Acknowledging effort and related success can be a small, but inspiring way to keep the initiative going.
Your organization is months into a long-term change initiative, and you find yourself hitting send on another copied and pasted email. You know you are supposed to keep communicating—reminding teams about the vision and the motivation, and giving them progress updates with new details. But, it can start to feel redundant when message fatigue sets in for both the communicator and the audience. How do you keep communication fresh?
You want to keep teams focused on the goal, and motivated to keep improving, but your teams are getting tired of the constant change and uncertainty. Maybe they have had some successes to celebrate, but there have also been some missteps and unpleasant surprises.
What are the best communication tools for change?
Given all these challenges, your initiative is in danger of losing momentum, but you can recover. So, how do you use communication to keep your change top-of-mind? How do you keep teams engaged, and drive them to success? We asked these questions to three of our communication designers. This is their advice:
Talk about the journey
Content strategist and project leader, Maeve Ruggieri says that one of the things that often gets missed or avoided is process communication. The change strategy gets communicated but then it all disappears after the initial kickoff. Team members need to know how we’re doing, how their work is paying off, and how their voice is being recognized. Maeve recommends the following tactics for on-going process communication:
“Quick win” stories. Share mini-case studies to show how your change initiative is already making improvements or even just making progress. This is a good time to profile different areas of the company and showcase how different teams are contributing.
“Fast fail” stories. A little different than quick wins. Sometimes a part of a strategy or a tactic didn’t work as intended, but it taught us a great lesson, and it’s helping us move forward in a better way. Celebrate the individual or team that helped the organization learn the lesson and move forward.
Project dashboards. Find ways to quantify progress and show how groups are moving through the overall change and toward related individual goals.
Feedback loops. Communicating about change can be a one-way street. But it’s also an opportunity for leaders to get honest feedback about how things are going. Employees feel heard, and leaders may get insights that managers or directors would otherwise miss. This also helps to identify areas of the organization that might need extra “rallying” or attention. Injecting this feedback and adjusting the strategy midstream could be an important driver of success. Feedback loops can take the form of “Ask me Anything” conversations with leaders, surveys and digital comments, or small team discussion forums.
Keep it positive
Writer Gwyn Cready recommends that organizations make sure to keep the momentum positive. Acknowledge effort and related success for a small, but inspiring way to keep the initiative going. Activities like a formal celebration of progress or sending thank you notes from managers to team members help to keep spirits high. As an added bonus, these actions provide change initiators a forum to re-emphasize their message. Pairing the recognition with mini-refresher courses or interactive quizzes engage people, and gives them a chance to sharpen their skills.
Design Strategist Nancy Herzing suggests that you engage change initiatives on a daily basis. This helps employees avoid getting lost in the daily grind and losing sight of how their work ties into the overall effort. Some thought-starters on how to do this include:
- Tie team meeting agenda items to the change initiative and make sure to give the context people need to see how it fits in. For example, reference back to broad goals of the change effort and show how small projects are helping to realize those goals.
- Give team members at-desk or in-workspace reminders. These can be as simple as a printable card with a mantra, a talisman that marks that they’re on the change team, or a even a functional tool that illuminates the issue that you’re trying to change.
- Ask employees to commit to the change by identifying three ways they can support it in their day-to-day workflows. Then have them share their support efforts with their team.
Keeping employees engaged through long-term change initiatives isn’t easy—but you can make it manageable and bearable. Always remember to keep communication fresh by employing these tactics.
Learn about using The Change Communication Framework for long-term change communication.