"Communications Has Always Been a Challenge"

February 3, 2011
Last week we traveled to the frigid and snowy East Coast for a capabilities presentation that an existing client had arranged for several of her colleagues. The team of HR professionals we met with shared a common problem with us that we’ve heard from clients time and time again.“We spend a lot of time on policy-setting and strategy, but communicating those changes and the rationale behind them has always been a challenge,” one of them explained. [no_blockquote text="We spend a lot of time on policy-setting and strategy, but communicating those changes and the rationale behind them has always been a challenge" text_color="" title_tag="h2" width="" line_height="" background_color="" border_color="" show_quote_icon="yes" quote_icon_color="" quote_icon_size=""] There can be all kinds of reasons for this. In the case of the HR professionals we were meeting with, they have multiple other responsibilities, and communications might be at the lower end of the priorities totem pole. When we work with corporate and internal communications professionals, sometimes it’s a bandwidth issue. After all the time spent critically evaluating a change that needs to be made, creating a plan and then going through the process of consensus-building on a particular approach, it can be a mad dash to the finish to communicate the changes and move on to the 50 other things that are demanding your attention. Or maybe it’s a skill set issue. You might be great at establishing a communications strategy and getting buy-in from your colleagues, but lack the creative mojo to develop and rollout communications programs that will grab the attention of busy employees and help them internalize and buy into the changes you’re telling them about. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, it’s a rare (not to mention boring) person indeed who is perfect at everything. Managing and communicating with sophisticated workforces is a specialized skill. Whatever your organizational change – whether it’s a new staffing plan, or overhaul of your rewards program, or change in business strategy – you’ve obviously invested a lot of time and brain cells in the decision-making process. You owe it to your organization and your employees to make sure you communicate the changes with them in a way that builds understanding and motivates them to embrace the new reality you’re hoping to create. So, what can you do?
  • Start thinking about your communications strategy from the beginning. Here a few good questions to ask: “Who needs to know about this change?” “How will we communicate it to them?” “How can we make sure they retain this information and we see behavior change as a result?”
  • Create a communications plan and get buy-in early. Outline how your want to communicate with your employees, and discuss it with all the key players so everyone is in agreement. And don’t forget to build in metrics!
  • If you don’t have the time, resources or skills to do the job well, that’s OK – but make sure you partner with someone who does. For starters, you can always contact us. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it!)
Liz Kelly

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