A sound communication strategy is crucial to any culture transformation initiative. Though leaders can sometimes underestimate the role of truly effective communication during times of change.
According to Harvard Business Review, when people resist organizational change, it’s often because they don’t have a clear picture of what is happening and why. But when people understand the benefits of a company culture initiative, they are more willing and able to support all of the efforts that will be required to achieve it.
With this in mind, here are three things to keep in mind when building your internal communications plan so that inspires employees to support and actively participate in the organizational culture transformation.
1. Share What the Culture Currently Is and Where It Needs To Be
The first step in your communications plan should be to create a line of sight between where the organizational culture is now and where you want it to be at the end of the transformation.
Begin by creating a straightforward, objective description of your organization’s current state. Use terms that employees identify with, or that they’re accustomed to using. The language should set you up to describe — in simple terms — the desired outcome of the change. For example, a company might say, “We’re a market leader with 41 percent share,” in order to describe its current state, and in order to describe its end goal, it might say, “We will have 50 percent of the market share.” Using clear, measurable terms in order to describe the change focuses employees’ energy in the same direction and has the added benefit of allowing you to track progress using metrics with which everyone is already familiar.
It’s also important to describe how achieving the goals of the change will feel to employees. They should be dissatisfied with the current state and excited to move in the new direction. For example, the statement, “When we get there, we will be able to celebrate our position as market leader, with enough revenue to begin to invest in the future and not only create new products, but also provide a greater measure of job security,” explains why employees should be personally invested in the change.
2. Communicate Early and Often As Appropriate
No matter how well it is managed, organizational culture transformation is disruptive. But that disruption can be minimized by communicating as much about the change as possible, as early as possible — preferably before it actually happens. This way, employees will feel less threatened by the change, and can begin to adopt a change-ready mindset.
If there is constant and comprehensive communication, then the transition from the old to the new will feel relatively seamless to employees. Early and frequent communication about change gives employees:
- Time to understand the rationale
- Time to prepare
- Opportunities to ask questions
- Time to mentally prepare themselves
3. Involve Employees In the Decision-Making Where Possible
Another benefit of keeping employees well informed is that it gives you opportunities to ask for their input and feedback. While this may not be feasible in all situations, actively involving employees in decision-making where possible will assuage their fears about the culture transformation and build their personal commitment to it. This, in turn, will harness their energy making the process go more smoothly.
Individuals who have not been consulted in the course of organizational culture transformation tend to disengage. They may sit back and think, “Well, they made the decision; let’s see if they can make it work.” This does not mean that employees will sabotage the change; it just means that their commitment — their personal conviction that the change is needed — is lost. To lose the engagement of even one employee is to lose greatly in realizing the full benefit of the change.
A Checklist for Communication During a Culture Transformation
When devising the initial communication plan in regards to the culture transformation, be sure to include these basic details. Give as much information as possible on each point.
- A detailed overview of the change - What, exactly, is changing? Explain the organization’s current state and its destination. Spell out what’s changing using specific, measurable, and actionable language.
- The rationale for the change - Why is this happening? Most likely, your employees have the organization’s best interests at heart. If they understand the reason for the change, they are more likely and better able to support it.
- Details on timing - When will the change occur? If you can break down the change into phases, provide estimates on how long each phase will take, what the deliverables are, deadlines, and so forth.
- Explain its impact on people - Who will be affected and how? Employees will want to know how their current responsibilities and tasks will change and how their careers might be affected in the long term.
- Explain new performance expectations - Once employees are clear on how the change will affect them, they will want to know if and how their behavior is expected to change. How will their performance be assessed differently as a result of the change?
- Provide access to resources - Where can employees turn for help? Employees will inevitably have questions about how the change affects their day-to-day work and possibly their long-term career plans. They may also be wondering about opportunities for training and professional development. Be sure they know where to go for this information so that they always feel supported and in the loop throughout the culture transformation.
For a corporate culture initiative to succeed, everyone needs to be on board from the very beginning and the quickest way to do that is to communicate early and often about it. These principles and checklist give you a starting point to create an internal communications plan to ensure that everyone has the information they need to support your culture transformation.