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The change communications strategy that could help you bounce back from challenging times

When Tenzing’s portfolio companies need a helping hand with their change communications, Employee Engagement and Internal Communications Specialist, Cat Lewis, steps in. Here, she shares how you can develop inclusive, human communications that will help your business effectively manage change and deliver your strategy. 

Making change stick relies on a good communications strategy. One that helps people exchange ideas and feelings and work towards a common set of goals. I’ve helped many businesses develop strategic communication plans. And they tend to follow a similar pattern. This is what I’ve learned.

Clarify your company’s goals

Communicating lots of business goals can be confusing and demoralising for employees. So, if you don’t already have a strategy with a few objectives that are simple to articulate, this is where to start.

I recommend writing down all your business goals. Then grouping them into a small number of areas – three to five is ideal. This will reduce your strategy from tens of goals to a handful of themes that will become your key communications messages. 

Next, create a headline message for each theme and explain what it means. Here’s an example of some messaging I recently helped create:

  1. Growth – improving top-line sales. 
  2. Prepare to scale – building infrastructure and tackling legacy complexity to enable the company to grow efficiently.
  3. Supporting and developing our people – creating a transparent, collaborative and high-performing company culture. 

These themes were developed by splitting 120 business goals into related groups which we reduced to the three goals above. The headline themes quickly emerged and gave us the key messages that would inform our communications. Do this in your business and you’ll create clear goals with which to inspire and engage your employees.

Think about your audience

Now you know what you want to communicate at a high level, it’s time to think about what you want people to know, feel and do

Consider your messaging from the business’ point of view alone and you’ll come unstuck. So I always recommend thinking about your audience too. Ask yourself:

  • What do your employees already know and what’s news to them?
  • How do they feel right now? 
  • How do you want your people to feel after engaging with your communications? 
  • Do they need to take action? If so, how?

The answers to these questions will help you develop your messaging and a tone of voice to suit your business’ circumstances. Bear in mind that times of change can be stressful, so it’s often a good idea to:

  1. Be bold, honest and open about change as people can tell when you’re not being authentic. 
  2. Soften your tone of voice, particularly if it’s quite corporate. Using simple, human language will help you connect with your audience and engage them with your plans. 

Create a plan that repeats your key messages

Replaying your key themes might make you feel like a stuck record. But don’t forget – while you hear and connect with every communication, it’s unlikely your employees will. And even if they do, they’re not working on the strategy day in, day out like you. They need multiple opportunities to connect with your updates to understand what’s happening and feel connected with your business.

A good way to structure your comms plan is to rotate between the different themes each week using them to inspire your messaging. This can feel a little uncomfortable, but stick with it. I find employees tend to provide positive feedback about this approach. And leaders notice an associated step change in business performance.

Consider using video for personal messaging

When your business is experiencing significant change, business leaders need to be visible and create a strong sense of confidence among employees. While emails and blogs have their place, I often encourage leaders to use video because it feels far more personal. 

Not only does it capture tone of voice, but it helps leaders convey empathy and reduce the potential for misinterpretation that can happen in writing. Videos can also be filmed in a range of contexts, including personal environments like the leader’s home or garden. All of which is key to building relationships and long-term trust.

Another benefit of video is that it’s more inclusive. Recording a video meeting is a great way to include other leaders and teams who can be introduced to the rest of the business. Video also works well when recognising teams as it captures employees’ reactions as well as communicates what they’re being rewarded for.

“Keep content fresh by getting a range of leaders to create their own content aligned to your themes. Multiple voices keep colleagues engaged and demonstrate that every leader is on-board with the company’s direction.”

Cat Lewis, Employee Engagement and Internal Communications Subject Specialist.

Create two-way communication opportunities

The best communications plans help employees share their views and opinions with leaders. Here are a few of my tried and tested approaches to spark two-way communication in your business:

Town Hall meetings

Also known as all-hands meetings, these are a great way to get everyone together to discuss your company’s most important matters. You can share business updates, engage with employees to find out what’s happening on the frontline and celebrate successes. Town Halls also give you the opportunity to hold more challenging conversations in a live environment by empowering employees to ask questions and get your response. Don’t feel you have to provide perfect answers on the spot. You can always follow up later on in your videos. 

Anonymous feedback software

Some people won’t feel comfortable sharing their thoughts or opinions in public. Particularly if your business’ culture has not previously welcomed employee feedback. Suggestion Ox software helps you overcome these issues by empowering employees to submit anonymous feedback. It’s a great way to give everyone in your business the chance to be heard, even if they don’t want to speak up publicly.

Ask employees for their ideas

This could include asking for suggestions to generate efficiencies, save money or improve customer support or processes. Actioning these ideas will make employees feel heard and help your business achieve its goals. Recognise good ideas and you’ll build employee engagement and showcase the kinds of suggestions that will work for your business. Prompting the rest of your team to generate even more ideas.

One-on-one conversations and team meeting drop-ins

CEOs and executives who connect with individuals and teams help their employees to feel seen and heard. As with Town Halls, you don’t need to have all the answers on the spot. If you need to think about a question or suggestion, be honest and let people know you need to take the time to respond. Then reply directly later on or cover the topic in your communications. 

Consider adopting communications technology

The most effective communications plans are supported by digital technology. Whether your team is in one location or spread across the globe, employee engagement platforms connect individuals with a range of initiatives at scale. Including wellbeing, employee communications and recognition. 

Not only are these platforms a great place to host your videos, but they provide other methods of communication. Including blog posts, peer-to-peer recognition and the opportunity for social interaction between colleagues, wherever they work.

Effective communications are key to successfully navigating periods of change. Apply time, energy and creativity to your comms and you’ll ensure the strong culture and engaged employees you need to succeed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catrin Lewis

Catrin Lewis

Catrin Lewis is Tenzing’s Employee Engagement and Internal Comms Specialist. She runs our network and monthly meet-up for portfolio HR leaders and has advised many of our businesses on internal communications strategy, workplace design and employee engagement. She is a published author, regular conference speaker, and Head of Global Engagement & Comms at the HR Tech business, Reward Gateway, which she has seen through three periods of PE ownership.
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