Perfecting change management communications
Change is necessary in every organisation – whether that be a new process, a change in software, or an acquisition. But, whatever the change, it can be unsettling for many employees and as such, a robust change management strategy must always be in place from the very outset.
For change to be successful we often have to alter behaviours, beliefs and routines. That is an extremely difficult task and may well explain why 70% of all change initiatives fail.
But if you follow the change management steps below, you should be able to avoid becoming another organisation that bolsters this statistic.
8 tips for a successful change management project
1. Get involved early
As an internal communicator you know the importance of providing timely and accurate information. Any change management project will require significant planning so the earlier you can get involved, the better.
- You need to understand the entire background:
- What is the change?
- What does the change replace?
- What is the purpose of the change?
- Who will be affected by the change?
- Who is leading the change?
- Who is involved in making the change happen?
- What are the timescales?
- What are the desired outcomes?
- What will the key milestones be?
- How will the change project be monitored and measured?
2. Put yourself in the shoes of your employees
Once you know everything about the change, you need to consider the different reactions you anticipate your employees having.
It’s highly likely that teams will be impacted differently so map out your audiences and what the change means to them.
You may then have groups within that team that are likely to react differently. So again, consider all these different reactions. This will enable you to consider the type of communications that will be most relatable to each group.
Consider factors such as:
- How much will the change impact them?
- What is expected of them before, during and after the change project?
- When will the impact take place?
- What will their reaction be at each stage?
3. Build the structure of your change management communications plan
With all the background information now collated you can start to map out your plan.
Using a timeline, split your communications between each of the audiences you’ve identified. Consider the type of communication that will be required, the regularity of that communication and the most effective channel to use.
It’s highly likely that your plan will utilise multiple channels at the same time, and these will differ depending on your audience. Channels to consider include:
- Employee engagement apps
- Messaging platforms
- Social media
- Digital signage
Also consider the mediums that will be most effective, i.e. written, video, pictorial or verbal. Once again, it’s likely a combination of these will be used.
Once you have matched the audience with the channel and medium, establish the frequency of your communications. Some people will need more regular updates than others so ensure your timeline carefully considers all your audiences.
4. Write the change management communications
Now it’s time to bring your expertise to life. Craft the communications for each of the items you have added to your change management communications timeline. Structure your communications with the ‘why’ first, followed by the ‘what’ and ‘how’.
The ‘why’ element is particularly important and this needs to be reiterated throughout your comms. With a constant reminder of the benefits, it will help to allay any fear and offer reassurance.
For every communication ensure you answer the following question for each audience:
- What does it mean for me?
- What’s in it for me?
As always, consider the language you use for each audience and ensure every communication is relevant.
5. Share your change management communication plan with the right people
In addition to the audiences you have mapped out in your change management communication plan there are a few more groups of people you should think about before you launch any communications:
- Those directly involved in the change project – some people may just be involved at certain stages of the project so do you need to keep then in the loop too, or will that be covered by the project team?
- Senior leaders – what role do they play in your communication plan? For example, if you have a particularly headstrong leader, would it be wise to set aside some time to explain your communication plan so that they understand your approach.
Also, if you want leaders to take responsibility for communicating some of your messages, again you’ll need to set time aside to explain their role in the change management communication plan.
Ultimately, you need your leaders and managers to be fully behind your communication plan. Any push back or lack of awareness is all going to restrict the success of your change management communication plan.
- Potential advocates – are there any advocates you could recruit? Any people who are likely to be firmly bought into the change who hold positive influence over their colleagues? If so, get them involved early on too. With employees as ambassadors it will really strengthen the change project.
6. Build in listening mechanisms
Any change is likely to result in emotional reactions. These are to be expected so work with them rather than overlooking them.
Throughout your communication timeline ensure you regularly collate feedback. Ways to listen include:
- Employee surveys
- Focus groups
- Online chat groups
- Feedback from 1:1 sessions
By building regular feedback sessions into your plan, you will keep a finger on the pulse. You will be able to address their emotions and communicate with compassion. This will help these people process the change far more effectively than if their reactions were just ignored.
7. Prepare for change
Whilst a lot of planning is required for change management communications you must also expect change! The three most likely changes you will need to accommodate are:
- Delays or changes in the project itself – depending on the type and scale of your change project, problems may occur. As these happen, your communications will need to react. The more informed your employees are, the less daunting any hold up, or change in direction, will be.
- Addressing rumours – rumours go hand-in-hand with any change. People talk and Chinese whispers evolve. By having solid feedback processes in place, you will hopefully pick up on these rumours and be able to address them in future communications. The more proactive you can be in addressing these, the better.
- Employee-led change – through your feedback loops your employees may come up with some good suggestions that will improve your change management communication plan. Welcoming suggestions and then bringing them to life is a great way to increase buy-in for the project, so it brings a double benefit!
8. Review the communication plan
Once your change communication plan has ended, evaluate its success. Did you achieve all your goals? Were the messages effective? Was there anything lacking? Were there any hurdles? What would you do differently if you ran the communication plan again?
Ensure you seek the opinion of others in this process too – from the employees who received the communications, to the project lead.
This will put you in good stead for any future change communication plans.
For change to be successful each individual needs to choose to buy into it. By creating informative communications that resonate with each person, your internal communications will be able to influence the speed and effectiveness of that change.
NewZapp’s part in change communications
NewZapp is an email communication platform that enables our customers to communicate change effectively.
With our email software you can create visually appealing emails, ensure they are all delivered fast, and access detailed engagement analytics. If you would like to create, deliver and monitor more effective emails, get in touch.