The good oil on change part 2

The second instance of change done really well was again in the Telecommunications industry, while I believe there were some lost opportunities with how technology was fully engaged in communications leading up the change decision, the communications done following the decision were done very well.

The change itself was difficult, the potential was very high for a large number of people to lose their jobs and everyone knew it.  The change was off-shoring a portion of the business, unfortunately there is little a company can do in communications when these kind of investigations take place.  There was open dialogue, however without a decision there wasn’t much to talk about.  The critical part for myself in observing this change was the way the decision was communicated.

For those not familiar with these kind of changes, you should be aware that the lead up to these changes happens well before the wider company is told.  Not Disclosure Agreements are standard; individuals across different business units are spoken to directly and brought onto the project to investigate the proposal – often external parties are utilized to provide additional expertise outside of the executive ranks, very few people (relative to the size of the organization) know anything is happening.  Potential vendors are found, the vendors premises are visited, numbers are run and rerun, public relations consequences are discussed, and significant investment is made into investigating the consequences, and profitability of such a decision.

Just after midday, managers and directly impacted employees where called into a meeting with the CEO, with offices around the country teleconferenced into the meeting.  Virtually at every meeting site, an executive of the company was present.  The meeting was short, telling us that the off shoring was going live and significant numbers of employees would lose their jobs doesn’t take long to announce.  From my perception of the CEO and executive staff they knew that this was a hard decision, they were making significant numbers of employees redundant – at a time when not a lot of jobs were around.  The face to face helped, the take home message we were left with was simply this:

“by 4pm today, everyone in this company is to know that this decision has been made, no one is to find out through reading the newspaper the next day.   Go back to your work areas and tell your staff, if you have staff on leave, get their phone numbers and call to let them know.”

Lets face it, this was a crappy day for a lot of staff, and a crappy day for a small township that was losing a significant employer (the second largest in the area if I recall correctly).  The ownership that was taken in communicating this was absolute; there was no doubt that everyone was to be told of this decision.  I never heard of any instance where an employee didn’t find out on that day, it was an outstanding effort to mobilize managers across a large workforce to ensure everyone knows within an hour or so after the decision being announced.

The take home message for organizational leaders, own the decision.  Announcing a decision like this is hard; don’t get someone else to deliver the message that you should – especially the media (the media is not your friend).

The good oil on change part 1

As mentioned in a previous entry, organisational change even when done well can have dramatic impacts on organizational members, their friends and family. When change is done well however, much of the negative aspects of change can be mitigated. The best change I’ve seen done was during my time in the Telecommunications industry, in two separate and competing companies that I worked with.

Perhaps because of what the core business of Telecommunication companies is, they may be better prepared to address change. A constant theme you’ll come across in my posts is communication, communication makes or breaks a change process – specifically two way dialogue is key.

In the first organization, the change was the departure of the current CEO and the arrival of a new CEO from offshore. A change in CEO may not impact the individual as much as say a restructure, however changes in management set the rumor mills going, what changes are going to be made, what did the new CEO do in their previous role – do they know how we work in this country?

Rumors are a direct threat to employee motivation, and indeed the success of the organization, and often a change in senior management such as a new CEO will set the rumor mills on hyper drive. I still remember sitting at my PC one morning and receiving an email from the CEO (as did the rest of the company), in the email was a video link that had the CEO talking about his vision for the company, his need to work around the company and see how telecommunications operated within this market, and his commitment to communicate with employees. These videos were brilliant, while no one strategy can quell the concerns when leadership changes, they did allow all of us in the company to hear him talking to us about the challenges and opportunities in this industry. The allowed us to gain a measure of the man, rather than simply reading something prepared by the Public Relations or Communications department, which happens to have the CEO’s name underneath it.

Great communication is timely, relevant and honest, a video communication (without all the bells and whistles) is a fantastic way to communicate to your audience. It allows the audience to see you, particularly in large organizations which has divisions across the country – and more often across the globe. Video’s do not have to have the professional gloss of a television advertisement, rather they can be done simply, with a clear and crisp format – no need for special effects.

In a change process communication is critical, as are the channels that you use in your communications. Selecting communication channels which fit your audience, for example using a video presentation in a factory may not fit the industry, while using video presentations in a telecommunications industry was a perfect fit. As with most things in life, there is no magic silver bullet, for communication to work several channels must be utilized to ensure the breadth of your audience is engaged and informed.

Change, the good, the bad, and the introduction

Change in organisations has always been the norm, unfortunately with the impacts of the Global Financial Crisis, the ongoing issues with Europe, and the speedily approaching financial cliff in the US, change is impacting us as employees more widely and perhaps more negatively than ever before. Being an HR Specialist I’ve been somewhat of an insider in many change initiatives, however I’ve also found myself along for the ride with my fellow employees on more than one occasion. I’ve had a ring side seat on a number of occasions in both New Zealand and Australia on change projects, and have certainly seen my share of organization change done well and change done badly (and a couple incredibly badly).

I’m not going to dress change up, change regardless of being done well or otherwise is enormously upsetting and challenging for those employees directly impacted, their friends and families, and for those left behind who managed to survive the storm of change, yet also almost enter a grieving period for those who have left. As someone who has been on both sides, informing decisions on who will leave the organization, and being someone who has been shown the door through a change process, I’ve started this blog to share some insights into the thinking that goes on behind the closed door of planning for change, mediated with how change has impacted myself, in an effort to inform both sides in the hope that we might be able to manage and overcome change moving forward.

So, I look forward to you joining me on this journey, viewing change through the eyes of an ‘HR guy’, and also one that is currently counting down the dates until current organizational changes sees him on the road.