Communicating Change (and Upping Your Game as You Grow) Part 1

Most of us go to great lengths to manage communications with customers and clients. Nurturing your internal messaging is mission-critical too. Especially during times of growth and change.

Regular, transparent and considerate messaging keeps your team engaged and keeps your company culture thriving. If your company hasn’t already, it’s time to get strategic about internal communication. Especially if your crew is growing, or some kind of organizational change is afoot.

Commit to a solid internal comms plan.

We live and breathe the power of messaging. So we take note of the immediate impact and the on-going ripple effect communications have within our own tribe. The Big Sea team has been through a merger with a competitor agency, transitioned to a company-wide Agile project management methodology and then worked in some significant growth to boot.

In short: we’ve been through a lot of change and we’ve taken on a boatload of lessons. If any lesson rings the truest, it’s that communicating any kind of change, and keeping communication constructive when you grow, requires a good and proper plan.

But before you think content strategy and messaging schedules, there are three company culture steps you need to take to make sure that your team is ready to receive your messaging.

1. Align your leadership…and gather intel.

You need buy-in from your leadership team. Make sure you have a connected executive team that gets the why behind the changes.

Support your leaders, and show them their place in the organization’s future. Your leadership team is critical to the success of your communication strategy. You need them to be ready to reinforce the company’s internal messaging and to embody the company culture.

Integrate their experience and opinions about your operation and communications — they will be critical in helping you with the next step.

2. Create a culture of communication.

You already have a communication culture in your company. But is it a good one? When you bring a message of change to your team, is your message going to be received from a place of established respect and openness?

It’s time to assess where your communications stand.

Take a look at how communication flows through your organization. Break down your info-share into “bottom-up” and “top-down” methods.

Bottom up: is there a stronger tendency for your team to communicate upward to the executive team, rather than the other way round? E.g. feedback programs or open-door managers always ready for questions and employee feedback.

Top down: does most information filter down from the top to the team, e.g. internal emails from management, and CEO intranet updates.

Ask your team what communication channels are working, which aren’t, and which are missing.

Will your current methods continue to work in your new world order? And are those pathways and communications styles constructive? A company with an organic and non-formalized communication style might find itself stuck when a new hierarchy is introduced or new folks are added to the mix. You might be consumed with new customers and new hires, with a mess of crossed messages, yet-to-be-written processes and good intentions.

You need to identify how your messages will be best communicated to your team, and create a proactive schedule that preemptively answers questions you know are coming. And then you need to be ready for the questions you didn’t foresee.

3. Give your team a voice.

Sounds elementary? Most of us who are into employee engagement in the modern era assume that our team is heard. The truth is that is not always the case.

Consider those personalities who don’t speak up…ever. Consider the workplace whirlwind. As you grow or there is a period of uncertainty, make sure you are ready to hear your team. Set the importance of team input and feedback as a culture priority.

And remember to prep your leaders to foster an atmosphere of openness and real communication (you might need to source some coaching!).

You want to make sure that information is being shared from the top effectively, and that your team’s valuable inputs are heard and acted upon. There’s a recent trend for companies to turn top-down communication on its head. Talk to CEOs and CHROs, and you’ll hear how many company-wide meetings are taking on the traditional townhall approach — a short leader-led presentation followed by ample time for questions and comments from the team.

The result? Cohesive, high morale, high functioning companies where ground level business intelligence is making its way to the top, and making them better.

Be patient while everyone adapts

Establishing new behaviors takes time. It can take months for your team to get the hang of asking questions, especially if they are not used to doing so. If it feels like a slow start, stay the course!

Be consistent. Encourage feedback — and provide different communication pathways for different personalities. Follow up on that feedback. Act on it, fast. And always reply. As you would a customer.

Up next: Key points to consider when shaping your content for communicating change.