will make the narrative more concrete and the change process more engaging. By incorporating engaging storylines and narrative arcs to create a common sense of purpose and journey, and by then pairing these communications to the right set of digital tools, change becomes meaningful, beneficial, and permanent.

People don’t feel like bystanders, but rather like protagonists in their own personal career journey of transformation. They understand the reasoning behind the changes, they clearly understand the company vision, and they become willing participants in an adventure of transformation that has benefits for all.

Poor engagement

Poor execution results in low levels of engagement. Or the other way around. In both cases, employees need a convincing reason to participate in the evolution of the company. If the vision is not properly communicated, and if convincing incentives are not put in place, the entire initiative will often simply peter out. Which will only hurt the chances of future initiatives succeeding.

The best way to engage employees is by giving them communication channels to express themselves. With Sociabble, it’s easy: develop surveys, offer commentary on content, allow people to post their own thoughts. It’s important not only to ask employees’ opinions, but also to actually incorporate them and back them up with action. Their feedback is crucial: taking it into account will engage them more, and it can also be a resource for improvement in a successful change management process.

Additionally, Sociabble also provides a large panel of features to encourage and boost employee engagement regarding change management. Badges, rewards, celebration of short-term achievements, content on best practices and success stories in change management—all of this is possible.

Lack of global approach

For transformation to be effective, everyone has to be truly engaged, from the CEO to the frontline worker. Nobody can be neglected or left out of the story. Unfortunately, the change management process often looks like it was solely the brainchild of experts, to be discussed and tweaked at the highest level, or only with key stakeholders.

Sociabble is useful as a communication platform because it connects everybody in an organization. This includes frontline workers without a professional email address or workstation as well, because of its easy-to-use mobile app. Additionally, it’s simple for leaders to directly address their employees thanks to the multiple formats of downward and upward communication it provides. For example: straightforward video conference and live broadcast features, automatic translation capabilities, and the possibility for attendees to interact via reactions and comments.

Changing our thinking about employee communication

As you have just seen, when it comes to change management, one of the key issues is the need for a total reboot in how we think of and talk to employees. Too often, company’s neglect to address employees as separate individuals with distinct motivations, ways of processing content, and interests. Which is a major reason so much communication is ignored and not engaged with. To capture the people’s interest, you have to earn their engagement. And one way to do this is to speak to what moves them, and explore ways to create personas and segment them by categories relevant to transformation initiatives.

A digital tool such as Sociabble can boost the efficacy of change management to a whole new level, thanks to its advanced communication features.

Sociabble empowers companies to:

• Reach all employees, in all countries, including frontline workers who don’t have professional email addresses

• Publish and highlight engaging content (videos, photos, etc.) and interactive content (quizzes and polls) on mobile apps, across all devices

• Make all content understandable for everyone thanks to real-time and editable translation in 60 languages

• Notify all employees through mobile notifications, newsletters, display screens, etc.

• Structure governance of the platform with global and local administrators that support large scale initiatives

• Maximize engagement thanks to gamification and meaningful rewards (i.e. planting trees)

• Fully integrate Sociabble with Microsoft Office 365 and other major IT solutions

• Run analytics to understand what works and what does not

A communication tool like Sociabble, that puts people at the center of a change communication plan, can definitely be the key factor for successful change management and achieving your goals.

A concrete example of effective change management: L’Occitane en Provence

Founded by Olivier Baussan in 1976, right in the Provence region of France, the L’OCCITANE Group is a leader in the field of natural and organic cosmetics. The company is present today in more than 90 different countries, via 3,285 unique points of sale. And when a new brand strategy was announced, the company needed a way to engage all of its employees around the world, many of whom were frontline and retail workers, and inform them of the new policies—all with only two months of preparation.

The solution? With only a very short amount of time to launch the project, L’Occitane partnered with Sociabble to structure a new employee communication platform, to communicate rapidly the new strategy of the brand, but also to create a relevant system for the medium and long-term, with evolving objectives toward more content, employee advocacy, and a focus on retail employees. This multi-faceted approach helped in ensuring that the project was successfully implemented in a very short amount of time for the initial launch—and because of its mobile capabilities, the platform was equally effective for frontline and retail workers who didn’t have a workstation or professional email. L’Occitane’s platform, created in partnership with Sociabble, has become the backbone of their employee communication strategy at the company.

A step-by-step guide to effective change management

To illustrate the key role of communication in the change management process, we’ve created a specific white paper to address the topic. We took one of the most commonly used change management strategies, the Kotter 8-step method, and showed how it can be boosted and enhanced with the right communication approach.

The fact is, this method is even more effective if it’s taken further, and supported by the right long-term communications strategy and a powerful set of digital tools. Ideas are important, but having the proper technology and methodology on hand are key. When these are all combined, a potent recipe for meaningful change is created.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can enhance the Kotter method with smart communication, as well as learn from our client case studies, you can download the white paper for free here.

And if you’re interested in learning more about how Sociabble can help your company achieve its employee and internal communication goals, we invite you to sign up for a free customized demo. We’ve already partnered with dozens of companies in countries all over the world, including industry leaders like Primark, L’Occitane, Renault Group, and Coca-Cola. We’d love to chat!

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