Humans, as a species, seem hardwired to resist major change. We tend to like things just the way they are. Change can be upsetting, cause anxiety, and even anger. As a result, most of us don’t like to talk about it. And therein lies the problem if you’re a change management team leader or executive sponsor.
And as if change isn’t hard enough, getting communications right can be even harder. Good communication practices require clarity, consistency, and constancy. In other words, effective communications in a change management project need to be clear, consistent, and done on a regular basis.
“We’ve already told everyone we’re changing. What more do we need to say?”
Plenty. In fact, it’s hard to over-communicate when you’re attempting to make a major change in business processes or technology infrastructure. Unfortunately, many organizations will do all the talking at the beginning of a project, laying out what’s being changed and why. And then fall silent.
Many organizations assume that the less employees know the better. Often, some managers and C-suite professionals maintain that the reason they don’t want to do a lot of communicating about a change project is to “protect the employees from unnecessary stress.” After all, if people are uncomfortable with change, why keep talking about it?
The fact of the matter, however, is that most employees do want to hear about what’s going on. They want to be kept in the loop. In most cases, there are certain fundamental things all employees want to know, including:
For change to be successful, the change management team and executive sponsor need to:
Good communications start with listening
One thing we often hear from our clients is that “everyone in the organization agrees our current systems need to be replaced and they are onboard with this change.” This perception can cause executive sponsors and project managers to assume that there won’t be any resistance to change and that additional communication isn’t needed.
Lack of insight and understanding into employee motivation and resistance is what typically trips up many change initiatives. Awareness and empathy are crucial for communicating in a way that can move constituents from resistance to acceptance.
The best way to find out how employees will react to change is by asking them. A key component in any communication strategy should be a benchmark survey conducted prior to launch and surveys throughout the project to get continual feedback. Ask workers to convey their questions, concerns, and preferences for the changes being proposed. Most important – actually listen. Nothing is more demoralizing or unproductive as telling employees “we want your input” and then doing nothing with it. Instead, actively seek out input from all stakeholders, acknowledge it, and carefully consider it. This will go a long way in helping people feel that they are part of a change rather than enduring change as something being forced upon them.
Communication best practices include these four key components that collectively champion the change and address concerns:
Good communications take skill, practice, and persistence, but effective communication is the key to successful change management. The time and effort it takes to get it right will provide a big pay-off with the successful adoption of change.
Are you an executive sponsor on a change initiative? If so, be sure to check out the following resources: