How to get your team to actually listen to you (and change the way they work)
Company Name: Ditto
Company Industry: Business Consulting and Services
Company Size: 25-50
Operations Consultant: Chloe Handelman
Do you ever feel like your computer glitched and your team didn’t actually receive this month’s company announcement or that no one told you your microphone was muted through your updates on the All-Hands meeting? Chloe Handelman, head of all operations improvement projects at Ditto, could relate. As Ditto prepared for a complete delivery model redesign and team morale was at an all-time low, Chloe recognized the urgency for transformation. The fast-growing business desperately needed a new system for internal communications that would unite and empower the team while enabling rapid, iterative organizational change.
Imagine this scenario: You're the head of operations leading a complete redesign of your organization's delivery model. In recent weeks, you've introduced four key process changes, implemented two new policies, and renamed all service offerings. Recognizing the absence of an internal communications plan, you decide to send out a company-wide announcement today after several weeks of silence. You've invested hours in crafting this announcement, feeling confident that these changes will align with the company's objectives and enhance the team's work experience. However, as you hit 'send,' a sense of dread and defeat washes over you. You can't shake the feeling that this update will yield the same disappointing results as the last one:
- Team confusion impacting client delivery: Your clients will be confused about what happens in the next phase of delivery because team members will use different names and follow different processes.
- Poor adoption of new processes: The sales team will sell the wrong services because they won’t follow the updated sales process. The delivery team will struggle to deliver what was promised leading to delays, frustrated clients, and negative profit margins.
- Distracted leadership: You and the CEO will get pulled from other work and spend hours each day answering questions, retraining, and fixing issues caused by the team not being on the same page.
You take a sip of coffee and take a deep breath. Suddenly the dread and defeat transform into inspiration and excitement. You know there must be another way.
During: Solution Design
Luckily for Chloe, Ditto had an internal knowledge base that stored all standard operating procedures (SOPs), policies, and general company information. Furthermore, the team was highly proficient in using their project management tool to complete their assigned tasks. Building on these strengths, Chloe developed a strategy to enhance internal communication. Her plan aimed to utilize the existing systems and company culture to improve the quality of everyone's work-life while helping Ditto achieve its objectives.
4-Step Internal Communications and Training Strategy:
- Training and communications repository:
- Given a clear name
- Grouped based on its type (training, meeting, update)
- Assigned the date it was delivered
- Given a time estimate to review or rewatch
- Live updates to internal and external resources:
- Internal SOPs and policies
- Team onboarding materials
- Client communication templates
- Client knowledge base / FAQs
Before: The team had nowhere to re-watch training videos or reference previous updates. Training or meeting recordings were lost in a disorganized Google Drive folder hierarchy and updates were lost in Slack threads or mentioned during a call and never documented.
In typical operations fashion, Chloe designed the framework for the solution first. Within their project management tool, she designed a project that would be the new home for all training content, meeting recordings, and internal communications. All content was written directly within the tool and tasks were assigned to team members to review the contents. If anyone needed to access the information at a later date, they were sent a link directly to the repository. It was now easy to find current and historical information because each item was:
Before: There had been multiple versions of the truth and inconsistencies across the documents and resources the team and clients used every day.
Every time a change was made (big or small), Chloe cross-referenced all internal and external documentation and resources to ensure updates were consistent. The following resources now always reflected consistent information:
- Team capacity to take the training
- Support from the CEO to have the authority to be the voice of change
- Financial budget to fund the time to take training
- Technology to create a single source of truth and track training progress
- Consistent communications and training plan:
- Status updates for key internal projects
- List of changes or updates
- Links to supporting training resources (e.g. pre-recorded Loom training)
- Links to related resources (e.g. updated SOPs or templates)
- Knowledge check quizzes:
Before: There was no communications plan. The team never knew when communications or training would come and didn’t allocate time for their review or attendance.
No matter if there were one or ten updates, every single week Chloe crafted an internal update that included:
Additionally, a fortnightly team training was implemented for live training or as an open hour to clarify questions about recent changes. This consistency allowed the leadership to allocate budget and resource hours for team communications and training, helping team members establish a regular routine of reviewing updates and taking the required actions.
Before: It had been impossible (or very tedious) to track if internal updates were read or if absent attendees eventually reviewed the training materials they were sent.
Every week, Chloe assigned each team member a task to review the update or attend/watch the training and complete a quick knowledge check quiz. The quizzes were created using a form in the project management tool and took team members less than 10 minutes to complete. Chloe designed the questions in the quiz to solidify the most critical points to promote knowledge retention and behavior change. The last question of the quiz was a free text box enabling team members to contribute new ideas, ask questions, or give feedback. The system enabled Chloe to see that each team member reviewed the update and helped her identify where there was the most confusion across the team and address it immediately.
After: Results and Benefits
It wasn’t immediate, but it worked. After the team got used to receiving the weekly updates and quizzes and attending fortnightly trainings, Ditto’s internal communications became the steady, guiding drum that led the company through major organizational transformation and change.
- 100% team engagement and a happy team: Each week, 100% of the team engaged with the updates. Chloe received more feedback and questions than ever before. She was able to answer questions before they became a problem ‘in real life’. The quizzes encouraged a dialogue and immediate clarification. Answers to common questions were always included in the next update to ensure collective understanding. Team morale began to improve and despite the major changes happening to Ditto, they felt supported and heard.
- Successful delivery model redesign: With the new internal communications and training system in place, Chloe was able to rapidly iterate on improving their delivery model while ensuring everyone was up-to-date and trained. Since the free text box at the end of each weekly quiz enabled real-time team member feedback, this enabled Chloe to incrementally implement key improvements to the delivery model which ultimately led to nearly 4x profits and 50% reduction in delivery time.
- Less distracted leadership team: Given that most questions were clarified immediately through the quizzes and all internal resources reflected updates in real-time, the team rarely had to interrupt the leadership team to get support. Most notably, the CEO was less distracted. Since the updates were sent by Chloe, the team stopped going to him and started coming to her. This enabled the CEO to remain focused on the big picture while Chloe focused on the process details.
Change, though inevitable, can be unsettling. Unfortunately, that means most people’s natural tendency will be to avoid or resist it which is not good for fast-growing teams who require continuous improvement. Recognizing this, it is an operations leader’s responsibility to implement systems that mitigate fear and enable teams to thrive through change.
The 4-step Internal Communications and Training Strategy is a practical blueprint for long-term success. It lays the foundation for a culture of continuous improvement by ensuring team members are engaged and supported while enabling the agile change necessary for fast-growing companies to achieve unprecedented success.