Why Is a Change Management Communication Plan So Important?

A change management communication plan plays a crucial role in any organizational change effort.

Employees, after all, are the ones actually implementing a change plan at the ground level, so it is important to earn and maintain their trust.

Below, we’ll learn what a change management communication plan is, how they impact organizational change efforts, and how to design one.

The Leading Benefits of a Change Management Communication Plan

The success of any organizational change initiative depends heavily on employee engagement. The more engaged and supportive employees are, the greater the chances they will willingly implement a change project.

Communication, therefore, is one of the most important principles of change management.

Having a solid communication strategy offers a number of benefits, such as:

  • More employee support and engagement
  • Deeper insight into the performance of the change project
  • A better employee experience
  • Better project outcomes
  • Less friction and resistance to change

While a good communication plan can result in many benefits such as those covered here, poor communication can have the opposite result. In a worst case scenario, poor communication could mean the difference between success and failure.

For that reason, it is important to develop a strategic communication plan that adheres to best practices.

How to Design and Implement a Communication Plan

Many change models and methodologies focus on the human side of change and specifically include steps dedicated to communication.

Prosci’s ADKAR model and John Kotter’s 8-step change model, for instance, both emphasize the need for sound communication practices.

Change models such as these suggest focusing on areas such as:

  • Awareness. Building awareness of the organizational change project is the first step in Prosci’s ADKAR framework. At the outset of a project, suggests the change management consultancy, managers should ensure that employees know what is happening, why it is happening, and how the project will play out. Without this information, there is a chance that workers will feel alienated and besieged, which could easily result in resistance.
  • Desire. The second step in the ADKAR model revolves around the desire to change. Only when employees have a strong desire to change will they fully engage with a change process. Since desiring change is a personal choice, this is one of the more difficult steps in the change process. That challenge underscores the importance of creating a strong change management communication plan.
  • Knowledge. Once they are made aware of the change project, employees must be told how to effect that change. Activities such as training and coaching can provide employees with the skills they need. Though many companies may send employees to training as soon as they know a change is happening, Prosci says that it is important to build awareness and desire beforehand – without completing those two steps first, employees will be less engaged and training will be less effective.
  • A compelling vision. John Kotter’s 8-step change model also claims that employees must desire change in order to fully support it. One of the best ways to do that, according to his model, is to craft and communicate a compelling vision of the change. When the strategic vision gives meaning and purpose to employees’ efforts, they will become more motivated, engaged, and productive.

The emphasis of a communication plan is just as important as how the plan is executed, however.

Tips for Executing a Change Management Communication Strategy

Here are a few best practices that can improve the actual implementation of the communication plan:

  • Set clear communication goals and measurable objectives. The goals above, such as building awareness and desire, are a good starting point for any communication plan. The more concrete and measurable those goals are, the easier it will be to manage and improve both the communication plan and the business transformation initiative. Metrics and KPIs, for instance, can turn abstract goals into tangible performance targets.
  • Track those metrics throughout the project. Continually tracking those metrics can offer insight into the performance of the communication strategy. Employee surveys, for instance, can open a window into employees’ feelings about the change project, their confidence levels, and more. Providing employees with an outlet for feedback is crucial to establishing two-way communication and earning the trust of the workforce.
  • Revise the communication strategy when necessary. The insights gained from examining performance metrics can then be used to further refine or expand the communication strategy. For example, if surveys reveal that employees lack confidence in their abilities, this could indicate a need for more training and two-way communication.

With a data-driven, goal-oriented communication strategy, change managers will see much better results from their change projects – and much more support from employees.

Final Thoughts

A good change management communication strategy can significantly improve the performance and the outcomes of a change program, as we have seen.

Communication and organizational performance are also linked, which further illustrates the need for having a solid communication plan.

After all, the success of a change project may depend exclusively on how well managers can communicate with employees.

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.