4 Steps to a Change Management Communication Plan Template

A change management communication plan template sets out an easy-to-follow roadmap that managers can use when coordinating an organizational change project.

Communication templates offer several benefits, such as:

  • Speed. A template removes the need to research and formulate a plan, which, in turn, helps managers design and implement communication strategies more quickly.
  • Simplicity. Templates, roadmaps, and checklists are straightforward and easy to follow, lowering managers’ overall cognitive load.
  • Results. Shortened project timelines and reduced error rates all contribute to an important goal: better overall outcomes for the project.

Of course, change projects and communications strategies should be as unique as the business that implements them – for that reason, it is important to create a custom template for one’s own circumstances.

Below, we’ll cover a straightforward formula that can be used when designing a change management communication plan template.

Building a Change Management Communication Plan Template in 4 Steps

These four steps can be used to form the foundation of any change management communication strategy:

1. Define aims

Communication strategies, like change management programs themselves, should have specific aims, goals, and objectives.

These should revolve around areas such as:

  • Building employees’ awareness of the change project and its goals
  • Understanding employee sentiment
  • Reducing resistance to change
  • Increasing employees’ engagement, motivation, and support

Metrics can then be assigned to help track progress. Surveys, for instance, can be used to gauge sentiment and resistance, and messaging strategies can be designed to affect those metrics.

2. Build awareness

Awareness is an important part of any change management communication plan.

Namely, employees should be aware of:

  • What the project is
  • Why it is occurring
  • How it will unfold and impact them
  • Their roles and responsibilities

If employees aren’t aware of the change program and its purpose, then a number of problems can arise:

  • Employees may feel alienated and besieged by the change program
  • They may lose confidence in leadership
  • Resistance may become a barrier to successful change

In a worst case scenario, employees’ resistance to change can even halt a change project in its tracks.

Building awareness early on can mitigate and prevent problems such as these and ultimately contribute to improved project outcomes.

As with the other items covered in this template, metrics should be used to assess employees’ awareness of the change project.

3. Engage employees

Engagement and motivation are key to improving employees’ productivity during an organizational change program.

This same principle, as many managers know, holds true in every area of work life – employees who find their work interesting and engaging will perform better and be more productive.

Here are a few items to include in a communications strategy checklist:

  • Tell employees how the project’s success will positively impact the organization as a whole
  • Describe the consequences of a failed change effort
  • Explain how the change will personally benefit employees
  • Show how employees’ efforts will personally benefit customers 

By drilling down and connecting with employees at the personal level – and by helping employees connect with customers at the personal level – it will be easier to help employees find meaning at work.

And meaningful work, as many have noted, is key to driving engagement and improving performance.

Of course, change management projects are limited in scope and should not attempt to help every employee discover their true purpose on the job.

However, by personalizing the benefits of the organizational change and showing how employees’ efforts can personally benefit customers, the program will become more immediately relevant. As a result, employees will become more engaged and invested in the project.

4. Provide knowledge and skills

Knowledge is a prerequisite for employee productivity, as many managers know. 

Without the right skills and abilities, employees cannot actually perform the tasks set before them.

Yet all too often, managers focus too much on tools and skills, while ignoring the emotional components covered earlier.

When all of these bases are covered, the workforce will not only have the ability to drive the change forward, they will actually want to drive it forward.

The following are good items to include in this portion of the communication template:

  • Survey employees and perform assessments to uncover current skill levels
  • Understand the gap between current and desired skill levels
  • Ensure that employees have access to information and training programs
  • Explain how to change
  • Define new performance expectations

Employee training and knowledge-building activities should, like the other items covered here, be ongoing. 

In other words, like all communication activities, knowledge-building is a two-way street. Managers must listen and respond to employees in order to provide them with the knowledge they need to succeed.

By continually listening to and learning from employees, managers can make their communications that much more relevant – and those efforts will have a direct and positive influence on the program’s outcomes.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.