employees discussing in common space

5 IC Principles Behind Engaging Change Communications

Our careers and the organizations we work for change over time. Change is inevitable. As an employee communications professional for two Fortune 500 companies, that fell under vastly different industries, I helped support merger communications for three large deals over four years. I’ve witnessed strong communications programs that led employees through change as well as information overload that negatively impacted employees in critical business units.

Whether you support communications for companies that are refashioning operations that target a portion of the workforce or immense enterprise-wide transformations that impact all employees, change communication is complex.

Here are essential change communications best practices that I have followed throughout the years to ensure the employee experience is top of mind, whether you’re focused on communicating change for 1,000 or 100,000.

1. Transparency Always Wins in Internal Communications

Change that has to go through legal approval in regulated industries or amid deals with publicly traded companies doesn’t mean companies need to remain silent. Educating employees about what can be shared in these instances and why certain aspects must go through regulated approval helps to build trust. By underscoring the company’s commitment to sharing the most critical information as it becomes available also reassures employees during times of vast changes. Build a resource portal on your intranet with a living list of questions and answers. As the information becomes available, point employees to these resource pages and save organizational updates for more significant milestones.

2. Proactively Own the Employee Change Experience

The communication strategy must be an early part of change planning and embedded within every integration workstream. If communicators are at the planning table and have a degree of autonomy, they can effectively advocate for the employee experience by building strategy into milestone communications that connect to the company’s more substantial transformation. The World Health Organization estimates that employee stress costs US businesses an estimated $300 billion every year. Communicators can work across the company to create content that is multi-dimensional in delivery and to engage employees around change. The reason for the change has to clear, and employees need to be central in owning change with avenues for sharing their ideas and feedback. 

Cerkl helps companies amplify employee engagement by connecting to existing communication channels to provide a seamless, personalized experience for every employee. Employees can select the company news areas of interest along with the day and time that they’d like to receive the information. Required information will always be prioritized as content that the employee must-read. Cerkl uses segmentation to target content to the appropriate audience employees to see what they want to see, ensuring they have read the required information in their preferred channel (email, mobile, or intranet).

3. Advocate for Simplicity at Every Turn  

Harmonization post-merger at the workstream level gets detailed, and it’s easy to get caught in the minutia. With mergers or acquisitions, companies must make change easy for their customers or risk losing them to competitors. The same is true for unpacking changes for employees. Integration between legacy companies has to be well thought out and choreographed across all business units. Employee communicators need to partner in lockstep with critical functions such as Learning & Development and HR.

When various features of the business push out their post-merger employee communications, change becomes complex. As communicators, you serve as a clearinghouse for scheduling communications that are strategic, targeted, and spaced appropriately. Whether it’s a merger or an organization restructuring, communications leadership must be included in understanding the macro business changes and how incremental updates make up the change journey to meet the company’s longer integration goals.

If they don’t have this insight, change communications become arbitrary and disjointed. Too much communication outlining smaller changes can burnout employees who tend to disengage. To keep productivity going, communications that cover lots of operational changes have to connect with broader change themes, and these communications have to be relevant to the targeted employee audience.

Cerkl gives you analytic tools to find out what content your employees are responding to, track content popularity, and use insights to inform your content strategy. You can also analyze what works with different employee groups across business units and see what particular format—short-form communications, video, graphics, or long-form messages—resonates most with employees.

4. Avoid Employee Email Overload

Not every communication needs to be sent via email. The Radicati Group, a research firm, estimates the total worldwide email traffic, including both business and consumer emails, is estimated to be over 306.4 billion emails per day, growing to over 347 billion emails per day by the end of 2023. Most employees receive nearly 100 emails per day. Layer on organizational changes on the job and keeping abreast of integration changes can be overwhelming. Consider a communications audit and hear from employees on which platform they consume company information and publish content to all your channels. 

At Cerkl, on-demand communications are employee-centric. Our solution saves communicators, on average, 40 hours a month by automatically publishing content to employees on their schedule and the platform of their choosing. Just like Netflix or Amazon, our solution tracks the content employees are consuming to make future recommendations based on their behavior. Communicators can see which required updates have been read.

When you put the power of company content consumption in employees’ hands with reliable targeting to the right employee audience, you create a personalized experience rather than a one-shot, blanketed email send that employees could miss or delete. With Cerkl, you reserve dedicated email sends to the most time-sensitive, all-employee impacting communications. Our clients have reported that employee engagement soars because employees are paying closer attention to emails reserved for news-breaking announcements. 

5. Use Creative Storytelling to Communicate Change

Communicators must have time to work across the company to create content in multiple editorial formats that reflect leader and employee voices to engage employees around change. Announcements with bulleted information are the go-to form for communicating change, but the information will stick if it’s coupled with a human-interest story on what the change looks like for the business.

Think about how storytelling can be infused to help guide employees through organizational changes. Fun educational trivia contests, leadership Q&As to uncover the foundational work required to lead change across the organization, in-person activities that help teams digest new information and human interest editorial pieces that spotlight the success of an individual or group. The goal is to mix it up. This is also a critical time to integrate vision, mission, and value statements—the ethos of the company—within all content pieces. Consider written communications that culminate in a leadership roadshow that connects employees with decision-makers in person.

Broadcast automates much of the communications design and delivery across your platforms freeing up time so communicators can focus on creating the most brand-defining, compelling content and offer time back to plan meaningful in-person forums between employees and leadership.

I'm a strategic business partner who is passionate about supporting clients' internal communications programs in order to personalize the employee experience and give life to a brand's message through storytelling.