By: Caroline Kealey
Program Director, University of Ottawa – Professional Development Institute
Strategic Communications & Change Cohort Program
In the past few months, I’ve led dozens of executive workshops on employee communications and change leadership. It’s striking that while these sessions have differed vastly in context, there is a clear common denominator – leaders are urgently concerned about how to communicate the shift to a hybrid workplace. It’s a challenge that is accentuated by the fact that they are working out their communication and the nature of the hybrid model at the same time.
That is the hallmark crux of the difficulty of executive-level change communications – there is an immediate pressure to communicate the “thing”, but the “thing” is not yet fully defined. This phenomenon leads to anxiety, misfires, disengagement and often conflict. In the context of the Great Resignation (perhaps more aptly termed the Great Reassessment), there is a pressing need for guidance and guard rails for communicating the shift toward a hybrid model.
To help illuminate a path through these uncharted challenges, leaders need to be fully equipped and prepared in their mission-critical change communications role. The best place to start is to remember that ultimately, change communications is fundamentally about respect. And while organizational communications tends to focus on intellectual content, change is experienced on an emotional level. The goal, then, is to create a change communications system that is:
- Relentlessly rooted in respect,
- Supports employees in coping with ambiguity and anxiety,
- Balances accountability with empathy, and
- Reaches employees at the intersection of emotional and intellectual content
These Guidelines can help:
For a deeper dive on how change communications best practices can guide your shift toward hybrid, join us online or in person for the University of Ottawa’s professional development cohort program in Strategic Communications and Change, starting in March 2023.