Any organizational change program depends on effective change communications – employees must be aware of what is happening, why it is happening, and what their role is in a project.
Change managers, therefore, must develop a change management communication strategy that is strategic and goal-oriented.
Below, we’ll look at a few tips that can improve change communications and, as a result, the overall performance of organizational change projects.
Tips for Effective Organizational Change Communications
Here are a few best practices to incorporate into any change communications plan:
First and foremost, employees must be aware of the fact that change is happening.
That is, they must understand:
- What is happening
- How it is happening
- Why the change is occurring
- Their role in the change project
This information is so essential that prosci change management experts have built this step into their change management framework.
Without this information, change projects will be more likely to take employees off guard, which can cause feelings of alienation and besiegement.
Those feelings, in turn, can create resistance to change which can significantly hinder the progress of change programs and, in worst case scenarios, even cause a program to fail entirely.
Building awareness effectively, however, can have the opposite impact, boosting employee engagement and the performance of a change project.
Understand employees’ skill needs
Most change projects involve the adoption of new technology, new processes, and new workflows.
To successfully drive change programs forward, therefore, employees must have an appropriate skill set.
Change managers that wish to understand those needs must:
- Determine which skills are needed at the end of a change plan
- Conduct surveys and perform a gap analysis to learn what skills are needed to effect change
- Develop a training plan that bridges the skills gap
- Build a communication agenda that outlines the training program
Skills assessments, employee surveys, and gap analyses all illustrate a fundamental principle that should hold true in every communication strategy – namely, communication should be two-way.
Effective communication, in other words, should not only aim to inform, explain, and teach, it should also be built around listening, as we will discover next.
Two-way communication plans produce better results for several reasons:
- Employees who feel heard will feel more included and, as a result, they will be more likely to take ownership over the program and its outcomes
- Change leaders who listen to their employees will have a better understanding of employees’ needs and feelings, and that information can, in turn, be used to improve the communication plan and the change project as a whole
- Inviting total participation can also help managers generate new ideas, become more innovative, and, in some cases, employees will even voluntarily step up to help steer the project
- Listening to employees can reduce feelings of alienation and besiegement, as mentioned earlier, which can reduce resistance
Ultimately, listening to employees can provide the necessary fuel for an effective communications strategy, if the communications plan is implemented properly.
A data-driven approach, for instance, would involve:
- The regular collection of data and input, through employee surveys, polls, user testing, analytics, and other sources
- The analysis of that data, which will help managers learn more about employees’ needs and the change program’s performance
- Using that information to inform decision-making and make adjustments to the change project
When listening to employees, in other words, managers should develop specific goals and processes designed to achieve those goals.
Personalize the change project as much as possible
Personalization has become a popular topic within customer-facing business departments, such as product development and marketing.
Yet the same principle can be applied in any other business process, including organizational transformation and change management.
For instance, here are a few ways that personalization can be applied in an organizational change project:
- Training efforts can be personalized to the needs of individual employees through tools such as digital adoption platforms
- Digital tools, such as chat applications and HR self-service portals, can be used to personalize support for specific roles and groups
- Personalizing the benefits of a change project can improve employee engagement and productivity
In short, when communications are personalized to meet the needs of an individual, employees will be far more motivated to support a project since it will be more relevant to them and their personal goals.
Many professionals widely recognize the importance of communication in an organizational change project.
Effective communication, as we have pointed out, can deliver significant bottom-line improvements to a change program.
To earn those benefits, however, it is necessary to take a structured approach to communication. This means setting goals, designing processes aimed at achieving those goals, and continually optimizing the communication strategy.
Taking these steps will help improve employees’ morale and motivation, which will, in turn, boost their engagement and the overall performance of the change project.