Tips to communicate digital transformation and encourage change

We asked one of Perform Green’s leading Associates, Nikki Davies, to give us her top tips on Communicating Digital Strategies. This post was originally published on the Perform Green blog in September 2017.

Following the publication of the Government’s Digital Strategy, 8X8 Solutions commissioned a study canvassing the views of 1,095 local government staff in the UK. The study has highlighted that there is a real appetite for new technology within the public sector but that often people are the greatest barriers to harnessing the digital opportunity to hand.

  • Only 51% of respondents believe senior management understand the importance of new technology.
  • Just 21% think they invest enough money to stay up to date with the latest developments.
  • 22% confess certain individuals are holding back tech adoption to preserve the status quo (up to 35% for people who work in IT procurement).

Here is a key statistic that we at Perform Green think is particularly important.

“80% of senior staff say their organisation has a digital strategy in place but only 65% of all staff are aware that a digital strategy exists.”

From this, it is clear that more work needs to be done to communicate what can be complex digital strategies, to develop better levels of understanding for everyone in the organisation, and to establish trust in an over-arching digital approach.

How to support culture change and communicate digital transformation

We asked one of our leading Associates Nikki Davies to give us her top tips on communicating digital strategies.

Get the right people on board

Having the right team helps with your engagement to support your digital transformation. Communication and engagement specialists need to be committed and plugged in from the start — they are experts in their fields.

Challenge the programme or project leaders

Communications and engagement is not a note-taking service. We are the translation channel, there to gain clarity for the customers and stakeholders and, if it’s not clear, we must challenge until it is.

Give the right messages, at the right time

The messages also need to delivered in an appropriate way that staff and stakeholders can understand. Don’t just send out a newsletter every month as proof that you’ve engaged — all you’ve done is tick a project milestone box!

Do a stakeholder analysis

You also need to research the right engagement for each stakeholder group. PowerPoint may be the norm for senior leadership teams, but may not motivate someone who has experienced years of change within your organisation.

Make sure senior leaders are engaging and communicating

Very often, there is no or little initial senior leadership engagement around Programmes from across the organisation. Remember that your people on the ground take their change and direction from their line managers, who may be a few steps removed. We all have a responsibility to engage and communicate.

One size doesn’t fit all

Never assume that people understand digital and tech-related language. Tech-based programmes and projects thrive on keeping up with the current trend and approach, but many others do not. Simplify, pare back and translate — no-one ever complained, “The information was just too simple!”

You may need to market your change

Make the impending changes attractive, ‘sell’ the benefits and remember that people will only take in the information that they perceive will affect them.

Gain trust

Gain trust and be on the side of the staff who are affected. Understand what changes may mean to them and their daily work. Reassure them that you are personally there to help them understand the digital change that’s coming their way.

Understand the longer-term ambition

Know the long-term ambition and set expectations from the start. If you are working towards a five-year plan, set out the steps. Try and communicate what they may mean for your staff, customers and stakeholders — it helps to set context and understanding. Remember to refer back to the expectations you have set at every step of the way.

Be consistent in your language

People in digital and tech-based disciplines tend to abbreviate, use acronyms and initials when referring to elements of a programme or project. This is fine, but everyone needs to use the same ones and be clear about what they mean. Remember, if you are working outside your own organisation, others may have a completely different meaning for one of your abbreviations.

Use examples and imagery

This will help you get buy in, especially with digital or tech-based change. It’s best done in face-to-face situations to generate a ‘pull’ method of engagement (as opposed to traditional ‘push’ engagement on the intranet, staff briefings and emails). Face-to-face sessions have always been the most effective way to engage and enthuse. We use all of our senses, it is age-old and can be somewhat forgotten, especially by tech-based change programmes.

Nikki Davies

Nikki Davies is a Perform Green associate. She worked on Bristol City Council’s Smart Operations Centre, communicating a major transformation programme across 19 departments.

You can also find out more about Nikki and her previous experience over on the Perform Green site. You can also learn more about what we do by reading our case studies and meeting the rest of our team.