Leading Today’s Corporate Change Journey | Gagen MacDonald

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Leading Today’s Corporate Change Journey

Oct 25, 2016

Enterprise change initiatives are continuing at a rapid pace. From technology transformation to M&A integration, today’s employees are expected to embrace unending changes and recognize how those changes fit together to support the overall business strategy.

But aligning and engaging the workforce in an environment of constant change is challenging. It requires more than the effort of any one business unit or corporate function; it requires synchronization of what employees hear, see and think both formally and informally.

So how are best-practice organizations leading their employees on the change journey? Here are strategies we’re helping our clients use as they prepare for the continued rollout of new corporate processes, tools and policies:

  1. Frame a compelling change story

Exceptional corporate stories are crucial when managing change. Gagen MacDonald supported recent behavioral communications research commissioned by the Institute for Public Relations which highlights how stories inspire employees to think and behave differently. To create stories that are easily understood, memorable, believable, and above all repeatable, start by researching stakeholder values and resistance factors. Our two-part blog series 6 Ways People Resist Your Message – And How to Win Them Over (part 1, part 2) explores this in greater detail. The next step is to translate the change rationale into a human-centered, emotionally engaging narrative, one that’s grounded in purpose, meaning and a shared future to help inspire employees’ commitment.

  1. Build leaders’ capabilities to lead change

While a good corporate change story will inspire employees, they will only embrace it when they hear it told well, by people they trust. Managers at all levels need to be able to tell the company’s change story authentically and transparently. They need to be open to candid dialogue and to model desired behaviors. Assess who’s best to fulfill these duties. Then align and equip a network of champions to create a movement. How ITT supported its leaders as communicators and change agents following the spinoff of two business units is an excellent case study on this topic.

  1. Create high-impact employee experiences

Employees need to experience first-hand the most important parts of your change story. Creating a one-of-a-kind, customized employee experience leads to personal insights, emotional resonance and strategic actions on an individual level. Hyatt did just this by convening its single largest stakeholder group, 400 of its general managers, for the first time in five years to immerse them in a new strategy story.

  1. Communicate early and often and simplify messaging using visuals

Organizations often focus resources at the beginning of the change cycle. But communication and leadership are most critical after initial announcements—when the reality of the change sets in and personal implications become clear. To activate an effective story-infused campaign, develop a clear communication cadence across business units that is centered on how and when employees receive information, creating short, shareable and meaningful content, and working with leaders to create a unified voice. Importantly, use visuals to simplify the narrative.

  1. Shape a healthy workplace culture

Our beliefs are formed by what we observe and experience–the behaviors, symbols and systems we internalize and convey meaning to us. Start by defining the behaviors that drive change to translate the corporate story into everyday actions that employees can take. Then recognize and reward employees for living those changes. This reinforces and sustains the desired behaviors and energizes the organization to keep everyone moving forward.

These are all powerful approaches to lead employees on the change journey. They’re not one-time “quick fixes,” but rather sustained efforts that best-practice organizations engage in consistently throughout both turbulent and successful periods in their trajectory.

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