Change communication has to be centred around your people; and it has to happen in real time.

Think people first

Implementing change is never an easy job – not when you do it right anyway.

The truth is that nothing can change without communication. And because most people are resistant to change in the workplace, effective change communication is essential when it comes to taking your employees from passive observers to proactive advocates as transformation occurs.

Without insight, this simply won’t happen.

To develop a clear understanding of your strategic objectives – particularly when determining what success looks like - it’s all about using what you know about your organisation and assessing the levels of understanding in your people: what they know about the change; how they feel about it; who they are influenced by; and how they respond best to information.

And whether you’re talking about the introduction of new technology, a review to your ways of working, or an update to your internal structure, change impacts all aspects of your organisation.

A responsive approach is key to nailing transformation success. It’s all about measuring and redefining strategies in real time without losing sight of the end goal – and using insights is the only way to identify the best strategy, forge your change narrative, strike the right tone, and identify your influencers in the here and now.

After the event won’t cut it here – this has to be responsive, authentic and, above all, in the moment.

How do you do?

According to McKinsey & Company1, 70% of change programmes fail - and the main causes of these failures stem from a lack of employee involvement, inadequate support from leadership teams, poor all-round collaboration, and little-to-no accountability when things don’t go according to plan.

So, be honest: when it comes to communicating change, how well does your organisation really do?

The success of communicating any organisational change lies in the relationships you build with your people. So, when it comes to sharing the goals and benefits of the change you want to implement, the role your employees play in that change are critical.

Without the right communication plans, creative ideas and authentic messages, employees can become uncertain and remain resistant to change – it’s basic human nature.

But there are ways to handle this.

We’re talking about listening and building understanding here. Avoid the assumption that people will ‘get it’ - they won’t.

There will be difficult issues to tackle, so be prepared to reach a compromise as you focus on creating new and real insights. And make sure you explore the implications of all factors affecting an employee – feedback is everything here, as is recognising individual contribution.

To guarantee you have a plan in place to mitigate that inevitable pocket of resistance, make sure you focus on the following:

  • A long-term vision for the change in question
  • A compelling change story
  • A distinct visual identity
  • A clear calendar for change communications to be shared
  • A consistent approach to messaging from leaders
  • A clear understanding of the impact on different audiences
  • A network of advocates for the change
  • An insight into employees’ understanding and adoption of the change
  • A process for identifying and replicating best practice

It’s important to remember that people often start from a position of scepticism when it comes to change. So think again about how you articulate the necessity of the transformation at hand. Do this openly and realistically; make your narrative simple and compelling; understand the mindset, experience and expectations of your audience – all of them; and, above all, make sure it’s engaging.

You’ll lose from minute one if you don’t.

And because change communication centres on the emotional, rather than the intellectual, it’s important to remember that communicating nothing is still communicating something.

The first casualty of change communication is usually lack of information – after all, if you don’t say it, someone else will (usually an unhappy employee). And while peer group influence is critical in driving smart transformation, remember that conversations – good and bad - will happen with or without your input.

It all comes back to those four words: awareness, appreciation, action, and advocacy.

So, when communicating change, make sure your output is there to act as a single source of truth – and make sure that truth clearly sets out what your employees need to know.

Source: McKinsey: The How of Transformation1

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