Engage Through Change

“What’s happened here?” a manager of a client recently asked. “We used to be so agile, and now we have to wait months to get a request for a new project approved.”

“You grew,” I answered.

I thought how human development and organizational development are remarkably similar. Early childhood growth is marked by easily identifiable milestones. A crawl turns into a walk. A walk transforms into confidence and balance, and sprinting soon follows. Speech develops, as do cognitive skills. Internal systems of processing make sense of the world, and meaningful interactions develop. It’s the time of invention, risk taking and hopefully, adaptability.

In their early days, businesses rely on exploration and experimentation. They are clumsy at best, yet their can-do spirit is unflappable. They take pride in the “let’s figure it out” mentality.  Going through this messy process is the only way to discover the true personality of a company. This stage of the business attracts talent that loves to shoot from the hip, and follows the fire, aim, ready approach to growth. It is usually a forgiving environment, too. “Well, we gave it a try,” is often the casual statement to a failed project, before the team brushes off their elbows and attempts their next idea.

Like a small plane whose engine sputters before it whirs, a successful business will be bumpy before it catches and soars. Left to their own devices, employees will struggle to navigate through change. The excitement that fueled the “Will it fly?” question, needs to be replaced with a new question to move your staff to the next phase of growth, and you’ll happily grow the company together toward a new target.   Without declared direction, the starting team can be left on the runway, bewildered and lost, wondering, “What now?”

When a company graduates from its early development years to maturity, the very employees that launched it can feel left behind and become disengaged unless a new vision is declared. You’ll know you’re succeeding in communicating through growth if your employee turnover is low. You’ll know you’re failing if you’re constantly looking at empty desks and new faces.

According to Towers Watson’s 10th annual Change and Communication ROI Study, companies that are effective in change management and communication are three and a half times more likely to significantly outperform their industry peers that are not as effective. Yet, they found that the emphasis companies had on managing change was minimal. While about nine out of 10 organizations provide management training to communicate change, only 22% report they do so effectively. Only 43% of organizations report that their HR and communication teams have a long-term plan to support their employee value proposition.

In any organization, all eyes go to the top when looking for direction. The CEO represents strength, wisdom and knowledge. When the message comes from the uppermost leadership, it is trusted. The executive team must also give clear direction, setting the compass supported by a sense of purpose. Unity is vital, and enthusiasm is non-negotiable. When the senior leadership is aligned, and more layers are involved, it is easy for employees to follow, and no talent will be left behind.

There are many ways to communicate the strategy and purpose of growth to staff:

  • Hold a company meeting and unveil the new strategy, with excitement. The presentation will be memorable and become a compass for the organization. Make it an annual meeting to refuel enthusiasm.
  • Repeat the message in company newsletters
  • Write a State of the Company message in a company-wide email
  • Discuss the vision for the company in the executive team meetings, with a plan in place for each layer of management to share it with their teams
  • Include the message in all employee trainings

Communication is key. Engage your team, and you will happily grow the company together.





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