Transformation Quarterly 02_2023

by Julika Benz

Managers and employees can become authentic ambassadors for transformation when they are empowered to do so. The challenge lies in developing a programme that will not only meet with acceptance, but also systematically and sustainably mobilise advocates for the strategic agenda. This is an area of enormous potential.

Any transformation process within an organisation must include a certain degree of behavioural change – whether this involves the introduction of new values, new software or cultural changes after a merger. While channels such as the intranet, CEO video messages, or poster campaigns can help raise employees’ awareness of the change, the employees tend not to consider making the necessary behavioural changes unless they have discussed the issue with their peers and/or managers. Accordingly, Change Ambassador programmes have great potential to improve internal communications.

Change Agents or Change Ambassadors accompany and support strategic change processes. Acting as convincing advocates and role models, they can promote greater acceptance of internal transformation processes. These agents can be particularly effective if they prove to be authentic ambassadors who are able to communicate with other employees directly and on an equal footing. In this respect, they have a considerable advantage compared to the traditional methods of internal communications.

Corporate culture is the decisive factor behind the ultimate success of Change Ambassador approaches. While such approaches used to be characterised by efforts to control the Ambassadors and their work as closely as possible, the emphasis is now shifting towards providing them with the tools they need to authentically stand for change in their own way. Only then can they successfully involve the organisation, communicate knowledge and promote trust in the transformation.

Activating and empowering Change Ambassadors is key to the success of such programmes. There are three aspects involved in this process, which are the foundation for the success of a Change Ambassador programme.

1. Recruiting and activation

To identify and activate suitable employees, the programme must include a precise role description and a mandate, as well as an internal communications campaign that is adapted to the corporate culture. The unconditional support of management is essential and should remain constantly visible during the course of the programme. Employees will be motivated to participate in the programme when it is backed by an attractive incentive programme. In addition to programme gadgets, the focus here is on new learning opportunities, and particularly on visibility for senior management.

2. Empowerment and networking

Another key component is a pragmatic, hands-on empowerment programme. This builds knowledge about the context and purpose of the transformation, explains the communications formats that will be available to the Ambassadors, and provides training to improve their presentation and coaching skills, if necessary. Training programmes not only empower Ambassadors, but also enable them to network with each other. This allows the Ambassadors to identify with the community and break down any existing silo mentality.

3. Consistency and trust

Change Ambassador programmes are doomed to fail as soon as they are left to their own devices. The Ambassadors must be continuously provided with content. This requires the commitment of the management to communicate consistently and engage with the Ambassadors extensively on an ongoing basis. Ambassadors must be prepared to question decisions and provide constructive feedback through bilateral discussions with the management, while maintaining good relations with the organisation. As a result, Ambassadors will be able to convey the message much more authentically when interacting with the employees. For this to happen, however, senior managers need to take a leap of faith – but their efforts will be rewarded.

Change Ambassadors are an invaluable catalyst for success – as initiators and facilitators of cultural change working closely with management. These agents will create more genuine openness to change in internal transformation processes at organisations where committed employees have been given a specific role and mandate, where they are supported unconditionally by management, and where they are empowered and taken seriously as critical thinkers in the process.