“Change is a key feature of modern workplaces … Agencies need to be flexible, adaptable and able to respond quickly to changes in Australian Government direction or in their operating environment so as to continue to deliver effective outcomes.” – Australian Public Service Commission
One of the Australian public service’s current key challenges is managing widespread organisational change.
Government agencies and departments are embarking on constant change in order to do business better, to change the way they operate, and to move away from what may have worked in the past.
Change management is a process that brings disruption to the workplace as employees fear job loss, relocations, or think their performance is being managed.
The 2015/16 State of the Service report stated that:
“Only 47 per cent of those who had experienced some form of workplace change, however, were satisfied with how the change was communicated to them. This suggests that the APS has an opportunity to improve how it manages and communicates change processes.”
Too true. However, a common misconception is that internal communication must lead organisational change.
Change, which is intricately tied to an organisation’s culture, must be driven and owned by senior executives. It is then the internal communication team’s role to effectively communicate the process and educate staff members.
Resource your team appropriately
The internal communication function is too often under-resourced in organisations. Or if there is adequate resourcing, it is because people have been moved around in departments and ended up in a job they are not passionate about.
Ensuring there are appropriate, qualified resources working on internal communication is a must for any organisation or department.
Establish a communication plan
Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
Yet all too often communication plans aren’t created, which is the first step towards not effectively communicating change.
In a survey released by Statista in January 2014, 68 percent of respondents stated that an effective communication plan was the most effective practice in organisational change management.
Take the time to establish a plan, and don’t just do it as a ‘box-ticking’ exercise.
Research your audience, get an understanding of their key pain points, work out the content and themes that will resonate with them and the channels that will be most effective.
Most importantly, establish a framework to dictate all internal communication activity. Without a process and rules to guide you, the wrong information can be shared, or be shared by a person who should not have responsibility in that area.
And finally, don’t forget to set up a measurement and evaluation framework to track your success.
Too much information is never enough
Don’t listen to the naysayers – too much information when it comes to communicating change is not possible.
A person’s fear of change drives a thirst for information. Why is this change happening? What does this mean for me? How will it affect my job? What is going to change? What is the timeline? Who can I ask for clarification?
Without addressing all of these questions and many more, employees can become negative and disengaged.
As part of your communication planning mentioned above, do an exercise where you list all the questions you can think of that an employee might ask. Content should be created to answer all of these questions. Consider it an education program. Not only will it keep people fully informed, but it will play a key role in explaining why the change being undertaken is beneficial.
Actively engage in two-way communication
Don’t just say it, do it.
Establishing two-way communication is a goal that many government departments are targeting, but not achieving success in.
Employees thrive on having the feeling that they are being listened to and are valued within the workplace.
The channels that now exist (thanks to technology) allow this to happen even easier – whether that be instant messenger, discussion forums, blogs or internal social media channels.
When the 2016/17 State of the Service report is released in a matter of weeks, it will be interesting to see if employees in the public service believe change has been managed better or worse than previously.
What will be even more interesting will be seeing whether any measurable targets and actions can be taken to raise the bar over the coming year.
What are your top tips to communicate change within your organisation? Let us know in the comments below.