Home Archive March 2010 Survival of the fittest
Survival of the fittest
Friday, 19 March 2010 11:14

There’s plenty to be learnt from the failures of the global credit crunch, says James Bennett, head of content at internal communications research and training company Melcrum Publishing In the past few issues of Melcrum’s Member Bulletin, I’ve spoken about how important change communications has been, particularly since the turn of the 21st century, how crucial it is today and how vital it will continue to be as countries and companies slowly emerge from the global recession.

And, judging by the presentations I witnessed and delegates I spoke to at our third annual change communications conference in London this week, I get the feeling I’ll be repeating the same message for some time to come.

As with any form of life on this planet – be it animal, vegetable or mineral – it boils down to the survival of the fittest. And companies, employees and the way internal communication teams operate are no different. The recession has proven that no organisation is too big to fail and that businesses, in many cases, need to dramatically change the way they function if they are to thrive in the future.

Communicators have learned some very valuable lessons during the financial crisis and the aftershocks that have shaken budgets, head count and confidence levels. Firstly, those who have paid attention and who value their jobs will never again overlook the perils of excessive risk taking and instantly be able to spot the early warnings signs that can lead to disaster; have realised that long-term planning is critical but equally that they should be prepared to change at a moment’s notice; figured out that business models tend to change quicker than anyone can anticipate; and most importantly deciphered that trust is irreplaceable. Any communicator that works within or for a financial services organisation, retailer, car manufacturer, airline or in the leisure industry, to name a few sectors, will know how valuable these lessons could prove to be in the future.

So how will we put these lessons into practice? Angela Mohtashemi, director of HR services at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ communication practice, outlined this perfectly with extracts from a recent survey the firm carried out on how the downturn will change the future of work. It interviewed 1,000 global CEOs, 70 of which are UK-based, and discovered that if we are to manage the future of change we will have to do four things:

• Build trust, openness and transparency and create an environment where change is business as usual.

• Put in place channels and dialogue and involvement and develop the right culture to make it work.

• Ensure you know your audience – segment and target and use multiple channels and consistent messages.

• And even, as impossible as it may sound to many organisations and their leaders, create a culture where CEOs can ask for help because the majority of failure is top down.

I would add a fifth and very obvious point. If you think you’ve communicated enough within your organisation then you almost certainly need to communicate more.

As another senior communicator rightly told the audience, many companies need to “change energy”, and to turn the “I know” into “I act”. It’s only when your organization’s employees are truly engaged and change their energies from knowing the message to asking themselves how they can behave and act differently in order to improve the business that you can say your change initiatives have led to increased engagement.

Melcrum’s sixth annual two-day Employee Engagement conference is 11-13 May 2010.