Preparing for change

Insight

Large fires burning across the top of New Zealand’s South Island. Historically large heat waves in New Zealand and Australia. An Australasian banking and insurance system publicly outed for longstanding issues that can’t be fixed with ‘a bit of PR’.

Corporate leaders could be forgiven for thinking it’s all headwinds this year, and that big issues like climate change and corporate responsibility are too hard.

In fact, 2019 is looking like the year corporates and government agencies need to stand up, tackle these issues, and communicate clearly.

Simply creating a corporate responsibility policy or setting an emissions reduction target won’t cut it any more. Driving proper change throughout an organisation is the key to maintaining credibility among all stakeholders whether employees, customers, regulators or taxpayers.

To successfully lead this change, organisations need strong internal communications and to create time for honest conversations.

The time-honoured principles of internal communications remain valid today even in a world where technology and consumers are changing faster than ever before.

Organisations would do well to remember a few simple precepts about building lasting change.

Be honest: with your employees, with your Board, with key stakeholders. If they don’t believe you, then they probably won’t engage with what you want to achieve.

Be consistent: with your commitments and goals. Don’t jump from one fad to another. Put your thinking caps on and set some clear goals. Then show stakeholders how you are aiming to meet them.

Be visible: as a leader. This doesn’t mean being showy, it means being seen. Build the case with your employees and regularly update them on where you are going.

Be genuine: A flash website or new policy alone won’t cut it. Organisations need to show real effort before employees will respond.

In the wake of reports by the Financial Markets Authority, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and the Hayne report in Australia, it is clear that change is coming to the banking and insurance industries, even if it is not clear what that change will be.

Strong organisations will be using this time to engage their employees, discuss the hard truths, and start the journey to rebuild their public image. They might even find that responding to the heat (both climate and regulation-induced) helps overcome the feeling of being under siege.