In this month’s issue: Communication tips for managing change and empowering your managers to engage with employees.
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Views from the front line of change: Afiniti Engagement and Comms Consultant Nadia Conway Rahman
What’s your experience of managing change? We asked one of our consultants to share hers
Nadia delivers change to people in large organisations like DHL, Royal Mail and Network Rail. She identifies ways of working and culture, and devises engagement and communications strategies; supporting employees throughout programmes including transformations and technology change.
What it’s like delivering change when it goes well?
The most high speed collaboration I’ve ever seen was at an energy client, up in Aberdeen. This remains a favourite project.
They’d bought a $1bn North Sea asset, which includes an oil platform. We had 12 weeks to understand all the technology changes they’d need help with, and make sure everyone was ready to switch to a new way of working overnight. This was a huge deal; nobody could afford to stop drilling, yet any glitch could have brought everything to a halt.
The urgency and high stakes helped everyone to focus on just getting stuff done. What’s more, being a young and energetic company, the IT leadership was up for trying new things and signing things off at pace. Their trust and enthusiasm paid dividends, and the transition was a real success.
Sometimes when things are changing, you might sign up to the change verbally, but deep down don’t believe it still applies to you. Think of automatic supermarket checkouts – at the first encounter you wanted to throw down your bags and get a ‘real person’ to help you.
We do a lot of work to help clients introduce new technology, for example, switching to self-service HR. People might generally agree that web-based timesheets beat using bits of paper. They’ll do the eLearning and nod along to the concept. But when the new system gets awkward they’ll avoid using it and persuade the admin team to help them out directly.
What I really learnt from this is that, as a change consultant, you’ve got to go through these smaller changes yourself.
It’s easy to talk about big change like acquisition or relocation, but make sure you’re always exposed to smaller changes – fix your own IT, rearrange your office space. The frustrations and adaptations help you empathise with the people you’re trying to help.
What skills do you need to be a change manager?
A good change manager will see things from many points of view. It helps if you’re naturally curious and a good listener.
The best advice I’ve been given is: ‘try and understand before you make yourself understood – take time to see what motivates your audience.’
Change management tends to be done against tough deadlines, but we mostly work best with people who look and feel relaxed. So I think the most inspiring change managers are those who keep things moving without losing the calm manner that encourages people to open up and share what’s going on.
Engaging people on the frontline
Change Health-check: Planning, measuring and re-evaluating your front line engagement
Often called a change readiness assessment (CRA), the change health-check can be done at any stage of your project.
Middle managers and the project team are often tasked with leading employees through periods of change and yet often they don’t have the required knowledge of change management.
They are part of the communications plan and given the communications toolkit but can need practical support. A CRA and follow up workshop can help identify gaps in their capability and provide that support.
A CRA is usually a series of questions aimed at uncovering where the organisation or project is in terms of leading change, communicating and training around the new, identifying drivers and benefits, change method and culture.
It may also include a survey of managers with a series of questions around:
- Their own and their teams’ commitment to, and understanding of the vision, the quality of the communications and dialogue they are having
- Their understanding of their role
- Current blockers and enablers
A CRA can help managers and leaders to understand the following:
- The goals and benefits of the change and the impact on employees
- Their role in the change journey and how to have a positive impact
- What actions they need to take
- What success looks like in guiding employees through change
The results of a CRA show where the change effort could be vulnerable or is already faltering. A resulting workshop discussion will generate ideas to boost engagement and address other areas of weakness. A healthcheck workshop could include:
- A presentation of the change curve to show how employees react to change
- Break away discussion on how well change in managed in the organisation and how the current change is being communicated and received
- A plan to improve engagement on current projects
- An outline of good and bad practices of change leaders and managers and how to make the task easier
- An agreed set of short term actions for quick wins
- A clear definition of roles of those managing change and their accountability
A project or programme often starts to stutter because of inadequate engagement and communication relating to the most important part of an organisation: its people.
If you carry out a healthcheck, you can identify weak points and give people the knowledge and support they need to deliver change, which is valuable at any stage in a project.
Preparing for change. Free online change readiness assessment
Engaging and Communicating with your audience – Communications reference guide
Change management techniques for communicating change. Plus, approaches to communication that will get people engaged with your project.
“As long as we hit OUR project’s deliverables it will all work out!” What to do when tunnel vision hits.
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