Intranet change management
“How well or poorly you communicate has the most direct impact on whether change works …or not,” says Robert Harris, a leading innovator in change leadership, stakeholder communications and employee engagement.
For many organizations, an intranet makes a fundamental change in organizational communications, and also, business process. Though the degree of change, and the required change management, depends on the type and culture of the organization (e.g. union or non-union, small or large, etc.) and the intended value and power of the intranet (e.g. self-service, executive communications, etc.), a change management communications program is a requisite for any intranet launch.
The challenge for most organizations is that if there’s no prior intranet, or worse yet the intranet is very poor, a new intranet may not inspire much use or it could promote a form of fear or distrust.
“Even for logical change, many people will be offside,” adds Harris, the author of Change Leadership: Inform, Involve, Ignite! “Don’t underestimate the normalcy of “resistance” and find ways to integrate that resistance into change efforts.”
In short, intranet change management becomes an exercise in “selling” or communicating not only the reason and purpose for the change, but especially anticipating and directly addressing the spoken AND unspoken fears (or apathy) of employees.
Harris has developed a simple, but highly effective communications model that helps managers communicate and promote change.
The model is broken into four quadrants and represents a change management communications program that follows a path beginning with communicating the necessity of change because of the “disadvantages” of continuing with the status quo (Stage 1) before moving to the “advantages” of changing the desired future state (Stage 2).
Stage 1: The starting point for the intended communications (change management) program has the organization stating the disadvantage of staying with the status quo (“why we can’t continue with the current environment”).
Stage 2: Transition to the positive “advantages” of moving to the desired future state and the benefits of doing so.
Stage 3: Transition to directly addressing the spoken and unspoken fears and concerns of employees (a concern could manifest as apathy which is very common with intranets).
Stage 4: Finally, close by communicating what “wont’ change” and underscore the importance of those elements of the status quote that will be preserved.
Harris isn’t fond of big speeches and believes executive speeches shouldn’t be longer than 10 or 15 minutes. If a change management program had to be distilled to a single speech to employees, Harris recommends spending 1.5 minutes communicating Stage 1, 3 minutes communicating Stage 2, 8 minutes communicating Stage 3, and 1.5 minutes communicating Stage 4. A Heavy emphasis is on Stage 3 and addressing employee concerns (or apathy). The same rule of thumb should be applied to all communications whether spoken or in print.
“People are more motivated by the avoidance of pain than the achievement of gain,” adds Harris. “Help people understand the “burning platform” (unspoken concerns) of why the change is necessary.”
As I’ve become fond of saying over the years, “If you build it, they will not come.” To build an intranet is not enough to inspire employee use. Like most things in business, the intranet has to be sold and communicated so those employees that are not keeners (or potentially fearful or distrustful of the intranet). Understanding the key elements of a successful change management program will help ensure a successful intranet launch.
Toby Ward is the President and Founder of Prescient Digital Media with 20 years of professional consulting experience. Contact us directly for more information on how to transform your intranet into a high-value employee & business system.