The Real Change Pitfalls – Part II: Employee Communication

Just a few days ago I published the first part of my series on the real Change Pitfalls. In the second part I would like to focus on Employee Communication as another major topic causing trouble when it comes to change…

Again, please bear Kotter’s Eight in mind, as failing Employee Communication is clearly part of the set of items:

  • Not establishing a great enough sense of urgency
  • Not creating a powerful enough guiding coalition
  • Lacking a vision
  • Under-communicating the vision by a factor of ten
  • Not removing obstacles to the new vision
  • Not systematically planning for–or creating–short term wins
  • Declaring victory too soon
  • Not anchoring changes in the corporation’s culture

Starting Part II – Employee Communication

Reason #3: The organization is not Culturally Ready

Having in hand the calculated ROI, project risk mitigation plans, and dedicated
resources are not enough to ensure a successful Change Implementation. It is critical not
to underestimate the Organization’s Culture and attitude as key factors in the success of a
change initiative. The Employees’ Attitudes need to be positive, willing, and ready to accept
and adopt the Change. A function of their attitude is the organization’s culture. You need to

  1. Culturally how does this organization view Change?
  2. How successful were previous Change Management initiatives?
  3. How Ready is the business for Change?
  4. What else is currently happening to or within the organization?

Reason #4: Employees do not understand the reason why

When you’re heavily involved in a project—either as senior leader or as one supporting
the change implementation (e.g. HR) – it’s easy to overestimate the Knowledge Level of the
general employee population regarding the Change. This disconnect from the reality may
result in project leadership’s resistance to adequately communicate to the broader employee

Here’s what that Resistance might sound like:

  • “We don’t want employees to have information overload.”
  • “It’s obvious why we’re going through this Change. We don’t want to come across as patronizing.”
  • “This Change doesn’t impact too many employees; no need to over communicate.”
  • “We’ve explained the change once; no need to make it sound like a bigger deal than it is.”

However, unless the troops genuinely understand and buy-in to the Change, adoption
rates will be low and the risk of missing the expected ROI will be high.

Imagine the following situation: A large medical organization with multiple facilities redesigned all HR
processes, outsourced them to a third-party administrator, and implemented new
manager self-service tools.

Where is the Pitfall: Based on the assumption that this implementation would not impact the
day-to-day operations for most employees, project leadership planned a minimalist
approach to Change Communications, relying on posters and a few information sessions
to announce the new manager self-service features.

Not surprisingly, at the time of go-live end users felt inadequately prepared to use the
system and flooded the outsourced call center to report system issues which were–
in fact–user errors. The unanticipated call volume resulted in long wait times. So at
least in the short term, a system that was intended to streamline and speed up HR
processing of data and payroll produced instead confusion, resistance, agitation and
increased processing times.

Directly go to part 3 here!

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