When companies undergo change, communication plans are mostly focussed on external target audiences. It's important to communicate that new innovation or product to (potential) clients, right? Yes, definitely. But in times of working remotely and a market that is constantly changing, innovation is crucial to stay ahead of the competition. And the driver of innovation are not your customers, but your employees. Therefore, the internal target audience should always be kept in mind when it comes to change management. But how?
Over the past years, digitalisation has become more and more important to keep up with the competition. But when it comes to communicating digital transformations, companies often fall back on communication plans targeting potential customers rather than their own employees. But the internal target audience is more important than ever - especially when it comes to innovation and digital transformation. After all, motivated and knowledgeable employees are the best marketing a company can have. And they are the one that drive innovation within a company. But if employees are so important, wouldn't it be logical to make them a priority when it comes to communicating change? We definitely think so.
Checklist for Internal Communication During Change
Let's start with the basics: It's crucial to understand that any change within a company, for example a strategic change or digital transformation, stands or falls with the acceptance of the employees. If they don't accept the change, it's not going to happen in the first place. They are the 'internal customer' of your company, and they need to change their behaviour and work with the change on a daily basis to make it a success. It doesn't matter if the change is related to IT, HR or product development. Or something completely different. If the employees don't accept and embrace the change, your company will have a hard time implementing it successfully.
And that's exactly why change managers, project managers and / or consultants should always take their internal customers into account during the change process.
Internal communication has the power to make or break any change project. And just sending out a simple and short message on the intranet or organising one webinar with the management team is mostly not enough to communicate change appropriately. Especially if the change is structural for the daily tasks of the employees, it requires paying more attention to the needs of the internal target audience. Having a good internal communication plan is key. But what to pay attention to, exactly? Well, that's what we made this checklist for.
Organisational Perspective: Focus on the Problem
'If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.'
It's debatable if it was Albert Einstein who said this, or somebody else. But it doesn't even matter: We agree. What does it change actually mean for a company? It means that the current situation is changing, in one way or the other. This mostly includes the daily tasks of the employees. It might be a small change, but it might still affect them structurally. They probably have been doing their job the same way for years, and now it's required they do it differently. That's why you need to focus on something important before diving right into the change process: Define and clarify what the change means for the organisation. To which degree is the change critical for the business? Why is it important for the company that the change is successful? What are the consequences if it's not successful? And what happens if the employees do not support it?
Gap Analysis: The Difference Between your Starting Point and Your Goal
Once you have defined the importance of the change itself for the company, it's time to work out a communication plan. Knowing what your final destination will be is always crucial when you start making plans, so why skip this step in internal communication? Think about where you want to take your target audience: What is their current situation and what needs to change to make the change project successful? As soon as you know the starting point and the goal, you can start mapping out the road that will get you (and your internal audience) there.
To successfully reach your goal, you'll need to motivate your internal audience and to provide them with the necessary knowledge about the change project. Make sure to not only spot the knowledge gaps, but also pay attention to the 'motivational gaps': What do they need to know to make the change successful? And what do they need to be motivated to start the journey with you? As soon as you have identified the gaps, you have a clear pucture of what your audience needs to reach the goal. It also gives you insights about the complexity of the change project and the communication around it.
Think Like the Target Audience, not Like the Management
It's one of the biggest pitfalls of internal communication: When you keep thinking from the perspective of the management, you might not be able to give your audience what they need. Or in other words: You might share all the information that makes the change process perfectly clear to the management team, but the employees might still not understand it, because the information is not relevant to them. The management most likely knows why the change is necessary. Employees probably don't (yet). Their starting point is completely different and to motivate them to participate in the change, you'll need to meet them there.
So you'll need to start thinking like your target audience. To make it easier, you could work with personas to define exactly which information they will need to contribute to the change process. You've probably done so already for external communication, where this strategy is applied over and over again to market (new) products. So why not try and use it in internal communication, too?
Creating personas basically helps you to understand your target audience by creating a fictional personification of them. Who is that person who is part of your target audience? What do they do every day and how will they react to the information you are about to communicate? When thinking about personas, you start thinking like your target audience. It helps you to make your internal communication more effective and purposeful!
The Employee Journey: The Right Information at the Right Time
Timing is key. To make your internal communication as effective as possible, you'll need to communicate the right information at the right time. Only then you'll be able to really reach your target audience and make your message stick. It sounds pretty complicated at first, but you can create an employee journey to make it easier. The goal you defined earlier will be the final destination of this employee journey. Based on that goal, you can define the steps your employees need to take to reach it. Let's quickly look at an easy example:
Goal: Canteen needs to be cleaner.
Target audiences: Administrative employee & cleaning staff
The first question you should ask yourself is: Do all target audiences need the same information at the same time? The answer is no:
Target audience 1: Administrative employee
The administrative employee's daily work has nothing to do with the goal. They usually don't have anything to do with cleaning the canteen. Therefore, they will need more convincing arguments to contribute to reach the goal and will probably ask why they need to play a role in this.
Target audience 2: Cleaning staff
For the cleaning staff, the goal is very clear, as cleaning the canteen is already part of their daily business. There is hardly any need to explain to them why they need to contribute to reach the goal. Instead, they will need instructions to know how they are supposed to reach the goal.
Once you figured out that both audiences are in need of different kinds of information, you should also think about the way you will reach them. Can you reach them in the same way or will you need to think about alternatives to things like emails or the intranet to get your message across? And when should you get in touch with them? The answer to these questions can be just as diverse as the question if they need the same kind of information. Depending on the subject you are trying to communicate, one target audience might be fine with a sumup if the most important information, while others might need an e-learning or instruction video. Going back to our example, we have to admit an e-learning or animation would be a little over the top: The cleaning staff probably doesn't check their emails daily, therefore it's not the ideal way to communicate with them. While emails might be the perfect way to let your administrative employees know. You get the point.
Predetermine Success and Optimise your Results
Previously, you already determined what the goal of your internal communication campaign will be, and now you are working towards it. But at what point will you have achieved it and when can you call your campaign successful? Exactly. That's why it's super important to not only set a goal, but to make it measurable and define the point when it turns successful. Set achievable goals and define the steps you need to reach on the way to reduce the complexity of the project.
No matter how big or small your internal communication campaign is, you will need to make your activities measurable to determine if the campaign was successful. As soon as it is measurable, you will be able to gain relevant insights that help you to improve your strategy and ensure efficiency.
To make your internal communication campaign successful, it comes down to one central question before diving right into the process: What do your internal target audiences need to reach your predefined goal in terms of knowledge and motivation? Once you know the answer, you can proceed by identifying your message per target audience and what you need to get it across successfully. By making it measureable, you are able to keep an eye on the campaign and adapt your way of communicating if necessary.
Focussing on internal target audiences is crucial to make change successful. Curious about how we can help you to achieve your goals? Get in touch with our consultants who are happy to help you set up your internal communication plan!
Thousands of happy Funk-e clients...