Unn kvendseth - shell - kademy

Unn Kvendseth, Head of Global Internal Communications and Engagement, Shell

Multinational energy company Shell has experienced considerable change in recent years – with a new CEO at the helm, changes to the executive team and the integration of different business units. For Unn Kvendseth, Head of Global Internal Communications and Engagement, and her team, this has meant communicating an ongoing, and at times, complex change journey to Shell’s global workforce.

At our recent comms leader roundtable, Unn talked to peers about Shell’s approach to navigating change, and in particular, her team’s work to better engage leaders and managers in the change process. Here she shares some of those insights.


Unn, at our roundtable, you said that businesses are navigating “change on change.” How are you and your team responding to today’s supercharged change environment?

At Shell, we are focusing on where we can become a leaner, more agile organisation. Our job as communicators is to unpack the transformation and help explain what it means to our global workforce. But leaders and managers have a huge role to play in communicating change, as ultimately, people want to hear from those at the helm.


Many comms leaders have told us how difficult it can be to support leaders and managers in change comms. Can you relate to this experience?

Yes, absolutely. At Shell, our top executives have dedicated communications support. However, the senior leaders below them often have to rely on their own communication skills to help their teams navigate change, which can be a daunting experience.


You conducted several focus groups with Shell leaders. What did you hear from them?

Leaders told us they are confident communicating change in a perfect world but find it more challenging when they don’t have the full picture or haven’t had time to digest the change themselves first. They also don’t always know when to communicate – or how much. Some leaders explained that they want to know how to translate a big change narrative into a digestible message for the people they manage. That’s where we can help them.


How have you used this information to inform your support for leaders?

For over a decade, we have had a four-part IC-owned training programme on offer for leaders, with a dedicated course on communicating change. Based on the feedback from leaders, and best practices from external knowledge partners, we are updating this, with additions such as communicating with empathy, translating strategy to local messages and how to build dialogue and two-way engagement. The great thing about the programme is that we can get a group of leaders into a room when we are in the midst of key change moments and provide on-the-spot support.

Shell's ic-owned training programme for leaders

Shell’s IC-owned training programme for leaders


The programme must be very time-intensive for you and your team. How do you navigate this?

The priority for us is to make the coaching both practical and sustainable. We are currently training ‘super coaches’ in our IC team so they can confidently deliver content and facilitate a good conversation with leaders on these subjects. By training our IC team to do this, rather than using external providers, we ensure the coaching is done by someone intimately familiar with the business, and we continue to build skills and confidence in our craft as well. It also keeps the programme low-cost and flexible.


Looking forward, how will you measure the success of the programme?

It is important to us that the training provides lasting value and builds practical communication skills that will benefit the organisation. We will measure the programme’s success through feedback from the leaders we train and the trust in leadership scores from our annual engagement survey. There are secondary impacts to strong leader communications of course, such as improved business and safety performance.

Unn, thank you for taking the time to share these insights with our community.


What’s changed about change comms? Join our webinar to find out.

From the changing nature of work to the evolution of AI and the fourth industrial revolution, today’s world is constantly shifting. Comms leaders may be accustomed to dealing with change, but the type, scale and speed of change are novel and unprecedented. This calls for a fresh approach to change comms.

Join our webinar on Thursday, 22 February to learn how your team can deliver impactful change comms in today’s supercharged change environment.