The truism “change is the only constant” seems like it should have been coined in the 21st Century rather than back in Ancient Greece. Because, let’s face it: no century has a monopoly on rapid-fire change like this one: a seemingly brand-new smartphone is already obsolete, the news cycle never rests, and the relevancy of a meme has a shorter shelf-life than an open container of yogurt.
And all that is happening outside the office.
Our work lives are set in the era of near-constant organizational change. In fact, seven out of ten organizations expect to deploy change management plans in the next three years. But even though we know that the winds of change are continuously blowing, we as humans—and especially as employees—don’t like it.
If you take a moment to recall the last time you were notified that major organizational changes were headed your way, you’ll probably also recall the uncertainty you felt: was this change going to bring some unwelcome surprises? Were you going to have to move? Would there be layoffs? What does this mean for me?! (insert emoji)
Unsurprisingly, those feelings and questions don’t make for increased employee engagement or performance. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite: employee performance is negatively impacted. When people don’t understand the purpose of change—or concretely visualize the future being wrought by it—they start to think negatively.
Enter the too-often unsung heroes of organizational change: internal communicators. Far too frequently, internal communicators are dismissed as not playing much of a role in the big changes that roll through companies, and “communication” is seen as simply passing along news from management or other areas of the business.
But we know that’s short-sighted and far from the truth. Communicators should be—and indeed are—playing a major role in shaping and driving the strategy of organizational change management.
In fact, when communication channels are open during times of organizational change, upheaval and chaos give way to success, trust, and confidence.
Because here’s the thing: managing change is all about managing people’s expectations and their access to change-related information.
As the people over at CEB Global outline, there are a few key steps to take toward making sure that employees feel secure rather than adrift during times of change. The most important is clear and simple: employees need to be given access to information. The second most valuable step? Creating a strategy to utilize change management communication tools that allow employees to access further information while keeping confidence levels high.
A survey from Statista offers a further communication step to make change less hectic and more inspirational: making clear to everyone how the proposed change will be a change for the better.
But how? How can internal communicators make sure they are replacing fear with the hope, forward-thinking, and trust that access to information can provide?
According to Harvard Business Review, the answer is in the palm of your hand…at least when your hand is holding a smartphone:
We found that 55% of respondents who had gone through a change event at work said they wished their employer offered more digital … engagement.
Digital engagement and change management communication tools offer transparency, a sense of camaraderie, and the sense that everyone’s voice is being heard. But to be truly effective, this digital engagement has to coupled with other tools from the internal communicator’s toolbox: being clearly informative and supportive, boosting moral even as you boost performance, and creating an environment that preserves openness.
So while the constant of change is difficult—especially when it takes the form of organizational change—the path away from fearing an uncertain future to embracing it is clear: internal communicators need to step into their roles as leaders of change management, harnessing the open dialogue made possible by social media to create a culture of communication and trust. Check out SocialChorus’ latest eBook, Communicators in Charge: The 5 Skills You Need to Manage Enterprise Change, to learn more about how communicators are driving organizational change.