It is against human nature to react favourably to change
Understanding the impact of this simple statement will help you to develop strong and effective change communication strategies. But why do we, as humans, react so poorly towards change? Simply because it takes us out of our comfort zone. A typical reaction people experience when faced with change is resistance. Resistance can often sabotage your best efforts to drive change through your organization. Change communication is a key tool to overcome ‘change resistance’. When a change initiative fails, the cause is often a lack of good communication from management.
When designing a change communication strategy, you are essentially starting to prepare your organization for the transformation from its current state to its future state. At this time, business leaders need to prepare the messages that define the organization’s written principles and values. In doing so, leaders will begin to set the stage for behavioural and performance expectations. These core messages must address the following questions and issues:
Explaining the ‘Why’
Why is my company changing the way it’s always done business, and why is the change necessary?
Involve your employees
Many of your employees will be innovative and eager to contribute their insights and suggestions for improvement. These individuals are your organizations ‘thought leaders’ and are typically the resources you know you can call upon to get things done and help influence your workforce as to the positive reasons for change.
Good communication is two-way communication
Seeking out the change resistance
Your initial communications must provide a mechanism to uncover potential paths of resistance to change. Unlike the practice of passing on information, good communication is two-way communication. As you make others aware of your strategy and need for change, you must also seek your employees’ feedback to better understand how your change message was received.
How will change affect me?
This is one of the most important messages required to gain the desire within your organization to do something different. Remember that at all levels of an organization, an employee’s direct supervisor has the most influence over what they hear and respond to. When communicating change to an employee’s; role, pay, benefits, time off or even the systems/tools that they use every day, direct supervisors are the most effective medium for communicating the change because of their relationship with the individual.
After you have developed your key message(s), you must test it with your employees. Do this informally, one on one or at select staff meetings. Make sure to get the reactions of some employees you suspect will be among the hardest to win over. Involve them by soliciting their ideas for changing the message, or parts of the message. Allowing these employees to shape the message will accomplish two goals: first, it will improve your message, making it more likely to be successful; and second, it will make your harshest critics more likely to feel a part of the communication process and, ideally, bring them on board as messengers.
After the communication cycle is complete, follow up. Structure it so that you can capture how your message was received emotionally as well as how well its content was understood. If the results are not acceptable, you may want to conduct another wave of communications.
Above all things, communication is paramount
Communication is paramount when trying to raise the level of understanding in your organization. The key to communicating is to use multiple platforms or media to communicate the same message. And you will probably have to communicate the same message three to six times before the message is heard and understood.
This information provides food for thought rather than counsel specifically designed to meet the needs of your organization or situation. The most effective communication plan should be tailored to your unique needs, so don’t hesitate to get individualized assistance from a communication expert.