Piloting Change: Five Steps to Success!
There are many reasons that push a company to change especially in the current health crisis, including digital transformation, internal reorganization, creation of a new service offering, and outsourcing an entire department. How can this change be successfully managed by modifying internal communication?
Flashback to 1997. A small company is born in a garage in Scotts Valley in the heart of California. Their initial business model is simple: offering online DVD sales and rentals by mail. The idea takes off and the company begins to grow slowly. Barely two years later, the founder follows his intuition and launches a revolution: replacing individual fees for each DVD rental with a monthly subscription. Some critics mock the new business model, some customers jump ship… but history would decide.
Twenty-five years later—and after several such bold changes—Netflix has become the giant we know today: $25 billion in revenue and more than 200 million subscribers.
01. Why change: the need to evolve
What can we learn from this story? Most companies need to change and re-evaluate themselves in order to succeed sustainably over the long-term. Digitalization, legislative developments, regulatory constraints (e.g. GDPR), competitive pressure, mergers and restructuring, new offerings and formats, outsourcing, staff movements are many catalysts of change. The health crisis has created even more, pushing many companies to modify their business models, transform their production methods, diversify their client bases, and even switch to new activities.
Change in a company is a reaction, an adaptation to catalysts, be it external (the market, clientele, competition, etc.), or internal (a new strategy, an internal desire to evolve, etc.). Supporting a company’s transformation process can be referred to as “piloting change,” “piloting innovation,” or “change management.”
02. Piloting change: which method to adopt?
A company change takes place in several stages, from launch to materialization/consolidation. Depending on the scope of the project, a change management specialist may be hired to support the process, or an internal employee or team dedicated to overseeing the transition.
Change management has several aims:
- Facilitating teams’ acceptance and understanding of the new project
- Anticipating and mitigating resistance to change
- Accelerating the transition and reducing costs
- Maintaining and promoting team spirit
As such, change cannot only be approached from a strategic and financial perspective, but must factor in the organization’s complexity and culture. The goal must be to ensure employee participation. A company can only change through the people who comprise it; a transition’s success or failure depends on individuals’ behavior. A change should not ‘simply’ benefit the company, but also each person involved. For this reason, the larger an organization’s headcount, the more complex the project will be. The project’s impact on all those who must alter their work habits in one way or another, must be taken into consideration.
As such, change must appear legitimate and relevant. The reasons that make the change necessary, even urgent and inevitable, must be clearly explained. Explain the logic behind it in detail, be transparent about any challenges, and infuse the process with meaning.
03. Piloting change: the factors for success
Whatever the catalysts for change may be, the factors for success are nearly always the same:
- Communicate consistently throughout the project to share challenges, expected benefits, and any progress
- Personalize goals for all employees and highlight the benefits they stand to gain (Fewer repetitive tasks? Simplified processes? Better time management?). Ideally, each individual will be able to make the company’s vision his or her own.
- Rely on the communities that govern the life of any company
- Solicit feedback from employees on a regular basis – and take it into consideration in managing the project. Every roadblock should lead to corrective action.
- Train teams throughout the process. New practices, rules, and skills: learning isn’t just technical and cognitive, but also cultural and behavioral.
- Adopt concrete benchmarks of success.
Those in charge of the transformation (whether an internal team or external consultants) must oversee the plan of actionand ensure that each of these factors is considered.
04. Communication: the key to driving change
Communication is structured around two major axes: the company’s reasons for change (“it’s legitimate and important because…”), and the benefits to employees (“you’ll gain…”). Effective communication ensures that all aspects are known and shared, thereby reducing rumors and resistance.
Don’t focus solely on the reason for change: reorganization, restructuring, and innovation. More often than not, success or failure will depend more on the “process” and on a team’s acceptance. As such, all communication channels must be mobilized; all employees’ touchpoints. This can be attained collectively through kick-offs, team meetings, and videos, as well as individually, to break down barriers and rekindle reluctant individuals. With an ever-growing number of employees working remotely, change management must also be adjusted for telecommuting. Using varied and frequent communication can address different aspects:
- Share the vision with all participants. What does the company’s future look like? How does this change translate into daily life? What concrete actions are expected today? Tomorrow?
- Reassure participants of the motives and reasons behind the change, as well as employees’ ability to integrate it.
- Keep participants informed of the process by making change concrete and relevant to daily life.
- Inform them of and train them in new practices.
- Highlight efforts…
- … and successes.
Don’t wait until the project is complete to declare victory! Dividing success into stages, and recognizing progress made are both great ways to generate interest and maintain employee involvement.
Effective corporate communication during a company transformation must be flexible, responsive and offer strong, personalized support. It’s vital to reach employees where they are—at home and in the workplace, in a store or a factory, at headquarters or subsidiaries. Email signatures facilitate all of this.
05. One email signature for external, another for internal
For several years now, email signatures have become a full-blown marketing tool and communication channel. The latest innovation is modern solutions that allow different email signatures to be created based on whether the recipient is part of the company or not. For external recipients (clients, prospects, providers, partners, etc.), a banner can be created that invites them to download a white paper or informs them of a promotion. Another signature for company employees can contain the latest corporate news—foremost of which is company change.
In this way, the email signature can convey and support the company’s transformation. There are several benefits to this method. It carries information directly to the employee’s inbox, in a non-intrusive manner, without cluttering it up (unlike a dedicated email or classic newsletter). As a result, you send fewer emails but generate more content that is actually read.
This is especially true since signatures can be customized for targeted employee groups and predetermined periods while a new tool is being introduced. This allows a complete communication plan to be deployed to the organization and bring all employees on board.
As of spring 2021, Letsignit offers the ability to add a Teams button to your signature. There’s no longer a need to switch devices, open a new program, or search through your contacts list. A single click allows you to chat with correspondents one on one—whether they’re inside or outside the company.
Thanks to automated management, modifying signatures only takes seconds and can be applied to all employees with just three clicks. That’s all the more reason to update them regularly for successful communication of change.