The importance of effective communication in managing change cannot be overstated.
Any change, no matter how well-intentioned or meticulously planned, will fall short if it is not communicated properly. Indeed, communication serves as the bridge between the intention and implementation of change. Yet, there is a remarkable dearth of understanding of what constitutes effective change communication.
What does change communication involve?
At its heart, change communication is about explaining the ‘why,’ ‘what,’ and ‘how’ of the change. This includes elucidating why the change is necessary, what the envisaged outcomes are, and how the change will be implemented. It’s about building a shared understanding and collective commitment to change among all stakeholders. Contrary to the perception that it is a one-way information broadcast, effective change communication is a dialogue. It involves listening to concerns, addressing queries, and fostering an environment where everyone feels part of the change. This notion aligns with the adage, “People support what they help create.” Thus, inclusivity is key to successful change communication.
Moreover, change communication should be consistent and continuous. Consistency breeds trust, and trust is the bedrock of successful change implementation. In the face of change, many employees grapple with uncertainty. Regular updates can assuage these anxieties and foster a sense of security amidst the upheaval.
The best practices of change communication
Now that we have established what change communication entails, let’s delve into some best practices.
- Early Engagement: It’s important to involve people early in the process. Share information as soon as it’s available and feasible. Early engagement not only helps mitigate resistance but also allows employees to mentally prepare for the change.
- Clear Messaging: The messaging should be clear, concise, and jargon-free. It should resonate with employees and help them understand the change from a personal and organizational perspective.
- Multi-channel Approach: Leverage different communication channels to reach every employee. Some might prefer emails, others town hall meetings or online forums. The goal is to ensure no one is left out of the communication loop.
- Feedback Mechanisms: Encourage feedback and respond to it promptly. This two-way communication helps clarify misunderstandings, address concerns, and makes employees feel heard and valued.
- Celebrate Milestones: Celebrating progress, no matter how small, motivates employees and reinforces their commitment to the change. It also provides a morale boost during the challenging change journey.
- Team Alignment and Message Management: Team alignment and message management play crucial roles in effective change communication. Key speakers need to be fully bought-in and aligned with the vision of the change. It is essential for them to consistently convey the same message. When the communication is consistent across the organisation, it enhances the effectiveness and impact of the message.
As the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw famously said, ‘The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’ It’s important to ensure that communication is not just a one-way delivery of information but a shared understanding and dialogue.
At Clearwater Advisers, we have 20 years of experience in helping businesses increase trust and buy-in to change. If you are going through a gut-wrenching change, get in touch with us to find out how we can help. Click here to contact us.
Remember, it’s not just about managing change, it’s about communicating it. Because communication isn’t just the message delivered — it’s the message received, understood, and acted upon.