NEWSLETTER
Change management
Communicating transformation: How to inspire your employees

Table of contents

Are you planning a transformation in your company and want to get started? Great, but where do you start? How do you manage to involve and even inspire your colleagues? How do you communicate and why?
We will give you tips on how to get started with the transformation and help you to communicate the kick-off. And show you how you can tackle ongoing communication during the transformation.

Communicating transformation: How to inspire your employees

Thomas has really got his work cut out for him…
He works in a large company with many locations. There are many rules and processes that no longer fit in with employees’ everyday lives. But: they are communicated from the top down and should be observed by everyone. The employees have settled in, created their own space and are simply trying to get by as best they can. Everyone fiddles around a bit. Communication between people in similar positions at different locations is virtually non-existent. And there is also hardly any upward communication.
Charlotte works at a location in southern Germany and is regularly annoyed: communication within the company is not really organized, i.e. she sometimes receives 14 emails about the same thing. That only slows things down. Everyone finds communication in the company difficult and complains. But previous attempts to change something were only perceived as further useless or disruptive rules from above or as an attack on their own position and competence. Everyone ducked away and carried on in their bubble as before.
And now that is set to change: Thomas wants to remove the obstacles to employees’ work caused by the difficulties in internal communication. He has spoken to his superiors and has been given the green light: Yes, internal communication is to be reorganized. The framework for the transformation is defined. Now it’s time to get started.
But where to start? And how to deal with resistance within the company? After all, everyone should take part because otherwise it simply can’t work.

Transformation – where to start?

Everything is prepared; the roles are clear, the mission defined, the goal in sight… the transformation of your company can begin.
Which is the smartest way to start? – The one who manages to turn employees into allies rather than victims; into team members who have the same goal in mind.
But why? Why should you involve the workforce at all?
Who knows what they might come up with? Would that always be constructive? Isn’t it smarter, easier, more time- and money-saving to simply let the upper echelons or management decide what is important for the future of your company?
Yes, it is a risk: if you involve everyone in the company in the transformation, then you no longer have complete control over it.
But the benefits outweigh the risks here: fundamental change can only take place with united forces; it requires not only acceptance, but the participation of everyone. If change is imposed on employees from above, there is a high probability that resistance will take hold and the transformation will not gain momentum. Only when everyone in the company can express and contribute their points of view, criticism and ideas for solutions do they feel part of the transformation. This makes your employees much more motivated and committed. In this way, the energy does not flow into the resistance, but into the transformation itself.
And that’s not all: by incorporating all of your colleagues’ perspectives, situations and needs, you naturally come up with solutions that work better for everyone. And these are usually not only better, they are also much more likely to be accepted by employees.
Conclusion: Worth it!

Thomas has several discussions with his management about whether the transformation should really be democratized and the ideas developed with the employees. In the end, he prevails: “Our goal is to become faster, more flexible and less bureaucratic. This is only possible if everyone in the company thinks and acts independently and if the management trusts them. Then we can start right away.”

Communication – when to start?

When should you communicate the transformation for the first time? – As early as possible!
Your employees should have the chance to come on board right from the start. Don’t let the feeling arise that you or the management have made decisions over the heads of the employees without them being able to participate. You and your transformation team don’t need to know everything yet. It’s even good if you only have an initial, rough roadmap and leave enough space in between for your colleagues’ ideas and opinions.
You don’t need to know everything yet. But you should already have resources at the start so that you can begin implementation immediately and not in six months’ time. In plain language: As soon as the first communication about the transformation has taken place, you should get started as soon as possible!
Use the momentum that is created. If the information is disseminated and well received, then people want to get started. If you let too much time pass, you may get the impression that there is a lot of talk but nothing happens.
So: as soon as you have the framework conditions clear, as soon as you know how you want to organize and communicate the transformation – in short: when the preparations have been made – then organize a kick-off!

Thomas Chef initially takes the view that visible results need to be produced before communicating to employees. “Otherwise we raise expectations that we may not be able to meet.” But in the end he is persuaded. Above all, the argument that changes cannot be kept secret for long and that rumors do more harm than good is decisive. As soon as the rough concept is finalized, several dates for video conferences will be scheduled to communicate to the entire workforce what is planned and how everyone can participate.

The path to a constructive error culture

Communication to all instead of communication cascades

Do you remember the game Silent Mail? The fun of this game is how much the original message changes. It’s the same in real life: if you send a message on a journey and it reaches several people in between and is sent again by them in their own words, then you can expect anything, except that your original message will reach everyone one-to-one.
Therefore: if it is really important, do without communication cascades!
If it is important that your message reaches its recipients intact, then send it directly!
Always send essential information to everyone who is affected at the same time!

In Thomas’ area, there has not yet been any joint communication with everyone. The team leaders were relied upon to pass on important information. All too often, teams had very different information, which led to irritation and frustration. As part of the transformation, a concept for direct communication to everyone is now being developed:

What information is so important that it should be sent directly from the top management? And how do you reach all employees? Thomas now has two video conferences of one hour each per month, which have the same content. This means that every employee can dial in when it suits them best. Questions or comments can also be posted in the chat, so that feedback on planned projects is also possible. The whole thing is recorded and made available on the intranet afterwards.
Persona Meeting

Which form of communication is best?

Which form of communication is best? – It depends on what you want to convey. Some forms of communication have proven to be more effective in terms of transformation. Let’s take a look at it.

The email

Can you be sure that your emails will have the desired effect? Um, no!
Although you have sent your e-mail, this does not mean that it has been seen. Maybe it ended up in spam, maybe it was overlooked.
Even if it has been seen, it may not have been read through. And even if it has been thoroughly studied on the receiving side, this does not mean that it has been understood in the sense of the sender. And even if everything worked and the email was understood, that doesn’t mean that someone has actually started to implement it. Emails leave too much room for interpretation, especially when it comes to topics that can be perceived emotionally.
As you can see, a lot can go wrong when communicating by e-mail…

Thomas nods sullenly. “Yes, that’s right. – Most of our work has been done by email so far.”

Email, telephone, video meeting?

Where communication is not clear, misunderstandings can arise. And these are fertile ground for conflict. The more direct the communication, the more unambiguous it is. This means that it is always better to have a telephone call or a telephone conference than to simply write an e-mail. A video meeting tops the telco. And the best way is, of course, personal communication.
This means that you cannot avoid regular personal communication with everyone.

Personal communication? – Thomas is naturally delighted. It’s always more fun to talk to people. But how is that supposed to work with so many locations? After all, he can’t keep jogging around shaking hands with everyone.

Which form of communication for many locations?

Does your organization have many locations? Or is it very large and an enormous number of people need to be involved? In this case, personal communication is a pious wish, because the time and money that would be wasted on traveling do not offset the benefits of personal communication. In some companies, the annual employee meeting must suffice. In many cases, video meetings are the method of choice.
What type of communication is optimal in your company?
Choose the form of communication that does justice to the importance of the message, the benefits and the resources used and with which you can address people as personally as possible!

Communicating transformation

All-hands meetings

One example of company-wide communication is the all-hands meeting. The format is also known as a town hall meeting. All employees come together. News, updates and strategies are discussed. Everyone has the chance to ask questions – and of course there is room to celebrate the milestones and successes achieved. Anyone who wants to can take part. If you can’t be there, you can watch the recording. Worldwide all-hands meetings are held regularly at Google.
We were able to experience a variation of this at one of our customers: A so-called “Soup Day” takes place there every month. The company’s 250 employees are spread across seven locations. At Soup Day, employees eat lunch together: they meet in conference rooms and these are connected together on large screens so that everyone can see each other. The Board of Directors and other employees discuss topics that are important to everyone.
Whether it’s a team, a department or the entire company: use virtual or live formats in which everyone can participate to get a transformation rolling in your company!

Thomas has often found that conversations and meetings are much more successful and sustainable than other communication channels. To convince his superiors to take a different approach this time, he wants to gather a few more arguments for an all-hands meeting.

The advantages of employee meetings (all-hands meetings)

Perhaps your company already has meeting formats that involve everyone. But maybe not. If not, start now!
This not only benefits a transformation, but also helps communication within the company in many ways:

Transparency

Direct communication eliminates the silent post factor and there are fewer misunderstandings. This enables employees to see their part in the big picture more clearly.

Motivation

Employees hear first-hand about successes and plans for the future. This creates equality, a feeling of belonging and commitment. And that in turn leads to people being more committed to their company.

Order

The management must officially and clearly give the order for the change, the project. This is particularly the case when it comes to involving the people in the company. Without a mandate from management, no progress will be made, as the existing culture, i.e. the way of doing things, processes and structures, will slow down the transformation.

Trust and familiarity

Introduce yourselves to the others! The people who act, who are in charge, should introduce themselves to the others and tell them what they intend to do and, above all, why. This allows colleagues to build trust. They know what role the respective person has. It’s not just a stranger who keeps you from doing your actual work. The more your project differs from what usually happens in the company, the more important it is to build trust.

Team spirit/feeling of togetherness

When everyone comes together, when everyone has the same experiences, when the entire workforce can work together, a stronger team feeling is created.

Efficiency

You can implement changes much more quickly if you don’t have to communicate through a cascade of information first. The fact that you have a direct communication channel at your disposal means that you can communicate information or decisions to all employees much more quickly.

Communication tool

We have discussed that meetings with everyone are essential. There needs to be a second level of communication where everyone can find out about the project: the digital platform where everyone can keep up to date with the latest results and successes, information and also experience reports.
What could such a tool be?
For example, employees could use the intranet, a company app or a Teams channel to obtain information and exchange ideas. Some of our customers work with Confluence, if necessary SharePoint also works.
The most important thing: Make sure that this channel is always updated so that the impression is not created that the project is lying idle. Find someone who is responsible for this channel. Only if there is life on the channel will it be used regularly.

CEO speech

The kickoff event

The kickoff is when you decide to address the team and announce the transformation. Up to now, you have taken care of initiating the transformation in a small circle: The management and a few colleagues are involved. Apart from that, nobody knows yet. It’s time to get everyone else on board! Here are a few points to bear in mind:
You invite everyone involved in the upcoming transformation to the kickoff. We actually mean EVERYONE who works in the relevant team, area or department; and if we are talking about the organization as a whole, then the entire workforce.

Organize the kickoff

You need 60-90 minutes for a kickoff. If your company is very large, then offer several kickoffs – that way everyone will find an opportunity to take part. For example, you can schedule a kickoff on two different days so that employees who are not available on one date can also take part. If your company is international, think about kickoffs in different languages!
And so that everyone can really watch the kickoff, record the event!

Thomas and his colleagues are planning a kick-off event. They are still not quite sure how this will work. How do you get the many employees excited?

How do you get the event going so that everyone feels addressed?

Successful change in values

The process of a successful kickoff

There are various ways to successfully organize a kick-off. But what needs to be conveyed?

The WHY of transformation

The transformation is important for the company; the sponsor, i.e. the highest-ranking person responsible for the business unit, should communicate this. It is essential to communicate the “why” (WHY): has the market changed and does the company need to follow suit? Were there any surveys and does anything need to change as a result? Are concrete figures and results available? The audience should be given an overview of the necessities and as enticing a view of the vision as possible.

Rollers

The management officially awards the mandate: the core team for the transformation is introduced, the project manager, and of course everyone else who is already active in the project. Is there already a team? Are you still looking for fellow campaigners? A project is just an idea until there is a clear mandate and the right people for it.

Process

What happens next? What are the next steps? How will the process work?

To Dos

Now it gets concrete: To-dos are formulated, for example: “You will receive a link, enter XY there.” Or “We have launched an appeal on the intranet. Anyone who wants to can get in touch with us to get involved.”

Ambassador

Does your company have many employees? In this case, we often work with ambassadors for each team who represent the rest of their colleagues in the transformation and ensure communication. Use the opportunity of the kickoff to describe what the task involves and invite people to join!

Conclusion

There will certainly be questions and comments, and they will find their place here. Feedback is supportive for the players.
Sometimes it is not so easy to find the right words to formulate the plan at the kick-off in such a way that it motivates and engages people. We would like to provide you with a structure that we have had good experience with.

Kickoff Meeting

Communicating the transformation

How can a planned change, a (e.g. value-based) transformation be communicated? We are guided here by the “change storyline”.
We have incorporated the points mentioned above.
  1. The past

Where we come from: what worked well? What have our environment, the market and customers been like so far?
Why did our previous approach, our previous corporate culture, fit in with this?
  1. Present

What has changed? Why do we have to move? What developments have there been?
These could be, for example, changing market conditions, new customer requirements, improved technologies, but also the changing needs of Generation Z.
  1. The future

What do we do now? Where should the journey go now? No details are needed here yet. It’s about a motivating, ideally inspiring vision.
  1. Steps

Here are a few more details: What are our steps towards transformation? What results do we expect? Who is responsible? – This is the ideal place to introduce the roles in the transformation.
  1. Difficulties and resistance

Of course there are objections from employees. You can discuss the ones you can see ahead here. For example: It won’t be easy to get used to it. We will need a lot of staying power. We will also have to reckon with difficulties.
  1. Confidence

“We’re going to make it!” Focus on the strengths of your employees and your company. What motivates everyone? Show appreciation for what has been achieved so far and for the work that has been done. Anything that is encouraging and has a positive effect should be said here.
  1. Contribution

“What we need from you:…” – formulate here what the people in the company can do. What actions can they take, what attitude is helpful in the face of the new?
And if you are looking for an ambassador: this is the ideal time…
  1. Summary

Get to the heart of why a transformation is imminent and why it is worthwhile!
  1. Questions & wishes

A transformation is a dialog, and this is where it begins: now it’s the employees’ turn. Do you have any questions, requests or comments?
With these steps, we provide you with a tried-and-tested process: we have already used it to initiate many transformations, explain why the upcoming change is important, motivate employees and discuss questions and objections with them.

Large groups

If the team is small, many people still speak up, but if there are a lot of people, not everyone dares to speak up. We recommend small groups here. Employees can discuss everything in small groups and collect their questions and comments.
If you meet online, now would be the time for breakout sessions. As in the small groups, feedback can be collected and then published in the chat. A moderator reads aloud and asks questions.

Change Transformation

In order to invite all employees to participate in the transformation, Thomas’ project team organizes a kick-off in which the Managing Director gives a fiery speech about how the world has changed and that it is important for the company’s competitiveness to become faster and more flexible. He also talks about the last employee survey, which painted a clear picture that people feel slowed down by bureaucratic regulations. “We take you seriously and have launched the “Transformation” project to make ourselves fit for the future. And we hope that you will support us and be there!” He then introduces the project team and Thomas takes the floor. He presents the project, the first steps, what he would like from his colleagues and how everyone can get involved.
Charlotte, who was always annoyed by all the emails, is delighted. She feels heard and wants to make a contribution. Because she has often had ideas on how to change things. Nevertheless, she was critical of the half-hearted attempts at improvement to date. She saw this as old wine in new bottles.
She has yet to decide whether she will simply contribute her ideas or even participate as an ambassador. She is happy about the exchange with her colleagues and that perhaps the problems that have made her work difficult for years are actually being solved.
There is indeed applause and in the subsequent feedback round with breakout sessions, many colleagues express the hope that something will really change.
The start went great; the transformation has been successfully communicated. Now it’s time to stay tuned!
Our video fits in with this: What phases do people go through during a change?

Read more

Want to read a little more about transformation? Here are some of our articles that fit the theme:

Maybe you want to watch something on the subject? Then we have a video from Oliver for you:

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