A complete guide to change management communication
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 12 April 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Implementing a successful change management strategy can be a streamlined process. While change is necessary for any evolving organisation, you may still encounter obstacles and areas of resistance against the change. Effective change management communication is a prerequisite for implementing a change that works because it gets employees excited about the change. In this article, we discuss the process of change, explore strong communication strategies and give some examples of best practices in change management.
What is change management communication?
Change management communication is a part of a change management strategy that focuses on delivering the right information to stakeholders. Change communications explain what is changing in the strategy, why it's changing and how the change is going to affect stakeholders. When making communications, ensure they're aligned with the key milestones of the project. This allows everyone involved to keep track of how the project is moving along.
Any change management strategy focuses on delivering timely, consistent and relevant information. Change communications also provide a system for sharing feedback, asking questions and bringing up any concerns with the project. Communication is necessary to execute a change management strategy smoothly.
Why is effective change management important?
Change can be scary for any organisation. One of the main reasons change initiatives fail is that the organisation isn't communicating change efficiently. The people who make and sustain changes are also the ones affected by it. Having them all be on the right page in understanding and managing that change is important to offset confusion.
Communication during change management lets all stakeholders and employees understand the value of the change. Communication also highlights the scope of the change to help people embrace the new initiative. With strong communications in place, you can avoid unexpected surprises are and the change management strategy can unroll more efficiently.
The 4 stages of change communications
No matter what scale the change management plan is, or what kind of organisation it covers, communicating change covers four basic steps. These stages form the foundation of any change management communication strategy:
The first stage of any change management strategy is to create awareness. Make employees aware of the recent change being implemented. This is necessary for getting ensuring everyone understands what's happening and easing any resistance and fear based on the change. Bringing awareness to the change involves timely and clear communications delivered through the right communication channels. This is an internal process, so it's best to use relevant internal communication channels. Once everyone who the change may affect is aware of it and what it involves, the rest of the change management plan can follow.
Once you've created awareness around the change, the next stage is to cover the details of the change. This includes looking at what the change involves, who it affects, the implementation process and when it goes into effect. This stage of change communications also highlights how each person involved in the change benefits from it. This communication step ensures employees understand the benefits of the recent change. Understanding what the change involves helps to highlight what positive aspects the change brings. By fully understanding change, adopting it becomes an easier process.
Employees now accept the recent change and implement it based on the instructions of the change management strategy. Keeping employees updated about the change and encouraging their feedback on the change is important at this stage. This helps to get everyone involved. This stage of communication happens throughout the change management process. It involves the delivery of strategic communications and materials to keep everyone informed. Widespread acceptance of change is necessary for the change to be a success.
Change management is an ongoing process. Communication about changes continues after the team adopts the change. This helps you to implement the change effectively. The commitment stage of change communications involves a continuous flow of communication. Collaboration and recognition are important here. This commitment stage of communications is vital for the sustained success of the change.
Using clear communication in your change management strategy
Before implementing any change communications, start by creating a clear communication strategy. This plan defines the change and future vision and considers all the people and operations that the change affects. It also covers a communication schedule to implement. Some important parts of a communications plan include defining the key messages of the plan and choosing the best communication channels. The plan involves creating a communication calendar, creating strategic and internal communication content and measuring the impact of the communications. The change management strategy provides a chronological roadmap to follow.
Best practices for communicating change
Strong change communication is essential for any successful change management strategy. Here are seven best practices for change management to help deliver better results:
Be specific from the start
Sudden change is scary, and it's difficult to implement effectively. It's important to offer complete clarity on the change as early as possible. It's best not to leave employees searching for details. Always be as specific as possible when communicating change. Provide the exact time, date and details of the change implementation. Be clear about who the change affects, how it affects them and exactly what the process is going to look like. Highly specific change communications result in less confusion and panic.
Use multiple communication channels
Relying on a single medium for communicating change can be ineffective. Different people in an organisation have different communication preferences, so it's best to cover a variety of channels. This can include emails and newsletters, in-person meetings, video communications and collaborative communication tools and forums. Each communication medium has its own advantages and weaknesses. Covering all of your bases ensures a more complete and effective communication strategy with more information available.
Assign the communications appropriately
Communicating through the right people makes a big difference in how effective and well-received the change can be. A great approach is to communicate the change to employees from their direct supervisors and from the change maker. If a distant leader communicates the change in the organisation, more resistance to the change is likely than from a familiar colleague, which can increase comfort and trust.
Employees trust their direct managers more, and there is a greater level of understanding between the two. It's best to have management communicate the change who understand exactly what the change for the specific employees looks like. This way, nobody misses any details and a more realistic communication and understanding of the change is spread.
An important question to answer during these communications is 'What's in it for me?'. You can also answer the question 'What does it mean to me?'. Customising change communication to each person involved ensures more effective implementation and adoption of change. By being specific about what the change looks like for each individual, employees see the advantages of the change more easily. Consider targeting this communication strategy at individuals or at different departments. Understanding how the change looks for these different parties and how its implementation differs is important.
Change management isn't necessarily a one-way flow of information. Successful change management listens to feedback from the people who the change affects. Even if your change management plan is rock solid, it might look different in reality, so it's important to listen to everyone involved. Open up discussion of change, invite questions and accommodate different perspectives. This makes it easier for everyone involved to process the change and raise their concerns. You could create a more optimised, strategic change implementation in response to feedback gathered.
Be prepared for resistance
No matter how important and beneficial a change is, implementing it may still involve a level of disruption. This means people affected by the change are likely to resist it. Preparing for this resistance helps managers to improve the way they communicate the change.
One of the best strategies is to highlight the value of the change. Instead of just announcing and implementing a change, make it clear why the change is important and how it's going to help everyone involved. Showing employees that you have a plan and that the change is necessary brings more confidence about the change and less resistance against it.
Use creative communication strategies
Employees don't always respond well to any kind of standard internal communications. For effective communication, try to get creative, with communication formats like a fun video or an interactive forum. This helps get employees on board with the change idea, which makes a big difference to the chance of successful change adoption. Frequent communication strategies are also best. Don't be afraid to repeat the message and frequently send out information on the change. More communication results in a change that's more strongly understood.
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