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Telling a story of growth and cuts may be the ultimate internal comms challenge

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Conduct your 'change' conversations with empathy and care, advises Louisa Moreton

Many organisations are wrestling with this problem: when a rebuild strategy is contingent on cuts, how does one communicate this dichotomy internally?

Businesses need employee engagement to accelerate change adoption and the growth they have planned around core areas of focus, but colleagues in the non-core areas will be at risk of redundancy, or left on furlough.

Can these be reconciled?

The short answer is: yes. But it can be challenging, because leaders typically look to strategy, figures and models as they describe and launch the strategy.

To reconcile growth and cuts means taking people with you, building advocacy and avoiding disruption.

Logic is not sufficient.

A change strategy that is poorly launched internally can lead to ill feeling, confusion and anger, reducing the chance of feeding any green shoots. How can that be mitigated?

A strategy shouldn’t be a logic paper: it needs to be a story and a map, and it needs to be told and discussed multiple times.

There are four key considerations as you build your dual story of growth facilitated by cuts:

1. Core narrative. Write a ‘rebuild mission’ that tells the story of a future state as a story and use it to frame every change, every decision, every success to drive consistency and drive. The strategy flows naturally from that story and makes it clear where the investment and prioritisation will be and which areas will be deprioritised or even cut.

2. Empathy and care. Whether they are staying or at risk of leaving, speak to colleagues on a human level. Acknowledge the work that went into earlier successes and thank people. Don’t feel awkward that they may not be there for the rest of the journey: lean into that with honesty.

3. Conversation. it may feel logical to send out a clear missive to give people a chance to digest the information and rationale, but in times of heightened anxiety it’s hard to take in. Consider instead a more conversational, human approach: videos that can be rewatched or small group listening sessions.

4. Repetition. With many people still working online and little chance to bring people together, don’t assume your message has been heard, understood, accepted and actioned. Make materials easily accessible and keep banging the drum, using other voices and channels.

Employee engagement and change is a skill and now is the time to give that team the pen – or bring in specialists if you don’t have them.

This article was first published by PRWeek UK.