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Home truths about successful change communication

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com

Workplace research proves that despite the accumulation of new technological channels, employees still want to see the CEO and senior managers face-to-face more often. When upper management do this, they improve employee satisfaction levels more strongly than arms-length tools such as newsletters, mass emails and intranets. The responses from focus groups confirm these findings.

In view of these findings, you need to bite the bullet and push senior managers to allocate more time to being physically present to their staff. It is often difficult to do this because hard working senior managers may not want to give more time to their staff and so they don’t want to hear your message about this.

When trying to convince senior managers to brief their staff more about their workplace performance and the direction of the organization or division, you can reinforce your point by referring to the results of employee surveys within your organization. This means that the recommendation to meet face-to-face more often is not just your opinion, but is the opinion of employees themselves – and after all, employee engagement is a priority in most organizations.

This also means you must organize surveys of employees about workplace communication. The HR department in most larger organizations already surveys employees. You just need to ensure communication questions are included in the surveys.

If employees aren’t surveyed at least annually by the HR department, you should initiate your own communication surveys. You can get guidance on this from Internet searches or from specialist consultancies. Invariably employees will say communication from their bosses and senior management is inadequate, and therefore this gives you ammunition for persuading senior managers to change their behavior.

As a substitute, you can conduct a couple of focus groups with a representative sample of employees. They will give you plenty of ammunition.

Another way to achieve this change is to get top management to agree to build this type of communication into the job description of all senior executives.

These findings also apply to change communication, which is important because one of the fundamental characteristics of our society is the increasing pace of change at every level.

Research by Australian employee communication specialist, Rodney Gray, found the key forces behind successful change management. He worked back from the responses to the survey question “Major changes appear well planned and implementation of changes well handled” and found that there were three key areas driving change:

  • The strongest component of successful change management was good communication (high correlation of 0.72).
  • The second strongest correlation was organizational satisfaction and culture (correlation of 0.65).
  • The other factor, upward communication, rated a 0.54 correlation.

In turn, the key factors comprising good employee communication were found to be:

  1. sufficient information provided to employees about change (correlation of 0.69)
  2. cross-area communication in which people from different departments communicated well outside their immediate workplace (correlation of 0.68).

The second strongest aspect of communication that employees wanted was good communication (appearances) from the CEO or Managing Director (correlation of 0.63).

Close behind was a third category of being treated with respect and dignity (0.62) and upward communication (0.60).

The fourth group comprised four factors:

  1. Change consultation (0.58)
  2. Divisional management communication (0.57)
  3. Executive briefings (0.53)
  4. Employee recognition (0.52)

The strength of all of these correlations indicates that the aspects they relate to are important to effective communication and the management of major change.

As a communicator, you could think about the implications of these findings and how you could make changes in your own priorities.

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website, www.cuttingedgepr.com, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.

 

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