Are you integrated? Nine tactics to facilitate workplace change
Many years ago I worked in the corporate training industry. I specialized in teaching companies how to engage employees. The economy tanked and what was already a hard sell became an impossible sell for me. Even though I wrote a book on employee engagement, I thought that when I closed the door on my training company that I would never again be in a position to influence the way companies communicate with their employees. Eventually, I made a career change into public relations and here I am, once again, in a position to influence the way companies communicate with their employees. Lucky me!
I was speaking to a friend recently about the fallout that results from implementing sweeping changes in organizations which are unaccustomed to having a high degree of structure and accountability built into their workday. Many companies hire change managers to help facilitate the transition phase of their businesses. They recognize the need to change and they think they want that change right up until things get really bumpy. Typically, change managers go through the process of doing all this work, only to get fired before they ever get to see positive results. Companies don’t all seem to realize that the coldest part of the night is right before dawn breaks. Letting your change manager go early usually means that a third semi-efficient culture will emerge. It might not be as bad as the first, but it definitely won’t be nearly as good as the second could have been, if the manager had been given the chance to finish his work.Usually, change managers have to take the fall for everything. In my experience, the company that refuses to take full ownership of the problem usually wants no part of the solution. They leave all the changing up to one person who is left to fire people, initiate new ways of doing things and hold everyone accountable except those who don’t report to him. Because the very top managers don’t understand the process, they don’t buy into the changes and they can’t tolerate the grumblings of employees who often don’t understand what is really going on.
So how can change managers get employees on board with new initiatives, minimize the risk to the rest of the business and still remain employed? It’s not simple, but an integrated approach is essential.
As I mentioned earlier, organizational change should never be only one person’s responsibility. A lot of what we do in business is really about managing expectations. Right from the start, the change manager needs to make it clear that all members of the company need to be involved in supporting the upcoming changes and therefore must solicit help from their Human Resources and Communications departments.
Below are some ways HR and Communications can support cultural change and make transitioning into a new phase of business a much easier ride.
1. Maximize Internal Communications: Your company newsletters and intranet offer a great opportunity for employees to remain connected to everything your company is doing. Have employees contribute stories about projects they are working on, or initiatives they started in order to engage customers or co-workers. Also, be sure to leverage your communications so that you are instilling pride in your products, people and their performance. The flavour of your communications will dramatically affect the perception employees have of the company. Try to keep your communications light and fun rather than data driven and stressful.
2. Make a Video: Video is a fun way to tell a story. Whether you have a contest for best Vine or you hire a videographer to help you create a more polished product that includes employees doing fun things, really doesn’t matter. The process of involving people and seeing the finished product is the most powerful tool of all. Try it and watch what happens.
3. Start a Corporate Social Responsibility Program: Studies show that employees are proud to work for companies that stand up for causes. CSR initiatives are great for both public perception and employee engagement. Money may be the driving force behind everything you do in business, but it cannot be the only thing that matters if you want your employees to care about your company.
4. Maximize Employee Reward Programs: What I’m referring to here goes far beyond the 25 year pin. Reward employees for making useful suggestions that you were able to implement. Reward them for not missing work days or for going the extra mile. A little sincere appreciation goes a long way. When coming up with rewards, consider the value of a day off, a gift card or a weekend at a nice resort instead of a useless lapel pin or a piece of paper in a frame.
5. Hold Casual Company Events: Employees need to see managers and co-workers outside of the office environment in order to appreciate their human side. A barbecue in a park, a lunch in a local pub and theme park excursions can be extremely important outings during stressful changes at work. The events can be relived through communications tools such as newsletters, bulletin board pics or the company intranet.
6. Start a Group: Groups give people a chance to find commonalities and help them build rapport. Consider running a lunch time book club, Toastmasters group or even a walking group. Encouraging your employees to take their lunch breaks, add variety to their day, and not eat at their desks is good for your workplace culture.
7. Live Your Corporate Values: Corporate values are often listed on plaques and stuffed in a corner beside a filing cabinet, underneath a box. That’s usually because nobody values the values. If everyone in the company speaks to the corporate values and lives by them when making decisions, then the general feeling that upper management is full of hypocrites tends to dissipate. A culture that nurtures respect for all and holds everyone accountable for their behaviour is generally a healthy one. All communications pieces should refer to the company values, and HR practitioners, along with management, must be sure to refer to them in conversations.
8. Emphasize Physical and Mental Health: Work can be stressful at the best of times. Add the complications of each employee’s private life to the list of change induced stresses at work and you can easily have people melting down and missing time on a daily basis. Encouraging and providing opportunities for employees to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet will lower your absentee rates and alleviate stress. Ensuring your staff are all given the opportunity to access a strong employee assistance program will also help them manage personal problems more effectively.
9. Find out What Employees Want: Putting together a bunch of initiatives to help employees transition through change works best when you provide the right outlets for them. Have your employees fill out a survey or drop suggestions into a box to see what matters most to them. Solicit input from everyone and then have fun being at work together.
There are millions of things you can do to help take the stress out of corporate change. The important thing is to make sure you do multiple things, multiple times and constantly communicate up, down and all around the organization. Don’t leave all the responsibility of driving corporate change up to one person. Not sharing the load means you will put your business at risk and undermine your change manager’s efforts.
Renée Cormier is no ordinary public relations & communications specialist. Add published author, employee engagement specialist, sales and marketing strategist, entrepreneur and educator to her list of accomplishments. Renée brings a wide range of experience and talent to her work. Her passion for business and her natural talent for business strategy and communications makes her an important resource for her clients.
We work with companies in transition to generate positive bottom line results! Contact Renée through her website: www.reneecormier.com
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