Seven essential elements of organisational change communication

13 May, 2019
Seven essential elements of organisational change communication

Strategies to improve awareness of the need for organisational change

In our last article, we discussed why organisational change is likely to fail if employees aren’t aware of the need for organisational change. Creating this awareness is a challenge requiring a strategic approach to organisational change communication.


Why is organisational change communication strategy needed?

Whether it is explaining a major overhaul of processes and procedures, announcing a merger with another organisation or declaring an internal structural reorganisation, every organisation undergoes change that is likely to generate a range of emotions among its employees. People want to know what change is taking place, why, and how it will affect them and their colleagues.

If news of organisational change is miscommunicated, it can deepen and harden resistance to change. People can become disillusioned, focus on the future is lost, and the best-laid plans go awry in the confusion.


The essential elements of organisational change communication

With so much depending on the effective communication of the need for change, developing an internal communication strategy is critical. The following seven elements of organisational change communication are crucial to help employees understand the need for change and become fully engaged with it.


1. Make time to deliver the message of change

An organisational change communication strategy must be planned. Such news cannot be allowed to filter down through the organisation in an unstructured and poorly considered way. Nor can it be disseminated in a single ‘full company’ meeting.

Organisational change is personal. In larger groups, especially in large organisations where many employees may not know colleagues from other departments, people will be hesitant to raise questions and advertise their fears. The outcome is that people leave such meetings more confused than when the meeting began.

People need opportunities to voice their concerns and ask their questions. No matter how well-planned your announcements are, they will not answer all the questions people wish to ask. Therefore, it is necessary to plan a series of smaller team meetings that will enable and empower people to ask their questions and provide opportunities for people to fully understand the reasons for change.


2. Coordinate change conversations

One of the most common causes of communication breakdown is poor coordination of change conversations. News released at different times by different managers creates gaps which will be filled by unfiltered conversations between staff in different work silos.

Planning of announcements and meetings is critical to the success of your organisational change communication strategy. It will ensure that news is disseminated and discussed in a sequence that ensures credibility in management and the change process.


3. Coach your managers and change champions to communicate engagingly

If an organisation’s managers and change champions don’t communicate effectively, the organisation should expect its organisational change project to have a higher probability of failure. If leaders don’t demonstrate empathy with their employees, the organisation is likely to experience increased levels of resistance as disinterest in the project grows.

Four challenges faced by any organisational change communication strategy are:

  1. Improving communication capabilities
  2. Deepening employees’ connections with purpose
  3. How organisations communicate change
  4. Reducing complexity

To engage people in change, leaders and change champions should communicate openly and empower employees to come to an understanding of the need for change and their role in it. It is essential that organisational change communication is a dialogue and not a series of proclamations. Successful engagement is not managed by decree.


4. Describe the current state risks and how the change improves the future

Change is disruptive. It takes people out of their comfort zones. It can be painful. To alleviate this pain, create a conversation about change in which both the current state and the risks of not making change are described and discussed. Develop focus from the bottom up, discussing the benefits that the change will bring to individuals, teams, the organisation and its customers.


5. Make organisational change personal

Good organisational change communication ensures that employees are treated like people who matter. Discuss how the change will affect employees, how they will be supported through the process of change and the benefits that they will experience. Consider the questions they may ask and encourage them to ask them in team meetings or one-to-ones.

Good leadership will help managers and change champions to be prepared for difficult conversations by arming them with the answers to tough questions and having the ability to help people draw their own positive conclusions.


6. Create an environment of collaboration and participation

Employees wish to feel an integral part of the change process. Offering people the opportunity to participate from the earliest stages of change, encouraging deeper dialogue encompassing honest exchange of views and ideas, will help to motivate team collaboration with vision.


7. Be humble during organisational change communication

It is virtually impossible to prepare for every question and concern that employees have. Though an organisation’s 10,000 employees may be participating in the same organisational change, each employee is an individual with unique personal perspectives.

If an employee asks a question to which the manager is not sure of the answer, the manager should act with humility. By showing some vulnerability and returning with the answer at a later stage, managers demonstrate that change is a collaborative process, and this reinforces the value of all employees’ points of views and participation.


In summary

A carefully planned organisational change communication strategy will help to ensure that you build awareness of the need to make change. It will reinforce awareness throughout the process of change. What could be painful news for some can become a shared ambition which employees want to participate and collaborate with.

In short, planning your organisational change communication strategy is essential to ensure that change is communicated positively and that employees are engaged with it. This planning must include coaching your managers and change champions to communicate effectively with all employees.

To discover how our Learning Map could help you to improve your organisational change communication, get in touch with The Big Picture People today.

(See how The Big Picture People aided Arriva to overcome its communication challenge and engage their employees in its business strategy in this case study.)

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