In the book, Leading Change, John Kotter identifies “a failure to communicate” as one of the major factors causing low success rates among corporate change initiatives. He estimates that in one month:
- the total amount of communication reaching the average employee is roughly 2.3 million words or numbers
- the typical communication of a change effort is approximately 13,400 words
It follows that the average change communication effort will capture what he calls “information market share” of about .6 percent (13,400 divided by 2.3 million) per month relative to every other company-related piece of content.
Keep that in mind when we talk about competing for employee attention. If you are allowed to add only one eyedropper of chlorine to your backyard swimming pool, that eyedropper will need to be potent!
Here is a quick and incomplete list of ways to help your content compete in a sea of information:
- Make it actionable: If you are just informing me and giving me nothing to do, why should I hold onto it? Information without activity is a luxury that most information-overloaded employees can no longer afford.
- Make your headline the main point: Assume that employees will only read the headline. Do I have the essence of what I need, even if I am only skimming?
- Connect your effort to stories: Stories provide emotional context, they generate interest, and they are still the best way yet devised to help us hold onto important information.
- Write it for real: If it’s in that same safe and stilted corporate voice with the same header and the same tag line, why would I believe it when you tell me that something important is changing?
- Summarize in weekly or monthly digest formats: distill key information into regular digests that review the “just the facts” basics of content you have communicated.
- Put it in the mouths of business leaders: If it is always coming from a support function, “those people” in HR, or Finance, or IT, it is easy for front-line managers and employees to rationalize away the change. Do not let that happen. First messages should come from business leaders and should emphasize that the change is a priority for their teams.
More ideas on how to keep the swimming pool of information crystal clear? Share them in the comments box below.