Shaping change internationally

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By Martin Michel (JP / COM) – In 2013, the Voith technology group launched one of the biggest change initiatives in its young history, with the aim of safeguarding its long-term competitiveness and growth. The related communications activities, which were supported by JP | KOM, have now been honored with an International German PR Award from the DPRG.

 39,000 staff in more than 200 locations worldwide: How can communications inspire the employees of an organization of this size? With its change project Voith 150+, Voith is showing exactly how.

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BU: The first four-minute mile by Roger Bannister – a key symbolic element of Voith 150+ communications

The project’s name is based on the fact that it will be the company’s 150th anniversary in 2017, while also indicating that the program will run far beyond that. Primarily focused on increasing efficiency and safeguarding the company’s future competitiveness and sustainability, the initiative also aims to create new prospects and opportunities for growth.

Voith 150+ impacts all the company’s departments and functions, encompassing product portfolios, processes, and the corporate culture. The main communications goal was to lay the foundations for the changes ahead and make the entire change process easier for employees worldwide.

The project was officially launched at six regional conferences in October 2013. At the events, 1,500 managers were briefed on the strategic and operational requirements, the goals, and a rough timeline of activities. As part of a top-down process, they then informed staff of the planned changes.

Via group-wide stakeholder mapping, the project leaders then identified which target groups to address and their communication needs. Building on a storyline agreed with group management, the comms team then defined the areas of focus for individual target groups.

The new program’s marketing mix

Detailed planning could then get underway: In order to communicate effectively and reach all employees worldwide, the team used a marketing mix comprising existing information materials and tried-and-trusted channels such as newsletters, the employee magazine, and the intranet. In addition to this, the team developed dedicated tools such as presentations, posters, and videos, translated in up to four different languages. These were used in the second round of regional meetings in 2015.

These conferences were the central element of Voith 150+ and played a crucial role in the initiative’s global communications, with the Voith CEO explaining the strategic and operational background of Voith 150+ to managers. This was then followed by a four-week cascading process. Team leaders were given a toolkit to use as the basis for their 90-minute meetings with staff, featuring:

  • a PowerPoint presentation covering the basic contents of the regional meeting
  • a video message from Voith CEO Dr. Hubert Lienhard on the strategy of Voith 150+
  • an explanatory video on the core elements of the change process and its benefits for staff and the company
  • a poster for discussions on group processes
  • Q&A cards for moderators
  • a Maturity Path as a follow-up to cascading

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BU: PowerPoint presentation with the essential information.

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BU: Explanatory video on Voith 150+.

Using this blend of communications tools, the aim was to address all Voith employees around the world. Commitment, openness and a deep understanding of the storyline on the part of managers formed the basis for ensuring all employees were effectively incorporated into the Voith 150+ change process.

Deeply embedded program

After the regional conferences, attendees were asked to complete an anonymous survey and provide feedback on the strategy, goals, content, and activities of the change process. The results were taken on board when developing subsequent communications. To monitor success, team leaders completed status reports (“Maturity Paths”) on the cascading process, the outcomes of discussions, any questions from employees, and the types of media used.

As highlighted by the positive feedback from staff at the conferences, both the storyline and the need for change as the basis for continued success were well received. Today, the program and its key messages are firmly embedded in the minds of the workforce.

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 BU: The delighted recipients of an International German PR Award on January 22, 2016 in Frankfurt. From left to right: Jörg Pfannenberg (JP | KOM), Markus Woehl, Kristine Adams (Voith), Martin Michel (JP | KOM), and Lars Rosumek (Voith).

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