Learning from change – lessons for internal communications professionals and the business as a whole

May 17, 2017

Matt Phillipson, Internal Communications Manager for Sport England, shares his thoughts on how IC professionals can help make change successful, and even deliver a positive experience for people.

Internal communications professionals, arguably more so than colleagues in other communication disciplines, are increasingly focusing on change management and organisational change as part of their comms mix.

But what makes the difference to a great change programme, and how can IC professionals leverage their influence to ensure staff get the best experience when going through change?

Here are a few pointers to help business leaders and IC professionals ensure change goes to plan:

Define success and plan your comms around it

  1. Having a clear idea of what success will look like at the outset of any change programme and a well-defined set of communications objectives should be the foundation for your communications approach.

  3. Ensure your plan aligns HR processes, staff engagement, leadership and communications. Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it’s going to take place alongside business-as-usual communications activities – but your change comms plan is a fundamental component of getting it right.

  5. Following a set of communications principles or guidelines can help acceptance of the change process (especially if these are developed with staff). These could include: being open and transparent, being insightful and being inspiring – but any principles should be a good fit for your organisational culture and followed rigorously to be credible.

Be aware of the psychology of change

  1. Going through change is an emotional process. If you can encourage leaders to acknowledge the psychological aspects of the change process and model their behaviours accordingly, this can mean more to people than any of the structural ramifications of change.

  3. Understanding the emotional brain and shaping communications to connect with people on an emotional level can impact staff motivation, performance and willingness to embrace transition to something new.

Prioritise listening over broadcasting

  1. Sharing timely information is a given, but the results of actively listening and measuring how well comms is doing with staff can pay dividends and help shape the substance, messaging, tone and frequency of change communications. Harnessing this valuable insight can ensure that staff embrace, rather than reject, your organisation’s transition. If done well, the information gained from listening to staff can inform the whole approach to implementing change and mean that leaders are delivering more of what staff want.

Overpromise at your peril

  1. One of the worst things leaders can do is promise more than they deliver during change or set unrealistic expectations because of bumps in the road. It’s important that IC pros need to keep it real, whether that’s sticking to timelines on sharing information, being consistent with messaging or sharing insight with leaders to ensure comms isn’t only top-down or broadcast heavy.

  3. Holding leaders accountable for their commitments isn’t without its challenges, but it’s vitally important to the integrity of our communications during change and the organisation as a whole.

These points may not be rocket science, but it’s amazing how easily good practice can be overlooked when change is taking place and the business environment is even more of a pressure cooker than normal.

Keeping the basics in mind will support your leaders in retaining trust during uncertain times and will definitely help make your organisational change more likely to succeed.