What does digital transformation mean to you?
Most of us associate this well-known buzzword with terms like AI, machine learning and robotics.
Indeed, that’s part of what digital transformation is all about.
Yes, but hang on a minute.
Imagine your transformation programme is taking off, but what happens when the largest group of people in your organisation—the staff—don’t know what it is?
Here’s the thing.
According to McKinsey, successful transformation is 3X more likely in businesses that communicate effectively with their employees.
Okay, this might sound obvious, but effective employee communication is something that many organisations struggle with.
So, before introducing new digital tools to the workplace, consider how you’ll prepare employees for change and secure their buy-in.
Why prioritise internal communications during transformation
The top companies worldwide have a single thing in common—they believe employee engagement is vital to their success.
For instance, Netflix’s co-CEO Reed Hastings attributes the streaming giant’s success to its corporate culture, built on an ethos of transparency and honesty.
Moreover, Netflix remains vigilant about its culture and views employee communication as central to its continued development.
While Coca-Cola used internal communications to support the launch of its digital marketing platform, “Journey”. To engage employees and drive excitement about the new platform, Coca-Cola developed a comprehensive internal communications plan, including newsletters, webinars, and training sessions.
Here’s a summary of the key benefits of implementing strategic communications during business transformation.
Better organisational alignment
The fact is there’s no such thing as over-communicating when it comes to digital transformation. It’s only through consistent and organised messaging that you can truly align all employees around the goals and objectives of your programme. In doing so, you reduce confusion and manage inaccurate assumptions. According to a report by Gartner, employees working for organisations with robust internal communications perform 77% better than their peers.
Did you know corporate communication activity and employee productivity are directly connected? Oh yes. In fact, 97% of employees believe communication impacts their daily task efficiency. If employees feel they’re being kept in the dark about proposed organisational changes or they don’t have space to raise concerns or ideas, you can expect morale and motivation to seriously plummet. Not great news for business leaders. Consequently, if you want your people to feel excited and included in your organisation’s future, you must involve them in the conversation from the very start.
Digital transformation often involves cross-functional teams working together to achieve common goals. Consequently, planned communication endeavours are critical to tackling silo working and facilitating greater organisational connectedness. The benefits include better knowledge sharing, innovation and boosting your bottom line. For example, studies show that highly engaged teams demonstrate a 21% increase in profitability.
Employees need to know why the change is happening and how it fits into the company’s overall strategy. They’ll be more likely to buy into your vision if they understand how their individual actions impact the bigger picture and help make their company more successful. For example, research shows that 74% of employees feel left out of important company information and news, resulting in low job satisfaction and high turnover rates.
How to boost employee engagement during your digital transformation journey
We’ve established that employee engagement is foundational to successful transformation—let’s now discuss how you can deliver meaningful and impactful communications.
Without regular two-way communication, you can’t expect your employees to feel motivated and willing to collaborate. According to Forbes, employees are nearly 5X more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work if they perceive their voices are genuinely heard.
Here’s an example of what ineffective communication may look like:
As part of your digital transformation programme, let’s say you decide to purchase new software. But, you delay consulting with your middle managers. Doing so risks information trickling down to employees informally, who then approach their managers for clarification— only to be met with further confusion.
The lack of transparency and discussion at the very beginning of the process only serves to erode both managers’ and employees’ trust, leading to greater resistance to change.
Besides, communication without clearly defined goals and outcomes won’t deliver your desired results. Instead, you need a strategic approach to underpin your communication activities.
This way, you can ensure people are:
- Well-informed about upcoming changes.
- Truly understand transformation benefits and challenges.
- Know how they will be involved or how their jobs will be impacted.
- Have an outlet for voicing questions and concerns.
We all know change is difficult. That’s why you need to start communication early and often.
For example, suppose you want to improve your internal software (such as the ERP or CRM)—you must bring your people into the conversation as early as possible. Ensuring they have a seat at the table – and a voice – builds greater buy-in and less resistance to the change.
Five tips for effectively communicating change to your employees
1. Know your audience.
- How much do your employees understand the upcoming transformation activities?
- What questions do they have?
- Do they have all the information they need?
- Make sure you’ve done your homework and have prepared answers to all your key points and announcements.
2. Be clear about what’s changing and why.
- Don’t assume people understand the reasons behind the need for change—explain from an organisational and management point of view.
- Why is this change important at this present time?
- How does this new change fit into long-term plans for growth and profitability goals?
- If things still need to be decided, be honest with employees as soon as possible.
- If we complete steps one and two, what should get better or more efficient as a direct result? How will these improvements be measured and shared?
3. Use multiple channels to share information with employees.
- Incorporate space for employee feedback and questions during this process so everyone can ask questions and understand what is happening.
- Encourage idea sharing about how things could be done differently or better because this helps build trust between you and your team members, which makes it easier for them to accept change when it comes down from on-high.
4. Use visuals to help explain complicated ideas or processes.
- Use charts, graphs, videos and pictures when possible to communicate complex concepts in simple ways that people can understand quickly.
- Be sure to include graphics demonstrating how the change will benefit them personally (and their families).
5. Be transparent and honest.
- Don’t postpone difficult news.
- Always share information as soon as possible after making decisions. The last thing you want is for employees to hear critical information via hearsay or get frustrated by waiting too long for answers they need now.
- Keep lines of communication open throughout the process by providing regular updates on progress and answering questions as they arise rather than letting concerns fester until there’s time for a huge meeting.
There’s no denying that the digital era has made communication more critical than ever.
But, more importantly, how you speak with your people is pivotal to creating optimised employee experiences—without which, you’ll struggle to achieve sustainable behavioural change during transformation.
Furthermore, how you share your core messaging helps promote cultural alignment, technology adoption and behaviour shifts, and greater innovation. Therefore, transparency and openness should be your communication strategy’s core pillars, helping you build solid foundations for all future transformations.