Communicating Change to Employees in a Compelling and Engaging way

Version 2

    Hi all,

    I hope everyone has had a good week so far? We experienced the excitement of snow in London yesterday (a somewhat rare occurrence!) so it’s been far too cold for me. My trip to New Zealand, Australia and the Philippines (part holiday, part work) at the end of the month can’t come soon enough - bring on the sunshine!

    This is the third of my change management blog-posts, and I wanted to focus on the topic of communications. This has turned out to be quite a long post - apologies! But I hope contains some useful snippets for you. As always I look forward to hearing your stories, experiences and comments on the topic.

    Communications are an Essential Workstream of ANY Change Project.

    Communications should start as soon as the decision to go-Google is made - and then continue indefinitely. In order for any change project to be successful, people who are impacted by the change need to understand:

    • Why the decision to move to Google has been made / why they should be utilizing the tools
    • What are the benefits to the organisation?
    • How will Google help the organisation achieve it’s goals?
    • What do the new tools mean for groups / individuals? What are the benefits for them?

    Every project, be it the initial deployment, or any post deployment initiatives designed to increase product adoption should have an ‘elevator pitch’. This is the core message that is used throughout the project and across all communications channels.
    Top tips for creating your elevator pitch:

    • Keep it short
    • Keep it simple
    • Make it compelling
    • Make it accessible to your audience

    The goals of your communications activities should be to:

    • Motivate employees to participate in project activities - the more people feel like they are involved in the project, the more ownership they feel, the less likely they are to resist.
    • Inform people about project timelines and milestones
    • Remind people what the change will mean for them personally
    • Encourage them to sign up to training or access the self-paced help materials
    • Share tips and tips and success stories
    • Encourage employees to share success stories
    • Reward and recognise success therefore motivating others

    Connect with Employees at Rational, Emotional and Behavioural Levels
    I suggest using the head-heart-feet rule when devising your communications strategy and plan, regardless of if you are trying to change the behaviour of one person, a team or of the whole organisation.

    As humans we are only inspired to change if we can make a connection with that change on three levels: rationally, emotionally and behaviourally.

    Typically in IT we’re pretty good at the rational engagement - explaining why a change needs to happen or a product should be used. We’re sometimes okay with the behavioural piece in that we train people how to use the technology - but more often than not - we completely skip the emotional part.

    The best way I’ve found to connect with people about a change on an emotional level is to find out ‘what’s in it for them’. Yep - we’re a pretty self centred bunch when it comes down to it! Running a transformation lab is a really good way of finding out how Google technology can be used to help solve the business problems that teams across the organisation are facing (speak to your Google Apps Partner or Google Partner Operations Manager if you’re interested in finding out more about transformation labs). Once you can show the value of the technology and tie this in with the rational elements - which is why the organisation has made the decision to change, and then ensure that the behavioural piece is covered by providing a robust training program and resources so that employees have the knowledge and ability to be successful in using the tools and the right reward structures are in place to encourage the new behaviours  - you are onto a winner!

    It is also important that there is always a channel available to all employees so they can share thoughts, ideas, comments, suggestions and feedback on the project. Make sure that the data collected through this channel is monitored and responded too. And be sure to recognize people who are sharing useful or insightful information via this channel (even if it is feedback you might not want to hear!) Make sure you let people know how the feedback is being used to improve things.


    Make your Communications Engaging
    We’re all bombarded with information every single day. In order for your projects or initiatives to be noticed try & stand out from the crowd. I love this video created by a group called ‘The Fun Theory’ as I think it perfectly demonstrates that if you make something fun, people are more likely to get involved - even (as in this case) the new way of doing things takes more effort than the old way). Keep this concept in mind when you’re developing comms materials for projects. Some of our customers have really done some amazing work in this space. I’d love to hear any great examples from this group if you have them.

    Here are a couple of ideas and tips about what channels to use during change and adoption projects:

    • Videos:
      • Record executives across the organisation sharing their top tips or features and what the benefits are to their team.
      • Use videos from our library to highlight use cases or features and functionality (check out The Apps Show) or to help deal with employee uncertainty about specific topics (see Security with Google Apps)
    • Posters:
      • Create a story or persona that develops over time, and build suspense with a series of posters
      • Think about the placement of your posters to ensure you have a captive audience. For example in the elevator or bathroom (at Google we do this a lot and call it ‘news in the loos’)
    • People:
      • People managers are an essential communications channel, and for every change should be tasked with mentioning the change, it’s benefits, where to go for help etc during every meeting - from 1:1’s / team meetings to all-hands events.
      • Have people wear t-shirts with custom messages printed on them - and have them wear them in the office on certain days.
    • Creative desk drops:
      • One customer packaged up communications about their Google project by putting heart shaped notes on everyone's desks on Valentines Day.
    • Food:
      • Is always an engaging communications channel - get some cupcakes made with custom messages on them.
    • Standard communications channels:
      • Don’t forget about all the standard stuff like emails, newsletters, handouts, and any other channels that exist within the organisation.

    Communications is core to engaging people in change. Get people involved, give them a feedback channel, connect with them on a rational, emotional and behavioural level and make your communications materials and channels fun! These are the guidelines for communications both at the start of a deployment project, and for ongoing initiatives with the objective of increasing product adoption and ensuring employees are kept up to date with any product updates. There is no such thing as over communicating!

    Please share any thoughts, comments or experience that you've had on this topic - I’d love to hear from you.