Change management and communication efforts can fall flat for a variety of reasons. A common problem: leaders don’t have a hand in crafting a clear message about the change. And then they don’t own the message, failing to embed it into all project and change communications. “Baking in” the message is what helps it stick.
Leaders identify the business problem they are trying to solve, but then go out to the workforce with that strategy, alone. Your target audience does not want your strategy – they want clarity and impact on your initiative. To internalize change, people need to hear a compelling story again and again. A story designed with their needs in mind. The basis of that story is a clear message: why, what, and how you will change, and what the organization will be like after the change.
Start by getting key company and project leaders in the same room to create the compelling story they need to weave into all communication. The goal is creating a simple one-page message frame that captures the challenge, to be attacked with the solution, through the approach for the future state. To do that, facilitate the group to answer these questions:
- Why? What is our challenge? What are our burdens? What are we trying to solve or improve?
- What? What is the solution?
- How? What is our approach? What steps or methods do we need to implement the solution?
- What? What is the end result? What does the ideal future look like?
The next step is to agree on words and stories that support it. It is essential the message is…
- Clear and Consistent: Waffling on instructions and participation requirements guarantee non-compliance.
- Aligned with Employee’s Interests: Sending a message aligned with individuals’ feelings and motivations will shift the tenor from imposition to aid.
- Cognizant of the Ask: Understanding this will be a steep learning curve, underscoring the need for users to be “on board” with the project as they try to navigate the change.
Attached below are some slides that serve as a template for this process.
Everything the project does that touches employees should be built with the message in mind. Executives should be able to describe the message succinctly, which starts the process. Then everything else -- project branding, visuals, language and acronyms, the structure of events, communications and other collateral – should all support the message. This helps you leverage another channel of communication. Target audiences will “experience” the message, in addition to being “told” the message.
Example: SunTrust’s One Team
We started with “Challenge, Solution, Approach, Future State” and worked with our Sun Trust partners to build their message:
- Challenge = ELIMINATE silos
- Solution = ENGAGE teammates
- Approach = Value COURAGE
- Future State = DIFFERENTIATE Sun Trust.
We then included key behaviors we wanted to build One Team.
That solid work was then taken to the next level. Embed the message in everything you do. Watch the video attached below, which illustrates this perfectly.
- Eliminate Silos: The employees stand in one line, working together seamlessly to convey a message. There are no bumps, not weird transitions, and to the viewer (customer), there is no difference in quality of experience from one person to the next. The employees in the video come from separate functional groups in the company. But you’d only know that if you knew the individuals involved. They are one team. So, if the viewer is a SunTrust employee, the “eliminate silos” message is clear.
- Engage Teammates: The actors in the video are all SunTrust employees. Though they are standing shoulder to shoulder, as they tell the negative message, they seem disengaged from each other. As the positive message works back down the line, the employees are engaged and interacting with each other, physically and emotionally.
- Value Courage: They are literally standing up for what they believe in. Present, on camera, to support the way they want to work and serve customers. They are telling a very negative message, at first – one that might reflect what people are actually thinking. SunTrust had never done anything like this before.
- Differentiate SunTrust: The video is surprising, innovative, and delightful. It has a “wow” factor and sets SunTrust apart. This is what the viewer experiences, and what SunTrust wants its customers to experience.
Our advice: layer, embed, “bake it in.” Make sure your message is present in every single communication. The words should be totally on-message, but it’s more than that. Watch the video, linked under Helpful Materials, below, which illustrates this perfectly.
- Puts message into action right away – in a very tangible and visual way.
- Reinforces message, moving the focus to the organization and letting the inmates run the asylum.
- Admits any negative vibe right away – owns it, provides the communication “push” and turns it into a positive.
- Puts your money where your mouth is – and key target audiences won’t catch failing to embody your principles.
- Realigns behavior through consistency and repetition.
Here is the recipe: Get the strategy. Put leaders in a room. Boil down that strategy into four words and associated facts, phrases and behaviors associated with those four words. Then put the entire message strategy on one slide. Build out from there – from a simple email to a robust and impactful video.