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The emotional rollercoaster of change in internal comms

Whether it’s mild skepticism or all out panic, reactions to change vary greatly.

A common factor in change, however, is resistance.

Change leads us into unknown territory, which represents risk.

Familiarising ourselves with new things also requires effort.

In environments where time is at a premium, such as the modern workplace, this is an instant turn-off.

This presents a conundrum for internal communication professionals. We know it’s not an option to never refresh our platforms.

But we also know that changes such as relaunching a magazine, updating an app or altering a meeting schedule can create the kind of negative vibes that are toxic to engagement.

If you’re thinking of changing one of your main IC tools, take a moment to consider Elisabeth Kübler-Ross; the psychiatrist who created the eponymous model of grief management.

The Kübler-Ross change curve was originally intended to postulate the emotions of people who are experiencing genuine emotional trauma. Over the years however, it has also been applied to change management in the business world.

Could it also be applied to internal communication?

The popular perception of this model – that people move from emotion to the next in a timely sequence – isn’t quite right.

But what Kübler-Ross intended was to identify the key feelings associated with grief and how these affect people’s wellbeing. In the business world, we simply swap ‘wellbeing’ for ‘morale’ or ‘performance level’.

By empathising with audiences and taking proactive measures based on people’s likely emotional states, IC professionals will be in a strong position to ensure changes go smoothly.

Strategies for change management: guiding people towards acceptance and integration

Shock = Alignment
Engage with audiences at the first opportunity to inform them about the change, discuss why it’s necessary. Tailor the tone, language and delivery method of your messages to employee preferences.

Denial = Inspiration
Explain what the positive outcomes will be. Align business benefits with personal benefits so people will want the change to succeed. Make it clear that the change is happening, but be careful not to sound too authoritarian.

Anger = Maximise communication
When people are angry or frustrated, they need to be listened to. Provide maximum opportunities for communication between employees and key stakeholders for the change (sponsors, decision-makers, deliverers, etc).

Depression = Motivate
Understanding the reasons why people might be uncomfortable with change. Why might they be wary of a new-look magazine, or reluctant to try an app’s new functionality? Share stories about colleagues (or employees from other businesses if necessary) who had similar feelings but now love the new version.

Above all, strike a positive ‘can do’ tone in your messaging. Let people know that this is a change for you too, and lead by example.

Headlines Breakfast Briefing – come join us on 16 January

Is your communication strategy struggling to fully engage your audience?

You’re not alone, reaching a diverse audience is incredibly challenging. But we’ve got an answer.

We’ve rounded up three leading IC authorities to tell us exactly how they engage their diverse audience.

BREAKFAST BRIEFING 2017 from H3 Productions on Vimeo.

So join us for our very first Breakfast Briefing at the brand new Mediahub in Milton Keynes on Monday, 16 January.

Hear how the following experts craft their communication strategies:

  • Nathan Frost, Dixons Carphone, will share his views on engaging store-based colleagues across the country.
  • Snéha Khilay, Chair of Diversity and Inclusion Thought and Action Group, Engage for Success, will talk about creating a culture of giving all employees a voice, involving and listening to them and inviting their contributions, expertise and ideas.
  • Hameed Halawani, JTI, will demonstrate how JTI involves and engages its multi-cultural audience across the Middle East, Near East, Africa and Turkey.

It’s no coincidence that our first Breakfast Briefing lands on the notoriously dreary ‘Blue Monday’ – supposedly the most depressing day of the year.

Help us cheer you up by joining like-minded IC professionals to network, learn and enjoy pastries and hot drinks at our base in Milton Keynes.

To reserve your place please contact or register here.

Book now

Case study: Engaging the workforce at the North Pole

Elf engagement at the North Pole has been overhauled, resulting in its highest ever engagement score. We asked the Chief Elf Officer (CEO) how they’ve done it.

What’s the history behind employee engagement at the North Pole?

Being an elf’s a vocation so, although it will never make them ‘welfy’, we’re lucky that our workforce is a dedicated one. Making wishes come true on Christmas Day is an amazing project to be part of.

However, just because our elves are passionate, it doesn’t mean we have it easy. Until you’ve seen the operation we run, it’s hard to imagine the level of preparation required to ensure that Christmas Eve runs without a hitch and that the right presents are delivered, on time, to 1.9 billion children.

What are your biggest challenges?

Elves enter the profession as youngsters, and employee turnover is extremely low. Our oldest elf is 3,548 years old! Keeping them engaged for so many years and introducing new ways of working to those who are set in their ways is tricky. Then there’s the post-Christmas lull to contend with. Plus, we employ 550,000 elves, so uniting them is another challenge.

What is your strategy for keeping them engaged?

Since Christmas 2015, it’s been to empower, involve and appreciate them, every day.

It’s not groundbreaking, but it works. We want the elves to understand that they are all important parts of a giant jigsaw, grasp the bigger picture of where they fit in, and know that they can make a huge difference. And lastly, we have made Santa far more visible, following feedback that the elves thought he was always off eating mince pies, yet still got most of the glory at Christmas.

So what have you done differently this year?

We’ve made lots of changes in conjunction with our IC agency. Our biggest success has been introducing an elf app called Appy Christmas. It’s taken a while, but 90 per cent of the workforce has now downloaded it as their schedules and pay slips can be accessed on it.

In December 2015, we began trialling Facebook’s ESN, Workplace, which has turned out to be a wonderful tool for collaborating, networking and generating ideas. Through Workplace Live Santa now broadcasts live video message updates to all elves, wherever they are. It’s broken down barriers between Santa and the elves as he’s so active on it and they can see what he’s really doing – and that he’s a busy guy. Everyone’s on a level playing field on Workplace.

We’ve also relaunched our employee magazine, The Grotto, so it now focuses on in-depth features that you wouldn’t want to read on a screen.

The Tinsels – quarterly awards through which Santa recognises and rewards high-performing elves – have been introduced. They’ve been great for elf-esteem and for ensuring the elves know they’re appreciated.

Lastly, we’ve introduced fortnightly lunch and learn sessions with the reindeer. It’s addressing a disconnect between them and the elves, and now that the elves can remember all of their names, things are really improving.

What does The Grotto app involve?

It’s a great for instantly sharing news and announcements – and it encourages two-way conversation. We use it for polls and pulse checks, which empowers the elves and allows them to have their say. There’s also an Elfstagram section where the elves share Elfies, and Santa occasionally comments on them, which is driving engagement.

What have the results of all this been?

Our elf engagement survey has shown that we have 89 per cent engagement, which is extremely high. More than ever, everyone knows their own roles in conjunction with everyone else’s, which means less error and duplication, and more success.

On most days, you’ll find whistling, cheering and smiling across the workshop, mail house, wrapping and loading departments – everywhere. Safe to say, smiling’s our favourite!

Will you go live?

In the age of the internet, we want to know what’s going on right now – and these days we don’t even need to wait for videos to finish recording before we can see what’s happening.

When scrolling through your Facebook feed, you might have seen friends ‘go live’. Companies including Benefit and Dunkin’ Donuts have also clocked the advantages of the live-streaming feature, which launched in April, and have used it to host workshops, product launches and interviews.

Live streaming draws a huge amount of engagement – from initial data, Facebook has seen that people comment over 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos.

And, luckily for internal comms, Workplace also allows users to ‘go live’.

If employees are out of the office during a presentation, Workplace Live is the perfect solution, allowing them to tune in wherever they are in real-time, or catch up later.

The feature was a hit with nbn employees for the launch of its SkyMuster™ satellite. Firstly it coordinated the launch using Workplace’s chat function, then it live streamed the event itself so employees worldwide could watch it live, no matter where they were.

Its success was clear from the 1,400 posts, 1,700 comments and 8,400+ reactions across the business in a day.

While Headlines had no rocket to launch, we were inspired to ‘go live’ and see the benefits ourselves.

Live-streaming a presentation for employees who were out of the office was easy – just remember to hold the device upright as the video won’t be flipped to landscape mode.

Social Media Manager Martin Smith watched our live stream from out of the office. He said: “The ease of use is impressive: open up the app and click on the feed. In terms of simplicity, it is far easier than most video comms platforms. The quality can be variable but the sound is clear and buffering minimal.

“It is a perfect solution for those on the move with little time. Two clicks of your phone and you can watch the latest company announcement regardless of location. Another feather in Workplace’s cap.”

Designer Chris highly commended in IoIC ICon Awards

Headlines’ very own Chris Keller was highly commended in the Best Designer category at the prestigious ICon Awards ceremony yesterday.

Run by the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC), the awards – at London’s Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel – celebrated the industry’s best and most talented IC professionals.

Designer Chris said: “I’m over the moon to have won this award and to have been recognised by the industry. I feel passionately about internal communication and am very proud of this achievement.”

Six Headliners were shortlisted, including Peter Bennett in the Best Editor category, writers Holly Whitecross and Katie Nertney in the Rising Talent – Best Young Communicator category, Head of Video Sara Wilmot in the Best Visual Creator category and Brian Amey in the Best Designer category.

In 2015, Headlines’ Duncan Boddy brought home the Best Designer Award.

Simon Dowsing, Director of Media Operations at Headlines, said: “This is excellent news. We are very proud of the talented, hardworking and dedicated people we have at Headlines.”

According to the IoIC, the ICon Awards recognise “the people who consistently turn theory into great internal communication practice”.

In recent weeks, Headlines has won a host of awards including Best Mobile/App in the industry at the IoIC Awards 2016, three Awards of Excellence at the same event and a Silver Award for Best Mobile App at the MK Digital Awards.