According to a recent BIE Survey, 87% of HR Directors are currently going through a business transformation. Of those asked, 91% agree that communication and engagement are key to incentivising employees to stay motivated when faced with change.

Large scale transformations can be extremely complex with a multitude of stakeholders, requirements and impacts. It is therefore unsurprising that many transformations fail as a result of “change fatigue”, poor employee’ attitude and lack of buy-in from management.

Quite simply, managing hearts and minds and altering the way people think and behave is key. Without a shift in culture and behaviour, any changes implemented are not sustainable in the long-term.

While it’s clear that cultural and behavioural change will not happen in an organisation overnight, effective communication is a vital first step in getting people to not only work differently but to support the changes you are making.

We asked over 100 HR Directors what their key learnings are from previous transformation programmes they were involved with. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Empower leaders

Engage with the senior leadership team early in the process to ensure they are fully brought into the changes ahead and are aligned in their thinking. Give them ownership of the process where relevant and address “what’s in it for them”. Building trust is crucial before making radical changes. Nothing scuppers a transformation faster than a disillusioned leader.

Leaders should be visible and role modelling the desired behaviours. It’s helpful to recognise when people display desired business’ behaviours and to acknowledge and reward them.

However, while effective communication should potentially start with senior leaders, it shouldn’t stop with them. Messaging needs to be disseminated within all layers of the business to effectively share the vision.

2. Provide the opportunity

Give leaders the training and tools they need to effectively communicate the changes across the business. They need to keep in mind their teams will be hearing the information for the first time and to ensure there is absolute clarity. Timely communication will reassure the business, and surgeries for questions will often identify any “blockers” and help employees to feel engaged and valued in the process. If the rumour mill is in action, often you’ve waited too long to communicate.

Flood working groups/ pilots with real employees and managers and lead them to choose to become evangelists of the change.

3. Be authentic

Be transparent and authentic with communications, ensuring you communicate the bad – as well as the good. “Spin” communications can lead to rumours that quickly destabilise projects, divide teams and lead to a culture of mistrust.

One clear narrative, which encompasses direction of change and rationale, is vital. If employees fully understand the business’ motivation for the changes and can see the bigger picture, they are more likely to actively support the transformation. Over-communication is key and the language used should be appropriate and consistent across the business.

4. Breakdown barriers

Actively neutralise and marginalise political barriers and those who represent them, while being mindful of taking people with you on the journey.

In an age where technological communication is the method of choice, be mindful that much can be lost in translation. Ensure you can speak face-to-face with people and teams where you can.

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