However, communication in the context of change management is no small feat. Communicators must address both broad audiences and individuals who may already be experiencing stress.
In the pursuit of effective and enduring change, organizations must overcome four key challenges in change management communication.
1. Communicating why change is necessary
The need for change is often so clear to change leaders (executives or the team that's championing it) they forget the rest of the organization may not understand the change. It's crucial for change leaders to use change management communication to help employees understand why the change is necessary.
Successful change requires leaders to educate employees on what's happening at a macro level within their industries, why the change is necessary for the organization's future success, and what the implications are in the absence of change. Research shows that employees prefer to hear the "why" of change from an executive champion, one of the few times employees prefer to hear from the top rather than their direct supervisor.
Here are 5 examples on how to communicate why change is necessary in an organisation:
- Share a vision for the future. What will the organization look like after the change is implemented? How will the change benefit employees, customers, and other stakeholders? Paint a clear and compelling picture of the future state to help employees understand why the change is necessary and how it will benefit them personally.
- Explain the reasons for change. What are the external or internal factors that are driving the need for change? Be honest and transparent about the challenges that the organization is facing and how the change will help to address them.
- Highlight the benefits of change. How will the change improve the organization's performance, efficiency, or competitiveness? How will it help the organization to achieve its strategic goals? Focus on the positive outcomes of the change and how it will benefit everyone involved.
- Address concerns and objections. Employees are likely to have questions and concerns about the change. Be prepared to address these concerns head-on and provide clear and concise answers. Be honest about the challenges that the change may involve, but also emphasize the benefits and how the organization will support employees through the change process.
- Be transparent and authentic. Employees can spot insincerity from a mile away. Be genuine in your communication and show that you are committed to the change. Be willing to listen to feedback and make adjustments to the change plan as needed.
Here are some specific examples of how to communicate why change is necessary in an organization:
- Example 1:
"We are implementing a new customer relationship management (CRM) system to help us better serve our customers and grow our business. The new CRM system will give us a better understanding of our customers' needs and preferences, and it will help us to provide them with more personalized and timely service. The new CRM system will also help us to streamline our sales and marketing processes, which will make us more efficient and profitable."
- Example 2:
"We are restructuring our organization to eliminate silos and improve collaboration. The new organizational structure will create cross-functional teams that will be responsible for developing and launching new products and services. The new organizational structure will also give employees more opportunities to learn and grow. We believe that the new organizational structure will help us to be more innovative and responsive to the needs of our customers."
- Example 3:
"We are investing in new technologies to improve our manufacturing processes. The new technologies will help us to produce higher quality products at a lower cost. The new technologies will also help us to reduce our environmental impact. We believe that the investment in new technologies will help us to be more competitive and sustainable in the long term."
- Example 4:
"We are adopting a new hybrid work model to give employees more flexibility and work-life balance. The new hybrid work model will allow employees to work remotely part of the time and in the office part of the time. We believe that the new hybrid work model will help us to attract and retain top talent, and it will also make us more productive and efficient."
- Example 5:
"We are implementing a new diversity and inclusion initiative to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace. The new diversity and inclusion initiative will include unconscious bias training, employee resource groups, and a mentorship program. We believe that the new diversity and inclusion initiative will help us to create a more welcoming and supportive workplace for all employees."
By communicating why change is necessary in a clear, concise, and transparent way, organizations can help employees to understand and support the change process.
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2.Keeping change sponsors involved from beginning to end
However, the reality is that employees require the active involvement of change sponsors right from the outset of the initiative and throughout its entire progression.
Without a continuous presence from change sponsors, change initiatives can appear disjointed and lacking cohesion. To address this, change management communication plans should pair sponsors with dedicated communication resources who facilitate their ongoing participation, ensuring they remain visible and engaged.
Sustained involvement from change sponsors is instrumental in maintaining consistency and fostering trust—two pivotal components of successful change management.
Here are 5 ways to keep change sponsors involved from start to end when dealing with change management in an organization:
- Get their input early and often. Change sponsors should be involved in the change management process from the very beginning. This will ensure that they have a say in the development and implementation of the change plan, and that they are aligned with the overall goals of the change.
- Keep them updated on progress. Change sponsors should be kept up-to-date on the progress of the change plan. This can be done through regular meetings, email updates, or a dedicated communication portal. It is important to be transparent with change sponsors and to address any concerns that they may have.
- Empower them to communicate with the organization. Change sponsors should be empowered to communicate with the organization about the change. This can be done through town hall meetings, team meetings, or one-on-one conversations. It is important for change sponsors to be visible and vocal about the change, and to answer any questions that employees may have.
- Give them opportunities to celebrate successes. It is important to celebrate the successes of the change process along the way. This will help to keep change sponsors engaged and motivated. Successes can be celebrated through team meetings, all-hands meetings, or company events.
- Recognize their contributions. It is important to recognize the contributions of change sponsors at the end of the change process. This can be done through a formal award program, a personal thank-you note, or a public recognition at a team meeting or company event.
Here are some additional tips for keeping change sponsors involved:
- Make it easy for them to be involved. Provide change sponsors with the resources and support they need to be effective. This may include providing them with access to the change management team, training on change management best practices, and regular communication updates.
- Be responsive to their feedback and concerns. Change sponsors should be able to share their feedback and concerns without judgment. Be open to their input and make adjustments to the change plan as needed.
- Show them that their support is valued. Express your appreciation for the change sponsors' time and commitment. Let them know that their support is essential to the success of the change process.
By following these tips, you can keep change sponsors involved from start to end and increase the chances of success for your change initiative.
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3. Putting Employees first – not process
Achieving meaningful change management entails persuading employees to alter their behavior, which presents an additional challenge in change management communication.
Real behavioral shifts won't occur unless the organization establishes an emotional connection between the "why," "what," and "so what" of the change. Employees seek to comprehend how the change will impact them, their colleagues, customers, and the overall company.Leaders can sometimes fall into the misconception of viewing change management communication as merely a procedural checkbox. They might send out information via email, discuss it at an all-staff meeting, include it in a newsletter, and assume their responsibilities are fulfilled.
However, adopting this approach proves ineffective. Change sponsors and leaders must grasp the emotional and psychological needs of employees, preparing for reactions such as resistance, denial, and diminishing enthusiasm.
To put employees first – not process when dealing with change management in organizations with remote employees:
- Be transparent and honest about the change. Employees need to understand why the change is happening, how it will impact them, and what the organization is doing to support them through the change process. Be honest about the challenges that the change may involve, but also emphasize the benefits and how the organization will support employees through the change process.
- Empower employees to provide feedback and participate in the change process. Employees should be given opportunities to share their feedback on the change plan and to participate in the decision-making process. This will help to ensure that the change plan is realistic and achievable, and that it meets the needs of employees.
- Provide employees with the resources and support they need to manage the change. This may include providing employees with training on new skills, access to new technologies, or flexible work arrangements. Employees also need to have access to support from their managers and other team members.
- Be patient and understanding. Change can be difficult, especially for remote employees who may feel isolated and disconnected from the organization. Be patient with employees and offer them support as they adjust to the change.
Here are some additional tips for putting employees first when managing change in remote teams:
- Use technology to facilitate communication and collaboration. Remote teams need to have access to technology tools that allow them to communicate and collaborate effectively. This may include video conferencing tools, chat tools, and project management tools.
- Create opportunities for remote employees to connect with each other and with the organization. This may include organizing virtual social events, team meetings, or all-hands meetings. It is also important to provide remote employees with access to the same information and resources as office-based employees.
- Encourage regular check-ins with remote employees. Managers should check in with remote employees on a regular basis to see how they are doing and to offer support. This can be done through one-on-one meetings, video calls, or email.
By following these tips, organizations can put employees first and increase the chances of success for their change initiatives.
4. Leveraging the right communication Tools
When changes impact critical aspects such as employees' roles, job procedures, compensation, or the executive team, organizations must meticulously select the communication channel and spokesperson. Research demonstrates that employees generally prefer to receive news of significant changes from a senior leader, such as the CEO or director, delivered through a face-to-face platform like a town hall meeting (or via video if necessary).
Organizations that restrict themselves to a limited set of communication channels and disproportionately favor one-way avenues risk making erroneous assumptions about whether employees have received and internalized the messages.
Change, while challenging, is an indispensable element for an organization's future success. Change initiatives will flounder without effective change management communication. Overcoming the hurdles in change management communication necessitates the articulation of why change is imperative and involves leaders from initiation to conclusion.
It acknowledges the emotional component of change and addresses these emotions by disseminating messages to employees through channels that align with the significance of the message.