Summary: Communicating change like a champion
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Communicating Change Like a Champion

If your organization is like most, you’re probably experiencing a lot of change and looking for ways to improve communication and get employees more engaged. But what if the solution isn’t what you need to communicate? What if the solution is simply changing the way you communicate?

In this article, we’ll show you how you can plan your communications strategy to deliver the best results.

The Role of Change Communications

There are a variety of reasons why companies need to change. Sometimes, it’s because of a shift in the marketplace or new technologies that make current processes obsolete. Other times, it’s because the company is experiencing growth and has to adapt its practices to accommodate a larger workforce. Still other times, it’s simply because the company has realized that its current way of doing things isn’t working and needs to be revamped.

Change is often hard for people to accept, even when it’s necessary.

The role of change communications is to help individuals and organizations manage the process, people and messages associated with change. Change communications addresses the why, what and how of change, and provides a framework for planning and executing communications activities.

That’s why you need a strategy and a plan to communicate the changes that are happening in your organization. A good change communications plan will help employees understand why the organization is making the change, what the effects of the change will be, and how they can best prepare for and adjust to the new way of working.

Change communications plans should address three key areas. I call them the Three Cs:

  1. Content: Who is your audience and what information do they need to hear and understand about the change?
  2. Channels: What channels will you use to communicate your message (for instance, email memos, newsletters, the company intranet, face-to-face meetings, town hall meetings, etc.)?
  3. Cadence: At which points of the change process will you be communicating, and how frequently should communications activities take place?

Organizations also need to consider who will be responsible for delivering change communications messages and what resources will be required to support those efforts. It is also important to choose the right mix of channels to reach your target audiences effectively.

Often, it makes sense to appoint a team of change champions who can help spread the word about forthcoming changes and answer questions from employees as they arise. Change champions might come from different departments or levels within the organization. They could be line managers, project leads or members of senior management, but what they all should have in common is a commitment to communicate on a regular and consistent basis and an understanding of how the changes will impact those they work with on a daily basis.

When done well, change communications can help ease the transition during times of change and ensure that everyone is informed, engaged and onboard with the new direction.

The Four Stages of Change Communications

The process of change communications helps to ensure that employees are kept informed and engaged throughout the change process, and that they understand the purpose and objectives of the change. Change communications is not just a matter of broadcasting your messages about the change. It is also a dialogue with your team and your wider organization to ensure that their input and ideas on the impact of the change are also considered.

Change communications is an important part of any organizational change initiative and typically goes through four stages:

Stage 1: Strategy

This is the stage in which you create your vision and plan for how you will communicate the change. What is changing? How will this change affect the current workings of the organization and your team in particular? What is the desired outcome of the change process, and how will this be measured?

At this point, it is helpful to define a few key metrics which can give you an indication of whether the change initiative is on track to deliver the anticipated results. According to Prosci, examples of key metrics that relate to the communications aspect of the change may include: adherence to the project timeline, employee awareness and satisfaction surveys, usage numbers, training participation, to name a few.

Stage 2: Awareness

At this stage, you need to make employees aware of the upcoming change and its potential impact on them. Internal newsletters, town hall meetings with the entire organization, Q&A sessions with the project team or discussions during regular team meetings are excellent ways to raise awareness and gather initial feedback.

Provide information on what the change will mean for their role, their team, and the organization as a whole. You may also want to give your team the opportunity to provide input into the change process. This input will give you a valuable insight into the potential impact of the change on the daily operations of your team.

Stage 3: Implementation

As implementing the change gains momentum, it is important to provide employees with more specific information about what their role will be during the roll-out.

This is also the time to be planning the training your team requires on the new systems or processes that are being introduced as part of the change. It is important at this stage to keep employees updated on progress and to provide them with opportunities to comment and get involved.

Regular dialogue is a key aspect of the communications process, as you will have to address many questions from your team about their ideas, concerns, and issues regarding available resources, and the conflicting priorities your team may be juggling.

Stage 4: Evaluation

During the change process and towards the end of implementation, it is important to evaluate its success and learn from any challenges that were encountered. The metrics you defined at the beginning of the project and gathered through the process will provide tangible insights into how successful the implementation has been, whether you achieved desired outcomes, and to what degree.

Evaluation is also about acknowledging the progress you have made as a team and celebrating the successful outcome.

Remember: the end of the change does not mean the end of all communications. Continue to nurture an open and appreciative communications culture, as this will lay the foundation for greater resilience when the next change comes along.

Change communications in Summary

  1. Define the change and develop key messages
  2. Assess the current environment and identify stakeholders
  3. Develop a strategy and action plan
  4. Create and implement communications tactics
  5. Evaluate results and adapt as needed
  6. Sustain momentum by ongoing communications
  7. Celebrate success
  8. Keep communicating
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