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5 Tips to Rock Change Communication

Posted on 05 July 2017 by the Srijita Chakraborty, Communications Practice, CEB is now Gartner

The average employee faced more change events today than even three years ago. In fact, the average number of major organizational changes doubled from 1.5 in 2012 to 3 in 2015. Communications rightly worry about the impact of change on employee performance as those suffering from change-related stress perform 5% worse than the average employee.

Studies show that both the process and the content of communication strategy are significant in predicting the success of a change initiative, particularly in employee commitment, morale, and retention. While organizational change is no doubt highly complex, here are 5 key things to keep in mind when planning, implementing, and communicating a change initiative.

1. Understand what is changing and why: At the very beginning, set up the business context of the change, the change objectives, and the desired outcome. Sometimes, there can be misalignment among business leaders on the primary objective of the change. In these cases, it’s important for Communications to drive conversations and help expose the misalignment, and bring everyone on the same page, before proceeding to building a communication plan.

2. Identify who will be affected and how: Once you’ve figured out the change objectives and desired business outcomes, invest in better understanding the cumulative impact of change on the employee groups most likely to be impacted (directly and indirectly), and the nature and degree of the impact.

3. Examine likely barriers to change: Even though organizations may desire employees to adopt certain behaviors that support the change, actually getting them to change may be hard. Identify potential barriers and gather resources that can help them overcome those, or identify areas where new resources need to be created. For instance, a change in company strategy may confuse employees, reducing their willingness to participate in the change implementation. Planning activities to help employees self-discover the value of this change may result in better participation.

4. Customize resources: Instead of creating a “one-size-fits-all” communication plan, tailor your communication to the needs of different employee groups and for different stages of the change implementation process. This helps personalize communication messages, which in turn fortifies employees’ commitment to the change and rebuilds the capabilities disrupted by the change.

5. Keep refining the communication: The process of communicating a change initiative does not end with just conveying a few key messages to employees. It requires a continuous review of the change’s success metrics, gathering feedback from both leaders and employees, and devising strategies to overcome disruptions to work and productivity.

Based on your experiences, if you have tips to share on communicating a change initiative to employees, do share at schakraborty@cebglobal.com. We’d love to hear from you!