If you’re in Corporate Communications you probably disseminate information well. But if you’re involved in a change initiative, then you may find yourself called upon to rethink the planning and managing of communications. And to be successful, you may have to do something that doesn’t come naturally.
First, let’s agree that digital transformation is sweeping across our industries. Digital disruptors are threatening our customer relationships and supply chains, and impacting our foot print and talent acquisition strategies. Digital tools are changing the way we work.
In response to these external forces, I’ve seen organizations devise a change initiative, push it to a select few inside the business, and presume far-reaching effect. The logic goes: From this little acorn will grow a mighty transformational oak.
In support of which, Corporate Communicators, like you and me, design and develop change communication plans to amplify the initiative. We prepare content and use stock photos of smiling employees on intranets, and in town hall and team meetings. We place our executives in external-facing forums and craft inspiring thought pieces. Then, we report on the number of times the key messages have been issued. We measure employees’ awareness through surveys or sentiment analysis of email and IMs. We may even proxy public awareness with AVEs.
But we stop there. And most employee on-the-ground behavior remains entrenched in the status quo and, as a result, the reach of transformation is small. Yes, we’ve complied with the implementation of change, yet that acorn seedling withers and never fulfills its promise as a mighty oak.
Why is this? We’ve sent out messages upon messages, and we’ve used multiple channels.
Here’s what I think happens. I’ve observed that employees rarely have a role as co-communicators in the change efforts. We miss the important step of enabling the employees who have the change experience to participate and share their insights and knowledge with other employees. The reason? Strategic peer-to-peer communication is counterintuitive to Corporate Communications. It doesn’t come naturally. In fact, it’s perceived as unguarded territory that exposes the company to risk.
That’s why I use the word strategic. I mean a thoughtful approach that is shaped with smart planning, nurturing, and employee empowerment, connecting employees with other employees, so that they can make meaning of change and sustain new behaviors.
Some companies think they have to have certain social media platforms to enable this type of conversation. It’s nice, but I’ve worked on many initiatives, targeting multiple generations with varied skills sets, and I know it can be done effectively, using a variety of techniques. Social technology and massive funding are not prerequisites to success. Planning and nurturing are, however.
If you are considering a change acorn and you want to see your transformational oaks grow, build the peer-to-peer communication capability in your organization–even if it’s counterintuitive.