The Key to Successful “Change”: Communications Learnings from the COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-out

The Key to Successful “Change”: Communications Learnings from the COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-out

How your approach to communications is getting in your way.

Not long ago, I had a conversation with a leader working in healthcare, and they shared that they were finally able to offer their staff the COVID-19 vaccine. They mentioned that it would certainly be in the organization’s best interest for every eligible front-line staff member to receive the vaccine, yet disappointedly reported that less than 50% of the team opted to get vaccinated.

This got me thinking – how could something so critical to operational success have such weak adoption? Given Incite’s focus and my background in communications and change management, I see every opportunity and challenge through this lens, and this situation is no different. Thinking back to basic principles of managing change in people, it becomes clear: in this case, there was a low basis of understanding of how the organization and its clients would benefit, and more importantly, the positive impact that adoption of the vaccine would have on staff as individuals.

Reflecting on what’s relevant for businesses today, the change management exercises we are currently evaluating may be in our own staff opting to get vaccinated, or safely returning to the office to work, but the process extends into any future exercise in adoption – be it a new strategic direction, employee ownership plans, a software change –  the list is endless, because as businesses, we are forever evolving. Every change you make as an organization is only going to be as successful as the process created to communicate it.  As you look to make changes in your business, here are a few recommendations to be mindful of when engaging with your team:

  1. Outline the value a change brings to the organization. This matters the most when you have a team engaged in the mission and vision of the organization and are truly committed to the work (think: how can my work make a bigger impact?).
  2. Outline the value a change brings to each team member as individuals – you may need to tailor this message for different groups within your organization depending on their unique needs or pains. The goal is to evoke a desire to change, and to achieve this, people need to see themselves in the change (think: what’s in it for me?).
  3. Choose a champion to deliver the message – someone that is trusted and can connect with staff on a deeper level. It doesn’t have to be the CEO, rather more of a tribal leader that will build a strong message across the organization (think: Terry Fox).
  4. Repeat the message, over and over. The Rule of 7 suggests that a person needs to hear a message 7 times before taking action. And consistency is key; every time the change is communicated, the message should be the same to ensure clarity (think: parenting).

 

Considering the original healthcare example, if the organization could have been more proactive in managing the change (i.e. communicating the value of vaccination), it’s likely that the vaccination adoption rate would have increased. They still may not have encouraged everyone, but if the uptake was even 10% more, the impact would have been worth the effort. What more can your organization achieve through a thoughtful plan regarding change?

 

Trish Kushniruk


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