With very quick and deep cuts being made to the public sector, the importance of communicating change has never been more critical. I have written before about the significant role that communications professionals have to play in the next few months. In October I talked about the fact that communication professionals must adapt as the cuts begin to bite.
I suppose it was only to be expected that as soon as the Christmas festivities were out-of-the-way the changes being made in public sector organisations would start to move at a pace. There are some significant risks that businesses and organisations face at this time.
Firstly, there is likely to be a drop in performance with the focus moving on making the changes required. Restructuring departments and providing services in a different way involves some significant work, which then reduces the time that can be spent on delivering the core business.
Secondly, there will be the emergence of ‘organisational terrorists’ those people who even though they may be staying in the company look to find any way to create problems. They will be the first to go to the media with claims about activity taking place in the businesses and will be highlighting anything they disagree with. They are potentially very disruptive at a time when you need to bring people together with a shared vision.
Thirdly, the changes and the extra pressure being put on staff may lead to a loss of goodwill. This can have a huge impact on public sector productivity which relies heavily on the goodwill and sense of dedication of its staff. In turn this can have a further impact on the productivity of the organisation. If staff are not prepared to work late, take on extra responsibility and put in additional hours then things won’t get delivered.
Fourthly, it will be difficult to look to the future with some staff waiting for their time in the organisation to end, and changes being made to the way services are delivered. Yet, this is the most important time for developing plans and looking to the future of the organisation. It is crucial to be sensitive to all those in the organisation but to start to rebuild after the axe has fallen.
Finally, as the situation develops there will come a time when people feel able to talk about it. This may not happen in the immediate aftermath when some will feel survivor guilt and others will be finding ways of dealing with the range of emotions that they will be feeling. When a company or organisation gets to the point of being able to talk about it then they can start to look to the future, regain the goodwill, silence those ‘organisational terrorists’ and recover from the dip in performance.
All these elements will be faced by communication professionals whether they are focused on external or internal audiences. It is a rollercoaster that is often likened to dealing with bereavement. The current situation gives strategic communicators and those working in internal communication the perfect opportunity to show how critical they are to the running of an organisation. Success at the current time will help to secure the future of such communication roles and professionals.
We know the success of the cuts will be a very different organisation but one that is continuing to perform and deliver results. It will be doing the work that is needed, doing it well and looking to the future and rebuilding. Getting the organisation there will be the challenge of the communication departments in the coming six to 12 months.