For the past year, businesses and workers everywhere have been facing a working situation that can most politely be described as ‘uncertain and fluid’. ‘Change’ has been one of the words that’s defined 2020 and 2021, often combined with the phrase ‘at relatively short notice’. Virtual team collaboration has been the hero of the hour, helping countless people and organisations to keep soldiering on and keep communication going – both externally and internally.

With all this in mind, we’ve been thinking about change and how businesses can best communicate it to employees – from mergers and acquisitions to internal restructuring – as well as how they’re getting it wrong. And (because we’re a tech company as well as a marketing agency) we’ve been mulling over the role technology can play in ensuring organizational change doesn’t, for want of a better word, suck.

Changing the channels

We conducted a survey recently that asked this question: “How has your company communicated organisational change during the pandemic?” Here’s how people responded:

  • Chat (Slack, Teams, etc.): 29%
  • Group video meeting: 29%
  • One-to-one video call: 18%
  • Email: 24%

As you can see, in total more than three quarters of the people we polled said that their organisations communicated change via platforms like Teams and Slack or via video meetings/calls, rather than by email. This is encouraging – it indicates that businesses are taking advantage of the new channels open to them today, not just sticking with email, that overly formal old stalwart of internal comms that’s not too many rungs above a letter.

Organisations – and the creators of the tech they use – are clearly giving some consideration to how remote employee communication can do the job it needs to. That means helping to maintain company culture and unity and ensure change is conveyed and handled well.

Nurturing the life and soul of your business

The release of Microsoft Viva earlier this year shows that Microsoft, for one, has been thinking about how customers can do a better job of employee comms, engagement and support. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Well, maybe a year earlier, but they’re not Nostradamus, are they?

Microsoft says that Viva is designed to help organizations to amplify culture and communications, balance productivity and wellbeing, harness knowledge and expertise, and accelerate skilling and growth. It does this via a series of modules:

  • Connections – curated, company-branded gateway for news, talk and resources
  • Insights – a data-driven, privacy-protected view into productivity and wellbeing
  • Learning – encouraging and empowering employee education and development
  • Topics – organising organizations’ content and expertise and facilitating access

Sounds good, right? We’ll be sure to let you know our verdict when we’ve had a chance to test out this new set of tools over a proper period of time, but right now we can say that Viva looks extremely promising. And if you want to try Viva for yourself, you can learn more about it here.

Our CEO’s advice for internal communications

Like most organizations out there, Fifty Five and Five has handled its own fair share of organisational change during the last twelve months – you’d be surprised if we said we hadn’t, right?

As he captained our ship through the strange and stormy seas of the COVID-19 pandemic, our founder and CEO Chris Wright has his own insights into how best to communicate change. Take it away, Skipper:

  • “Communicating change only via chat messages is 100% the worst idea. Even if it’s harder to do it (nobody likes delivering bad news) change should always be shared face-to-face first or at least video.”
  • “Re-enforcing important messages in posts is fine, but that isn’t how people should find out in this kind of information the first place. I think you owe it to people to explain it properly, in your own voice.”
  • “Company-wide change is hard to communicate in one go. I often think it’s best to share news about change with the people who it will have the most impact on first of all. Then tell the wider group.”
  • “Giving people a forum to ask questions is important. People need time to collect their thoughts after the initial announcement, and if you provide more Q&A opportunities, they’ll always think of new questions or remember thing they missed.”

There you have it – while making posts or sending messages via virtual team collaboration tools may be perfect for keeping business going during times of widespread remote working, it’s not the best channel for conveying organization change. For those purposes, there’s no substitute for talking face-to-face – even if those faces might be appearing in video feeds, rather than directly facing each other.

Toba’s tips for communicating organization change

Toba Shahabi is Fifty Five and Five’s Head of Project Management. And as a member of the Leadership Team as well as the Employee Representative, she also plays a central role in communication between management and the rest of the agency.

So, who better to consult on a topic like this? Toba shared her own thoughts on communicating organization change:

  • “Adaptable and fluidity are key. Change should be up for discussion if possible. The idea that the people in your organisation won’t have an opinion on a particular change could be a huge oversight. And you as a company should strive to be able to take on feedback about change in a responsive way. Things should be able to adapt towards a more practical and hopefully more efficient future after employees voice their feedback.”
  • “Keep it frequent. Adopt a variety of styles of comms to suit different people’s preferences. More importantly, provide consistent and frequent touchpoints to check in with employees. This allows leaders to have a pulse on the feelings of the company at any given time. That allow them to either continue or change track depending on positive or negative feedback.”
  • “Don’t be a dictatorship. Being rigid in terms of policy and not asking for feedback is a sure way to find your colleagues and employees frustrated and looking for other companies to work for, especially, ones who will listen.”

Good advice, I think you’ll agree. Transparency and opportunities for open dialogue are always appreciated – after all, communication is a two-way street. Remembering that is sure to set organisations in good stead – whatever changes they need to communicate, and via whichever methods they choose to communicate it.