Five Steps to Successful Transformation Communications

July 29, 2020

According to research undertaken by BCG shortly before the coronavirus, publicly traded companies have a 30% chance of failing over the next five years compared to a 5% chance 50 years ago. Now, more than ever, pursuing initiatives needs to be a constant, collaborative process — what BCG refers to as “always-on transformation.”

The key driver in creating an effective transformation culture is clear; powerful communications processes that ensure employees are listened to as well as informed.  According to McKinsey research, “At companies where senior managers communicate openly and across the organization about the transformation’s progress, respondents are 8.0 times as likely to report a successful transformation as those who say this communication doesn’t happen.”

Outlined below are five key steps that, based on our experience, help you communicate about critical change and transformation with employees. The first three cover your purpose and strategic direction. The others encompass how you say it.

  1. Revisit your Purpose. This is why your organisation exists. It’s the guiding star which helps inspire people to work for you. It expresses the impact you have on whomever you’re aiming to serve e.g. customers, patients, students. Disney provides the ultimate example, “We create happiness”. Purpose is emotional. It aims for the heart.
  2. Revisit your Mission, Vision and Values: Transformation-seeking companies need galvanising mission statements, that focus and guide every effort toward a single overarching goal. Your vision says what the organisation wishes to be like in some years’ time. It guides what core to preserve and what future to stimulate progress toward. Values describe your desired culture. Do the mission, vision and values expressed by your purpose accord with how your stakeholders now see their changing world?
  3. Communicate a relatable business plan: A clear, comprehensible plan with measurable goals and accountabilities helps makes success tangible, rather than a vague concept. Striking a tone and balance between focus, performance, achievement and empathy that is relevant for the current times will help ensure buy-in.
  4. Use stories to reinforce desired change: Too often, internal communications are viewed as just one-way set of management tools; telling employees, rather than discussing and listening to them. To generate lasting, value-driven employee buy-in a renewed emphasis on story is required. A good way to do this is for leadership — both at the top and across business lines — to find examples of individuals actively engaged in change-oriented activities and then share those stories as appropriate in employee-related communications.
  5. Be Transparent and authentic: Stop issuing corporate communications and begin having organisational conversations - think dialogue, not monologue. The more personal and engaging the conversation is the more effective it will be. And remember, for many employees today, leadership is about network, not hierarchy. Sharing stories is one of the best ways to leverage this.

Businesses have faced COVID-driven tests of survival and are now coming to terms with a change imperative across their value chain, their employee experience, their customer journey, their marketplace. Stakeholder expectations are unsettled and in flux. Revalidation and re-energising your company purpose, as well as other critical communications, is an investment for creating a successful and enduring transformation culture.

"We directly engage with our clients through a number of channels. For instance, last month we distributed a client experience survey which garnered the best response rate we've seen to date. Through that survey and internal questionnaires with on-line town hall meetings that consistently drive dialogue among our staff we've gotten insightful feedback on how our clients are looking to prioritize their digital activities post-COVID and how we can best deliver. This has helped us accelerate some already planned initiatives.”
Simon Hornby, President, Crozier Fine Arts.  

“In such times, we have to rethink the entire business model. I have to bring the team with me and that will involve a lot of communications.”
 Richard Brook, President EMEA and Latin America, Cochlear AG

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