Happy holidays from all of us at Symbal!

Ho ho ho! Merry X-mas and a Happy New Year from Symbal!

This year’s X-mas gift is a contribution to Save the Children, and the people of Aleppo. Read more about it here!

This year’s X-mas greeting is a 360° film. Have a look around and watch out for the joggler 15 seconds in to the movie. Don’t try this at home 😉

Drop in with an idea, go home with a film!

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As new forms and forums for digital film keep appearing, so do communication opportunities. In our new studio space Symbal Studios, making the most of them is easy. We offer everything you need for turning film into an efficient everyday communication tool for your company, whatever the shape and size of your project.

Have a look at www.symbalstudios.com to learn more.

Talk the talk to make people walk the walk

The way employees and leaders talk about a change initiative affects their ability and willingness to behave in a way that supports the change. People’s actions are powerfully influenced by the conversations they participate in. If invited to participate in a conversation, and not just listen to others voices, people will become co-initiators of change. Getting involved in the reasoning both stabilizes productivity and creates the ability to change. In other words, the way we talk about change really matters.

As a researcher and teacher in organizational communication, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing change communication go from a rather anonymous specialty to a burgeoning field of research during the last 10–15 years. At the start of the millennium, when I wrote my doctoral dissertation on strategic change and internal communication, change communication barely existed as a concept in academia or in practice. At that time, research on the topic was scarce and mostly dominated by a linear, one-way model of communication. The general notion was that change communication, or rather information, was a top-down process where management delivered change related messages to employees who were supposed to adjust accordingly. If they did not, the ever-present ‘resistance to change’ was to blame for the failure of change initiatives. Luckily, more nuanced perspectives on change communication have appeared since then.

One perspective that has gained recognition among communication practitioners, at least in Sweden, is characterized by an emphasis on sense-making, i.e. how we understand the world, behave in line with these interpretations and thus actively create our own environments (such as the organization we work in). Perceiving communication as a highly interpretive process of sense-making and sense-giving of course makes change management more complex. However, it also allows for us to see why change often fails due to a deficient understanding of the employees’ stake in and interpretation of the change at hand.

Yet another expanding and highly relevant line of inquiry takes a more critical stance. Here, power, politics and the struggle over symbolic or financial resources as well as meaning are seen as crucial factors that may drive as well as hamper change. If these subtle but extremely influential factors are not taken into account, even the most well-designed communication strategy is destined to fail.

During the last couple of years, scholars have tried to shed some light on the process of change communication by applying a literary and linguistic framework. The importance of language, metaphors and stories is not new in organizational communication. Still, as these concepts have made their way into change communication, they have also opened up new venues for successful change implementation. If we take this research seriously, which I strongly endorse, organizations may in fact be conceptualized as continuously ongoing ‘conversations’ between the members of an organization. The way employees talk about their work, their colleagues and organizational processes is not merely talk. Talk is what makes up organizational conversations and these conversations mediate action, i.e. what people actually decide to do or think, e.g. in relation to a change initiative. This line of reasoning indicates that stability as well as change to a large degree resides in the way we talk about organizational matters. Change often requires new actions and novel understandings and this shift is deeply anchored in how we name, frame and talk about things.

Maybe I’ve just made this even more complicated, but the take away is quite straightforward: In this context talk is not cheap. Change leaders have to pay attention to what people talk about, how they say it and to whom they say it in order to foster conversations and stories that support a certain change initiative.

Today, there is a plethora of research on change communication and the inspiration ranges from utterly linear, top-down models to rather fluid post-modern theories of communication. No matter what kind of theories, perspectives or gurus one may favor, it is gratifying to be able to conclude that change communication has gained a considerable amount of scholarly interest. Nevertheless, it is even more rewarding to note that a lot of this knowledge is not secluded from practice. What I take away from numerous contacts with practitioners in the communication sector is that linear and persuasive models of change communication have not ceased to influence practice, but they are certainly accompanied by far more effective and complex ways of approaching communication and social interaction during change processes.

My suggestion is to learn from theories and apply them when preparing and planning a change. Use them as a framework for managing the change over time. But don’t get stuck in the models when the actual change and transformation is about to happen. Make your leaders take on the role of being conversation starters and good listeners. Because it’s in the everyday conversations the energy that drives change will be found.

Sara von Platen

Sara von Platen

Title: Assistant professor, Dept. of Strategic Communication, Lund University.
Experience: Engaged researcher and lecturer on organizational communication, communication consultancy and organizational change.
Anthem: Things Change, Dwight Yoakam
Weapon of choice: Knowledge and patience
Sara von Platen

Latest posts by Sara von Platen (see all)

    HR must lead the way in the digital workplace

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    Yesterday, the Smarter Change Network met in Malmö. The event was hosted by Malin Grundström at Elfa International while Stina Berggren, Regional Business Director at Atea, provided inspirational insights. The network is made up of leaders with a focus on HR and competence development.

    The event was all about the impact of the digital workplace. New technology has brought a wave of change in how we work both on our own and with co-workers. Microsoft’s new Office 365 suite is about to usher in even more new opportunities. But it’s unfortunate that the digital workplace is usually driven more by technological breakthroughs than employee needs and behaviour. It’s time for the HR department to step up. We have to get our heads around how technology is driving new behaviour that competes with current company culture and work habits.

    The network agreed that the impact of the digital workplace is business critical and that successfully implementing new technology comes down to one thing: leadership.

    Your leaders will determine how smoothly people transition to new work habits. Cultural barriers and ingrained behaviour must be identified and taken seriously. Many in the network shared stories of implementing new software that never reached its potential. Learning from these missteps is critical – we’re in the midst of a workplace upheaval on a scale we haven’t seen since the computer revolution of the early 90’s.

    The network came up with a few key ways to ensure success in the digital workplace:

    Make time to understand your leaders.
    Find out what drives them, what they fear about new ways of working, how they feel about increased transparency and knowledge sharing, their attitude towards digital tools, etc.

    Get your leaders to loosen the reins.
    The need for control is often a barrier to development. Help your leaders see the value of putting more decisions in the hands of employees. A leader no longer has to be the one with all the answers in a more openly collaborative workplace. Let them be the first to try out new tools. Describe good examples in business terms. The ones who dive right in are the leaders you want to put at the forefront.

    Leaders must spearhead a shift in how we hire.
    The most important qualities when looking for new employees today are talent and a willingness to change. The only thing we know for sure is that things are changing fast and show no signs of slowing down. An impressive CV doesn’t reveal how adaptable and driven to learn a person is. And those are qualities you’re going to need to unlock the potential of the digital workplace.

    Symbal appoints new CEO

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    On January 1st, Martin Hoff will take over as CEO of Symbal Communication. Peter Gustafson, who has been CEO since Symbal was founded in 2003, will stay on in a new role.

    Martin’s appointment is part of Symbal’s next phase. Today, we have grown to 21 employees with offices in Malmö and Gothenburg. We have a broad base of suppliers in both Sweden and abroad. To take this journey further, it is time for a new CEO who will focus on top class delivery to customers while improving our organization and leadership.

    Martin Hoff excelled in his career as a manager at Sony Ericsson. He went on to become CEO of consulting firm Chase XL, a position he has held for the past five years. Martin has extensive experience in managing and consulting both change management and market intelligence.

    Peter Gustafson will serve as Symbal’s executive chairman and focus on strategic business development. Peter will also continue to be an advisor and consultant in our favorite area – change communication.

    “Our guiding star has always been ‘change for the better’,” Peter says. “This reason for being guides us not only in our work with our customers, but in the development of our company. After 12 years at the helm as an entrepreneur, consultant and CEO, it’s the right time for the company to take the next step. I’m happy to let the next generation of leader take the wheel and see what happens.”

    The heart and soul of Symbal will remain intact but Martin will inject new ideas and his own vision of the future.

    “I want Symbal to strengthen its position as the leader in our niche in Sweden,” says Martin Hoff. “It’s a position I want to see us take in other countries in the future. To remain relevant to customers, Symbal has to grow. Our employees are our most important resource and giving them the chance to develop is vital for our future success. We also have to make sure our offer evolves in step with the changing needs of our customers. I see these areas as my main focus in the coming years.”

    The Rendahl Model™ – an introduction

    Knowing what matters to people deep down is the key to inspiring successful change. Watch professor Jan Erik Rendahl explain briefly about the scientific theory on existential core values, and how these affect us in our approach to change. With this theory as the base Symbal provides both target group analyzes for change communication and advice on how to build productive change teams.

    (More films are available at Vimeo and Youtube)

    Change Communication from a customers perspective with Ulrika Rask Lindholm, Group Communications Manager at Höganäs

    Ulrika_Rask-Lindholm, Höganäs

    What’s the best thing about working at Höganäs?
    That we’re both a small and a large company. We’re present all over the world with global customers, we have production facilities and sales offices in fourteen countries, and yet we do it all with only 1,800 employees. That makes it easy to know who everyone is and connect with someone and have meaningful exchanges. It also makes it easier to influence what Höganäs does and how we do it.

    What are the biggest challenges as communications manager at a global organization?
    We’re a slim organization so out in the regions we have few resources for running areas like HR, finance and communication. When my central team wants to spread new ways of working or setup project groups around communication we do so through people who have communication as an extra assignment, on top of their main role, and often don’t have a communication background. Since it isn’t their main focus, they have to step in and out of the role, which can be hard.

    Why do you think storytelling is such a great tool when working with film and content?
    I’ve worked with editorial communication for a long time, so for me it’s clear that stories convey clear, easy-to-understand messages. Storytelling is a core part of our editorial communication and a great way to help people understand complex topics and events. We also use storytelling when we let individual employees step forward and tell their story as the experts in their field, and thus exemplify a vision or a strategy.

    Why have you chosen to work with Symbal for such a long time?
    We started collaborating with Symbal in 2009 when they helped us with a vision and values conference held in Shanghai, China. I knew we needed a partner who could help us with change communication, which is how I first found Symbal. The conference was a success and the cooperation worked very well so it was natural for me to continue to choose Symbal for assignments in various contexts.

    What is the most enjoyable part of working with Symbal?
    I really appreciate that we have a lot of fun when we work together and that we laugh a lot. We travel together and sometimes we have projects that stretch out and then get prolonged even further. Symbal has a lot of patience for our internal processes and what we at Höganäs are going through.

    What do you think is most important in a customer relationship?
    To me, the most important aspect of a customer-supplier relationship is good chemistry, that you get along and have fun together. It’s as simple as that. The next aspect is to have a mutual understanding and exchange. An openness that works both ways. I as a customer can be open with my needs and expectations and Symbal in turn can be open towards me, what they need from us as company. Then we can develop together and form a solid mutual understanding of where we’re going.

    (A shorter story about Ulrika are available at Vimeo and Youtube)

    Meet our new regional manager

    Symbal has customers in Gothenburg since a few years back and an office in the center of town, Stora Badhusgatan. Now we have Anna Bromander on site, which not only refers to herself as a hillbilly and a big Lord of the Rings fan – she is also our new regional manager in Gothenburg. This is her story!

    Anna

    Hi Anna! Tell us a little about yourself.
    I’m a hillbilly living in Gothenburg with my husband and two children. After six years at the university, maxing out my student loans on media and communication, journalism and digital media (among other things) I started out in television but soon changed over to the booming IT industry and more specifically e-learning script writing. Producing engaging and educational experiences have been my passion ever since.

    Why Symbal?
    I have worked with competence development for many years and I think that Symbal takes an exciting comprehensive approach to what is required to implement a successful change, both regarding communication and training. For me, it means a wider perspective of the customer journey and it feels like a natural extension of my previous work.

    What does change mean to you?
    Change can be scary for some and thrilling for others. Regardless, it is an inevitable part of life. At the same time, change must not be an end in itself. Overall, we need to get better at also noticing what actually works well today, and manage and develop it.

    I myself am probably somewhere in between risk personality and security addict. I can be attracted by both.


    ANNAS FOUR ANSWERS

    • What’s your favourite movie? I am a movie buff and often get this question. It is always difficult to answer. But if I have to, I choose the films that come as close to perfection as possible – The lord of the rings.
    • Who do you greatly admire? I admire ordinary people who quietly do selfless deeds to help others.
    • What are addicted to? I have come to the conclusion that I do not have the predisposition for addiction but there are two things I simply can not have at home – julmust and nutella.
    • What’s your greatest wish? For my children to have their health and enjoy their lifes.

    Latest meet-up of the Symbal HR Network

    Over the past 15 years, Andreas Breiler of Idélaboratoriet has been teaching, inspiring and writing handbooks on idea development.

    Last week, we were happy to have him join us for the latest meet-up of the Symbal HR Network. The network used the meet-up to identify the factors that impact an organisation’s ability to be innovative, such as its atmosphere, innovation culture, idea generation processes, how creative competence is managed, the physical environment and incentive programs. Fred Eriksson, who works with Expert Change & Organisation Development at Eon, hosted the event.

    The network, which is run by Symbal, has met 2-3 times a year since 2012. The network is made up of specialists and managers within HR and Competence Development who are passionate about organisational development.

    This year the network has seen strong growth. It now boasts members from 20 organisations, most of which are multinational.

    Want to learn more about the network?
    Contact Peter Gustafson at pg@symbal.com or 0708 45 62 62

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