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Archive for July, 2009

How To Energise A Change Fatigued Workforce

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

WorkersEnergising a change fatigued workforce is one of the hardest things to do in change management. It is so much more than team building events and celebrations and more and more communication. Most change communication focuses on information about what changes will occur, when, by whom and so on. This doesn’t inspire anyone, fails to energise and above all it creates apprehension about the unknown and the impact on employees. After all the most important take away from all change communication for employees is what’s in it for me. And despite the fact that you may have organised road shows, CEO blogs, email notices, staff meetings about the changes; until an employee experiences that change for them it is still the unknown because they have not had to deal with it.

So let’s examine some of the lost cost but highly effective strategies you can implement to energise your workforce and inspire them to do their best at work by looking at a few case studies.

In this instance we are looking at a car manufacturing plant. Whilst this is an old story about energising employees the principles remain the same. The Saturn Motor Company in the USA was after many years coming out of, yes you guessed it budget cuts, a poor economy, sliding car sales. Employees were proud of the company they worked for, but were fatigued and tired of hearing of new visions for the company and strategic reviews. The company decided to hold a three day event for customers and staff and they called it “The Saturn Homecoming.” The rest of the story is incredible, not only for the way it energised employees but also the fact that thousands of customers drove all over America to learn more about how their car was made and because they felt connected. I have attached a link to a brief video overview; the story is one to be seen to be believed.

Another completely different case study is one I worked on focussed on energising a workforce again going through budget cuts and changes in strategic direction. The organisation was moving to new premises from old tired offices, the IT systems were changing completely as was the way employees would be managing the customer experience. And we needed to do this quickly with nine new competitors in one year. We brought the new office design and fit out to employees, in their current work environment so they could touch and feel the difference. Then we developed a simulated team environment, with computer screens trying to explain the different workflows and impact on the customer experience. This is very different from taking people out of their office environment to a room on another floor to show what the new office will look like and how we will work as teams. People need to be able to compare, and most importantly experience the difference.

Now I know some of you will say with regard to the Saturn story that good times don’t last, absolutely, there will be economic booms and busts as there will be changes in CEO’s and the focus of executive teams. But this topic is how to deal with the here and now, how to energise a workforce and connect the journey and the vision of the organisation.

Please let me know your experiences of energising change fatigued employees and what has worked.

How to Reposition Employee Communication

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Employee communication is an interesting field because it is based on the premise, among others, that the more tools we use to communicate with employees the greater chance that the message will be understood. This may be the case, however what CEO’s want more than ever before is that employees are engaged with that message and deliver the business strategy.

If you really want to make a difference and to have a seat at the table when strategy is discussed then you need to move away from talking about the information tools that will be used to communicate and think about how you can contribute to achieving organizational outcomes. So where do you start and what is the difference?

Well first you need to understand business strategy. This is not a difficult thing to do, but once you have mastered this then the questions you ask about employee communication change. Typically they should include the following:
* What aspect of the business strategy could an employee communication plan impact?
* How will the business strategy be measured?
* How can my employee communication strategy be measured and linked to the business measurement?
* Can I devise a low cost yet high impact employee communication strategy that will engage employees?
* How can my employee “information” communication strategy compliment this?
* What will be different for employees and the business if this strategy is successful?

The most important question you really are asking is how can I reposition employee communication in the mind of the CEO and the Executive team so that it always has a place at the table from the beginning and not called in once decisions are made and asked to simply get the message out there. The only way to do that is by demonstrating what you can do. And the easiest way to do this is the following:

* Not everyone is going to be supportive so in the first instance identify a business unit or division with a manager you get on well with who understands and believes in the contribution employee communication can make in achieving business outcomes
* Next once you’ve read up on business strategy and understood the business and customer needs of the division make a time to meet with that manager to discuss the business strategy he or she is working on
* Ask what the business targets are, what will mean success?
* Ask for the opportunity to research how you might assist in developing an employee communication plan that will engage all employees including managers in that division to achieve the business outcomes
* Go away and research many different strategies and come back with a plan including examples of case studies where business outcomes have been measured and achieved through employee engagement

In the consulting world it is a commonly understood belief that you need to “earn the right to advance” you can’t just go in and expect understanding of what you have to offer if you can’t demonstrate it. Similarly you need to have a solid example for the CEO and the Executive team to stop and take notice, and most importantly demonstrate how you contributed to the achievement of business outcomes.

Once you can demonstrate this you have successfully repositioned Employee Communication and have earned that seat at the table.

Look forward to your comments.