Updated: May 24
Is change management communication different from normal communication?
Yes, it is.
Change management communication involves a huge part of an organization or sometimes, like in a merger, at least two companies. Therefore, a lot of people are involved in the communication management communication process, and you need to have a change communication strategy.
You should always be aware that
communication is mission-critical for change management.
Based on the GRIFFOX Bullseye Model, communication has to consider the vision, the goal, the strategy & tactics, the stakeholder management, the awareness & desire, and the communication itself.
So, communication is a core aspect of change management.
In practice, many different forms of communication can be found. Which form of communication is exactly used in the respective change project usually depends on the corporate culture of the organization.
In a long-established, conservative company, other forms of communication are normally established than in a young, hip start-up.
Either way, don't use just one form of communication. Use all forms of communication which are commonly used in your company.
Why Is This Important for Change Management Communication Planning?
Change management communication planning is very important for organizational change as it focuses on every employee and all participants of the change project. The affected people, like the management team, the employees, the team members, the leaders, and the stakeholders are all interested in what's happening in the change management project and due to that are curious about key messages and they are interested about what will be implemented next.
The people affected by an organizational change just wanna know what is happening to their company and exactly to their job. How are they involved in this change?
So, all involved people need answers to the question: "Why and how is change happening?"
Due to that you need to communicate clearly. You can communicate face-to-face, you can use different change management communication tools, and you can use different conversations or presentations. The effectiveness of communication will always be different from company to company as your employees are different, messages are different, and the way how communication takes place is always different too.
But let's focus on change management communication planning and the change management communication strategy.
Important parts of change management are awareness and desire.
In a change process, the involved people must have an awareness of the key messages as this will help employees to understand the change and in the best case create a desire for change in an early stage of the change process. So, what capabilities do your employees need to have to be open-minded for the awareness & desire of change?
How do you start conversations with your employees? What level describes the relationships between employees and leaders best? Is it common in your company to work digitally and on a high level of collaboration?
All these aspects influence the awareness & desire for change. Additionally, you should support your employees in building up a growth-mindset to improve their change readiness.
Professional change communication has to guarantee that the internal communication is addressing different communication channels to reach the employees in different ways. Change communications are important to support the change. But change communication doesn't go in just one direction.
Change communication is also necessary to gather feedback and share feedback, ask questions, and to communicate with the employees and the teams in a respectful, open-minded, and agile way.
If you don't care about the feedback of the employees, then there will be resistance to change. To assure that this won't happen, you need a way communication can happen and therefore, it is important to set up a change communication strategy and a communication plan.
But before we take a look at the change communication strategy and the change communication plan, let's dive a little bit deeper into awareness & desire.
What is awareness? The definition states that awareness is the state of being conscious of something. In easy words we can just say: "What's going on?"
To be aware of something means also, to be curious, to be interested, and in the best case to be involved.
If employees have to deal with a change of their job, they should be involved and they need to obtain the needed information to understand the ongoing change management. You can give them the information face-to-face or use alternative forms of communication. Anyway, keep in mind to communicate clearly! If they don't get your message, how should they be aware of the upcoming change?
Employees need to be involved as otherwise different forms of resistance to change can occur.
The wall of resistance contains aspects like
general fear of change
discomfort with uncertainty
fear of losing power and control
negative experiences with former change processes
To start the change communication in a positive way and to obtain change communications efforts right from the beginning, it is important that the communications carried out help the people to be aware of the situation.
Desires are states of our mind that are expressed by terms like wanting, wishing,
or longing. If awareness in simple words means "What's going on?", then desire means "I wanna have that, too!"
Why is desire important in the effectiveness of change management and organizational change?
Desire in a change project means that the people involved are aware of the situation or in other words they have the understanding of why the change is necessary and happening and they want to reach the desired goal, too.
If you are not part of the people who desire to reach the goal of change, then it could be very hard for you. When these situations occur, you should always ask yourself "How are you able to influence this situation?"
Are you in a position to discuss the change project with the leaders? How important is your job and especially you in person for your company? What will happen to the company, if you are going to quit your job?
So, before you start a discussion with the leaders, prepare to answer these questions.
Change Communication Strategy
The change communication strategy should be based on best practices like: how should communication take place and what is important in communicating change in your specific change initiative.
The change strategy focuses on the future goal, the audience that needs to be addressed like the stakeholders, employees, teams, managers, and leaders, as well as on the time frame and the scope of the change initiative. It's all about the implementation of the right actions to achieve your desired goal.
Because there is no "one size fits all" solution, you should always be aware that different change initiatives need different communication strategies.
Best practices can always help you to start your change management and your internal communications in a positive way.
It should contain the change management communication tools, resources, and channels, and point out how to communicate change. For example: Are the change communications trustful and open-minded, will the change messages allow critical thinking, and who is responsible for the change communications?
Furthermore, the change communication plan should always contain a "what if" part as it can always be possible that situations arise, which need to be reacted to immediately. You can use the what if the part for alternative change management communication tools.
It is not possible to take care of any possible situation, but I think that some aspects will normally take place in most change projects, and you should take care of those risks.
Change management needs a detailed plan of the time and scope of internal communications. It should always be very detailed and contain the tools, resources, audience, teams, stakeholders, communication channels, and the internal communications style in a very concrete form. It is also important to monitor the communication efforts and to share feedback.
Before we take a detailed look at change communication, I'd like to say that effective change always needs awesome change communication.
Tools - How to Communicate?
Which tools do you have to communicate your key messages? How do you want to communicate your change vision?
Are you using a live and direct speech like in a town hall meeting or in smaller workshop groups? Or are you using indirect speech like written communication?
Will you use digital communication?
And which combination of tools and communication channels do you plan to use?
Communication Channels - In Which Way Do You Address Communication?
Communication channels are different from company to company, and you'll find some examples as followed:
Town Hall Meeting (Digital or Analog)
A town hall meeting is an informational event to inform the people involved in a change initiative about the aspects of change, and the change project, and to answer occurring questions. It helps you to foster the relationship between employer and employees.
If you have a change initiative and a passionate change sponsor, then a town hall meeting is a good idea to inform your employees. A town hall meeting can also be performed digitally on a video platform.
Take care that you always have an awesome facilitator for your meeting as there is a lot of organizational stuff to do.
If you want to inform your employees in person, but you are not able to do a town hall meeting, then video messages might be a good idea. Video messages can be produced in advance. So, they can just be used when you need them, and they can be reviewed before sharing. Due to that, you will be able to deliver the messages in the best possible way.
But as video messages are not a live format, you won't be able to answer questions.
Planning a Q&A session in a live format for the interested employees might be a good option.
Podcasts work in the same way as video messages, but they just use the audio format. They
are also easier to produce as you only have an audio file.
It might be a good way to inform employees who are not able to make a break or don't have the option to watch a video. From my point of view, a video message has some advantages as it reaches out to people on both the audio and video channels.
E-Mails, Letters, and Posts
You can use e-mails, letters and posts to inform your employees.
Nowadays, it is more common to use a blog post for informing employees as you can respond very fast and transparently to all employees.
E-mails and letters have to deal with the problem of the respond time (letters) and the problem of Q & A (letters and e-mails) as you have to build up a Q & A section in your intranet for example. Your next step after building that section is to post every question and give every answer. So, it is easier to use blog posts.
Posters can be used to announce events, inform about changes, to visualize the organizational change, request feedback, or to point out critical aspects of change.
Posters can help communicate change when they are placed in a highly frequented area. Posters can call to action through QR-codes. Make always sure that the messages and the visualization work perfectly and that the employees can understand the messages clearly.
Flyers work in the same way as posters, but they are used to inform every person. Flyers come up with the same problems and advantages as posters.
Workshops (Digital or Analog)
Digital or analog workshops are another way to get in touch with your employees. Workshops have to be created in an engaging and meaningful way and it is very important to create the workshop in a goal-orientated style. That means that you must assure that the workshop helps to reach the vision and goal of the change project.
Creating workshops is very complicated as you must be very experienced in learning theory, and you also need a workshop facilitator who can carry out the workshops in a supporting way.
If you produce more problems than solutions in a workshop, then you definitely need to talk to an expert.
Feedback and Q & A Sessions
Feedback means that the people informed in a process inform you about their thoughts, emotions, and anything else of importance. That also means that you have to take feedback seriously and you have to be interested in the thoughts and emotions of your employees.
If you don't care about these topics, then feedback won't be a good idea for your project. Taking feedback not serious always leads to issues in trust. And dealing with that can be a lot harder than the feedback of your employees.
Resources - What Can You Bring In?
Are you a big company or a small one? Bigger companies normally have a marketing team that is also responsible for the corporate communication. But if you are a smaller company, then you are perhaps dealing with different marketing agencies. Are they able to build up the whole change communication and perform it in the best way? What does your change budget look like? Are you the CEO of a company and are you able to perform the change communications?
Different companies have to set up different forms of communication. It is important to keep that in mind.
The audience, Teams, Stakeholders - Who Are You Talking To?
Organizational change should always be addressed in a positive and understandable way as you are not just doing communication. You are building up trust, awareness, and desire. Furthermore, it is important to whom you are speaking with your messages.
addressing one special employee perhaps in a coaching session?
speaking to a team or many teams when informing them about the status quo of the organizational change?
talking to all employees in a town hall meeting when informing them about a merger?
informing all leaders or managers of the company about the new leadership style?
addressing the stakeholder of a company when informing them about the new structure of the company?
Always focus on the right audience and try to be as clear and understandable as possible.
Internal Communications Style - What Is Your Appropriate Style Of Communication?
How does your process of communication look like? Do you ask questions and start active communications with your employees? Are you working in a modern business or a traditional one? What do your change programs normally look like? Are you open-minded for a two-way communication? What does a typical workplace look like?
In a nutshell - what does your corporate culture look like?
Organizational change and change communications must walk side by side with corporate culture. Therefore, you must focus on an appropriate style of communication.
Monitoring & Steering
When you are communicating change and building up a proper change communication, you have to monitor your communications efforts. This is necessary as you have a vision and a goal which should be reached at the end of the change project. Effective change takes care of these topics by comparing the status quo, vision and goal ongoing, and performing the necessary changes to the project.
Checklist for change communications: 6 steps
Vision and goal - keep vision and goal always in mind to deliver successful change management communication
Status quo - communicating change means to know where you're standing right at the moment and which steps must be taken in the process of change
Audience - always be aware of the people you are talking to and create meaningful, respectful, and open-minded communication in times of change
Plan - set up a plan for all communications measures to be taken
Monitoring & Steering - monitor and steer your communications and be sure that you have a responsible person for the change communication
Celebrate success! - you finally made it and reached your goal; let's celebrate success!
Change communication is no rocket science, but it can be very hard sometimes. It always depends on your time, your organization and your resources in communication. If you are great at communicating, in involving your managers, and in acting in a clear and effectively way, then you won't struggle in your change communications efforts.
If it is hard for you to ask questions, gather feedback, use two-way communication, and deliver internal changes effectively, then you should talk to a change expert.
Keep in mind that communicating change is important for your leaders, but also for every team and every employee. Dealing with change means being open to change and due to that you need a growth mindset. Do you have one?
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!