Employer Branding

How Leaders Can Communicate Organizational Change

The future of work as we know it is changing. We operate in a world with a tsunami of data and automation, artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing and robotics. These tools have become increasingly available to organizations. With unprecedented change and continuous disruption ahead of us, organizations potentially risk losing their competitive edge in the market if they do not transform the way they operate.

The right approach to change is a combination of motivating people’s willingness to change and providing stakeholders with the ability to execute their activities during and after the change. However, this depends on the organization’s desired outcome, the balance of efforts required to drive willingness and the ability to deliver. At Deloitte, we see “ability” as making sure the workforce understands ‘what to do’ and ‘how to do it’. “Willingness” is seen as building an understanding across the workforce as to ‘why’ we need to do something in a new way.

How leadership communicates with their employees is an important component of driving willingness across the organization and should not be underestimated. The first step to effectively driving willingness in the organization is to identify pivotal moments in an employee’s work life. We call these critical points ‘moments that matter.’ Organizations must design specific interventions to support an employee’s own transformation journey. By informing and empowering employees, companies can help to drive willingness and ultimately buy-in to the change.

Today, too many organizations communicate in a way that is too broad to be effective. When communicating change to the organization, leaders need to consider three enablers to improve people’s willingness: affinity, operational style and spectrum of support.

1. Affinity

The most effective messaging is delivered by to whom we, as employees, feel we are the most closely affiliated. Affiliations can be based on the team the employee is part, the department, function or their geographical location. Understanding those affiliations and identifying the different communication leaders for each affiliation will drive more effective messaging.

2. Operational Leadership style

Leaders need to ask themselves what type of operational leadership style exists in their organization. Does the organization have a team-centric environment, where decisions are made collectively or is the organization more dictatorial, with change driven from the top down? To drive change across the organization successfully, leadership needs to determine how to best drive the commitment of employees to the change. For example, as a leader do I need to get a specific department manager on board with the change to drive our people’s support?

3. Spectrum of support

Deloitte has found that without at least 10-14% of employees committed to the change, organizations will struggle to undergo a true transformation successfully. Successful change programs need to identify who at the organization is holding the change back, promoting it or uncertain about it. Understanding the spectrum of support across the organization will allow change interventions to be designed to target the areas where there is a lack of commitment and ultimately drive a focused and impactful campaign.

For messaging to be successful it requires a compelling vision, a clear identification of impact e.g. details on the changes to technology, roles or skills, the opportunity for two-way feedback, and finally reinforcement by leadership. However, in today’s world, organizations need to also consider that employees expect a personalized experience to change, similar to what they receive outside the office in their personal lives. Within the change management world, this is now possible. New marketing technologies and innovations have provided the tools to develop a more personalized approach. By better planning for and communicating change, organizations can accelerate adoption and improve employee engagement, helping to reach strategic objectives and stay agile in a constantly changing workplace.

About the author: Mike Bentley, Managing Director of Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Change Strategy and Analytics practice.

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