The Importance of Communication: Change Management

The Importance of Communication: Change Management
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Change requires constant communication to be effectively implemented. Imagine attempting organizational change with no dialogue? The outcome would be messy to say the least.

Speak to most change managers and they’ll tell you how they wished they would of over-communicated during the change process. This is usually in hindsight, but you can benefit from their retrospect with effective change management communication.

Communication is tough to get right, where staff compatibility, time allocation, and inherent skills are all prohibitive factors. Because staff commonly complain about communication, this article will outline some great considerations for nailing change management communication. This will increase the likelihood of achieving predetermined objectives, which is the ultimate goal with any change plan.

The Five Components of Good Communication

  • When sending a message, present it clearly and in detail. An authentic message will resonate with the listener, especially when your integrity shows.
  • Ask questions to clarify the listener understands what you mean. Value the listener’s response, and ensure they trust your knowledge enough to take your points on board.
  • Communication is a two-way street, so you’ll need to alternate between being a listener and communicator. If they feel as if you’re taking their points on board, the listener will be more receptive.
  • The method of communication must suit the circumstances of both parties.
  • The content of your message must connect with the listener’s pre-held beliefs. If you’re introducing something totally new, include information you know the listener wants to hear, addressing their most cherished questions.

Common Failures of Communication

  • Professionals have a difficult time delivering tough messages. What makes this issue worse is when leaders attempt to disguise bad news as good news. This shows a lack of transparency, and can be perceived as condescending.
  • Messages aren’t communicated at the right time. Imagine being introduced to a new initiative at the precise moment you’re snowed under with work? Or perhaps staff drop a bombshell on you too late, meaning you don’t have time to adjust accordingly.
  • Messages are delivered through inappropriate channels, reducing the impact of the message.
  • Messages are inconsistent with previous statements and company visions.
  • Communications are delivered by the wrong people. For example, staff hear about a pressing issue from HR, when it would have been more impactful coming from a team leader.

With a barrage of contradictory messages, staff can be left feeling confused, disoriented, and unmotivated. This commonly affects organizational performance, where staff lose clarity about how they should be working. If everyone isn’t on the same page, insufficient structure will cause a failure to meet change goals.

Delivering the Information Staff Needs

Employees naturally deny change, because it poses a threat to the status quo. This is especially true when workers have grown accustomed to their current environment, and feel a sense of security with their current situation.

Staff need time to settle, but once information has sunk in you should follow up with:

  • What the change means
  • The goals of change
  • How roles will be affected
  • The timeframe for change
  • How they can get help

Management is a critical bridge between executives and employees. They have a rapport with frontline staff, and are their usual source of information. When it comes to change management communication, you’d expect managers to understand the initiatives in place. Staggeringly, this isn’t always the case.

This raises an important question. How on earth can change be clearly communicated to employees if management don’t even understand what’s going on?

Internal communication managers should prioritize gaining a true understanding of change processes. This coordinates consistent messages that clearly communicate change. Valuable information can be delivered via email, but face-to-face communication is preferable. Team meetings are a great way to spread important messages, which when leveraged with digital communication is the perfect combination.

Supporting Staff In the Reactive Phase

It can be difficult to overcome the shock that comes with change, but staff inevitably will. When they come out the other side, staff will begin to react. Some take longer to react than others, so it’s important to respect and understand the individual needs of your workforce.

A common reaction to change is resistance. This is arguably the biggest threat to your change strategy, so it’s essential you can identify and address resistance to change. Resentment and fear can make it difficult to align staff perspective with the best interests of your strategy.

Change managers must carefully plan for this eventuality, or face a stranglehold on progress. When you’re planning a change project, evaluate the potential objections that will come up. This allows you to prepare responses in advance, so you’re ready to convert resisters to change champions. Prioritize staff well-being throughout the change process, offering high-end support for concerned employees.

Are Staff Finally Coming Round?

A positive turning point is when staff seem willing to explore change. You will have overcome the biggest obstacle, so now is the time to offer direction. Reinforce change organization-wide, with a positive mindset to keep the ball rolling. Once you’ve gathered momentum, make sure you don’t drop the ball!

Continue practicing great change management communication, promoting the importance of longevity. If staff are finally coming around, your next goal will be encouraging them to make change stick. Eventually, change will become embedded in organizational culture, as a result of fantastic change communication management.

Christopher Smith
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.
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