J.C. Penney Faces Questions With Latest Management Change

J.C. Penney has seen a lot of upheaval of late.  Not only with a new marketing plan, but also a major renovation of its pricing system, which, according to reports by Time, has resulted in months of subpar sales and widespread confusion among customers.   

Now it looks like the internal communications department has an even bigger problem on its hands.

Within the last year, J.C. Penney has seen considerable changes in management. In November, the company brought Ron Johnson on to the team as the CEO. Soon after assuming that role, Johnson hired Michael Francis as president. Now, less than eight months later, J.C. Penney has announced that Francis will no longer be with the company. 

How should J.C. Penney’s internal communicators handle this issue? What is the message they should convey and how should they communicate it to the public?

Andrew Goldberg, EVP of Makovsky + Company, says that the message internal communicators at J.C. Penney should convey is that, “quick leadership changes needed to be made in order to simplify and speed up the execution of a strong marketing and pricing plan.” Goldberg believes that they should also make a point to explain that as a result of this change, top management will be more cohesive and focused on successfully executing its value strategy. It is critical that this message is communicated to the sales force and employees, as well as the investors and analysts.

Brenda C. Siler, director and founder of Best Communication Strategies, has provided some pointers for the internal communicators at J.C. Penney.

Assemble a Team: This team should be assembled from the existing staff and should be in charge of managing the strategy around this company change in management issue.

Ensure Transparency: It is imperative that when working with the existing senior staff the team ensures transparency. This will maintain employee moral and confidence.

Management-to-Staff Tactics: Manage video conferences, small group dialogues, etc. Focus on a range of issues. For each tactic executed, be sure there are well developed “what if?” scenarios. This will help reassure employees that the turnaround plan and strategy is going to be effective.