Communications play a vital role in various stages of a change management project. From the initial discussion with managers and employees about the business reasons for the change and what's in it for them to participate, to getting other internal stakeholders on board as well as effective sponsorship endorsement, it is important to convey your messages in ways which will be understood by everyone involved, whatever their role.
Those directly impacted by the change need opportunities to raise concerns and ask questions in a safe and open environment. Make sure you consider ways for staff to offer constructive criticism and discuss the proposed changes as well as how they might be affected. This can be done through a number of mediums: surveys, interactive workshops, Q&A sessions, social events, online discussions, social media etc. Senior leader sponsors of the change need to be involved directly in face to face activities. Find out which platforms are best suited for your team to create a true two-way dialogue and encourage full participation and open communication.
Things to bear in mind
Not everyone is going to feel comfortable standing up in a packed meeting and asking questions. Creating an inclusive atmosphere and encouraging relaxed discussion in small groups, or remotely, will help those having difficulty expressing opinions to be more vocal. Simple-to-use and reliable digital communication tools like Skype and webinars can also be harnessed to encourage discussions.
It is also important to avoid labelling staff who have questions or concerns as negative or resistant to change, or “difficult”. This could prevent staff talking openly about concerns, meaning these concerns will continue, and possibly escalate, while remaining hidden from the people managing the change. Take this as an opportunity to use communication to pitch the ‘why’ of your change project in language that employees use.
Good communication is a two-way street
For change management practitioners, it’s important to think of communications as a two-way street. Not only should you communicate your reasoning behind this path to change clearly using consistent, common language, but you should also remain open to any opinions and suggestions that you receive back whether they are positive or negative. Remember to be empathetic and see things from the team’s point of view so you can fully understand which challenges the workforce are looking to solve and how implementing suggested changes will impact this. Focusing on the ‘why’ first before the ‘what’ and the 'how' of the change will show you as an authentic change leader and also encourage a stronger buy-in and urgency for change. Great change management practitioners coach their leaders and line managers in how to be great communicators.
You may think that repeatedly communicating your message on several platforms means it has been received, understood and accepted but this has the potential to create confusion and crossed-wires within departments and those involved in the change. The message a sender sends is not necessarily the message a receiver hears. Remember to check that there is a universal understanding of the proposed changes throughout the organisation, using Q&A and repetitive communication to confirm understanding. By including checks, surveys and evaluations in your change management execution, using Prosci ADKAR based questions as an example, will help ensure confusion is avoided.
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