As technology becomes an ever more central part of business life – from how products and components are sourced to how customers buy those products – the opportunities to use both information and technology for competitive advantage mean near constant change for corporate IT teams.
And while most of these teams go to great lengths to create detailed communication plans about big changes (new team structures, new working processes etc), very few are good at working out how successful those plans are.
Which is a big problem because inconsistent communication almost always results in staff confusion, apathy, demoralization, and ultimately, lower levels of employee productivity. And, when firms fail to collect and integrate employee feedback into the radical changes brought about by digitization, it sends the message that the company does not value employees’ opinions on the changes, which alienates staff still further.
How to Make Change More Palatable
To counter this problem, the IT team at a leading food manufacturer in CEB’s network of corporate IT professionals designed a useful process to test the cadence, content, and effectiveness of its communications strategy.
The CIO and his leadership team use a postmortem to identify employee questions and concerns that are missed in the communication campaign. They convene a cross-functional sounding board of employees to collect intelligence that helps them refine change messages as employees make the change, and then take two important steps:
Listen before communicating: Change communications sometimes omit information employees find necessary to understand why the change is being made. Often, these communications also do not adapt to employees’ information needs as they progress through the change project, and start to respond to it.
To remedy this, the organization’s IT team creates monthly sounding board meetings with a cross-section of employees, a senior IT leader, a communications director, and the lead of the change initiative. This group gathers feedback from employees, which helps IT adjust its communication and change management plans according to employee needs.
Structure the conversation: Based on how employees cope with the change, IT evolves the questions and conversations in the sounding board.
The participants are expected to share what they know about how to make the change, what they think they were supposed to know, and how they think they would be affected by the change. These conversations help IT improve its communication plans further.