Effective and clear change management communication is the bedrock of successfully implementing organizational change. If employees don’t adequately understand the change or what’s required of them, they may not engage with the change initiative and there may be resistance.
Since resistance is one of the primary reasons change initiatives fail, it’s essential to prioritize change management communication. This article focuses on the importance of such communication and delves into useful change management communication examples.
What Effective Change Management Communication Entails
Prosci’s Communication Checklist is based on 20 years of research and suggests the following:
- Using preferred senders to deliver communication (change sponsor should communicate business reasons and immediate supervisors should communicate the personal impact)
- Explaining why the change is happening and what the risks of not changing are
- Answering the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) question
- Not sending communications through the project team
- Using face-to-face communication to ensure effectiveness
- Repeating key messages at least 5-7 times so the change is heard and understood
- Ensuring two-way communication so employees can ask questions in real-time and provide valuable feedback
- In addition to using preferred senders, it’s important to share important messages and make sure these are aligned in both content and delivery sequence
- Using a number of channels to convey change to employees, including newsletters, presentations, one-on-one conversations, workshops, etc.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of change management communication using assessment tools
Change Management Communication Examples
It may not be enough to read about change management communication as a monolith. Concrete examples are helpful when reviewing best practices. The following are change management communication examples that are sure to illustrate effective communication amid organizational change.
- Identify your audience – instead of simply communicating with a small group of stakeholders, including all affected parties in change communication
- Message framing – change management communication must be conveyed in a way where it has the desired effect
- Candor and transparency – instead of being insincere, be transparent with stakeholders. If the news is bad, express it accordingly.
- Nudges – commanding language can be intimidating and using nudges that people can use to come to their own conclusions is more effective
- Create buy-in by asking for agreement and support
- Partner with stakeholders and encourage feedback – instead of simply asking for it, consider it and incorporate it
- Anticipate objectives and prepare accordingly
- Explain the vision and use storytelling to create emotions
- Be candid and set realistic expectations
- Encourage engagement by following up on problems and continuing to communicate through the change process
- Recognize and celebrate milestones by rewarding change agents
Being Clear About What’s Required
According to an article in Harvard Business Review, evidence shows that leaders aren’t clear during change management communication. Instead of focusing on outcomes, leaders focus on explaining what is required through tasks. In doing so, they’re not clear about the extent of change required.
One company trying to become more customer-centric gave middle managers a list of activities for the nine projects. While this provided clarity about what needed to be done, there was no explanation about why it was required or how their efforts would be combined. This was resolved by having leaders re-express the needs in terms of outcomes and targets.
In addition to providing more clarity, this also resulted in efficiency as middle managers focused on two projects instead of the nine originally suggested. The projects were also aligned with each other and had all aspects of customer data and processes in mind.
Having a Compelling Vision
Being clear about what’s ahead is especially important because organizational change comes with uncertainty. However, it’s not enough to simply inform stakeholders about what’s to come – leaders must create a compelling vision and address the big picture, i.e., long-term effects.
One of the most comprehensive change management communication examples comes from FMC Corporation which was acquiring DuPont’s Crop Protection business.
The communications campaign, “Nature of Next,” created a compelling vision and focused on FMC’s expanding global footprint, broader product portfolio, and greater R&D capabilities that all come together to provide food to a growing population, and would do so sustainably. Instead of causing uncertainty and fear, this created excitement for the new chapter.
Answering the “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM) Question
The WIIFM question is an integral one. All organizations must answer this if they want to encourage engagement and buy-in. Simply explaining the importance of the change to the organization isn’t enough – explaining personal benefits to employees results in commitment and follow-through.
Failing to address the WIIFM question hurts an organization’s change management efforts because employees will be more focused on personal effects than helping the organization succeed.
An excellent change management communication example is Galbraith’s story about change communication for two animal health companies undergoing a merger. The leader in one of these companies communicated how the employees would benefit from the merger.
Instead of simply talking about increased market share and job opportunities, they emphasized offering new solutions, coming together to keep animals healthy, etc. In doing so, they answered the WIIFM question effectively.
While it’s true that change management communication can be unnerving at times, following effective strategies and learning from the change management communication examples provided are sure to help any organization succeed in implementing sustainable change.
Organizations must prioritize two-way communication, present a compelling vision, take feedback into account, and ensure employees are supported throughout the transition. In doing so, they can repeat the rewards that effective change management communication results in.
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