Australian Government,  Blog post,  internal communications

Things to remember when communicating Government change

Yesterday, we saw the first round of changes from the returning Morrison Government. For those that missed it, the Prime Minister announced his Ministery and some fairly big changes to the structure of the public service.

Before starting Elm Communications, I worked in the public service for over a decade I went through four elections and seven Prime Ministers. I worked in Climate Change, so I know the upheaval that an election can create, even if it’s the same Government.

There are some fairly significant changes to the structure of departments – staff are getting moved, functions shuffled, names changed.

There are a lot of public servants rushing into the office or sitting on teleconferences on this public holiday Monday trying to figure out what it means and how they will communicate it to their staff. All staff emails are rapidly getting written, briefings organised, and a plan for the week devised.

Internal communications will be a critical function in the next few weeks, and communications teams are going to be vital to supporting their Departments to get this right. If you are in one of the Department’s that is impacted, you are about to have a busy few weeks, and it won’t be without its challenges.

Here are some quick reminders for your communications activities during this period of change:

Over communicate. Communicate more than you think you need to, even if you don’t know anything new tell staff. Don’t leave your staff wondering what you know.
Leaders need to lead the change. Work with your Executive to keep staff informed. During times of change, people want to hear directly from their leaders.
Be responsive. Be ready to communicate rapidly. Create a fast-track approval channel today, don’t let your Senior Editing Service delay information getting out to staff. You want to make sure they find out about any changes internally before it is reported in the Canberra Times.
Be empathetic. Be sensitive to staff concerns and provide lots of opportunities for people to ask questions. You are communicating to people who have just been told they are leaving where they work every day, and they had no choice in the matter it’s going to be hard for some of them.
Communicate face-to-face. Create a central area on your intranet for content where people can access all of the information about the changes, but direct communications like email and face-to-face are going to be more critical in the first few weeks. Don’t discount how much people will want to come together during this period.
Be honest. Don’t try and sugar coat (or spin) everything. If you are losing staff if programs are getting cut just tell your staff.
Be positive. It is important to remain positive and try to get staff to look at the head at the new opportunities and challenges. But also let them take a little time to mourn, it’s ok for them to be sad about leaving or losing colleagues.

This is going to be a tough week for many in Canberra. I think many outside of our “bubble” don’t see the work that goes on behind the scenes when these changes are announced. Good luck!

Need help with changes coming your way? Or just need to talk through an idea? Give me a call!

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